Friday, 23 September 2016

Welcome to the New Blog

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Author Interview with Amy Julia Becker

Thanks Suzy Rowe for photo use!
I’ve been aching lately to connect with other women.  To sit down with them and share about life, longer than a 3 minute chat at playgroup until one or other of the toddlers boofs another with a toy and you’re called to sort it out and when you return, you can’t even remember the train of thought you had in your mind. 
To sit and ask questions about how they got through particular stages, what’s been growing deep down in their hearts and what their homes look like, what’s important to them and why. 

So I’ve been stretching myself to find women to talk to, and one way is through reading a book and e-mailing the author, because there’s nothing quite like reading another woman’s book to feel like you’ve seen deeper into her than you possibly could in a myriad of conversations. 

I picked up Amy Julia’s book, A Good and Perfect Gift, about her first child, Penelope, born with Downs Syndrome, and they didn’t know until the child was handed to them, squishy and cuddly, and the room grew hushed, and it was a long journey of sorting out feelings, and life and love, like a bead box neatly organised until it scatters on the floor and trying to sort out all those colours.

I read Amy’s book twice, because I wanted to see how others sorted out life, and maybe Amy sorted it much like I do, with her pen and journal, and now with not so much time on our hands, typing in spare minutes and posting to a world we hope will find wisdom in the words we share. 

I thought for a few weeks about the questions I would ask Amy if I could meet her, and finally searched for her e-mail, because why not meet her, connected by the internet as we are now?

I’ve just seen Amy’s new book, ‘Small Talk’ advertised in our local Christian bookstore and their syndicate of national catalogues, and it’s inspired me to keep blogging, because for a while I was wondering, what with losing the internet and moving into a caravan, whether blogging was still something I could keep up with.  Amy said that book, ‘Small Talk’ is a collection of blog posts and now I understand that a blog is something like a journal that you don’t always write when you’re busy, but because you hope that post will help someone, you scratch out time to write the words and make them line up with punctuation, and that writing is something we can’t stop, even if we need to get the children cared for to get those words out, and it’s a relief when they are. 

So thank you Amy for stopping and connecting with me, our ‘chat’ was just what I needed to keep writing, and I loved the advice about the baby wipes.  

Thank you for your time here today.  I found your book, ‘A Good and Perfect Gift’ at our local yearly Lifeline book fair, and read it the same afternoon. It’s so real and honest, and you take your reader on an incredible journey.    Can you tell us a little about your writing journey, how it started and any pivotal moments in developing it?

First of all, thanks so much for your kind words about A Good and Perfect Gift. For that book, I had kept a journal during our daughter's first couple of years of life, so I had a lot of raw material, and writing the book was about shaping the narrative and making the journal come alive. The pivotal moment was probably coming to truly believe that Penny was a gift, and that her diagnosis of Down syndrome didn't change that fact in any way. Once I believed that, the story had resolution, and I could write about it. 


What was the journey for writing your first book, which I believe was a memoir of a family member, and how did it get published?

My first book, Penelope Ayers, is also a memoir about the experience of living with my mother-in-law in New Orleans after she was diagnosed with liver cancer. It's a story about hope in the face of death, and it's also about marriage and family and place. I never actually tried to find a publisher for that book, for better or worse, so it was self-published. Hopefully some day I'll have a chance to go back and work on it a bit more.

In the book that I read, your daughter Penny, was born with Downs Syndrome, something that you had not been aware of during the pregnancy, and you share your incredible journey of coming to grips with this, but even if you had been aware, you would not have terminated.  For readers who might not understand this perspective, can you share with us how you see the unborn child?

When my husband and I received word, through a blood test, that our child had a higher than usual chance of having Down syndrome, we didn't pursue any further question. We were scared about Down syndrome, but we also knew that we wanted to receive whatever life God was giving us with thanksgiving.  


Can you tell us about the journey of writing that book, and a little about your daughter Penny? 

It's hard to believe that Penny is 9 years old now! She is in third grade. She loves reading and gymnastics. She's a terrific kid, and she has been a tremendous gift to us. 


I believe in the journey of writing a book, that we can experience so much healing and look back over little gem moments that we previously had forgotten or that had been hidden, and we get a different perspective on the events of our life, did you find this in writing either of these books, and how so?

I don't think I can write about my life until there's a story to tell. For a long time, with Penny's diagnosis there wasn't a story to tell. There was just confusion and sadness. But in time, God gave me an opportunity to deal with some of my own brokenness--the places of bias and judgment in my own life--and then healing began to happen. Once there was some movement in my soul, a story began to take shape. So in some ways, the writing itself was a healing process, and I certainly learned a lot from writing them and even more from talking with people about them. In another sense, though, I wouldn't have been ready to write the book until the healing had already begun. 
I’ve previously studied as a pregnancy crisis counsellor, and done a great deal of research and reading about pregnancy and unexpected circumstances, in fact I was pregnant with my first child, whilst studying, and I often wondered how I would respond if she were born with a medical condition.   Looking back, how would you have prepared if you had known about Penny’s diagnosis?
I go back and forth about whether it's helpful to know a baby has Down syndrome ahead of time. I do think it can help parents to welcome their child with a celebration rather than with a huge set of questions and fears. Two of my friends right now have a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, and in both cases they are bringing letters with them to the hospital when they go into labor to instruct the teams of doctors/nurses that they know the baby has Down syndrome and they want to rejoice when s/he is born. I wish we had been able to celebrate like that when Penny was born. A prenatal diagnosis can give some time to adjust expectations and go through some of that transformation. With that said, I also think I would have worried a whole lot had I known Penny had Down syndrome before she was born, and it was nice, when I did feel anxious, to be able to hold her in my arms. 


In a short paragraph, what is your best advice on how can we better understand and help children with Down’s Syndrome? 
My best advice is to believe that every person with Down syndrome has something to offer you. Yes, they need something from you, but assume that they also have something to give. When you can enter into a relationship of reciprocity you avoid pity and judgment.  

Steering towards motherhood in general, you now have three children I believe, what is your favourite piece of advice about parenting?
Oh gosh, I'm not sure I have a favorite piece of advice, but I'll offer a trivial ones: Keep baby wipes in the car forever. Even at ages 9, 6, and 4, I use them almost daily to clean hands or faces. 

How do you develop your spiritual relationship with God and how do you pass that on to your children?
I've struggled a lot with that question over the years, and in many ways my latest book is all about that topic. But basically I've learned to believe that God will continue to grow me up through my children, not in spite of them. So instead of trying to have daily alone time with God, I invite my kids into prayer or Bible reading time. We talk about spiritual things a lot. We go to church together. We are looking for ways to serve others together. It's pretty basic--worship, prayer, service--but it seems to be working so far! 
Your latest book is titled, ‘Small Talk’ and is actually in a sense directly related to the previous question, because the book is about the questions your children ask and how they help you dig deeper into God and discover what you believe.  How did this book come about, in the sense of remembering and collecting these conversations, and then journaling your own thoughts?  How did you find time for that, or was it all just in your brain?   
I've been blogging for a number of years, and in many ways the blog was the raw material for this book. In this book, each chapter is a different topic that our kids have prompted me to think about more deeply or differently. I never took a blog post verbatim, but they helped me remember anecdotes that related to different topics along the way. As far as finding time, I had 3-4 hours to work a day, so I just plugged away!

As a busy Mum, how do you find time to write, and is writing a paid occupation, and if so how did it become one?
Well, writing is kind of a paid occupation. I do get paid, but often I end up paying a babysitter the same if not more every hour than what I'm making! So I find the time by entrusting my kids to other people (which sometimes means my husband or my mom but often means at school or with a babysitter). 

Blogging seems to be an integral part of writing and keeping previous readers engaged and finding new ones, how do you blog?  Do you have a timetable, how often do you post, and do you do it all yourself or have a virtual assistant? 
Credit to Chris Capozziello
I do have a writing assistant who does 5-10 hours of work a week for me. She's invaluable! I post at least 2 times a week, which is pretty grueling at this point so it might not last much longer. Still, I've been grateful for the way the blog has connected me with readers and taught me about how to shape content.
What does your husband do and how does he support you in writing?
My husband is a headmaster at a private school for high school students. He's very supportive--mainly by helping me strategize about writing and by encouraging me when I get down about it!

Credit to Eddie Berman
Thank you Amy, it’s been a privilege to continue understanding your journey, and I’ll be looking out for ‘Small Talk’ at my Christian bookstore. 

Thanks so much for these great questions!

 Amy Julia Becker is the author of Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most(Zondervan, 2014), A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny (Bethany House), named one of the Top Books of 2011 by Publisher’s Weekly, and Penelope Ayers: A Memoir. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she blogs regularly for Christianity Today at Thin Places. Her essays about faith, family, and disability have appeared on the Motherlode blog of The New York Times, USA Today,,, The Christian Century, Christianity Today, The Huffington Post,and Amy Julia lives with her husband Peter and three children, Penny, William, and Marilee in western CT.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Not Just Kokoda

There is a picture that lurks in my mind, brought back to me especially by a visit to Caloundra on Queensland’s Central Coast, where I find many commemorative plaques of the soldiers who fought in the Second World War.  I have counted that over one third of the plaques commemorate soldiers who fought in Papua New Guinea.    

The picture that lurks in my mind, is of long rows of grave stones set in a grass cemetery.   Hundreds of graves are lined up in neat rows, many of them marked with the details of an Australian, or Japanese soldier; however there are just as many with the words, ‘Papuan Soldier Unknown’, inscribed on them.

I am walking in a Papua New Guinea cemetery in the city of Lae on the north east coast of the island.  It is really my first glimpse of the war that was fought to keep Australia safe from the Japanese in the Second World War. It is eye-opening to realise how many of our soldiers died in an effort to protect our land, but it is even more eye-opening to realise how many New Guineans died in an effort to help the Australians win.

While Kokoda is the most known name in Papua New Guinea relating to the Second World War, it is astonishing when you realise how many other locations are historical landmarks.  

In 2006, my Dad, myself and a team of four other Australians flew to Papua New Guinea for a six week mission trip, teaching in remote villages on the value of forgiveness in a culture where the ‘payback’ system is very prevalent.  We saw this system in action when a drunk driver killed the aunt of one of our guides.  As a family member it would have been his ‘privilege’ to kill the driver, however he chose forgiveness and broke the chain of death in his family.

Though Kokoda village was a location that we planned to speak at, our itinerary was arranged by locals who sent us to wherever we were asked for and not where we had planned to go.  Though this was at times very confusing, we were privileged to see many war sites in remote villages which many people are unaware of. 

Staying in the village Konje, near the historical war site Gona, where many Japanese soldiers landed to begin their trek across Kokoda, Dad asked one of the locals what a large impression in the ground was.  He suspected that it was an impression caused by a hurricane that had torn a coconut tree out by the roots but was very surprised to find that it was where a bomb had hit during the war. 

With our eyes opened to the history of the place, we began to explore a little in our afternoon breaks when we should have been taking naps to prepare for the late night teaching sessions we were giving. 

Protected from the harsh sun by large hats, plenty of sunscreen and long-sleeved shirts, we hiked down the rough road to the Gona beach.  Marking the way were scattered graves, overgrown by weeds and grass.  A native pointed out to us the old overgrown mission hospital close to the waterfront that was abandoned during the war and another pointed out where a lone cross stood, stating that during an Australian air raid many Japanese soldiers had hidden in the church adjoined to it thinking it would be safe.  After the bomb, the cross was the only thing that remained standing.



Down at the beautiful picturesque beach where the most amazing blue waves rolled on the sparkling black sand, an old man recollects his memories of the war.

“This beach is where the Japanese soldiers land and the Australians try to shoot them down.  Soon this beach is covered in dead bodies and the river flows red with blood.  We hear them coming and we not know what to do and we just drop our babies and we run to the mountains.  We not know who to help when we see soldiers, whether it is the Australians we should help or the Japanese.  No one tell us why this happen here.”

After six weeks hearing similar stories and realising our ignorance of the war that was fought in Papua New Guinea, we began researching the history of the war in Papua New Guinea, collecting and reading many books and speaking with others who had been in the country during the wartime.

Today Kokoda is a very popular trek and many stories are emerging of people who have spent time trekking the trail and how their lives have been changed by it.   Though we were unable to trek the trail in 2006, we realised that it was not just Kokoda where the battle was fought but that many lives and places were impacted by the war and though the Australians fought for our land it was the many innocent ‘Papuan Soldiers Unknown’ that played a large part in fighting so our nation could remain safe.


 Linking up at Thriving Thursdays





Monday, 3 November 2014

Have You Ever Had a Prophetic Word?

Thanks Suzy for the two nature photos
It’s a question that I regularly ask people  and for some people that might sound like a really strange question, while others of you may be asking what is a ‘prophetic word’?
I ask people this question because often this can lead to a deeper conversation than how’s the weather? Or how are you going?  To which most people answer, ‘fine thanks,’ even when they aren’t. 
When you ask people whether they have ever had a prophetic word, for some it leads to a question of what is a prophetic word, which I’ll discuss in a moment or two, and for others it leads to them sharing their dreams and desires for the future because this is often what a prophetic word is.  A glimpse into the future where our dreams and desires match up with God’s because often the desires inside of us are put there by Him to fulfil.
So a prophetic word is when God gives someone else who is filled with His Holy Spirit a glimpse into your future or your now to encourage you, and it really should be encouraging.  It should be calling you into your destiny. Your destiny is where God sees you in 1 year or ten years time and a prophetic word gives you a sense of what & where that is.  It gives you hope that one day you’ll be out of the place you’re currently in and some days that hope is what keeps a person going.

I’ve had many prophetic words and the first one I remember getting was when I was 14 in PNG, that I write about in my book, “Dad and Me in PNG.”    It was our farewell party in Lae, the next day we were flying to Popondetta for the 2nd leg of our ministry trip and Pastor Peter Igorabi, our host suddenly started saying things that I’d never told him, but that I wanted to do in the future, dreams and desires, and Dad said it was a prophecy, a prophetic word.
A prophetic word should be speaking what is truth and not what is true.    What is true is where we are now and it might be an absolute bog hole, what is truth is who and where God is calling us to be and it gives hope to get there.   
Have you ever had a time when someone has ranted and raved to you about how dumb, fat, useless, immature you are?  Has that ever helped you change or did it just make you angry?   Good friends need to encourage us to where we need to be and if that’s through a prophetic word that God has shown them, great!
Prophecy is mentioned in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12 where it lists the spiritual gifts, eg prophecy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, tongues, interpretation of tongues, discernment of spirits,  signs and wonders, supernatural faith and healing.   I don’t believe these gifts died out with the apostles, because love hasn’t failed.
I have been so blessed to receive prophetic words, and sometimes it is as simple as someone at church giving me a hug and saying, I just feel that the joy of the Lord is going to be really important in this next season, and then I go through a rough trot.     It doesn’t have to be thus saith the Lord ‘you will go to China for three years.’   That sort of thing really needs to be confirmed several times and you would need a peace in your heart to go through with that because it’s the peace of God that is to lead us and guard our hearts and minds.   (Phillipians 4:7)

So what I’ve done with my prophetic words is to make sure I record it either on my phone or written out and then I have gathered them all together into a book and some days it is so wonderful to read through that book and see the personal promises that God has for my life.   
Like the one about God wanting me to jump off high diving boards in life and be brave but He's got angels for me . . . or dance before the Lord in humility even if people misunderstand you and think you are uppity . . . or when Sunday School was really hard and a kind older man in our church said that even when we didn't see things happening we were there helping pick out the burs and nasties from the kids spirits or when we've been through hard season . . . don't regret the way you've done things, a new season is coming. 
I've had some that are a lot more directional than these and they have been something I've already been praying about, so they have been more confirming and several people with no knowledge of what the other has said have spoken these things to me.
So . . . have you ever had a prophetic word?  Has it been helpful to you or caused you distress?  If you’ve never had a prophetic word, I encourage you to ask God for one.  

Linking up at:
Cornerstone Confessions

Thursday, 23 October 2014

What is De Ja Vu?

Have you ever had that feeling whilst going through your normal day, that you’ve been there before, you spoken to that person about that thing before or you’ve had a glimpse of that situation in the past, but you know that you could not have possibly really been there?

I have that all the time, and actually so does my husband.   What does it mean?   I’ve been told by a number of Christians that it is of the devil but I don’t believe them and I’m going to tell you why. 

One day my husband was riding his bike with a friend in a particular area when he had flash back or prophetic fast forward of that scene in his mind where his friend had been killed by the truck and so he yelled out to his friend to be careful and the friend stopped riding and the truck drove on by. 

So if it was used to save a life, than why are Christians calling it bad?   I believe because they don’t know the roots.    See God loves to show us things that are going to happen in the future to encourage us, to warn us, and to show us how to pray.    These gifts are called prophecy and a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom, and are referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:  7But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,…

Who knows though that Satan loves to counterfeit good things so that we get confused and scared of them?  What God intends for good and our benefit, the enemy loves to distort. 

Here is an article that I found really helpful in understanding de ja vu, and perhaps it’s not the full picture but it’s a good start.

So have you experienced this before?  Was it scary or helpful? 
Linking up at: Everyday Jesus