Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Blogging Here Today 

Come say hello......

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tell Me About Tomorrow.

Spring cleaning the garage is the best excuse to throw away junk that never made it into the house, or has been sitting there as the last stop before the bin. And then there's 'junk' you just can't part with.

Like the diary I kept during my last year of high school. It's so cringe worthy, I could hardly stand my daughter leafing through its pages when she spied it in a stack of books I rescued from their date with the garbage truck last week. She laughed at my life and the dramas I recorded there, along with the lame details of school days in 1985. I laughed with her. Cried a little too, on the inside. Reminiscing does that to me.

Among the theatre tickets and letters from friends, I cooed over photos of my baby cousin born that year and shivered at the red letter count-down to final exams. Typical teenage notes, phone numbers (some of people I don't remember) and memorabilia fell out of the pages, including signed permission from my friend Trish to use a particular life experience in one of my books, someday. Yes, it's all there, in faded ink, some of it unrecognisable and other stuff... well just plain inexplicable.

Like the newspaper clipping from the Jobs Vacant section, I taped onto August 13th.

We are looking for writers wanting to develop their skills and have their work reviewed by established authors. Selected works will also be published.

Really? If I had not seen this clipping with my own eyes, I could never have imagined anything like this crossed my path that year. Worse still, is my naive and forgotten response, written in my own hand beneath.

Rang about this. No answer. 

I died laughing!

I don't know what I expected to hear on the other end of the line and I'm kind of glad nobody answered in the end. No one becomes an author by answering an add in the paper, and certainly not at 17.

If I had a moment like the ones in the movies, when the older version of a character gets to speak to themselves in the past,  I would have told 17 year old Dorothy, to just keep writing.

Fill more diaries with words Dotti, no matter how lame they sound. Keep reading, keep scribbling. Practice and don't ever give up on the dream. It has nothing to do with answering newspaper adds. And everything to do with God's timing and your own hard work. 

I like to think she would have listened. Would have rolled her eyes maybe, and followed through. 

But the credits are not rolling yet and there's more to come, I hope. What would the Dorothy of 25 years from now, like to tell me today? Boggles the mind a bit, doesn't it? 

What would you tell your younger self, if you had the chance to spur them on into the future? And what would you wish for the self of tomorrow, to share with you today? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Wishes

On the weekend I followed a walking track along Red Rocks beach on Phillip Island. I have a soft spot for this beach. I've watched my kids play here for the last 17 years, summer after summer. I've walked its length in miserable weather and returned home drenched after a quick downpour. It's delivered everything a beach can, and then some. It's even inspired a story.

This is a beach I know well, but last Saturday we took our directions from a guide book and discovered things we never knew. Things which thrilled me, as this is the beach where my hero and heroine fall in love in my book The Everlasting.

I learned this stretch of beach is the least changed of all the beaches on Phillip Island in almost 200 years of settlement. That's exactly what I wanted to hear. To know the coastal vistas and contours are similar to what my characters may have experienced on their long walks. 

Just off the walking track, my map showed a detour with a local treasure. Tucked along Chillingworth Road, and high on a hill sits one of the island's earliest homes. Built in the late 1860s by the pioneering Richardson family, it was once known as Everton and later as Tallowalla. Imagine the wonderful stories held there of life in Colonial Australia? And imagine me as the new owner... because it's for sale! Yes... a fancy For Sale sign greeted us as we climbed the hill to the garden gate.

Alas, a friendly chat with the current owner left me with no illusions. While I may dream of hosting writing retreats there and sharing the ocean views with friends, the price tag means I can only add this location to the fiction rattling around in my head. 

But, if I cannot live there for real... I know I can set all sorts of dramas there on paper and perhaps feature this beautiful home in another of my stories. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Victorian Era Remedies

Skin Care

School holidays and second hand book stores are made for each other. At least on my calendar, they are. And last week was no exception. As soon as I could, I scoured the Phillip Island antique shops for holiday loot. As always, there's never a reason to hope for treasures. The dilemma remains... what to leave behind?

This time 2 Australian treasures made it to the counter. The Ladies' Handbook of Home Remedies and Grandma's Favourite Remedies. Anything with 'old remedies' really does belong on my shelf. I know it. The books know it. I'm sure the shop keeper sees me coming and dusts off all the 19th century books. Ah, who am I kidding. Since when would a little dust keep me from my finds? Crumbly, faded... it doesn't matter. The older the better. I love to pour over tricks used by resourceful Victorian Era woman.

Here's some wisdom I gleaned from Grandma's Favourite Remedies for eliminating spotty skin and making the complexion bright. And really, how could I not share this? Anything that starts with 'gather lavender' is worthy of a mention. So...

1. Gather lavender, elder flower or citrus blossom.
2. Boil in water.
3. Leave mixture to stand until cool. 
4. Strain the liquid and use it several times a day to bathe skin. 

Grandma from the United States made it into the remedy book too. Her wisdom came in a drink of equal parts wild indigo, echinacea and pulsatilla. They were boiled together, strained off and left to cool. Twice a day she would drink a small glass of this. If anyone knows what pulsatilla might be, please let me know.

And if drinking your medicine was not your thing, you could always make a viola tonic. Used to bathe the skin at night, it was prized for reducing inflammation and soothing the skin. I guess these Victorian women knew when they planted their flowers and herbs, they were not only making cottage gardens, they were stocking their medicine cupboard.

Do you have a home remedy for keeping skin clear? Are your remedies in a dusty book, or is the wisdom handed down from generation to generation?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How long does it take to fall in love?
A lifetime. Each and every day preferably.

Don't you just love that question... and answer? I read it in Melbourne's The Age newspaper recently. The writer commented anonymously on a relationship blog and gave his answer to why some find love, while others never do. Why some couples who once had it, wonder where it's gone...

When love is something you cherish every day, then every day is the perfect day to fall in love.

This is why so many are drawn to read romance. We don't just relish that one moment of conquest, when the hero secures the heroine and makes her his forever. (Although that is a pretty fine moment!) We all identify with the victories which lead to forever. The small yet poignant moments when even a look is as powerful as a grand gesture. And sometimes, even more so.

When grand gestures become yesterday's story, it's the adding together of a lifetime of everything else, which keeps us loving. It's the hard work, the silent death to self, the giving... when we think we have no more to give.

It's one more step, as promised by two dear friends at their wedding a few months ago.

I, Nathan, take you, Melanie, to be my beautiful wife. 
It is my promise to you from this day forward, 
to make every effort to step out for you no matter the cost.

In faith, in hope, and in love... one more step.
In our laughter and sadness... I will take one more step.
In our good times and bad times... I will take one more step.

When life is easy, and we are in passionate love,
I will take one more step.
When life is stressful and chaotic and I feel like we are drifting apart, 
I will take one more step.

In the times when I fell like I simply can't take one more step
... I will take one more step.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to cook kangaroo!

A friend recently asked me if there would be a meal of kangaroo in my novel. It made my stomach churn just to think about it. I had enough trouble watching my hero gut a little rabbit. But in the interest of historical accuracy and from my love of all things Colonial Australian, I delved into the history books and found this recipe.

While I know kangaroo meat is easily found in Australian butcher shops today, I'm not sure the average cook will be too keen to reproduce this recipe from the 1870s. The name of the dish alone is enough to put me off! But... for your culinary adventures, I am pleased to present you with Slippery Bob!

Slippery Bob
Take kangaroo brains, and mix with flour and water. Make into batter. Season well with pepper, salt and then pour a table-spoonful at a time into an iron pot containing emu fat, and take them out when done. 'Bush Fare' - requiring a good appetite and excellent digestion.

I'll say......

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Three things the knitting needles taught me.

When my sweet friend Anthea gave me a ball of wool one Sunday after church, my first thought was to to pass it onto my dear mother, the much better knitter and accomplished crafter. Then I looked around at the groups forming in our church pews. Baby knitters negotiated their way around needles to cast on their first row with the able help of those familiar with this beloved pastime. Others, old friends with the cadence of knit and purl, tucked their wool into handbags and pockets, eager to get started at home. All of them, committed to knit woollen blanket squares for the Born-To-Knit campaign sponsored by Save the Children Australia. And I did not want to be left out.

So I revisited the skill my mother taught me, when, as a nine year old, I found myself stuck in bed with the chicken pox. And while I did, God met me there, to impress on my heart a few more life lessons.

1. Mistakes are ugly.
Unlike the gap left by a lost tooth in a little child's smile, a dropped stitch is not at all cute. As creator of this piece, I discovered I couldn't continue knitting when one of my much needed stitches fell away. Not only did my square look wrong sporting a hole, it grieved me to think its purpose would be compromised. 

2. Mistakes are worth fixing.
The first time I suffered a loss, I packed my knitting into the car and drove to Mum's house for help. I couldn't remember how to correct a mistake until I watched her pull the needle off the square and remedy my mess. How good it looked, all restored! Days later, when it happened again, I did the same. Horrified, my kids looked on as I slid the needle away leaving the knitted square vulnerable to more unravelling. But I knew what I had to do this time, and so I mounted my own salvage attempt. 

3. Mistakes are the materials of God's restoration.
While I hated to stop the rhythm of my knitting, I knew I had to retrace my steps and return to where the damage occurred. I had to slow down and work with great patience. Sometimes, this meant undoing many rows to get to my mistake. To approach the error from an unfamiliar angle and work at the delicate task of gathering what was lost. To acknowledge wrong. To sacrifice something in exchange for restoration. 

And it's here where I savoured the best lesson. God reminded me how much He has done to rescue me. How much He sacrificed to ransom all those who belong to Him from where they've slipped, and how He wants me to weave this in my life and relationships.

If I care so much for a lost thread of wool, how much more does He care for those who belong to Him? 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
Luke 19:10

Monday, August 15, 2011

When First Buds Push Winter Away

If there were a way to rid ourselves of Winter and her blues, I'm sure by now we'd be in the flush of Spring. I have a friend who counts the remaining cold weather days and lets us all know on FB how many miserable, sunless skies are owed to us before the weather turns. (16 for those who are not in the know)

Not that anyone told Spring to hold off 'til then. She's steaming ahead with buds and baby blossoms, already squeezing themselves out of dead looking branches and long forgotten bulbs. 

During a brief moment of wonder and bewilderment, my family recently contemplated moving from our current house to a nearby neighbourhood. After careful consideration we decided to stay put and enjoy our 10th year in this house and garden.

And I'm glad we're staying. For there is no other patch on earth embroidered with the fingerprint of family to match our garden. Lilacs and hydrangeas festoon the garden beds, the touch of my dear Mum who divided her own plants (originally my grandmother's) so I may share in her blooms. Cornflower blue Forget-Me-Nots pepper the walkways and skirt larger shrubs, a gift from my dear Mother-In-Law. A raspberry patch, now looking very much a bed of sticks, will overgrow by summer into a lush reminder of dear Father-In-Law, who one afternoon raided his own berry patch to gift us with a taste of summer. Then in autumn, quince and fig trees, gifts from my dear Dad, will bless our table with mouth-watering fruits. 

While I may not see these family members everyday, I do enjoy their gifts as I spy my garden from the window. I won't kid you. I avoid going out there this time of year. But with the promise of Spring and warmer weather, I plan to pull weeds for the chickens and make room for all the lush newness.

And while I potter among the first buds of the season, I know I will be thankful for family who have shared themselves with us and poured all good things into our home. From cuttings and slips of plants, to physical traits and characteristics, ... to the most important, our Christian heritage and everlasting legacy of faith. 

Do you have the fingerprint of loved ones in your garden? How about on your heart? Has someone divided their own blessings and multiplied them by sharing with you?

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; 
the time of the singing ... is come.
Song of Songs 2:11

Friday, July 08, 2011

Facebook Friday

Congratulations to Nicole O'Dell from Illinois for being this week's Facebook Friday award recipient with this awesome post last week.

At Panera - Need to clear my mind and get some work done today. 
BTW, when you hear an Aussie speak do you automatically smile? 
Me too?

Thanks Nicole! I take that as a compliment... even though I sometimes wonder why?

You may be like me and have a phobia of hearing your accent when away from home. Against the lovely rolled r's of our North American friends, somehow my Aussie accent sounds...well, SO AUSSIE! Like I'm about to spring into a chorus of Oi Oi Oi and sing about Vegemite sandwiches.

Last year in Indiana, one well meaning gentleman overheard me in an 'elevator' (they told me it wasn't a 'lift') and asked if we had Rs where I come from.

Um, yes... I just used one then. When I said the word... car. And before, when I said... dinner. But no. My new friends heard caaaah and dinnauhh.

I guess the sound of an Aussie can be amusing. I hope people smile when they hear my voice. And when they read my writing I want more than a grin. I want to grab my reader by the heart and tug a little... maybe even a lot.

Can I draw a tear? Can I make you squirm? Will my writing cause you to wonder, shiver and get your heart racing? Will you be faced with questions only God can answer?

I hope so, 'cause this Aussie voice has stories to share.

Are you like Nicole? Do you smile when you hear an Aussie accent? Please let me know....

And if it's Aussie voices you're wanting to hear...  please join me at Christian Writers Downunder for even more Oi Oi Oi.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Writing Whispers 

Every week I receive a stack of writing tips and encouragements in my inbox.

Here's something from Kate DeCamillo, who wrote Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux.

You have no business wanting to be a writer
 unless you are a reader. 
You should read fantasies and essays, 
biographies and poetry,
 fables and fairy tales.
 Read, read, read, read, read.'

Some writers steer away from books in their genre while they write their own stories. Others have rules about the number of fiction titles they'll read for every writing craft book. 

You may be like me, with more to-reads on your shelf than, well... days to read!

If your stack is taller than the bedside lamp, what will you pick up this week to... read, read, read? Me... I'm reading Siri Mitchell's A Heart Most Worthy. Delicious!!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wisdom from Australia's first cook book. 

If you're a fan of period dramas like Downton Abbey, you won't have any trouble recognising the life of the manor house cook in the following description from a London newspaper circa 1870. Although Downton Abbey depicts life in 1914, the similarities are remarkable, even with nearly 50 years between them.

"(The Cook) must be neat and clean, orderly in habit, good tempered, obliging and respectful; She must keep the kitchen tidy and have everything in its place and a place for everything. She is moreover required to think, and to cook breakfasts, luncheons and dinners without a fault, to make pap, broth and gruel... she will be also required to do a great deal of nursing, must be up late, rise early and on no account take snuff, neither must she be seen with a pipe (if Irish) or indulge to excess in gin or beer, nor have any followers in the shape of the masculine gender."

Poor Cook. She had it tough. Wages were low and positions difficult to secure. The author of this newspaper article lamented the prospects of cooks.

And he had something better in mind...

"What is she to do...? Pack up her traps, without delay, and slope for the colonies. Here she will be better paid, better fed, better treated, have tea three times per diem, and find a husband very soon after she arrives!"

Don't you love it? And why wouldn't the harried cook take such gutsy measures? With Australian newspapers full of Cook Wanted adds, and Aussie lads on the look out for wives and/or cooks, many English lasses immigrated to the Colonies of Australia. Whether for love or money, the boom years after Australia's gold rush brought many souls looking for something better than what the 'old country' offered. Sometimes, they knew what their hearts desired... other times God took hold of them and wrote His own story there.

And that folks, for the historical romance writer, makes for a delicious backdrop!

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Colonial Cook Book
The Recipes of By-Gone Australia

Can you hear me clapping?

I have a shelf filling fast with historical resources. I know, the things that make me happy!  Books and other treasures I've found while scouring junk shops and second hand book stores. And I have a favourite.

For my novel The Everlasting, I've been collecting all I can get my hands on about the early pioneers who settled Phillip Island. Those gutsy families who carried themselves and their possessions across the bay to establish new homes in the late 1860s. By the mid 1870s the small community of farmers and fishermen were making their mark on the island.

While I have material specific to island life, what I really wanted was a cook book. A really old cook book. When you know about a family's table, you have a wonderful picture of their lives, the ingredients and staples in their kitchens and the chores which occupied their days.

With 5 minutes up my sleeve, I visited a thrift store one afternoon on the way to collect my son from school. A quick loop of the shop yielded nothing, until beside the door I spotted a shelf of books. Nothing, nothing, nothing... I scanned each row in vain and would've reached for the door handle when I almost tripped over a stack of hardcover books on the floor.

You know where I'm going ...

From that stack, I pulled the 100 year anniversary edition of Australia's earliest cookbook. Typeset to match the original, The Colonial Cook Book pleaded for a new home, not only offering a collection of recipes, but wisdom of that era and observations of colony life. And all for $2!

For a history nut, this book is golden. For a child of God, it's answered prayer. I've been blessed with many resources since then, but I will always remember this one as a wink from heaven. An early addition to my resource library, just when I needed it most.

And what did I learn from this book about life in Colonial Australia? Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Walk Today

Writing means lots of re-writing. Scenes I put together many months ago are disappearing from my manuscript... to make it 'sing'. The direction I planned, shifts, and with the help of brilliant counsel, a new route takes shape. It's all good, and sounds very much like life to me, when we live it under the sound of God's word and instruction.

I was challenged this week, to think about the ways God shepherds us when I heard someone refer to Him as the one who 'hems us in.'

God is everywhere. He knows everything and in His providence, cares enough to not only open doors, but close them when it's in our best interest to stay put.

Like the girl in this painting, I may have my best walking jacket on but if God chooses to hem me in, inside is where I must remain.

Disappointment is only fleeting, when we consider He knows best. This is the same God who wove me together in my mother's womb. My frame is never hidden from Him and He knows my heart and deepest thoughts.

He may hem me in today, but that's where I need to be. That's where I want to be, fashioned for whatever he plans next.

You scrutinise my path
And are intimately acquainted with my all my ways
Even before there was a word on my tongue
Behold O Lord you knew it all.
You have hemmed me in, from behind and before
And laid your hand upon me
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.

Psalm 139:3-5

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winter Delivery

I've been waiting for the deliveryman.

Twice now he came to the door with a parcel and each time, there was nothing for me. Imagine my delight when his visit today brought a book I ordered two weeks ago.

Now I'm the new owner of a pre-loved book, English Through the Ages. A must for all writers of romance set in a bygone era, this book tells me when a word came into common usage.

Armed with this reference book, I can now confidently know the word 'baby' came into use as a term of endearment in 1870. Really. That long ago...  Lucky for me my hero and heroine whisper sweet nothings in 1875.

Now if I want my heroine to wear a 'tea gown' for an afternoon of entertaining, well, I'll have to wait another 5 years, as that word entered common English in 1880.

And speaking of gowns, and the delicates underneath... not more than half an hour after my first delivery, another one arrived. Yes, two books in one day!

This time the happy arrival was The History of Underclothes. I know... the things I read!

But come on... when you need to know anything about the chemise, the corset, bustles and drawers... you'll know who to ask, and I'll be pleased to dip into my ever growing library of all things yesteryear and we can find the answer together.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

 Learning to Live Gluten Free
... and Dairy... and Soy.

In recent months I've had to change my diet to exclude anything with gluten, dairy and soy. These days there's a brighter array of colors on my plate as I load up with lean meats and more vegetables and fruit. Until I find a gluten/dairy free bread with no traces of soy, my sandwiches will look more like salads. Snacks are fruit and nuts, and with cheese and yoghurt gone, water has become my best friend, both cold and boiled. A little boring? Sometimes.

When my daughter comes home from her part time job in a local bakery, I can only draw deep sugar laden breaths and watch as my family enjoy hot cross buns and fresh bread sticks with butter. I have been known to ask for full descriptions of taste and sensations as my loved ones dive into donuts and make faces at me with stuffed cheeks and sad lips. 

But it's not all bad. Weight loss has soothed the loss of favourite foods, and the absence of migraines is the greatest reward so far. It's like finding treasure to have these huge pieces of my dietary puzzle sorted. While I would love to lose myself in a frothy cappuccino with at least one Tim Tam, I'm blessed to now know what I can and cannot eat and the memory of a summer of headaches is still vivid enough to keep me from reaching for the foods I know will tip me back into ill health.

So I raise my cup of peppermint tea and toast this new chapter in my health. Here's to headache free days! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebrating with Catherine West

It's my pleasure to introduce Catherine West. When I met Cathy at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis last year, she was an unpublished writer with a manuscript to sell. Today, she is the happy debut author of Yesterday's Tomorrow.

Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine’s debut novel Yesterday’s Tomorrow, releases March 15th, through OakTara Publishers. 

After reading and loving this novel (yes, isn't it good to have author friends who share sneak peeks?), I'm thrilled to say I found myself swept away by the story and was not content to put it down until I'd read the last page. If you're like me, greedy for a great romance story, I can highly recommend Yesterday's TomorrowHere's a brief blurb:

Vietnam, 1967.
Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

I love celebrating new releases with my writing world friends, especially when they are debut novels. Here's what Catherine had to say when I asked about her writing:

How did you discover you were a writer?

I think I've always been one. Loved writing and reading from an early age, it's just in me I guess! 

What prompted you to write this book?

I've always been fascinated with the turbulent sixties, and The Vietnam War. I thought a female journalist traveling on her own to a war zone was an interesting premise on several levels. Not only because women were fighting for the right to many things, but also because of the 'what would you do?' element. I certainly don't think I'd be nearly as brave as those women were. I admire them, and I hope readers will get a glimpse of what they actually went through in Kristin's story. 

What do you want readers to take away from this story?

That God is always there, even when you don't think He is. That life just doesn't make sense. We make poor choices sometimes, and have to live with the consequences, but God never lets go. 

What's the next project for Catherine West?

I have several projects in the works. I'm writing two novels at the moment and hoping to have them both completed by the end of this year, if all goes according to plan. 

Discover more about Catherine and Yesterday's Tomorrow at http://www.catherinejwest.com

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On This Day...

William Bryant and Mary Brand did not meet on a Valentine's Day cruise for young singles. In amongst 600 convicts on route to Australia in 1788, they rattled about the oceans on one of 11 ships we call the First Fleet. Bound for the colony of New South Wales, and with much of their freedom replaced by iron shackles, they sailed into a bleak and unknown future. They made it into our history books and modern movies for their ill-fated and unsuccessful escape attempt to Timor via Norfolk Island, but even before their daring grasp at freedom, their names were written into the record books.

Together with one other couple they hold the title of First To Be Married On Australian Shores, on February 10, 1788, two weeks after the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson. Perhaps theirs was an onboard courtship as they travelled together on the Charlotte. We know Mary was pregnant with another man's child and gave birth to a daughter before reaching their destination. Perhaps William saw a resilience in Mary to match his own, or perhaps they were both ambitious for a life free from the brutal rigours of convict life. Perhaps William could not imagine living without the girl he'd fallen in love with.

Painted with the broad stokes of heartache and romance we've come to expect in historical sagas like theirs, the story of Mary and William Bryant never had the chance of being written any other way. This is a love story peppered with sacrifice and loss. We will never know how much of it is true, but we can be sure of one detail.

On this day in 1788, the young Cornish lass transported for stealing a silk bonnet, jewellery and coins, married her fellow countryman, also a convicted smuggler. They may not have savoured much of a happily ever after, but they will always be remembered as Australia's first bride and groom.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

In the Shadow of your Wings

I haven't lived through a natural disaster, but in the last 2 years I've watched my countrymen and women brave firestorms and raging floods of Biblical proportions. And now, in the last few days, a tropical rain storm blasted its way into our weather system, with a tail so powerful it lashed my own city two days later with devastating results. 

When Australia was hit by record breaking floods in January, the story blew everything else off our TV screens. We watched in horror as story after story broke, and the heartache of flood victims hit home. 

Then, greedy for attention and building in momentum, Tropical Cyclone Yasi roared in from across the Pacific less then 2 weeks later, adding dread to a country already crippled by disaster. Warnings issued to the residents of Far North Queensland came fast and strong all day, as the category 5 cyclone headed our way. 

The message could not have been clearer. "Don't bother to pack. Just get out." Like sleeping faces, houses and businesses were boarded up and secured. Families bundled their treasures and tried to out-run the storm, while others bunkered down and stayed behind to face whatever the night would bring. 

By midnight the wind and rain lashed the shores of many coastal towns and those of us watching from the southern states fell into a fitful sleep of prayer and more prayer. 

Dawn news reports brought the eerie sights of a landscape decimated by wind and water, and anything it could carry for ammunition. Trees, beaten and stripped, stood like weaklings in a mess of strewn leaves and debris. Houses slumped in their own mangled mess, many without a roof. People huddled in evacuation shelters, or emerged from their homes to survey the scene. 

Unbelievably, unlike the flood news of two weeks ago, reporters marveled at the remarkable preservation of life. Yes, God was listening. Not one fatality made it to the news reports that day, although sadly that has now been revised to one.

So we watch again, as a fresh disaster mingles with another, and the clean up begins for thousands of displaced families. And once again, we are reminded of God's mercy in times of trouble for those who look to Him for shelter and call on His name.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! 

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

 Australia's 2010 Summer Flood Disaster

 "Today is very significant, tomorrow is bad, 
and Thursday is going to be devastating
 for the residents and businesses concerned."
 Brisbane Lord Mayor - Jan 11, 2010

Australian summers normally deliver bush fire stories. Today, Australians have watched in despair as news unfolds of a flood which may end up being the worst in over 100 years. After weeks of record breaking rains and catchment areas significantly saturated, last night's northern deluge had nowhere to go. Floodwaters soon turned into inland tsunamis, (click here for clip) and vast areas of Queensland now resemble sprawling lakes. Many towns are isolated with roads closed and locals are in for a tense night. Most devastated are the towns of Toowoomba and Ipswich, while the Queensland capital, Brisbane, teeters on the brink while she watches her river spill over its banks and threaten low lands including the central business district.

Evacuation centres are expected to fill during the night and residents are encouraged to share their high ground with those who may have already fled their homes. As bad as it looks right now, authorities predict a worse scenario when the swollen Brisbane River reaches its peak and collides with the 3pm king tide tomorrow afternoon.

Rescue attempts will continue into the night as we watch the death toll nudge 10, with 78 people formally missing. There are no doubts these numbers will increase. Stories of stranded families are beamed onto our televisions, including the plight of one expectant mother, due to deliver her 3rd baby tomorrow, trapped in her flood surrounded home. Perhaps neighbours will assist this family as this natural disaster washes over them during what should be one of the happiest days of their lives.

For those of us in the south, it's difficult to watch our northern neighbours brace themselves for more tragedy and trauma. Grief and counselling teams are being deployed to the evacuation centres to uphold those who have watched their entire lives wash away. Residents are being encouraged to look out for their elderly neighbours and ensure the vulnerable are assisted.

Today's day long coverage has reminded me of Flood Sufferings by Australian artist Abbey Altson. He captured a similar picture in 1890 of a flood stricken community caring for a new mother and her baby. Just as in colonial days, Australians will once again reach out to snatch the desperate from trouble. For the lucky ones who have only lost possessions, it will take months, and some calculate even years, but families will lean on each other to reclaim life as it was ... only yesterday. Sadly for others, the losses will never be recouped.

Please pray for those shattered by this devastation as well as those who will help carry the burden of rescue and shelter.

Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!” Psalm 116:4

Monday, January 03, 2011

Summer Reading

This week I'm taking time to read by the beach and savour the summer holidays with family. The beach bag is stuffed with books I've had within reach all year and saved for lazy January afternoons. I would like to say I won't be back 'til they're all read, but even I know my limitations.

I always pack more books than I know I could possibly read, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Books are like friends. Just having them nearby is delicious enough, with their promise of escape to other worlds and bygone days.

So you'll excuse me for a little bit, won't you? It's time to disappear into the world of after-lunch naps and walks along the water. I have my toes to wiggle into the sand and my imagination to free into the lives of Australian pioneers in 1854.

Until I return to the real world.... blessings for the New Year and days ahead. May we delight in God's story for us as He scripts another new chapter in our lives.