How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life

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[NOTE: I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Hosted by Positive Writer/ See more here.]

Writing a blog has enabled me to express diverse opinions or observations on culture, life or the human spirit, through sharing glimpses of my thought processes or simply commenting on that which stirs, troubles or enthuses me. In releasing those words onto a page for public consumption, I’m effectively setting my thoughts and ideas free. Thoughts that would otherwise bombard my spirit relentlessly.

Every time I hit the ‘publish’ button on a blog post, or ‘send’ on an email containing an attached article, even when I’m aware of its flaws or shortcomings, there arises an acute sense of satisfaction within; I’m allowing myself to think, to create, to be. To withhold the words would be to deny my true sense of self. I write, therefore I am. Articles and blog posts enable me to influence and to respond, to make my mark in some small way amidst the sea of voices that battle for attention. It matters little to me whether my writing is liked; what matters more is that I might have caused others to think, to respond or to care. And if that’s only one reader, so be it. It’s in writing that I discover a deeper sense of who I am and who I aspire to be. It’s in writing that I realise my calling, my destiny.

Through my humble foray into the world of poetry, I’ve learned to bare my soul through the outpouring of heartache or joys, to create a literary dance by experimenting with rhythm and line. Poems are enabling me to grapple with feelings, with struggles, with pain. A minor expression of art leaves its mark when I dare to allow words to formulate a written mirror of my soul. I’m able to look back and see how I’ve developed as a person, how selfishness has chipped away and how I’ve seen the bigger picture and begun to appreciate other perspectives. In dabbling with the poetic, I’m harnessing the power of literary ingenuity – not only to soothe uncertainty, fear and doubt, but also to brighten, uplift and restore.

The poems I write may just be ramblings or simple verses, but to me they are evidence of a human being’s wrestling with trying to understand life, to understand faith. In penning verses, there are no rules nor restrictions; I am the master who can let the words run free – and in doing so, set myself free. Writing poetry releases me from my prison of self and allows me to rise above anything that is thrown at me.

The writing of a novel was a daring feat; who was I to think it could even be possible? Yet once the idea was birthed within me, it would not let me go. The story found me and demanded to be written, even though my inherent laziness fought to deter me from even beginning the project. The muse may have grabbed me, but it was not going to do the work for me! The crafting of my novel took me beyond my natural capabilities and into a steep learning curve whereby all my literary inadequacies were laid bare. It’s a humbling process when you recognise how little you know about novel writing when you actually begin to write. Rather than feeling dejected, I decided to invest my energies breathing life into my story and to accept the need for a professional editor. Although I was writing a children’s fantasy novel, I became captivated by my protagonist, as his struggles and disappointments became mine. I lived and breathed a futuristic story that developed and grew as I allowed it to fill my mind and grip my soul.

Writing ‘The Book Beyond Time’ fuelled a creativity within me that I had not realised even existed. It was never my intention to write a novel; it did not feature in my life’s plans. Yet once my father began to succumb to cancer’s cruel grip, I started writing with a passion and fury that arose within, my fingers tapping away cathartically. As I delved fully into the process and let myself be consumed by its vision, the novel took shape and developed – and in doing so, shaped me. In remembering the words of my high school English teacher, who once wrote: “You have the makings of a writer, I think”, I must admit feeling a compulsion to fulfil the prophecy pronounced over me.

In completing the project and holding the finished, printed product in my hands, I honestly felt that my purpose for being had been realised and that if I died the next day, I would be content in knowing that I had made my mark and left a legacy for my children. Though my Dad didn’t live to see it, I know he would have been proud. As readers have shared personally with me how much they enjoyed the story or how it affected them, I’m left touched by the power of purpose and the value of pursuing one’s dreams to completion. To know that my children have been captivated by my story evokes emotions that are difficult to describe. I may not be a brilliant writer, but I’m developing the writer within and taking risks that I never imagined I’d take. And my life is oh so richer as a result.

Rough Edges// FaithWalk

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I marvelled at the stones beneath my feet on the quaint Majorcan beach, glistening through pure, azure blue water. All shades and sizes, thousands of them swept ashore by uncontainable waves riding relentlessly into the bay.

Scooping up a handful, I examined the pebbles in my hand. Each one perfectly smooth with curved, though uneven edges. There were no sharp, offensive parts.

I began to think about their journey to the shore and imagined that each stone had most likely begun as a jagged piece of discarded rock, thrust into the water and thrown about by the forces of the all-surpassing sea. Stones of all shapes had been continually knocked against  each other until they reached their final destination at my feet on this idyllic bay.

I couldn’t help consider the parallels with our own lives, as we weather not so much physical forces of nature but rather an array of knocks or assaults. Like the stones, we’re often powerless against torrents and waves that threaten to overwhelm – whether those waves are illness, disappointments, setbacks or perhaps our own personal demons.

Wherever we’re at, life’s knocks hurt. But so often they help to hone off the rough edges of our character, making us gentler and more compassionate towards others who are caught up in personal storms of their own. As our worlds collide with those around us, each of us may benefit from the experiences we encounter, however painful at the time.

Our rough edges become smoother as we give up resisting interaction or pursuing perfection, and allow our circumstances and experiences to shape us into someone who’s open to being part of a beautiful, evolving tapestry.

An individual stone is not particularly attractive or enthralling. It’s only in the picturesque bay or vast beach setting that it assumes aspects of magical imagery. Without engaging others or allowing the water of God’s Spirit to continually run over me, my lone, insignificant pebble of a life remains irrelevant, having little impact.

If I let myself be cast into the sea of lives around me, daring to to be affected by those whom I encounter, and in turn touch or influence them, it’s possible for the rough edges to become smoother, without much intervention on my part. The water, which is also an image of God’s Word, can also carry me through whatever turbulence comes my way.

No man is a rock. We’re all little pebbles of varying colours from various places jostling for our place in this world as we journey together. When we start to see the big picture, it becomes clear that God’s intention for us has always been community and interaction – both with Him and the people He’s placed around us.

Write the Future – How you might play a crucial role in another’s life story


In today’s world we are increasingly urged to think positively, aim high and set ambitious goals for ourselves. The self improvement business has seen unprecedented growth in the last thirty years, with demand for books, seminars and speakers setting off a whole niche industry worth $11bn that didn’t even exist much before the 1930s. Countless success stories of people climbing the ladder or turning their life around serve to remind us of the strength of the human spirit and self determination. High profile figures such as Oprah Winfrey or Bear Grylls inspire us to believe that anything is possible.  The old adage ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it’ is a popular motto.

Although there’s much to be said for the value of being the best you can be and trying to achieve one’s goals, it would be easy to adopt a self centred focus – seeking only to serve your own best interests at all costs. In the quest to make it in the world and be the best you can be, it would seem that there’s a tendency to forget that we do not live in a vacuum, where what we do or say only affects us, but rather that our destinies are intertwined with the people all around us – our family, our neighbours, our friends and co-workers.

The sentimental classical movie It’s a Wonderful Life shows us how just one life can make a difference to many others.  If George Bailey hadn’t been born, he would not have been there to save his younger brother’s life or to prevent a young woman’s demise. In a similar vein, the more recent movie The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher, explores the issues of abuse and positive and negative interactions between people and how those actions can trigger a chain of events for good or evil. Although the premise of the movie is based on one man’s disturbed childhood and consequent psychological disturbances, the theme that runs through the film is a desperate attempt to consider whether we can effect major change in others’ lives depending on our own choices and actions. The dilemma for the main character exists in his stark inability to do all the right things to help others be successful and avoid destructive forces in their lives. The viewers soon realise the impossibility of one man’s mission to make everything perfect. Ultimately, he reaches the conclusion that is polar opposite to It’s a Wonderful Life – namely that his friends and family would all be better off if he had never been born.

In one sense, The Butterfly Effect is rather negative or nihilistic. There is no hope other than his having not been born. An alternative reality where the negative issues are worked through, resolved and where everything turns out okay is not offered. For the most part we realise that ‘happy ever after’ endings are mere fantasy for most people, let alone groups of people.

The flawed part of this story is in the glossing over of the fact that other people also determine how their life turns out, according to their own choices. We’re led to believe that the lead role has the power to save or destroy others’ futures according to his actions, yet it’s clear that there are a vast number of factors which shape a person’s life and affect their choices or the consequences of what happens depending on whom they live and interact with. It wouldn’t be drama without these stark twists of fate with their extreme chain reactions; we’re meant to feel disturbed and left wondering about the influence of our own decisions and the effects of our relationships with others.

This is a good thing. It’s good to be reminded that our lives are inextricably linked to other people’s – that we may not only be the master of our own destinies but also other people’s. At the same time, the movie depicts the fallen, imperfect world that we inhabit; we cannot be its saviour and make everything just right for those around us. One human is simply not that powerful, to erase all pains and troubles from others’ lives. Nor are we able to go back in time and make different choices. We all make mistakes or poor choices and have to endure some of those consequences.

Faith in Christ will also not automatically wipe away the hurtful and alarming things we’ve encountered this side of eternity. Whether you are a Christian or not, we all have to deal with the cards dealt us in life and face up to the circumstances surrounding our childhoods. But I am convinced by the message of hope and redemption in Christianity that is only lightly hinted at in the movie I watched. A life redeemed by Christ’s power is able to transform the stories of our lives, but we need to be open to the significance that our words and actions bring. Despite the pointlessness in believing we can effect change for anything and everyone (we certainly can’t) – we do have some measure of influence over some circumstances and situations, especially as adults. Although we’re unable to control the actions of others, we may well play a crucial role in steering another’s life in a positive direction.

The movie did then remind me that words and actions can be significant and that, to a certain degree, we can be effectors of change and influence. Ordinary individuals can wield power that is far reaching or that triggers a turn of events – either in a positive or negative way. I know that I, for one, long to use my words, my relationships, my actions to bring about positive influences  – and that it’s only in considering the circumstances of others more that I come to realize that life is not all about ‘me’.  If I know you, my life is linked to yours. The realisation of that truth is mind boggling.

For those who follow Christ, we have the reassurance that we can commit our daily lives to Him and be sure of his guiding hand over our life. We need not stress over the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices; we can only live as best we can with the knowledge that a life entrusted to God is secure no matter what we go through.  None of us knows what the future holds and we cannot control other people’s actions or reactions. But we can know the One who holds the future and who promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

We can also live more aware of the role that we play in the futures of those around us. We are in no way responsible for everything – (What a burden that would be!) – but we can play a part in writing the futures of others. Part of our humanity is irrevocably tied into the common themes and experiences we share with others. One day we’ll look back on the story of our lives to see what we wrote and what roles the different characters in our story played. In many ways, how we behave and interact today will be featured in the future stories of those connected to us. And I find that quite incredible to grasp.

Be the Inspiration – How using your gifts can be a life changer for someone else/ FaithWalk


Photo Credit: Dafydd359, Creative Commons

The old classical guitar positioned in the corner of the room wasn’t particularly alluring or noteworthy. It was concealed within a cheap, tan coloured case gathering dust. But it beckoned me.

My older sister had long since left for college, having had some beginners’ classes, but she’d decided not to pursue the instrument any further. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I claimed the second-hand guitar as my own. Excitedly I opened the case and placed the strap across my shoulder. It felt a little cumbersome, yet simultaneously magical; the varnished wood and nylon strings seemed well crafted and aesthetically pleasing. I plucked the strings to discover it was greatly out of tune. I would need to get my friend to tune it; perhaps she could show me a thing or two.

I was in the middle of my ‘A’ levels when I decided to learn the guitar and figured that if I practised during my times of relaxation, instead of watching Australian soaps, that it might just be time well spent. I was right.

Within a year and a half I was writing my own songs, leading worship at small groups and C.U at university and playing with other musicians. By that time I’d acquired my own Yamaha acoustic guitar and a set of music books. When I met my future husband at university, one of the things that helped draw us together was our common interest in music and guitar. Within months we were asked to sing and play at a friend’s wedding.

A year or so after that I was playing alongside German friends during my year abroad. The song I composed there in my room, inspired by a photograph on my pin board, and sent to my fiancé on a TDK cassette tape (remember those days?) was sung by me and my husband on our wedding day. ‘First Love’ wowed the congregation, as the song had not been scheduled into the order of service. (I had been worried that I might be too nervous and back out on the day).

Fast forward a couple more years and I found myself on a full time performing arts course. Once more my guitar playing and song-writing skills came in handy. At a performance we put on at the Midlands Arts Centre I performed a couple of specially written songs, put together for the theme of the event and played alongside dramatic interpretation.

When we lived in the States for a few years, I formed a small band to perform as a support act at a coffee house concert in New Jersey. We also experimented with song recording in a friend’s basement recording studio.

More recently I’ve joined one of the worship teams at my local church and have enjoyed learning to play in different styles and with a variety of musicians. When I went to visit my dying dad who could barely speak or move in his final days early last year, I wanted to express my love for him through quietly playing guitar and singing a psalm. Tears are starting to fall as I write this, as memories are evoked and I can hear the song in my head. Music can be powerful.

Learning the guitar and stepping out to play in a variety of contexts, despite my feelings of inadequacy and lack of formal training, has been significant, meaningful and central to me for more than half my life. I cannot imagine my life without guitar being one of its main features.

And yet this story is ultimately not about me. I love this quote from Jeff Goins’ book ‘Wrecked’, where he boldly states ‘Your life is not about you.’ It sounds crazy, so contrary to what we’re accustomed to hearing in popular culture. But I’ve found it resonates with me and my life.

Why did I even pick up the guitar for the very first time? Was it simply curiosity or a simple whim one day? Was it completely my own idea?

No, far from it! I was influenced by a friend I’d met at church. She was a new Christian who’d been having guitar lessons, and one day when we were hanging out with a bunch of young people she brought out her guitar. We didn’t even know her that well at this stage but she put aside any fears of embarrassment and played a song she’d written the night before. I can still remember the song and the lyrics, which detailed her personal spiritual journey. We were all amazed at her confidence and encouraged her to write more.

This one friend, Sharon, who poured out her heart gently in a song, inspired me to do the same. I became convinced that I should and could learn, too. Since learning to play the guitar I have been likewise inspired to share my story and to speak to others through songs. I’ve written several songs for other people that simply came about as a response to their situation. It wasn’t just about me. The guitar has been a vehicle of blessing to both myself, my family and other people. I’ve also encouraged others to write songs and try new things.

What astounds me about this realisation is that I’m not even all that great on the instrument. Yes I can play and hold a tune but I’m not particularly skilled, and I still have never had even one formal guitar lesson! Others are far more gifted than I, yet God has emboldened and equipped me to use the skills I have to bless and affect others.

In the same way that Sharon inspired me that one evening in 1990, I’ve experienced how actions or pursuits are not completely random. Something you say, create, do or start can kick start a chain of events or something significant in others’ lives. Sharon didn’t worry about what our reactions might be to her song, she just played. My story is forever linked to hers.

One person was the inspiration for a crucial feature of my life. You, too, can be that person in another setting, in a different context. As you engage with others and use your gifts for good, you can be the inspiration for someone else. May I encourage you to not hold back or let fear stop you from using or sharing your skills, imperfect as they might be. You will never know the true extent of your influence or how your actions affected the course of another’s life. Through simply exercising your gifts, you can be the inspiration.