Friday, April 9, 2010

Hold onto your God-given dreams!

Mary Hawkins
With special birthday celebrations and family visiting, this has been a very busy few weeks for me so I am delighted that a friend of mine, Jo-Anne Berthelsen, agreed to be my guest here this month to tell us a little about her writing journey.
We have not seen as much of each other over the years as I would have liked but have always enjoyed her company. She is a very accomplished speaker as well as writer. I have enjoyed all her books and looking forward to her next release. As she suggests, do check out her website for details of her books.

Welcome Jo-Anne Bethelsen!

I feel very privileged to be writing this my first ICFW ‘guest blog’. I am a general fiction author living in Sydney, Australia – so a big ‘hi’ from Down Under!

Let me tell you a little about my writing journey. For at least twenty years, I had talked about writing a novel until eventually, in desperation, one of our daughters gave me a pile of books on writing, accompanied by a homemade bookmark with the inscription ‘Write your own!’ During those years, I worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, before heading to theological college and local church ministry. Finally, the time came around eight years ago to leave that ministry position. I had no idea what God wanted me to do next, but after six months’ break, I finally realised that the moment had come in my life when the dream to write and the call of God were in fact one.

It happened like this. I was visiting a friend in Turkey and the two of us were backpacking along the Mediterranean coast. One morning as we sat reading our bibles, I came to Isaiah 42:9: See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare. I noted in my journal that I knew my much-loved ministry role had gone and assured God I was listening and wanted to hear the ‘new things’ he had for me. Soon after, I came to verses 18-20:

Hear, you deaf, look, you blind, and see!
Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord?
You have seen many things, but have paid no attention;
your ears are open, but you hear nothing.

Yes, it was a strong challenge – a rebuke even – but so patient and kind too. I felt God was saying with a big sigh: ‘Come on, Jo! How many times do I have to show you? Go home and start writing the book!’

Well, I went home and did exactly what God had told me to. That was what it took to get through to me that yes, it was okay to write – that in fact it was more than okay, since this was what I was being called to do. And in the end, writing my first novel was an absolutely amazing, cathartic experience. Now, seven years on
, my first three novels have been published by Ark House Press here in Australia -

Helena (2007)

All the Days of My Life (2008)

Laura (2009)

My fourth novel, ‘Jenna’, is due for release later in 2010.

So what ‘new thing’ is God calling you to do? Is it perhaps the very thing you’ve been dreaming of doing all your life? Could God in fact be giving you permission right now to begin bringing your own dream to reality, as he did with me? If so, take it with both hands and run with it – with all your heart!

To read more about my novels, please check out my website, I also write a weekly blog, which can be found at Finally, if you would like to receive a free copy of my first novel ‘Helena’, which deals with the experiences of a young Czech musician in Europe during and immediately after World War Two, please leave a comment below and I will choose a winner from those who do.


  1. Welcome, Jo-anne! I enjoyed reading the short version of your journey into writing.

  2. "Show me Thy ways, Oh God, Teach me Thy truth" was sung at my wedding and I do try to keep me mind open, but sometimes I wish God would just send an e-mail and lay it out for me! Congratulations on hearing your calling and acting on it. I'd love to get your book.

  3. Welcome Jo-anne, and thanks for sharing. I'd love to read one of your novels, if you're prepared to post to South Africa. I'll understand if you can't.
    Blessings as you continue to follow your dream and God's vision.

    Mary? Who had a special birthday? Sounds like a great time.

  4. I do thank Jo-anne again for being my guest here. And it was a big birthday for myself, Shirl! I've posted a couple of photos on my facebook page for anyone on there! My daughter Gaylene (Hawkins) also just posted some on her page of the great photos she scanned from years gone by!
    I know that after you've read 'Helena' you won't be able to resist the sequel. It gave me glimpses of what is can be like for migrants to Australia after the second world war. However I found the story of a blind girl in 'Laura' hard to put down! Hope you do check out Jo-Anne's website too!

  5. I enjoyed reading 'your' story Jo-Anne. I will keep my eyes open for your masterpieces.

    And Happy Birthday, Mary :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  6. Joanne, thanks for joining us and sharing your journey to publication - congrats on your releases with Ark House Press :-) And Mary, Happy Birthday!!!

  7. Thanks for answering, Mary. Happy Birthday! I trust you had a wonderful family time together.

  8. Thanks to all those who commented on my guest blog - great to meet you this way in cyberspace! I would dearly love to send a copy of my novel to all of you, but unfortunately have to keep it to one person, who in this case is Shirley Corder from South Africa. However, if any of you do want to purchase one of my novels, you can do this via my website, I may even give you an extra good postage rate in this instance!

  9. Woohoo! What an exciting way to start the day. The first email of my day was an email saying I'd won this book.
    Thank you so much Joanne. I can't wait. I'll let you know the moment it arrives.

  10. First of all, my apologies for taking so long to respond to all your great comments! This has already been another busy week and baby-sitting grandchildren again this morning. Congratulations, Shirley, I know you will enjoy this book and want to read the sequel too. And I never mentioned to Jo-Anne that thanks to ACFW you and I have been in contact many times over a lot of years now, Shirley! And thank you for the birthday greetings. It has been a marvellous time and made me feel very loved indeed!