Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Looking back, looking forward

Once again, we are almost at the end of another year. How was 2011 for you? Was it a wonderful and fulfilling year when you achieved much more than you even hoped with your writing? Or was it perhaps a difficult year, with many challenges and disappointments along the way?

My year has been an interesting one. Early on, I completed my sixth novel and left it to ‘sit’ while I busied myself with speaking engagements. Then around the middle of the year, I tackled my first work of non-fiction—quite a challenging journey for me. Not long after, I began to experience severe sciatica in my right leg, the result of some longstanding, lower back problems. This kept me grounded at home much more than normal, which did not help personal book sales and also made writing difficult, since I could not sit for long periods at a time. Yet I did manage to complete the first draft of that non-fiction work and am now deep into reflecting on the feedback I have received from my manuscript readers.

So for me, 2011 has been somewhat challenging, yet also very fulfilling. But it is almost past now. It is time to look to the year ahead and be ready for whatever it may hold. And as I do, my mind is once again flooded with many questions. Will my sixth novel be accepted for publication? Will I end up with enough speaking engagements? What should I do with my non-fiction work? Should I stay with my current publisher for that or try another? Is it even worthy of publication?

Recently, I unearthed a poem I wrote way back in November 1985, at an extremely challenging stage of my life. While I am not in anywhere near as difficult a place now as I was then, I still relate to the words it contains as I grapple with the questions I know will face me in my writing journey in the coming year. I share this poem here in the hope that it may perhaps help any of you who may be in some turmoil and confusion right now with your writing. It is really a prayer, a heart cry to God, based on the beautiful words of Isaiah 9:6 (For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace).

Wonderful Counsellor, surround me with your wisdom.

My mind is tired, with indecision torn.

Where is the path prepared for me to follow?

I need you, Lord, to watch, to guide, to warn.

Almighty God, defend me with your power.

My weakness wins, my courage ebbs away.

O Holy One, great Lord of all creation,

For strength to stand secure I humbly pray.

Everlasting Father, how you love me!

I am your child, forgiven, forever free!

O hold me fast, transform me to your likeness,

Till men in me your face more clearly see.

Prince of Peace, bestow your calm assurance.

My heart is troubled, turmoil takes control.

O send your soothing Spirit to surround me.

Speak, Lord, till I am still within my soul!

How amazingly blessed we are to be able to cry out to our Wonderful Counsellor, our Almighty God, our Everlasting Father and our Prince of Peace wherever we find ourselves in our lives! I am humbled yet again as I reflect on the wonder of Immanuel—God with us. And I am even more humbled that God is using me to write books that will touch hearts and make a difference for the kingdom, whatever the difficulties along the way.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen grew up in Brisbane and holds an Arts degree from Queensland University. She has also studied Education and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher and editor, as well as in local church ministry in Sydney. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word and currently has five novels published by Ark House – ‘Heléna’, ‘All the Days of My Life’, ‘Laura’, ‘Jenna’ and ‘Heléna’s Legacy’. For more information about Jo-Anne, please visit her website,


  1. Jo-Anne, thank you for this beautiful prayer/poem which I'm printing to share with a prayer partner.

    May God bless you and guide you in 2012.

  2. That's a beautiful prayer, Jo-Anne.
    Thank you.

  3. Try again. I had one written but it failed to show up.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely poem/prayer. Can relate to the challenging year. Thankfully we know who to turn to in it.

  4. I have many questions related to my writer career. After reading your poem, I can see clearly what I have to do... talk to the Lord. Thanks a lot!