If I had known on January 1st what 2015 had in store for me, I probably would’ve found a rabbit hole, ducked down it, and not surfaced until 2016.
The year started off in cold, snowy Finland. It was there as my husband, Noel, and I stood most mornings praying for the family beside the frozen lake in the backyard of my daughter-in-law’s childhood home, that I felt God give me the word ‘Breakthrough’ for 2015. And it has been a year of breakthrough. But it’s been a year of extreme heartbreak, too.
I had started writing my Lapland novella, Poles Apart while in Finland. Four days after receiving the word ‘Breakthrough’, a writer friend from England, Autumn Macarthur invited me to be part of a box set with stories set on water. Nine authors were finally involved in SPLASH! and the set has done tremendously well. It was in the number one Amazon ranking for many weeks in two categories. The set saw all nine authors ranking at one time within the top forty of the Top 100 Amazon author ranking for Religion and Spirituality.
Whilst writing my Zambian story, Orphaned Hearts, set on the mighty Zambezi River, I still continued to try meet the same May 31st deadline for Poles Apart, too, which I’d intended submitting to my publisher for the Christmas extravaganza line. But it was impossible to get both stories done by end May. However, I knew that God had a plan for this Christmas story and it was not long into June when the invitation came to be part of another box set for Christmas. The initial group involved in this project was around 20 authors, and three box sets were planned. Due to circumstances, many had to pull out, and in the end we had around fifteen authors involved, with two final box sets. This time I was with totally different authors to those in SPLASH! (with the exception of two). Although I miss the SPLASH! authors, it’s been great getting to know other Indie authors. Snowflakes and Mistletoe is planned for release on October 1st, and my Lapland story will feature in that set after which it will be released independently.
During my time of trying to finish writing Poles Apart, the opportunity to take part in a short story contest rose. So once again I said goodbye to Lapland for a while as I wrote a 6000 word story that had to have something to do with dance. I was thrilled to find out in August that Dancing in the Rain was a finalist and will be published in an anthology in early 2016, the proceeds of which will go to the American Christian Fiction Writers scholarship fund.
On top of all these writing opportunities and deadlines, I’d decided at the end of 2014 to attend the ACFW Conference in Dallas in September, which starts today (yes, I’m blogging this post from America). I’ve had preparation to do, not only for the trip, but for the conference as well—amongst other things, a One Sheet to prepare, elevator pitch, and three chapters perfected.
Toward the end of 2014, my mother was diagnosed with heart failure, and we watched her health steadily fail. She soon got to the point of not being able to do a thing for herself. We did not expect her to make Christmas. Then we didn’t think she would make her 88th birthday in February. Then it was Mother’s Day in May we wondered about. I would go through to my sister’s farm about every third week to visit, help with my mom, and give my sister a break. Finally, on July 17th, my mom lost her battle with life and went home to Jesus.
My deadline for Poles Apart was less than two months away, and I still had several thousand words to write plus have the manuscript edited and ready for publishing. With family staying over, a funeral to arrange, and the creative desire absent, writing was almost impossible during this time. My father, too, was not well. Just over two weeks after we buried my mom, my dad landed up in intensive care, extremely ill. We spent the next nine days visiting him in hospital each night. Thirty three days after my mom passed away, my father, too, lost his battle to hold on to life. Another funeral to arrange... the open grave to face yet again.
Our family barely had time to begin to process the reality of our losses when my youngest brother and his wife immigrated to England a week after my father’s funeral. Three weeks after that goodbye my oldest brother leaves South Africa to work in Iraq. Fortunately, he’s on rotation, and so will be away for a month and back home for a month. We should hopefully be able to see him at least every two months.
Although this year has been a breakthrough in my writing, in my personal life, it’s been nine months of sadness so far, and it seems that my word for this year should perhaps have been ‘Goodbye’. I truly have been writing through the storm in 2015, and it’s only by God’s grace and His strength, and the promise that we shall not grieve as those who have no hope, that I’ve been able to write, and to publish, and to hold onto the word that He gave me months ago beside a frozen lake—Breakthrough!