A Precious Moment

Loving all creatures.

Loving all creatures.

While I was in my back garden this morning, I found this butterfly sitting on the grass. I think it's called a Blue Tiger. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I felt privileged to have gotten so close. I bent down and placed my finger in front of it. Amazingly, this little creature took a couple of steps toward my finger and climbed up on it. It stayed there until I nudged it to take flight.

It's not often these special experiences come our way. I felt blessed that an elusive creature had sensed my love for everything on this earth and was content to be with me for a few minutes to appreciate its beauty and share a special moment to bond.

When I looked closely, I saw its left wing was damaged. Perhaps I was meant to be there as it was taking its last breaths...

What this experience made me realise was that it's important to take the time to tune into the world around us. These moments are there to encourage and pause us in our busy lives; to refresh and inspire us think about what's really important.

When I Was Fourteen...

Life is what you make it.

Life is what you make it.

When I was fourteen , we spent our holidays at Noosa Heads. The surf crashed into a foamy mass that raced up the beach and clung to the sand at the edge of the water and when the water receded the sand became shiny as glass reflecting the blue sky and headland. It was an idyllic place for a troubled teenager.

I was becoming a woman and I wasn't sure if this was really what I wanted. My head filled with frightening thoughts of what it meant to grow up and be concerned about work, marriage, babies, life and death. How did other girls do life? Did they live in a perpetual state of fear where they didn't know who they were? I was confused with how to make friends and keep friends. My peers' language confused me: one moment we were buddies, the next they turned away and whispered behind their hands while glancing back at me. I chose to be alone.

That summer I was determined to find where I belonged in the world.

I body surfed every day, diving under the waves pretending I was a dolphin, swimming deeper and deeper into that silent world. When I came up for air, the salt water stung my eyes, but it didn't matter. The cool water on my skin made me feel special. I was a dolphin and dolphins were perfect. As I waded through the water, I used to cup the froth floating on top of the water in my hands, trying to capture perfection.

Perfection was what I longed for. It was how I saw my future. If I achieved perfection and cleanliness I'd be made. Little did I know perfection isn't possible, or did it come under the disguise of something else?

Every afternoon at about five o'clock, I sat on the rocks with my friend, the ocean breeze. We talked about life and it was perfect. The wind told me stories of other people's imperfect lives and how I could make mine perfect. The wind whispered to me that I had to listen to and trust the voice within me that had spoken to me ever since I can remember. I developed a wild mind that could take me to any place I wanted to go. I longed to get inside another person's head to see if their wild mind was the same as mine.

The weak afternoon rays of sunshine let me know I may have gotten just a little bit too much sun, but I didn't care. It was fun pretending to be a fish in the quiet world under the water away from the cacophany above the water. However, beneath all that calm I sensed a sinister more subtle chaos. When I learned to scuba dive in my early twenties, I experienced the sinister world that lurked beneath the surface of the water: fish eating fish.

I envied the eagle flying free above the chaos soaring high on the thermals above the rubble of human life. Years later when I had the opportunity to para-sail I sampled that space above the world, but I soon became bored with hanging in mid-air . However, under the sea, I was intrigued by what lurked under rocky ledges and in coral caves: a delightful discovery of a world beautiful and separate from humanity. In that watery atmosphere I understood sealife lived to the beat of their own intrigue, and so do humans.

Sitting on my rock that summer and staring out to the horizon, I decided the world was a dangerous place. Temporary peace surrounded me as I retreated into my own world. I understood I had a yearning for peace in my heart, but I sensed I had to live a life in order to find peace. I had to live a series of experiences: great and exciting; boring; painful; heartbroken and every other emotion in between in order for me to find the peace I craved. Otherwise how would I know peace when I found it.

That summer I had peace for a short time. I couldn't live on that rock of peace forever. If I did I would be dead. I had to get off the ledge and taste life. That meant living in the band between sky and sea: hearing; seeing; tasting; smelling; touching; loving; and hating. It meant walking beside others, stepping into their lives and trying to see life as they did.

It was the summer that changed my life. I had a glimpse into the journey that would end my search for perfection. I chose to live and take all that life was going to throw at me, and I knew I would survive. A quiet conviction settled on my heart that I wanted to be on the earth for the long haul. I didn't know God then but there was someone watching over me, and taking care of me. I had proof of that. I was an orphan and I'd travelled fourteen years into my life. I was alive and well. I had a quiet assurance there was more for my life and I wanted it, no matter how hard it was going to be.

I've returned to my ledge of peace many times to pause in the hectic schedule of life, to catch my breath, draw strength and renew before I step out for the next adventure. It's worth returning for renewal. My life has taken many paths: some good and some bad, and the paths I take in the future some will be right and some will be another learning experience.

Many challenges, but this life is the perfect life for me. How about you? Have you found your perfect life, or are you on the journey to finding it? I'd love to hear from you.

Facing Your Fears

Back in January, I blogged about our motivations for achieving our dreams and goals. I hope you've had time to think about your motivations for your project. This was a great time for me to evaluate why I write, too, and I thought I would share that with you today.

I write because I'm compelled to write. It's part of who I am. Through my writing I hope to encourage others who may have a dream but are so paralysed by fear of failing that they can't get started. Fear used to be a constant companion of mine during the transition from the numbers world to the world of words. If I was called to be a writer, I had to get over my fears.

I believed God called me to write when he was planning for my life on earth. Under his Laura O'Connell file he wrote "Fiction writer- experience required: numbers, deadlines, stick-to-itiveness, life experience, ie. trials and trauma that can be used as fodder for characters; and the ability to learn words".

He put me into the accounting field first so that I could learn the discipline of working on my own, what it means to meet deadlines, and how to work at a project until it was completed. There was no point in handing in a Balance Sheet to my boss if it didn't balance.

He gave me life experiences for making my characters into real people: he put me youngest in a family of twelve; orphaned at eight years of age; scoliosis; scuba diving; wife of a serving soldier; business owner; mother of Aspergers Syndrome child; stress attack that held me captive for eighteen months; unemployment; and the fear and uncertainty that comes with a change in career. All good stuff for drawing on when creating characters for a story.

Working on your own can be a challenge, especially when the day is hot and the surf's up. Oh why am I stuck in this claustropobic room when I could be out there riding a wave. So why didn't I get up from my desk and walk out. Because I wanted to achieve my goal of being a writer. That meant I had to sit at my desk and get the words done. No one is going to do them for me. How can I encourage people when there are no words written to encourage them?

That is the truth of the writing life, or any other endeavour that you may be undertaking to achieve a dream. It doesn't get done by itself. The job gets done by applying ourselves to the task and chipping away bit by bit until the dream is achieved. When motivation is strong and time is short it's easier to keep going. If you don't have a deadline to achieve stage one or stage six, the going will be harder. Set a realistic time frame to achieve that first stage and work towards that goal. Define what it is and make smaller goals along the way that have to be met.

My goal was to plan to write African Hearts in a year. I broke the year down into segments: six weeks for planning, two months for research; four months for writing the first draft; and four and a half for editing and polishing the work. This was my rough plan. The actual time frame ended up being written and off to a publisher within nine months. This now gives me a bench mark for subsequent books. I saved time on writing the first draft which only took 2 months and my research only needed a month.

So I want to encourage you to overcome your fear with a verse from Isa. 41:10:

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous hand."

With God anything is possible, it's the fear that holds us back.

Praying Simply

Praying is a meaningful practice to get closer to God, but what happens when the words don't come? Sometimes, when I'm praying, God seems far away, and at other times he's here beside me, holding me and encouraging me. So why do I think he's far away sometimes?

As with everything in this life I'm living, I've come to realise I'm keeping some part of myself back from him. This is an unconscious action, but what that tells me is I'm not tuned in to the Holy Spirit. I'm allowing my ego to take over instead of trusting the Holy Spirit as the guiding force in me. When this happens my prayer is forced, disconnected and frustrating.

When I'm in tune with my spirit, I hear God speaking. He comes as a gentle voice, a prompt that says something like "not that way, try this way". By listening to this small voice I free up the kinks in the link between God and me. He only wants what's good for me. When I'm tuned to his will for my life, I can achieve more than I would normally do under my own steam. Through obedience, I've found I'm drawing closer to God and through that relationship, I'm learning the purpose he has for my life. The spin-off from this is a deeper connection in the relationships with people I meet every day.

So prayer for me is fundamental in making the connection with God at that extraordinary deep level he wants to be with us. Prayer starts a relationship with God. As I continue it becomes a trickle that grows to an ocean where it washes my spirit, calming and nurturing it, until I become compliant for God so he can use me for his purposes.

By taking the time to pray in a private place where I won't be disturbed, I ask my heavenly Father for his guidance. My Father already knows what I need before I ask him. Sometimes the words tumble out unceasingly and become a jumble of meaningless words, but he doesn't want to hear that. He wants to hear the words of my heart, to know what the deep concerns are, but he also wants me to keep it simple. We're instructed in Matthew 6:5-15 NIV to pray as follows:

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Next time you're praying and you can't find the right words, pray the above prayer, because this is how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Bible. God hears this prayer, and he will answer according to His will and purpose for your life. No fancy words--a simple prayer is enough to connect with him in a powerful and meaningful way. Try it today and see his power in your life.

Leave a reply below and tell me about how He's worked in your life today.

Free: God's Lifeline ... Any Time, Any Place

Ring ring ... ring ring. I answer the telephone.

"Hello, Laura, this is God. I haven't heard from you for some time. I know there's been trouble ..."

How would you react if God used the telephone to connect with you when he felt neglected?

My insides squeeze so hard I can hardly breathe. Every excuse I can think of races through my mind. I take a deep breath and admit the truth. He's right, I haven't spent time with him for ages. I've been focussed on putting out the bushfires in my life.

Sound familiar? Could I have done life better?

Most certainly. I forgot God has been watching me during this stressful time. The things I believe were important have made me forget about everything I hold precious--my family, my friends and my God.

God saw my position and wanted to lovingly remind me he's there waiting for me and so are my family and friends. I could have done the past couple of months much better. He reminds me I have access to an enormous amount of power that will get me through tough times, if only I will stop and think for a few minutes.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God..."

If I'd been still, I'd have heard his comforting words. I'd have felt the peace he places upon my heart in troubled times. Instead I became self-focussed trying to solve my problems myself. God knows my deadlines, my fears, and my inadequacies. In the turmoil I forgot his gracious power that is available to me.

By living in spirit, I am connected to the one who created me and it is by the gift of his mighty power he will encourage and empower me to be creative and achieve great things for him. I forget so easily that no phone is required to speak to my heavenly father. All I have to do is be still, pray and listen for his loving voice.

I'm a slow learner. Stress is a part of life, but not the bad stress that cripples my thought processes and makes relating to my family almost impossible. I've learnt during recent months I have no control over what happens in my life, but I can take time out with Jesus to pray and ask for forgiveness when life gets out of control. If I read his word, my priorities will fall into place because he is in control through the Holy Spirit, not Laura in control through the flesh.

Next time you're feeling wrung out, beaten and faded like an old rag, be still and listen for the one who really cares for where you're at. His peace and grace is enough to get you through no matter what challenges life throws at you. You don't need to pick up a telephone to speak to him, and he doesn't need a telephone to speak with you. Be still and know that the lifeline to God is free--any time, any place.