Beneath a Critical Eye

zombomeme-10072017085558-e1499645870520.jpgDear Artist,

Be careful whose whispers you allow to penetrate your heart.

Be careful whose words you allow to shape you and what you are called to create.

Look past the credentials and trophies that blind as they glint in the world’s light.

Search.

Far beyond to see the heart from which these words are sent.

Have your salt at the ready and prepare a pinch.

Just in case.

Weigh the judgement against the desires of your heart.

And artist, dear sweet artist, should you discover that those words contradict what your faith is speaking, take only this…

Let those words feed your determination.

Sticks and stones will falter beneath the strength of your will.

And those words

will fade

in time.

You’ll be grateful for them one day.

Because they gave you the chance

to prove them wrong.

miss adelaide

IMG_20170319_164955_721Chapter 1 – excerpt 

Saturday 11th February – 9:03am

In a city where a stranger is likely to be a friend of a friend, an Adelaide girl seldom escapes the awkwardness of accidental reunions. The exception to this rule would be if a girl is oblivious or a dreamer. I just so happen to be both.

On ordinary days, I see patterns. I see a world of colour. I see every intricate stitch in the patchwork of life, though I rarely see the vast canvas on which it is painted – otherwise known as the seemingly elusive ‘big picture’. Today, for instance, I see only diamonds…

Diamonds rain from a sunlit haze. No umbrella. I imagine the man of my dreams kneeling in the puddles, mirrors of starlight, portals to our own galaxy of infinite possibility. I can almost hear his confident voice reduced to nerves as he asks the question.

‘Yes.’ I close my eyes for dramatic effect and nod, my smile luminous as I anticipate the Tiffany diamond ring.

Bang!

The fantasy comes to an abrupt end somewhere between O’Connell St and the black hole where egos go to die. I hear it before I feel it. Dread thuds in my chest. My hands drain white as they clamp the steering wheel. My cheeks flush with red. Lucky I’m not wearing blush – it would’ve been overkill. I hear an Irishman curse loudly from the adjoining van and I suddenly realise I’m not in Kansas anymore.

‘Bloody Asians’, I hear him mutter. Bloody indeed – it’s simmering in the back of my neck. I glare up at him through the open window. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Yer jokin’ right?’

I arch my brow to prove I’m unaffected by his dark, rugged, and somewhat aggressive mug. Welcome, Pokerface. Your timing is impeccable as always.

‘How the hell do ye hit a parked van!’ His tone suggests this is a rhetorical question.

I shrug, click my seatbelt loose, and maneuver myself out of the car in my floral Cue dress and pointed-toe pumps. The transition from air-conditioning to 34 degree humidity is uncomfortable to say the least. While Adelaide’s sun burns its way into my slightly yellow complexion, the foreign moisture in the air threatens to make my hair stand on end. I suddenly find myself longing for our hot, dry, albeit 45 degree summer days. I smooth my hands down the lengths of my brunette ends before folding my arms across my chest.

He inspects the front of my car. ‘Well, I guess ye drew the short straw. Right then, I’ll get me camera.’

He leans across the front seat of his van, baring his brown leather belt and lower back along with a glimpse of a BONDS logo. The font almost matches the bold ‘Brodie’s Plumbing Service’ stamped on the canvas of white metal.

‘That’s a fancy camera for a plumber.’

‘That’s a fancy car for a –’ He shook his head as he focused the lens. ‘Never mind.’

‘Look, I’m sorry… Brodie.’

He looks up from the camera. ‘And ye are?’

‘Vera.’

‘Right, if ye’d like to write that down along with yer other details.’

I turn and reach across the seat for my clutch – the kind you keep your lipstick and credit cards in.

‘Do ye always dress up this early in the mornin’?’ he asks.

‘No, not always.’ I turn, offering my driver’s license as I pop my hip to one side. ‘It’s my birthday.’

‘Bollocks.’ He stares at the card for a moment before reaching for his phone. He starts typing. ‘Phone?’

‘Here,’ I say, flashing my business card.

‘Miss Vera Lukov, Freelance Designer. Well, that explains the car.’ His expression remains somewhat sardonically flat. ‘What do ye design?’

‘You know creative, designer, freelance things…’ I toss the words around, dressing them with incoherent mumbles before stating: ‘If you don’t mind, I have a brunch to get to.’

‘Oh, my apologies. I would take full responsibility only ye hit my van, remember?’

‘And I’ve apologised.’

He clenches his teeth and chuckles. ‘No wonder yer a ‘miss’.’

‘Excuse me?!’

‘Ye heard me. This ain’t normal behavior, just so ye know.’

My mouth drops open. How dare he…

‘Nor’s this.’

Shock seizes me as his callous hands take hold of my waist, snagging my silk blouse. His hot mouth consumes mine. It happens too quickly to protest. Swirls of stars cloud my better judgment and with a few brushes of his stubble-lined mouth, I’m left wilting across my car.

‘What was that?!’ I demand.

‘Well, this can’t be the day ye smash into a stationary object,’ he says with a shrug. ‘So now it’s the day ye got snogged by an Irishman.’ He grins over his shoulder before sliding into his van. ‘Happy birthday, Miss Lukov!’

And with that, I watch Brodie’s Plumbing Service pull into the northbound traffic. I then take a moment to peer around the front of my car… Yes, that just happened.

 

here comes the bride

00a6bea7cf93cebe7991c4fcdd3fbde9--humour-quotes-phone-quotesDearest Reader,

I would like to introduce you to Warrior Princess Bride.

It’s the next stage of this blog, the new season. Just as autumn’s leaves give way to winter’s frost, the ‘Warrior Princess’ predecessor relinquishes her iron crown for a tiara and a veil.

The catalyst? Change. In all its beauty and wonder, change has barrelled its way into my life sending me spiralling off in a hurricane of unknown possibility. I’ve reached the other side a little braver, a little stronger, and a whole lot more focused on what I’m meant to be doing and who and where I’m meant to be. I’m a writer. I’m blessed to be married to a beautiful Christ-centred man who believes in my work. I’ve released my grip on two books and let them fly into the big wide world only to see them land a few feet away. My uncertain feet feel like they’re always taking two steps forward and one step back. But that’s still forward, right?

There will be throwbacks to what was but there will also be new adventures. I’m looking forward to seeing where this next stage leads me.

This has been a long time coming. This blog has been niggling at my soul of late, so much so I couldn’t shake it. I’ve longed to sit at this luminous screen and let my heart bleed through the keys. However, sometimes life gets in the way and we simply must float with the rip because if we fight against it, it may just pull us under.

As I begin a Creative Writing intensive this week, focusing on editing and publishing, I believe it’s the right time to launch into this new phase of blogging and commit anew to this journey.

There have been other signs too, other inklings that grow upon the other like green vine of ivy reaching upward.

I recently read Audacious by Beth Moore. Early in the book, Moore (or Auntie Beth as I like to call her) challenged me to determine two vital things: What is my dream? What is my vision for the future? These questions pestered my mind to such an extent that I was compelled to figure out the answers. This is what came to me:

My dream is not simply to be a good writer. Many people can write and write well and tell stories that interest people. However, my dream is to be a writer whose work resonates, inspires, and challenges. My vision for the future is not filled with book tours or signing over film rights, but rather that the kingdom of God might be somehow furthered by the words I put to paper. I pray that the stories I share will be ones that will drive people toward asking big life questions and inevitably to find their answers in Jesus.

You know how the old saying goes, the only thing that’s constant is change. Still, there are some things that remain. For instance, the first blog I ever posted over two years ago now. Who knew way back then that this journey would bring me here…

THE JOURNEY BEGINS
February 1, 2015
I begin this journey in hopes that this may help other women to know that they are beautiful and loved by the incredible and ever-living God of the universe. There is so little offered these days that provides gospel-centred views on self-esteem and treating our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. Nutrition is often paired with meditation, yoga, and self-help affirmations, rather than focusing on the Creator who has breathed life into us and meets our every need.
I believe that I have been led to write this blog, for I am passionate about the Lord, women, and writing – it just seems like an organic collaboration. I wish this to be a safe space, where insecurities can be voiced, embraced and healed. I just pray that I can do this justice…
– WP

 

 

 

 

Fallen & Forgiven 

I’ll allow myself to cry

allow myself to feel

I’ll give myself permission

to hurt before I heal

And even if the pain

becomes too much to stand

I know Jesus is there

holding my hand

The world may judge me now

the devil’s whispers ring

But God declares me “Justified”

So I’m not listening

Instead I’m on my knees

in worship of my Savior

His loving voice that says 

‘I don’t accuse you either…’ 

Seasonal

one-street-four-seasons-newark-nj-afatihozay-instagramSeasons are like four foreign rulers, each using their power to influence provinces.

In the fantasy world of Lutaris, seasons are geographically separated. In my latest piece of work, they mark the different points of the characters life and are symbolic of change. Then there’s my own life. Seasons are changing, seemingly beyond my control, and all I can do is reach for an umbrella when it randomly decides to pour down with rain.

There have been many seasons in my life, some filled with sunshine, others with thunderstorms. However, all of a sudden, I’ve found myself in the strangest season of all.

Sometimes I struggle to know what to hold onto and right now I’m in a season full of shifting ground, like autumn leaves scattering, some out of reach. Friendships I once thought vital are now fading into the distance. There are only a few sacred ones left, protected by mutual efforts. Love is thriving like an exquisite garden. And time is quickly absorbed in chasing this dream of writing – from the study to the research, to the writers groups, to the actual…you know… writing?

A lady who wrote a book on embroidery said to me today: ‘I always wanted to write a second book but I wanted to put my family first…’ My reply? ‘That’s part of the reason why we want to wait to have children, because then everything will change…’ And so it should. But until that moment comes, there are still other callings to thrive within…

downloadWriting is a constant struggle. It’s being in the right head space and trying to balance the rest of life. It’s mustering enough confidence to actually allow someone to read something you’ve put your heart and soul into. It’s chasing inspiration. It’s finding your own voice. It’s trying not to be swayed by people’s negativity. It’s a beautiful battle of wits.

And the other day I was just about ready to give up on it altogether.

I experienced a spell of writer’s remorse – that moment when you think you’ve completely wasted your time. Every idea seems stale. Past “successes” (if they were even that at all) seem completely insignificant. Perhaps your heart’s desire is out of whack? Your priorities are all wrong? Maybe, just maybe, you’ve missed your calling altogether?

Fair to say, these moments are scary. They’re haunting and torturous. They make you doubt yourself beyond belief and you find yourself crying in the arms of your beloved, asking whether you’re good enough?? Of course, whatever they tell you doesn’t actually help because you think they have to say those affirming words to you…

I had sent pages of my recent project to a new publisher and was playing the waiting game and that was enough to give me a sense of insecurity. That, along with the fact that only one tiny Christian bookstore was willing to stock my books on their shelves. Maybe it’s a stupid idea? Maybe they all are…

I prayed about it.

And then I prayed harder.

Every morning I was committing this project to the Lord, begging him to give me direction. Until, one miraculous day, I had a sign. I received an email from the publisher, wanting the whole manuscript… You know, the one I hadn’t even finished writing yet?

The high lasted for a little while. But any writer knows that such warm and fuzzy feelings only sustain you for so long.

Fear and insecurity crept back in like summer rain, making everything damp and the air thick and humid. Too heavy to think or breathe. Once again, the words on the page seemed like just mere words – devoid of substance or meaning – and procrastination took over in the form of housework and busyness. I still felt rattled from a health scare I’d had over the weekend and I felt like I was neck-deep in water, still trying to catch my breath from being under so long…  

I was in prayer all the while, literally crying to Lord, admitting that I was afraid. Not only was I afraid that something was wrong with me physically. But I felt like I was a failure…especially in regards to finances. I was declared bankrupt. I was barely making ends meet on my own and even though the Lord has sent me a beautiful man to help me, part of me feels like I should be working more and writing less… It’s that guilt that tells me, what are you doing with your life? Wasting it, chasing a hobby…

Then, there was yesterday.

I was staring at the intimidating blank screen when my phone rang and I was grateful for the interruption. It was Mum. She asked if I wanted to go to my favourite place…

‘Koorong?’ I said excitedly. ‘I’d love to.’

And with that, I shut my laptop.

It was a completely spontaneous decision made all the more beautiful when I discovered I had a surprise waiting for me.

I did my usual inspection of the fiction section. I know exactly where the authors whose surnames begin with ‘C’ are kept. Scanning, scanning, scanning…

‘Of course, it won’t be here,’ I tell myself. ‘Who am I kidding…’

I answer my phone as I continue to scan. That beautiful man, my man, is on the other end, telling me about his day. Meanwhile, I’m multi-tasking, until…

I pointed to the shelf. I couldn’t speak. There, in amongst all the other ‘real’ books, was my very own first novel, standing loud and proud: Shamira – Warrior.

I stood in awe for a moment before squealing down the phone and promising to send him a photo.

I was gifted another hope moment. One of those moments when God gently affirms you, saying, ‘Yes, this is right where I want you – persevere and rely on Me…’

It was in this moment when I was once again overwhelmed by the fact that this is what I’m meant to be doing –

for this season.

I’m sure there will many other seasons in my life and it will probably all turn on its end once I eventually delve into motherhood. But, for now, I’m blessed enough to have this season of writing. It’s not to everyone’s taste. In fact, I’m fairly certain a lot of people think me a bit strange. And I don’t mind. But the only reason I’ve come to the point where I’ve been able to spend time writing books is because some other parts of my life haven’t begun yet.

Fortunately, I have an incredibly supportive fiancé who encourages me to write. He not only sees my vision, he shares it, and he understands the space required for me explore my creativity.

So to this amazing man – thank you. I’m so grateful that God sent me someone who gets me. Someone who sees me in this season and doesn’t want to change it. Rather, he wants hold my hand through rain or shine.

I’ve learnt that as much as I try, I can’t be everything to everybody. In fact, I can barely be enough for anybody, and it’s only by God’s grace that I’ve found myself on this incredible journey.

Maybe one day I’ll be in a season that requires me to set aside the laptop and focus on something else. But right now, this is my calling, and I can’t wait to see what God does with it…

‘There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven.’

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Photograph by Fatih Ozay (ig: @afatihozay)

From the ashes

A war raged beyond the safe house. Air crafts hovered overhead, rumbling, propelling through the devastation. Everything was dark. There was pounding on the front door, so much it shook. But it was locked now. 

Until, fire like rain fell from the heavens. Vivid orange against the black starless sky. The earth was burning, its land barren & scorched. Darkness as far as the eye could see. No person left standing. 

Fellow brothers & sisters in Christ surrounded me in this house. Safe. No fire touched us. We knew the end was near but there was no fear in us. Only awe. We kept our eyes on the window. Not fearing that the fire or war would touch us. But rather, waiting… for Him. 

Then, I woke up.
I felt strange. I wasn’t afraid. Rather, I was empowered. 

This was no nightmare.

 

‘Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.’ Revelation 8:5-7

‘The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord GOD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD. – Ezekiel 38:20-23

Little Butterfly

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Dearest Little Butterfly,

I don’t know you yet.

You’re still a dream in my mind.

But one day, God-willing, you will be here.

You will taste the breath of life and realise that it’s sweeter than you could’ve ever imagined.

But first…

If there’s one thing I could tell you, it would be this:

Please don’t rush into love, it will come. Wait on the One who loves you. 

He is the One who will comfort you when you’re afraid. He is the Prince who doesn’t need a valiant steed. He will carry you in His arms. For He is strong enough to take you and any burdens you carry. He loves you so much that He gave His life to save yours…

He is the One who has personally selected your match here on earth. Just wait and see. And please don’t settle for anything less than the contentment of knowing the Prince of Peace has brought you a prince of the Father’s design.

And another thing:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made                                                                                              – Psalm 139

I wish I could protect you from the pain this broken world brings. From the critical eye and the pressures of society. But I can’t. All I can tell you is that you are exquisite. You are precious. You are loved. God created you to be you – please don’t feel like you need to be someone else. Embrace your quirks and even your flaws. None of us are perfect. I know sometimes this is hard and this world can be cruel, but please remember that every inch of you came from God’s own handiwork. You may have fair skin like your Mama that freckles and burns. You may have her wider hips and crooked smile. But remember, that those freckles across your nose are as deliberate as the constellation of stars that glimmer outside your window when you go to sleep. Remember, the size of your jeans reflects nothing more than numbers, plain unexciting numbers on a little black and white tag. It does not represent the colourful adventures you will have in those jeans – the mountains you will climb, the friends you will meet, the places you will go… I pray that one day you will look at the threadbare denim and that insignificant tag would be faded into nothing and all that will be left are the beautiful memories of your youth… And that smile of yours is priceless – a symbol of your inner joy, a testament to One who has given you life & given it abundantly.

One more thing…the most important of all:

Jesus is enough 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…”                    – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I know life doesn’t seem fair sometimes. I understand that sometimes it’s the bad boy who steals your heart, the boy you desperately believe can change. But remember, it isn’t his to steal. Your heart belongs to another and He alone will take care of it. Trust Him, my darling. He is enough for you. Only when you are satisfied in your relationship with the Lord are you ready to extend that love to a special man. That’s why the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and the second is to love others like yourself. Because without Him, we can’t do relationships justice… Trust me, I’ve been there, my darling. I’ve tried the other ways. And they have failed. Please learn from my mistakes…

“I want (young women) to marry out of a healthy heart satisfied by Jesus, instead of an unhealthy heart that will just take anything… You are a Queen. God has a KING for you!” – Beth Moore 

I haven’t met you yet and I may not for many years to come – so your Mama may have many post scripts to add to this letter.

But finally, let me write you one more thing…

Even if you fall, He will be there to heal you and to set you free

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. – Isaiah 61:1-3

So flutter your wings, Little Butterfly – I’ll pry open my hands. And trust the Lord to guide you as you fly toward the clouds.

With love & prayers,

Your future Mama