Friday, March 8, 2013

Maybe I'm being pruned

The start of 2013 has been one of pruning for me.  I don't feel I have many leaves fluttering in the breeze right now, let alone fruit dangling from my boughs.

Shortly before Christmas, we had a surprise call from our Real Estate agent telling us that our landlords decided not to renew our lease. Their son had decided he wanted to move in. This was a blow as we'd only been living in the picture-postcard house for eight months. Back when we first went through, I made a point to ask whether they were looking for long-term tenants. "Yes, they are." The owner lived overseas and her partner lived interstate. It seemed perfect and we all loved the house. It incorporated 2-storeys, a huge spa bath, lots of cupboard space and a restful blue colour scheme. I'd had great fun showing people through and saying, "Yep, this is our mansion." Now, as we started looking for other rental properties, I was learning how foolish it was of me to be so proud of something that had never belonged to me. Having a grueling house move so recently behind us, breaking our old lease and losing money was all heartbreaking.

Hey, I've been going around saying how our prayers have been answered, that even though we weren't actively looking for a new house, this just came up out the blue, we're blessed and serendipitous things are happening. Now, as well as being homeless, I feel like a total doofus.

About the same time, early January, there was an email from my publisher reiterating things we couldn't help knowing already, that Australian Christian fiction sales are slow and even though we're all doing our very best, we're all pouring in and getting not much to show for it. I remember sitting there reading it, straight after coming back from walking through yet another potential change of address, thinking, OK, I might as well face this too. I'd better stop kidding myself that book sales will some day shoot through the roof. That's what I've been hoping for over a decade and I might have been better working some office job.

I avoided blogging and social media because I didn't want to come across as wallowing in self-pity, even though I was. Social media, I've found, is like the surface of a pond. When you stop putting things in, the ripples subside as if you had never been working your butt off. So I felt isolated as well as foolish. At the same time, my eldest son came to the end of his homeschooling journey and couldn't figure out whether he ought to accept a TAFE or University offer and I felt clueless about how to advise him. My identity as the wise, homeschooling mum who always knows the best advice to give was out of the window too. I felt demoralised and drained. There was no money, not even enough for a lousy take-away. The ripple effect of self pity was still going strong, anyway.

It occurred to me to begin wondering why this stripping away seemed to be happening all at once. I sensed that maybe, if I'd been setting my worth on all that fruit and foliage, it was placed where it shouldn't be.

OK, I've got to accept that I'm still the same person as when things seem to be going well. I've got to remind myself that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do or what happens to me. Am I actually going through a pruning stage like that vine in the New Testament?

Then I begin seeing, maybe it's a favour, in a way. People who get to keep all their status symbols may be like urbanites who have their view of the galaxy obscured by the city skyline. At this stage of 2013, I feel I have nothing to stand behind at all. What you see is what you get. I must stop worrying over what people think, how I'm perceived. Must stop trying to meet higher standards. Maybe when your trappings are pruned back, the simplicity of merely living in the knowledge that God loves you no matter what, may be all we need. It may allow me to move from the city smog and draw a deep, fresh breath. Galatians 6:4 tells us not to be impressed with ourselves. Well, maybe God was making sure I could not be impressed with myself.

What am I finding when it's all pared back? That family are most important. That it doesn't really matter where we live, because we're still having fun times in the house we've just moved into. That even though I'm aware of the lowly position Aussie Christian fiction holds compared to other literature, I still want to spend slabs of time doing it. I still have a sense of purpose about it, even though it's hard and probably won't ever earn me status or wealth as I'd once dared to hope. It's still my chosen pursuit in spite of the lack of trappings. Giving yourself wholeheartedly to the task closest to your heart is valuable.

Maybe these are worthwhile sorts of thing to find when you're pruned.  And at times like this, I guess we shouldn't forget the real purpose of being pruned is to bear more fruit at some later time.

11 comments:

  1. Hi Paula
    It must be pruning season! I wrote my blog on the exact same thing yesterday.
    There are three great things about being pruned.
    1. God prunes those He loves :)
    2. He prunes those who are already fruitful
    3. You can expect to produce better fruit. Yah!!
    So looking forward to the better fruit if it means better books from you! Love and Blessings. Jo

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  2. Hi Paula

    I'm a great fan of your books. Who knows, if we keep pegging away Aussie Christian authors will become appreciated as they should be.

    I've recently been through a severe pruning session following one thing after another over a period of years then all brought to a head in 2008 when I had to bury a long term dream among a whole host of other losses and stresses. In the midst of it all God keep whispering both His great love for me and that He had other dreams for me. It toke me a while to let go and rest in His faithfulness.

    I am sure God has plans for a bountiful harvest of fruit to come in your life - and He does not forsake or abandon us.

    And I'm so glad you are holding on to your passion to write :)

    Jeanette O'Hagan

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  3. Hi Paula

    Thanks for that very honest post. It's hard when you're going through the pruning process, but like Jenny and Jo have said, it will eventually lead to an even greater harvest for you. I recently went through a difficult time of unanswered prayer when I didn't know what God was doing. I could recite all the scriptures by heart about God working for good and having wonderful plans for me etc. But I felt like saying, "I know you're teaching me something here Lord, but it would be nice to be in the "answered prayer" group for a change rather than the "all things working together eventually group". But I'm starting to see that God did have another purpose for me and it's not second best. Still a learning curve though. Your writing has blessed many people Paula and will continue to do so. You rock!

    Nola

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  4. Hi Paula,

    I can totally relate to what you are saying. Pruning by our Father can be a little harrowing while going through it but when we come out the other side, and especially when we start to realise that it is pruning that we are going through, it begins to make sense.

    I've been through a similar experience in having to move house. I had been living with my sister for nearly eight years and she told me that she was selling the house and moving into a retirement village.

    So as with your situation, I was forced into house-hunting mode. God was so good during the process but it took many hours of searching Him and trusting Him to lead me to the right place. It wasn't easy but it taught me a lot about His loving me and the need for some pruning.

    It seemed to me that everything that was happening at that time was an obstacle to the book that I'm still writing and trying to make some quality time to actually write, never alone finish.

    So to make a long story shorter, He came through big time and I'm so grateful for His love and faithfullness and yes even the pruning.

    Thanks for sharing your journey - it's always good to know we are not alone in these loving processes from Father and as Jeanette has said before me - great to know that you are still in the fight to get good Christian fiction out there.

    I too, so enjoy your books. Keep on keeping on my friend.

    Love and blessings

    Lesley

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  5. Thanks for your comments, ladies. I appreciate each and every one of you and can see you all know where I'm coming from. In fact, I picture us all in a sort of army as far as the Aussie books getting widely known is concerned.
    And Lesley, having to house search through necessity rather than choice is certainly a bit different, isn't it?

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  6. It's nice to hear you are coming back out of your pruning! If it helps, my years of pruning in my yard has taught me that it is necessary for trees to flourish. I feel for some of what you are going through. It was hard going through the transition of homeschooler to unschooler and mother of a college student. My writing ebbed after a bad experience with a writing group and I'm only starting to pick myself out of that slump. It is uncomfortable to change, whether you do it on purpose or it is forced upon you. Best to look upon it as the new opportunity it is. How lucky we are to be creative enough to reach the other side of that tunnel of change and find ourselves back in the light!

    Peace and Laughter!

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  7. Hi Paula,

    Thanks for your honest reflections. How intrinsically we seem to fight the pruning process while in the middle of bewildering and unexpected turns in life. (Or is that just me?)

    And once we are exposed, what remains? I had to ask myself that question.

    Appreciate you allowing yourself to be vulnerable and enabling other hearts to be touched and challenged through your own journey. Mine certainly was.

    Adele

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  8. I'm late as usual, Paula. Oh, I know the feeling only too well.

    You know God is working but...

    I just tell Him how I feel about the whole writing deal and leave it with Him. When it comes back again i feel depressed, so have to get it sorted out with the Lord again!

    You are appreciated. God bless,

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  9. Thanks ladies.
    Cristina, that's sad to hear about your bad experience with the writers group. I always think when people are gathered with the purpose of pruning, you take what they say with a grain of salt. I think you're a really creative person.
    Adele and Rita, that natural instinct to fight the pruning process is probably something we all know well.
    Blessings in your creative endeavours, all of you :)

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