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.