Sunday, 01 August 2021

Celebrate Lit: Merriweather Island

Carolyn MillerWow. Does anyone else feel like that? 2021 was supposed to be a new start after a tough 2020, but these first six months have flown by, and in my world at least, there seems to have been an inordinate amount of challenge I simply wasn’t expecting.

The first couple of months were fine. Here in Australia, January is peak summer holiday season, and I was glad to have time to refresh and be with my family as my four children had time off from school. Then February saw the start of the school year, and I returned to my writing, and over the course of February and March, managed to finish one historical and write two contemporary novels – which felt like a world record to me! I was all set to enter April and our next two week school holiday period when a couple of hard things happened. One, my eldest daughter was diagnosed with ITP (Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura), a rare autoimmune disorder, in which a person’s blood doesn’t clot properly, because the immune system destroys the blood-clotting platelets. This first presented as tiny red pinprick-like spots on her feet followed by bruises, and we thought she might need to see a dermatologist. Thank God for the doctor (whose referral we would need) who recommended my daughter get a blood test the next morning. Thank God she went the next day, as it was that afternoon we were rung by the pathologist to say she needs to be admitted to our local hospital as her platelet count was at 9 (when it should be 150 – 400). Thank God our brand new local hospital had a bed for our perfectly healthy looking girl, and even though she had to spend that night in emergency, a bed opened up at our nearest hematology hospital the next day, where she could be seen by specialists.

Over the past few weeks we have been back and forth to this hospital (about 1.5 hours away) many times as she’s now had three multiple-night stays, with extra visits for consultations and blood-testing. To say we weren’t expecting this is an understatement. We’re generally a fairly healthy family, and to suddenly negotiate the world of hospitals and acronyms and all the w-a-i-t-i-n-g has been eye-opening indeed.

I feel like I’ve dropped the ball more times than I care to admit, and so many of my plans went out the window. This was compounded by a book I’d submitted to my publishers back in March being rejected, thus requiring rewrites for the first time ever. Added to this was the fact I got the flu (which I didn’t have last year, with everyone’s extra careful social distancing) and had some other setbacks, so it’s fair to say that April and early May had more pressure than I’d anticipated.

But isn't that often the way? Scottish poet Robert Burns talked about the best laid schemes of mice and men often going awry, and all of these things have certainly seen a number of my plans regarding writing and other things pushed down the list of importance. It’s funny how easily we forget that Jesus never promised His followers that life will be strewn with roses, but instead we’ll find challenges “but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10.22).

Perseverance is such an important quality, something I was able to explore in my new contemporary, Regaining Mercy, out June 29. This book explores what happens when a failed reality TV contestant returns to her small-minded island community and is faced with judgement, criticism and prejudice from those around her. Coupled with this, single mom Mindy feels a great sense of failure regarding her parenting of her only son, whose health issues she feels ill-equipped and unable to financially provide for.

Too often we read sad stories of people whose ability to persevere seems to have dried up, as they seek to find solutions that can often lead to devastating consequences. Anyone who is a parent, or who has faced financial struggles, knows the sense of helplessness and inadequacy that can occur, sometimes when we least expect it.

Earlier today I was chatting via Messenger with someone whose family is facing far tougher circumstances than mine, and we agreed that despite these challenges, it was so good to be reminded that God is for us, not against us (Romans 8.31, NIV), that He is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46.1, NIV), that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.38-39).

There’s a lot to be said for being convinced that God loves us, that He has good plans for our lives. As my friend and I chatted, she mentioned that she did not know how people did the hard stuff of life without God.

That was Mindy’s problem. Feeling alone, isolated, like she had to do things on her own, feeling abandoned by God, she struggled to realize that God had already placed people in her life destined to bless her. And how true that can prove of us, too. Over these past few weeks I’ve seen countless messages of support and encouragement, and practical helps that really have helped. While it might prove humbling to admit we can't do it all on our own, I’m learning that our best laid plans sometimes need to take a back seat to God’s even better ones. I’m learning how important it is to recognize God’s grace and mercy in the everyday things, to try to be more quick to thank Him than to complain. (And I’m so pleased to report that my daughter’s health is on the mend – thank You God!)

Mindy, too, comes to realize that God’s mercy is always available for her, that the way she has allowed others to perceive her is not the way that God loves her. How good it is to remember that God loves us, that our various kinds of trials are for a little while, not forever, and that we have a faithful Friend who “will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10.13). As we think on God’s love for us it builds confidence that we can trust Him with our future.

Regaining Mercy is a story about second chances, and the realization that God’s grace and mercy is never too far away. And that while our lives may not be easy, with God’s help, we can ultimately recognize that we are blessed, and can be a blessing to those in our world.

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Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. 

A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency and contemporary novels are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Koorong, etc

Connect with her: website | facebook | pinterest | twitter | instagram

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