Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Author: Mandy (page 1 of 36)

Lessons From Truffles

I sat on the stairs on Tuesday feeling grumpy. It had been a long, busy and frustrating day at work, and my back was aching.

Lord, I know I haven’t spent time with You today but I don’t feel up to it right now. I just want to collapse and read. We’ll spend time tomorrow, I promise.

But I couldn’t just collapse and read as I longed to do because of a small furry visitor called Truffles. This was his usual play time, a chance to get out of his hutch and enjoy a little freedom. He’d be expecting to play and I couldn’t let him down.

I opened the hutch door and began rolling his current favourite toy around to entice him out: a wooden ball containing a bell. There’s normally an immediate response but not on Tuesday night.

Truffles sat in his hutch ignoring me.

Truffles 3

So I sat on the stairs trying to read and keeping an eye out in case he changed his mind. I was hopeful; playing with Truffles is a fun part of the day.

Why is he sitting in his hutch? Silly bunny…. it’s a lot better for him out here. I’m sat here waiting for him and we always have fun. So why is he stuck in his hutch?

Then it hit me.

I was like Truffles. The door was open with a better invitation and here I was sat in my circumstances refusing to meet with the Lord because I didn’t ‘feel up to it’.

Oh.

Then I heard the gentle invitation to ‘come’.

With a sheepish smile, I got up and went to get my Bible. Jesus and I enjoyed some time together; my achey back eased and the frustrations disappeared as I saw them for what they were: small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Feeling tonnes better – refreshed and restored – I went back downstairs. And Truffles and I played together.

 

The Best We Can Be

Why do we write? Is the world a better place because our words are in it?

I want to encourage us to be the best we can be in whatever genre we favour.

King Solomon urged the readers of his day to do with all your might whatever your hands find to do. Very applicable to writers! Go for it. Don’t be timid or half-hearted, full of doubt. If a thing is worth writing, then do it to the best of your ability. Believe in the gift God has given you. But don’t strive about it, enjoy what you do.

We are free [read more]

Not Just For Christmas

I was knocked out by some familiar words this afternoon:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth PEACE to men on
whom His FAVOUR rests.
Luke 2:14

Every Christmas I’ve skimmed over this short song the angels sang thinking, ‘That’s nice.’

But this is incredible news.

God is so crazy about us that the only way He could show us what He’s like and invite us into a relationship with Him was to come to earth Himself. In Jesus, God became man (human mum, God dad), and spent His whole life showing us what God is like. Upshot of that is: we know God is nice and He likes us. He loves us passionately.

When Jesus was born, God offered peace to us.

Peace. Wow. Only recently have I discovered the seven-fold blessing of God’s peace:

*peace*
*completeness*
*wholeness*
*harmony*
*welfare*
*prosperity*
*tranquillity*

This is God’s heart for us. Roy Godwin, in his book The Way of Blessing, asks what it would look like if this peace was evident in our home, family, street, church? It took me all of a second to realise the difference it would make – and ever since, I’ve been speaking out this blessing over the people I love and live near.

When Jesus was born, God was saying His favour rests on us. We are a blessed people. We all love a hero, whether it’s Jack ReacherJames Bond or Katniss Everdeen. Jesus is the ultimate hero. He is God, come to earth so that we can know what God is like. More than that, He became the Way for us to come into relationship with God ourselves by dying and then rising again. He took all the wrong stuff that we think, say and do, and served the death sentence that was ours, so that when we accept what He’s done, the Father will look at us and see the perfection and beauty of Jesus.

This is awesome news that makes me want to yell WOOO HOOOOO! It’s not just for Christmas, it’s for now 🙂

1,000 Gifts

When my friend Elizabeth and I went away earlier this year for a prayer retreat, we started our week by writing a list of things for which to thank God. These could be anything from salvation and deliverance to blowing bubbles and chocolate biscuits. We set ourselves a target of 50 each and laughed a lot as we called them out to each other. We lost count at around the 200 mark and jumped right in to praising and thanking God.

More recently, I’ve read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Ann started to write in a notebook all the gifts – large and small – that God was giving in each situation every day.

I purposed to do the same. Because every single day God gives gifts. The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes directly from the Father. But if I’m not looking out for them I miss them.

For instance, Adi and I were on holiday a few days ago near Battle (East Sussex). We fell in love with the wooden lodge we were staying in. Before going I’d been praying for peace and quiet, I was desperate to get away from the noise of everyday life. God gave peace and quiet in abundance. And lots more beside.

View East Sussex

We had a front row seat to a wonderful view of trees and greenery, and could see as far as the South Downs. From my comfy two-seater (Adi took possession of the other two-seater), I simply had to lift my head to enjoy the sunset. If you know anything about me, you know I love hills, trees and sunsets. This view felt like a gift-wrapped package from my Father. ‘There you go, thought you might enjoy this,’ as He dropped it into my lap.

The psalmist urges us not to forget all God’s benefits, to thank God always because His love lasts forever. God hates grumbling, moaning and ingratitude. And to be honest, it’s not nice being around people who are negative and ungrateful.

I believe that looking out for the lovely things God gives and does for us can help with getting a healthy mind and more positive attitude. During a tough period of heartbreak in my early twenties, I made the decision to look for two or three good things that had happened that day and write them down. I could easily have gone under with my grief but focusing on the positive that God was doing/giving helped me through.

So now I’m scribbling down and thanking God for the gifts I’m learning – with His help – to spot each day:

A squirrel in the garden.

Chilling on the swing-seat.

Spotting Becky and Ellie Downie in Tesco.

Sunlight on wet grass, making it sparkle.

Fresh coffee.

That Jesus’ Dad is my Dad.

 

Lydia’s Song

This novel on child sex trafficking in Cambodia is written in three parts. The first section focuses on Lydia, an English woman in the year 2036. She reminisces about her expat life thirty years previously: fostering a homeless child called Song and falling in love with Radha, a local man. It was a life of contentment until tragedy struck.

The second section is all about Song, the young Vietnamese refugee child in Cambodia who was fostered by Lydia. The two met when Song had run away from an unhappy home life. Lydia took her in and the pair settled into a comfortable life together. Then Radha came on the scene. He worked as a receptionist at the English doctor’s practice. Charming, pleasant, full of fun: life seemed perfect.

But then Song was trafficked into the child sex industry. Bought and sold. Lydia tried frantically to find her but it was impossible.

The third and final section brings both Lydia’s and Song’s stories together to a satisfying conclusion.

The book is well-researched and highlights the plight of many young children in this part of the world. Song’s story is particularly well-written and gives enough information without being brutal with gruesome details.

Personally, I didn’t warm to Lydia as a character but liked Song who, despite a rocky start and horrific experiences as a girl, turns out as a lovely, balanced woman.

I think this book would be a useful place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about child sex trafficking.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

A Little Help From My Friends…

There is an Arab proverb that says something along the lines of if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.

I think it applies to writing as much as anything else in life.

When I started [read more]

At Therapy’s End

What a powerful book. It drew me in from the first page. The storyline covers very difficult issues: domestic violence, loss of a child, mental illness. But the characters seem real and make you care about them. Susie gives tantalising clues throughout which keep you guessing before bringing it to a very satisfying conclusion.

This novel really made me think, similar to how Francine Rivers uses her novels to open up hard issues and challenge your thought processes and attitudes.

Domestic abuse has a huge impact on not only the perpetrator and survivor but on the children as well. They see and hear and sometimes physically experience the violence and mind-controlling abuse. It has a knock-on effect for life, and though there can be freedom and healing, it is a long and very painful process for the survivor and those affected.

The loss of a child is also a terrible thing that no parent should ever have to go through.

Susie explores these issues sensitively and realistically without them becoming too emotionally overwhelming for the reader. It made me cry at times. It made me think.

It’s a very good book, well-written, realistic, gritty at times, but heart-warming too; there is always hope.

I’d recommend it. Not necessarily an easy read because of the issues being dealt with, but very well worth it. I think it would be especially helpful for anyone who has friends or relatives in an abusive relationship or who are grieving the loss of a child.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

Coffee with Jesus?

‘God loves you.’
I taught it every week.
But did I really know it?
Sure, He forgave me;
was He just being kind?

I thought the Father didn’t like me.
That Jesus and I could never have coffee together.
And the Spirit lived in me under protest.

But then.

The day the Father came into the room
His eyes fixed on mine,
as if I were the most precious thing He’d ever seen.
He scooped me up
and tossed me into the air.
Arms and legs flailing,
a toddler’s happy laughter:
‘Do it again Daddy, do it again!’

Have coffee with Jesus?
Oh yes.
Anyone can be friends.
Wandering in the woods together,
chilling on the patio,
enjoying a good book,
living the life He’s called me to.
He was once a man who cooked breakfast for mates –
He hasn’t changed.

And the Spirit?
Even when I hit the pearly gates
He’ll stay with me.
He won’t sigh with relief and go off to find someone more interesting.
Not dump me in eternity,
lonely and alone.
He sees me, He knows me.
He tells me truth and makes the unseen real.

God doesn’t just love me.
He likes me.

The Girl at the End of the Road

I loved The Girl at the End of the Road. I completely forgot I was reading, which is the type of book I like best. It’s a true page-turner and keeps you guessing.

The main character, Vince, has worked hard to forget his roots and make a successful life for himself in London. But the story opens as his career comes crashing down, taking his home and an intimate relationship with it.

We follow Vince’s story as he moves back in with his parents in the village where he grew up. It is fascinating to see his reactions in reconnecting with old school friends, one of whom – Sarah – appears quite eccentric.

The reader goes on a journey with Vince as he painfully rediscovers [read more]

 

Refugee Stories

This is seven real-life stories of people who became refugees and sought asylum in the UK. They are written in the individuals’ voices and edited by Dave Smith who brought the book together and adds facts at the end of each story.

I was struck by how normal – middle class even – these seven individuals are. Each one was educated, often very well off in their own country, but ended up having to flee their homes for various reasons. The first six stories are very similar though set in various countries. The seventh story is a little different.

It opens up the reality of the having to deal with the Home Office. After going through all sorts of major trauma in their own countries, often with their lives under threat, and difficult journeys to the UK, the last thing these people need is to deal with endless and – at times – seemingly badly organised bureaucracy.

This book brings the vagueness of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers down to the individual’s story I’m reading.

For anyone wanting to know what it’s really like to flee your country in fear of your life, this is a useful book.

It’s not easy reading. Partly because with the exception of one or two stories I could never forget I was reading and that made it hard work. I think this was because each chapter has a different ‘voice’ and so the writing doesn’t always flow easily.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

 

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