Just write

EVER SINCE I was a kid I’ve had the urge to write, putting pen to paper to try to capture my thoughts and share them with others. When I was eight I wrote a poem about autumn leaves, though there was never an autumn in the tropics where I lived. Like many kids of my era I belonged to the Argonauts Club, a national radio program presented by the then Australian Broadcasting Commission as part of their Children’s Hour.

My prize, 1956

My prize, 1956

The Argonauts Club was open to children aged from seven to 17 and was hugely popular with a reportedly 100,000 members in 1950. Members took on the name of an Argonaut—I was Abaris 19—and sent in contributions of writing, art and music that earned points towards a book prize or advanced certificates. I still have the book I earned—Eleanor Dark’s The Timeless Land—something I treasure to this day.

Over the years I dabbled with my writing co-authoring several autobiographies then gaining my Bachelor of Arts with majors in Journalism and Studies in Religion before taking up the role of Communications Officer with the Baptist Union of Queensland and being Editor of their monthly publication, The Queensland Baptist. In that role I encouraged readers to get off the pews and be Christ in the community. Sensing that God wanted me to do the same, I gave up my writing and went back to university and studied social work.

In my early years as a social worker I struggled with the traumatic consequences of an extremely abusive childhood.  My world centred on admissions to a private psychiatric hospital and all the hell that went with that. It took years of extensive psychotherapy before I regained my sanity and peace replaced my inner turmoil. During my first attempt at retirement, in 2009, I self-published my autobiography, Peace and Freedom are My Names, a story described as ‘riveting reading’, and one of hope, healing and wholeness—the ongoing theme of my life.

Now once again retired after a three-year sojourn back in my social work career, my love of writing is bursting out of me. This has not been easy. Thoughts of unworthiness and lack of confidence, not to mention awful memories stemming from childhood and writing for different churches, have stymied my every attempt at writing.  But the urge to write wouldn’t go away.  Just as I was wondering what to do about this blockade a friend directed me to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear. This book has been extremely liberating and has enabled me to challenge the myths that have prevented me from enjoying my true vocation.  In a nutshell Gilbert says, ‘Just write! For goodness sake, Irene, just write!’

And my response? ‘Yep, I’ll do that. I will just write.’  And I plan to keep on writing as often as I like and as much as I want to.  After all, that is what I’m meant to be doing in this latter part of my life: Just write!

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Waiting

IT’S ALMOST two months since I retired from my position of Senior Social Worker in Outback Queensland. At the time I thought I would be relocating closer to Brisbane to an over 50s active lifestyle resort. That was subject to the sale of my house here in Charleville.

Despite sensing very strongly that moving from the Outback was part of God’s plan for me, that has not happened. That in itself has been something of a puzzle—did I really hear from God, or was that a figment of my imagination?  I am yet to work that out. What I do know is that retirement was definitely the right thing to do.

In the past two months I have been discovering the joy of knowing God more and what he has in mind for me.  In retirement I have been able to return to my love of writing, spending hours working on a new book, which is still in its embryonic stage, reading up on how to better utilise my blog, and being inspired through the work of two authors to boldly claim my calling as a writer.

There are significant challenges to living in the Outback, particularly being isolated from family and friends. However, for now I will set those aside and concentrate on God’s call for me to ‘Write the vision!’ That call came many, many years ago when I was a young mother living in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea.  It came from an Old Testament book (Habakkuk 2:2) and spoke of writing in such a way that it would be easy for people to read and understand what God was saying to them. The ‘vision’ is God’s message of hope, healing and wholeness that is available for us all, and which is so needed in this chaotic world of ours.

For me, the waiting to leave Charleville remains. However, for now I am in a holding pattern waiting for me Pilot, my LORD and my God, to decide when it is best to make the next move. I am so very content, regardless of where I am. The words of Jeremiah the prophet have been so reassuring over the past weeks:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm   you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”                 (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Retirement – A time to live

SEVEN WEEKS into retirement and I haven’t looked back. Being able to do what I want when I want has been bliss—relaxing, refreshing and restorative. In these early weeks I have felt myself literally unwinding, becoming much more at ease with myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am ready to enjoy all that the next my phase of my life has to offer.

Retirement is not the end of life’s journey; rather it is the beginning of an exciting episode that brings with it a fresh awareness of one’s individuality, independence and integrity. To be rid of the restrictions of one’s work environment and free to decide how one really wants to live is satisfying. However, the transition into retirement has its challenges.

One’s social network changes when one finishes work.   With the loss of the common interest of work, social interaction with former colleagues soon diminishes. Establishing a new social network, particularly in a small remote community can be problematic, and nigh impossible. Finding a fresh purpose in life can also be challenging and, again, in a small community it can be particularly difficult. However, retirement brings with it the opportunity to pursue one’s interests whether that be involvement with community organisations, a hobby, gardening, sporting activities such as lawn bowls or swimming, spending more time with family and friends, travel or outings to the movies or theatre, the latter being non existent in some remote towns. Opportunities do abound; they are limited only by one’s imagination and perseverance.

While some retirees can sit back and watch the world go by, others thrive on mental and social stimulation and are intent on making the most of their days. We all need to learn what interests us the most, set appropriate goals and move into the business of living life to the full, just as it is intended.

It is in one’s latter years that we can spend time reflecting on life in general, its meaning, and whether we have lived as God desired for us. J. I. Packer wrote his book on aging—Finishing Our Course With Joy[1]—when he was 88 years old. It is a gem, a pertinent reminder that retirement does not mean sitting back and doing nothing, rather it is continuing to live life to the full and honouring God in the process. Certainly it is also about enjoying life, but it is not about parking oneself in front of the telly day in, day out, simply to fill in the gaps left from doing what matters most.

C. S. Lewis also recognised that retirement is not the end of the line when he wrote: You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream. As I enter into retirement I do so with fresh optimism, new goals to achieve and renewed interest in life and all that lies ahead.

Retirement – It’s a time to live, really live!

 

 

[1] J. I. Packer, Finishing Our Course With Joy. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.