Published by Janelle Bailey at Shakespir
Copyright 2017 Janelle Bailey
Cover photo by Graham Bailey
Lyrics adapted from “I have Decided to Follow Jesus”, by Sadhu Sundah Singh. Public Domain
Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked (LEB) are from the Lexham English Bible. Copyright 2013 Lexham Press. Lexham Press is a registered trademark of Faithlife Corporation.
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This little volume is affectionately dedicated to my dear friend, Cindy Blackwell (1959 – 2016). Rest in peace, beloved friend. I will see you on the other side.
Aromas of Life
I was barely two when my younger brother was born. At least, that’s what the dates tell me, for memory of his actual arrival is lost in the passing of time. Don’t be mistaken, my brother’s birth did have some importance. It’s just that the mind has a curious way of sifting memories, switching the significant for the insignificant. I have long forgotten the image of my baby brother then, tiny, helpless and demanding. What I do remember from that warm soaking moment is myself. This is the first memory I have of myself, perched on hot concrete steps, feeding my baby doll. I remember the sunshine of that moment, the aroma of motherhood, the scent of me-ness being born.
Almost twenty years later there are scents of a different kind: aromas of hospital, scurrying nurses and air-conditioning warmed for newborns. I lie on sterilised bed sheets, gazing at my first miracle. Perfectly shaped, tiny fingers curl about mine, as I laugh tenderly at his soft bleating cry. Twenty years of just being me have collapsed after two hours struggling in the sea of labour. In that moment of birth, his birth, someone else was born. His parents, his mother and father came into birth in those bittersweet hours. Motherhood is no longer a scent, an intriguing perfume drawing me towards childbirth. Motherhood is tangible now, dwelling somewhere between the babe in my arms and the hands that hold him.
Clamouring loving mess-making
Ours for a time
Did you ever see a child?
Roughly scraping, pearl in making, in oyster parent.
A Misspent Second
It’s amazing the difference a second can make. In just a second you can lose your temper, or your hard drive. It takes only a second to smile at someone you love. And it took me only a second to lock my infant son in the car…with the keys.
It was his first birthday that day, and we celebrated, not with a birthday party, but with the wedding of my cousin Karen and her groom, coincidentally also called Andrew. We had donned our rarely used wedding trappings and had squeezed into our tiny car for the hour drive to the church. And now with the wedding about to start we were eagerly anticipating all the festivities.
Enter the one year old. Little Andrew had just arrived at the momentous stage in his life when a small boy discovers Daddy’s steering wheel. So when I needed to retrieve my nappy bag from the car, only moments before the bride’s walk down the aisle, that’s where he was deposited. In the driver’s seat with the keys in his lap.
While he happily brmmmmd in the front seat, door closed, I fumbled about in the back. Finishing there, I closed the door with my left hand. As I reached with my right to open the front door, my son’s chubby fingers stretched out and locked it.
One second. That’s all it took for my son to change from a jolly little brmmmmer to a child locked in a car.
In typical little boy fashion, Andrew was utterly oblivious. He had the car to himself, and the keys. He was going somewhere, even if it was fifteen years too early. As any frantic, falling apart mother would, I tore back into the church and hauled his astonished father and a crowd of onlookers out from under the bridal march.
So while my cousin was gliding down the aisle towards the biggest day of her life, I was on the phone to the Road Service.
“Hello, I’ve locked my baby in the car.”
“Do you Karen…”
“Yes, that’s right…No, he has the keys.”
“Do you Andrew…”
In the meantime my husband was giving our one year old a “Learn Sign Language in Two Minutes” course. “The button, the button,” he repeated desperately, miming the action of lifting the lock. Baby Andrew gave a blank look and continued driving. Minutes later he had two wildly miming parents to ignore. I had finished my phone call and had come to share the good news that someone was on the way to rescue Andrew.
Ten minutes later, the road serviceman arrived. He was too late. My uncle had already put some dubious skills to use and had broken into the car to free Andrew. We snuck quietly back into the church to enjoy the final minutes of the wedding.
“We should have tried the window,” mumbled my husband.
“He can roll car windows down, you know.”
I sighed and leant back into the pew to watch the presentation of the new couple and reflect on that badly spent second.
First School Day
Squeaky shoes, bright shining eyes,
A new world awaits
Small hands in mine, complete in trust,
the beauty of tiny fingers curled innocently in my palm.
Gently we lead, you and I, across time in tremulous paths,
with something that surpasses growth.
Ah child, you put your hand in mine,
Oh Holy Father, can I put my hand in Thine?
Before you were born, I saw you. I knew you. I planned you and I loved you. I was there in the fragrance of your first memories. I guarded you and held you when you were afraid. When the darkness seemed larger than your world, I was your light.
I am the one who washed you clean the night you came to me for forgiveness. The joy on your face sprang from my own heart. You were mine. I was with you when you left your home, dear one. I was there when your friends deserted you. I never left, even when you felt all your hopes and dreams had. I never moved. I was there when your heart broke. When you thought it had shattered into irreparable pieces. When you wept, I wept with you. I took the precious shards of your sweet heart as you surrendered them to me. They were infinitely dear, and how I rejoiced in your childlike trust.
I am the one who promised to renew your broken heart. I am the one who promised you a future and a hope. I am the one who vowed to restore your soul, to bind up and heal all your wounds. You are my beloved. I have loved you with an everlasting love. All that you long and yearn for is found in me. Stop, my child, stop looking for it elsewhere. I am all you will ever need.
Constantine marched under it, the Crusaders murdered for it, the Spanish Conquistadors tortured in its name. For those fanatics of old the cross of Christ was a licence for greed and power, a motif for their conquering lusts. But what does that rough splintering wood mean to me?
This is where my Saviour exchanged himself for me. I was the one deserving death, deserving separation from a pure and holy God. I was the one stained with the stink of sin, born shackled to the sin nature that separated us.
The cross is where the unstained, unblemished Lamb of God became sin for me, became an anathema to His Heavenly Father, and an object of scorn and derision to every generation since.
The sinless for the sinful. The guiltless for the guilty. The undeserving for the deserving. “This ends here!” His broken body cries. There will be no more condemnation, no further payment for sin. The power of sin and death has at last been totally torn asunder.
He fashioned for himself the seed He would become,
the womb that would bear Him,
the hands that would hold Him,
and the curse that would condemn Him on a tree.
Has any other given more than He?
From the panoramic splendour of heaven…to a crowded stable.
From the mastery of all creation…to a borrowed trough.
From utter omniscience…to the mind of an infant.
From the author of all things…to complete dependence.
He which the universe cannot contain…sleeps with animals.
He who knew only purity…shares a room with dung.
He who had the right to own everything…is content to own nothing,
content to choose nothing…so that we might find contentment in him.
Come see the Child,
Here in the stable,
Resting so meekly,
In a cow’s wooden trough.
See with your eyes,
The straw and the splendour,
Majesty sleeps in His swaddling cloth.
A miracle dawns on the first day of Christmas,
So come see the Son who was born for us all.
a radical thing
A Desperate Prayer
My mum operated under the delusion that you couldn’t look someone in the eye and lie. It was a very useful delusion, as I could, and frequently did, look her in the eye and almost without conscience, tell her all sorts of whoppers. And then off I’d skip, feeling very happy with myself, but with the tiniest niggling of guilt.
Eventually, those niggling feelings built up. My two brothers and I were on a rather strict low allergenic diet, and for a year we’d been following an exercise program called ANSUA that was designed to help children with learning difficulties. So I had plenty of opportunities to lie. Mum couldn’t supervise all of us as we exercised, so it was much easier to lie and claim I’d done them, than to actually do them. And as for food, what child isn’t going to want the cake and chips that everyone else is allowed to eat. So I lied.
Over time though, all those lies began to weigh heavily on my conscience. I was very sensitive to what I learnt at Sunday School. I don’t know if the teachers pointedly taught about hypocrites, or if my mind just zoned in on the subject, but it seemed to be the topic of a large percentage of lessons. I saw myself as a hypocrite, acting like a good person, but in reality a complete sinner. I became convinced that I wasn’t cut out to be a Christian, and in my childish innocence believed that my parents and the church would be horrified if they discovered the truth.
Despairing and depressed, I hit rock bottom in October of 1984 at a church family camp, shortly before my twelfth birthday. The children’s speaker was Bob Bye, a wonderfully talented children’s evangelist, and old friend of my parents. However, even his exciting meetings weren’t enough to cheer me and on the final day of camp, I decided I’d had enough, I just wanted to go home. Thinking everyone else was at the meetings, I snuck out of camp, and headed down the road towards home, forty kilometres away. I didn’t get far. Uncle Bob had chosen that day to take the kids on an excursion. Hearing their voices close behind me and fearing discovery, I leapt into a small gully and hid there while everyone passed.
With this avenue of escape blocked, I decided to take the river home. The campsite was bordered by a river, and I had spent every day of camp splashing about in the canoes. I was confident I could canoe home to the river that ran past my house. Who knows how far I would have gone if it weren’t for the sharp eyes of one of the camp leaders. I certainly would never made it home. Unbeknownst to me, the river at the campsite was not linked to the river in my home town, I was heading far away from home, and I didn’t even know it.
After the embarrassment of being caught in the act of escape my despair only deepened. I was desperate, but didn’t know what to do. At the last moment as camp was being packed up, I was talking and joking with Uncle Bob. Suddenly I was struck by the realisation that I could talk to him. Here was someone who I could trust, yet didn’t know me well enough to be disappointed by my secrets. But there was one major obstacle, camp was over and I was out of time. So a sent up a desperate prayer, asking God to send Uncle Bob back again so I could talk to him. I figured if God wanted me, He would send him back. But if God thought I wasn’t good enough to be His child, then He wouldn’t bother. I returned home with my family and waited to see what would happen.
My prayer was answered in April the following year when Uncle Bob agreed to be the speaker at my church’s annual Girl’s Brigade Easter Camp. My emotions were in chaos during camp; I enjoyed myself of course, as any child would, but the nervousness I felt about my impending confession was relentless. Each day included several entertaining messages by Uncle Bob, all of which ended in an appeal for those who wanted to respond to raise their hand. Fear kept my arm locked by my side until the final evening. This was my last chance, and I knew it. God had sent Uncle Bob to me and I couldn’t miss out. So with my stomach churning, and a with a deep sense of embarrassment, I shyly raised my hand.
Luckily for me, I was the only girl who who responded that night, so I had Uncle Bob to myself. After the others had left the hall we sat down together, and I began to tell him about myself, but after a few words, I burst into sobs. I was twelve years old and I hadn’t cried for a long, long time. I was tough, I didn’t cry. Tears were shameful to me. But this night I sobbed and sobbed.
Eventually, my brain caught up to my emotions and I stopped crying. I explained my situation to Uncle Bob; the lies, the guilt I felt about disappointing God and my parents, and my inability to be a good Christian, despite all my efforts. I’ve never forgotten what he told me that night, that it was impossible for me to be a Christian on my own. Only God had the power to make me a Christian and keep me that way. Uncle Bob asked me to pray, and while I can’t remember a word of that prayer, I remember walking out of that hall feeling a lightness and life I had never experienced before.
My life didn’t miraculously change that night, I still had to deal with my parents’ restrictive diet, and I had my fair share of troubles then, and in the years since. But I’ve never lost the surety that God is with me and that I belong to Him. That He would listen to child and take the time to send her the one person that she could talk to is such a kindness. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never stop being thankful for it.
Before I was born you found me
Before I was born you thought of me
Before I was born you stretched out your hand
you whispered love
you breathed life into my dead limbs
My death became your death
My sin became your sin
the weight and wage of all that I deserved
I became your life
I became your righteousness
The freedom and holiness that were yours
You made me new
Before I was born
The oxygen machine hummed softly in the background as the doctor leant carefully over my grandfather. Gently grasping his feeble hands, she examined him thoroughly, yet in vain. There was nothing more that could be done for him.
More than fifteen years earlier my Pop had suffered a stroke that left him paralysed and without speech. At fifteen I had never heard a single coherent word cross his lips. But he could sing, and sing he did. When visitors came to his tiny home to cheer him, he sang. When the electrician came to repair the air-conditioning, he sang. And now as he lay dying in his hospital bed, with the oxygen mask veiling the frail lines of his face, he sang.
We never knew for certain if he deliberately muddled the words of the hymn, or if his stroke had done so, but for fifteen years these had been his words.
“I am delighted to follow Jesus
I am delighted to follow Jesus
I am delighted to follow Jesus
No turning back, I’ll follow him.”
At fifteen I didn’t understand the lifelong challenge those muddled words would give me. Twenty years on though, with all the frantic busyness, to-do-lists and urgencies of adult life, I am suddenly revisiting Pop’s quavering song. I find myself in awe of a faith that enabled a paralysed, mute man to sing of his delight in Jesus. And I have come realise something. Pop discovered a golden truth in those fifteen bedridden years that I, with all my goals, successes and ministries have forgotten.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 37:4 to “take delight in the LORD and He will give you your heart’s desires.” (CSB) This is the truth that my Pop discovered. I was made to delight in Jesus and to be delighted in. And this is God’s gift to me, no matter what else happens.
Life stretches me,
elongates my soul,
lingers on the entwining
pathways of every-dayness.
finding me amidst the mundane,
overshadowing the assumption
of the unimportant,
giving glimpses of why.
Sixteen moves, two states, two countries. As I calculated my gypsy life of the past sixteen years, I wondered if I was really ready to face it again. Yet here I was, packing, sorting, tossing treasures, condensing life and home to mere suitcases.
I was sixteen when it began, and thought it would be a once in a life time experience. It took three more moves in the following 18 months to lose that illusion.
Time gradually passed by. I married, went to Bible College, and bore two children. Unbelievably, all this activity in our lives involved seven more moves. By now I had the unnerving suspicion that some kind of pattern in my life had developed. We were now professionals at the moving game, though admittedly our next move overseas to Papua New Guinea to work as missionaries did create its own challenges. I didn’t realise just how disorganised I had been until, after waving my husband off as he drove our crates to the dock, I looked down at my feet and found that I had forgotten to pack the very mat I stood upon.
I’ll never forget our arrival in PNG. I was rather relieved that someone was actually there to pick us up. With a warning not to use the public toilets, and an astonished glimpse of a grimy, overcrowded airport, we were off. Not much of PNG was ever seen that evening. The rain fell torrentially, blanketing us along with the Goroka Valley.
The kids were madly excited the next day to discover our primo location next door to the campus playground. Their feet didn’t touch the ground for the next six months as they met new friends, and explored their new world. We spent nearly four years in PNG, although our time was broken by a nine month stay in Australia, and of course three more musical house episodes. Now it was time for my seventeenth move, one that was shaping up to be the most difficult of all. It was time for us to leave PNG permanently. In the midst of reducing our entire household to four suitcases, I was grappling with losing our home and friends, and saying goodbye forever. While this dilemma loomed large in my mind, there was another problem that consumed me. What would we do when we returned to Australia? Where would we live? I was thoroughly tired of moving. All I could think of was finding somewhere, and not budging for years.
Round and round in circles I went, trying to create some semblance of permanent arrangements. My thoughts swung to and fro between ideas, until the proverbial door slammed on each one. With barely months to go, I finally gave up. All my arrangements, emails, and plans had come to nothing. In desperation, and with an unwelcome sense of defeat, I grabbed my Bible. “Okay God, I give up. What’s your big plan?” Flicking idly through the pages, the Bible fell open at Psalms, and this is what I read.
“Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.” Psalm 107:4-6 (CSB)
In black and white, on wafer thin paper, in a book thousands of years old, I found myself. Not only had my life been a time of wandering, but in these last months my mind had travelled in endless circles in search of some permanence. What a waste, for here it was before me, God would take me straight there. And He did, He kept his promise to the very letter. After returning to Australia, we spent several months with family before God led us to a new home town, where we have lived for over twelve years.
I definitely learned something from this journey. While I am so grateful for our home, and the opportunity to settle, I have to recognise that this is not really my place. The need for a home, somewhere we are always welcome and safe is vital in everyone’s life. But this doesn’t come from a house or people. There is only one thing, one person, in this changing world that is able to meet such a need. My place and security is not found in this temporal home, but in the God who gave it to me. He is my place. He is “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”. Psalm 91:2 (LEB)
Memories of Papua New Guinea
a landscape jewelled with green
plumed jungles and soaring escarpment gardens
silhouetting blue mountains leaping beyond the horizon
smoky villages clustered in grimy heaps
a grey sky bulging with the promise of rain
the taste of moisture in the air
hammering downpours on rusted tin roofs
spongy earth oozing between my toes
vegetables and fruits juicy with unexpected flavours
sugar cane’s addictive grip on my tongue
takeaway food marinating in grease
freshly smoked peanuts rich and crunchy
crowded trucks hauling sardine people
coughing buses struggling on steep Goroka roads
ache-making highways jolting weary bones
roads pocked and long neglected
warm hands clasping mine for the last time
sobbed goodbyes from dear friends
the scent of New Guinea in my suitcase
and a longing for my foreign home
Sometimes I feel like singing
and carefree joy springs
from my mouth
I feel like crying
but there it sits
shrouded unborn emotion
I feel like doing
I rush I obsess
until I am exhausted
oh the rare and unusual sometimes
I forget me
I forget the rush
I forget the tears
I even forget my short lived happiness
Sometimes I remember
the One who is Always
become His always
and at last I find peace
A New Song
I envy people who are musical, especially those who are virtuosos on an instrument. As their fingers fly across keyboards or dance on strings, the air ripples with the sublime cadences of beautiful melodies.
Now put an instrument in my hands and you might mistakenly call the local humane society with a report of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, that’s the timbre of music that my hands are capable of creating.
I might not be much of a musician, but I am learning that I can make music of another kind, especially when I allow myself to be an instrument in God’s hands. Too often I strive to be in control of my life, struggling to play something beautiful with it, and honestly it’s anything but a melody. Like an instrument in my dangerous clutches, my own life in my own grip is just a discordant caterwauling.
But when I relinquish myself, handing every part of me over to the Master Maestro, He is somehow able to create something beautiful with me. He takes my life, and my struggling efforts to make it worthwhile, and transforms it into something altogether different.
Sometimes I wonder how the music God creates within us sounds to His ears. Does my life and your life, working in tandem, and following the impulses of the Holy Spirit, create a symphony that only Heaven hears? Perhaps the angels hear the intricacies of God at work in the hearts of His people and they know, they hear, even if we don’t, that our obedience and submission are a song that glorifies God. Perhaps as God’s children we not only sing a new song, perhaps we are a new song.
Psalm 144:9 says “O God, I will sing a new song to you. With a lyre of ten strings I will sing praise to you” (LEB)
I can’t promise God new music on a ten-stringed lyre, but I know I can ask Him to make a new song with me.
All of my brokenness, all my mistakes,
The struggling moments that made my heart ache
You changed and transformed them, You made me anew,
A brand new creation to glorify you.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17 (CSB)
You were meant to fly, girl, you were meant to soar,
across the open sky, girl, sturdy, swift and sure.
The ground is not your home, girl, it’s not where you belong,
you are meant for sky, girl, flying far and strong.
What happened to your wings, what happened to your flight,
your courage and your hope, your daring dreams and might?
This world has crushed your hopes, driven you onto your knees.
You think your dreams are shattered, that no one ever sees.
And now you’re feeling weak, and lost without your wings,
chained upon the ground, with all your ruined things.
But this is not the end, you’ll fly again, it’s true.
Dreams you held so dear, will soon be yours anew.
Rise up on broken wings, let your spirit ride.
The strength is not your own, for He is by your side.
He’ll take your broken wings, He’ll fill you with his love.
You will soar again, girl, in blue sky up above.
A Prayer for Cindy
If I could make a wish today and dream what couldn’t be,
I’d wish for the impossible for you, my friend, and me.
I’d wish for something more than notes in cyberspace,
I’d wish to hold your hand and share with you God’s grace.
I’d wish to hold you tightly, I’d wish to calm your fears,
to listen to your heart, and gently dry your tears.
I’d wish that I could be the sort of friend who would,
drop in without a warning, just because she could.
I’d wish to hear you laughing at a silly joke I’ve made,
and giggle at your doggies’ latest escapade.
But God in all his wisdom has set us far apart,
between us there’s an ocean to separate our hearts.
So instead of making wishes I’ll say a prayer for you,
to the God who loves you dearly, that He will see you through.
I pray that you will find God’s presence to be near,
I pray that He’ll surround you, and hold you tight, my dear.
I pray that every moment you will feel His tender touch,
that you’ll know He’ll never leave you and loves you very much.
I pray for quiet rest for you, an abundance of His peace,
I pray He’ll bring you healing, and hope that will not cease.
Oh my dearest Cindy, my friend from God above,
may you always know you’re precious and forever you are loved.
Thank you for reading Something Beautiful. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at or your favourite retailer? Thanks! Janelle Bailey.
About the Author
Janelle Bailey lives in Queensland, Australia with her wonderful husband and two spoilt cats. She is the mother of two very individual young adults who have flown the nest and are pursuing their own dreams. Life has been challenging for Janelle for an number of years due to chronic illness, so she now enjoys the simple, restful blessings of life.