In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy interview author and speech pathologist Andrina Rijken about the value of an “ordinary person’s” inspirational writing, and how God can use each one of us.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, writing and publishing blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series.
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children.
- Andrina Rijken, speech pathologist and inspirational Christian author.
Topics covered in this episode:
- Feeling that our story is not dramatic enough – and yet God can still use it.
- Finding time to write around work and raising a family.
- Daring to ask God, “Why?”
- How we often think our writing process is unorthodox, but it isn’t.
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, speech pathologist and author, Andrina Rijken.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. I blog for writers at smallbluedog.com and you can find links to all my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher. I live in south-east Queensland and I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name, Alison Joy. You can find all my information at alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years, I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and more recently, to inspire my urban-fantasy series, Armour of Light. You can find out more about that, me and my other projects at donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Married with three children, Andrina Rijken is a speech pathologist and currently completing a Master of Arts Degree majoring in Christian Studies. As a pastor’s kid, over the years she has been involved in many different aspects of ministry but today, we are going to have a chat to her about her book, This Wondrous Life, Discovering the Extraordinary Whilst Living a Seemingly Ordinary Life.
Andrina Rijken: Hi everyone.
Donita Bundy: Thank you so much for joining us this morning. Before we kick off, we were wondering, to help listeners learn a little bit more about you, whether you’d be happy to undergo the rapid-fire five?
Andrina Rijken: Yes, absolutely!
Donita Bundy: In your book, who is your target audience?
Andrina Rijken: I would say it’s mostly for Christians, however, I have a few friends who are non-Christians who have read the book and said that it was really helpful and it gave them insight about God and my faith that they probably have never considered before.
So, I do believe that anyone can pick up the book and probably find it quite relatable and easy to read.
Donita Bundy: Thank you. What would you say is your main genre?
Andrina Rijken: I class it as inspiration/Christian living.
Donita Bundy: So, moving into the actual writing, what is your optimum time for writing?
Andrina Rijken: Well, I’m a busy mum as many people are and working as well so, I like to write when no one’s in the house so, after the school drop off, that kind of thing. Make myself a cup of coffee and open up the windows and just let it flow from there. Yep.
Donita Bundy: Excellent. And where is your favourite place to write?
Andrina Rijken: Look, it’s at home and I’m a bit all over the place so, sometimes that’s my bedroom, sometimes it’s in the loungeroom or the study.
We have a very open house and we live on a property with trees and I love trees so, I like to just have really open space where I can see the trees and feel the breeze and write that way.
Donita Bundy: Woman after my own heart! So, Andrina, can you tell us how you got into writing in the first place?
Andrina Rijken: It’s really unusual but maybe not for other people who’ve written a lot. I think always there was that ability there to write. I’ve always loved English and I do a lot of writing in my work and communicating in my job but also during the process of doing my Masters Degree there’s been a lot of written assignments and that kind of thing, obviously very academic based.
I think the book was like a creative extension of all that where I could, perhaps, explore another way of writing and expressing myself. So, that’s kind of how it came to be.
Donita Bundy: Thank you.
Alison Joy: You’ve obviously always had this bit of an interest in writing, why this particular book? What led you to decide to write this particular book?
Andrina Rijken: I guess a really short answer, which I’ll expand on, is I was walking through a difficult time in my life and I think many people can relate to that. A lot of my story happened pre-Covid but I think then walking into Covid, people can relate to change. That’s what really brought about the book was the sudden change and unexpected, unplanned change that I probably didn’t want in my life and I had a lot of questions and I guess I just took them to God and started asking the question we’re not supposed to ask – “Why?” – and I asked that a lot.
I just began talking to Him and I guess I was studying certain things at bible college and lots of things are happening in my everyday life, as well. I began to see God in a way that I hadn’t explored and understood Him before and as I began to realise other people were experiencing similar things, I felt there was a platform for me to share my story and I just felt God whispering to me and nudging me to write.
It was scary because I felt like who am I? I’m not really anybody significant to write a book. And who would want to read my story? But I just followed His calling and His leading and I believed that if it was meant to be, He would give me the words and that was really the process. Just allowing Him to speak when he wanted to and then writing down what it was that He was saying to me.
Belinda Pollard: I find it interesting that you said, “The question we’re not supposed to ask.” Isn’t it interesting how we get these funny ideas. Has God ever said, “You can’t ask me that?”
Andrina Rijken: No, he hasn’t and I’ve actually learnt that and I believe He wants us to ask why because it allows Him to speak to us. I do believe, maybe sometimes not in our life time, but I do believe we do get the answer eventually. Down the track we’ll go, “Oh, I understand why that happened now. I get it, God.”
I do believe He shows us. It’s funny, we have these sort of perceptions. People say, “Don’t ask why,” ask, “What now?”
Belinda Pollard: God is not a motivational speaker!
Andrina Rijken: No!
Belinda Pollard: It’s so much deeper than that, isn’t it?
Andrina Rijken: Yeah.
Belinda Pollard: I love that. Thank you.
Alison Joy: From my point of view, I can particularly relate to the premise of your book, being ordinary, the good girl, non-rule-breaker and I sometimes think we devalue our story because we think it’s boring in some respects. Not the ‘in your face, saved from a life of depravity and debauchery’ type of thing that grabs everyone’s attention. Not everyone has that kind of story to tell but that doesn’t mean our ordinary life doesn’t have a place in the scheme of things.
What do you hope people will get out of reading your book?
Andrina Rijken: I really hope that people will see that their story is valuable in God’s eyes and it’s funny because it’s like if you’ve got straight hair, you always want curly hair. If you’ve got curly hair, you always want straight hair. And I think that’s the same sometimes with our testimonies. We look at someone who’s got this really phenomenal story about how
God’s saved them out of some great tragedy or a dark life and we think, “Wow! That’s so powerful,” and our story, that might be: “I’ve just followed Jesus all my life, what is there to tell,” isn’t powerful. The interesting thing is a lot of people have said to me, in reading my book, that they wished that they could say the same about their life and that they actually loved the fact that I followed Jesus all my life.
I think, sometimes, we underestimate the power of our story and I think there are people out there that need to hear the story of people that have followed Jesus all their life. We need to remember that God, He left the 99 to go after the one and He doesn’t have this scale of: this testimony is more powerful than yours.
In His eyes, every single one, every single salvation and testimony is beautiful and He treasures those stories. We need to see that in our own lives and be willing to just allow our testimony to speak and bless those around us because we don’t, sometimes, realise who we’re influencing.
And I think, also, it’s a journey, it’s a life and that’s what This Wonderous Life is about. The journey of our Christianity and our faith that evolves, and there’s always a story to tell. And every day, even the most ordinary day is an opportunity to share our story and be a light for Him.
So, I really want to just encourage every Christian person in their walk that every day matters in their life and that every day is an opportunity for sharing their testimony and bringing glory to God.
Donita Bundy: It reminds me a lot of the story… we’ve got Moses and we’ve got Joshua and Moses is the big storyteller and he was the one that kept running away and then he did all these amazing acts but in his shadow his whole life, there was Joshua.
Andrina Rijken: Yes.
Donita Bundy: And then when Moses was told: no further, Joshua just stood into his shoes and led Israel. And yet, Joshua was this quiet kid who was always doing the right thing and obeying the Law and God used him in a mighty way just as He used Moses.
It’s beautiful God uses both, like you said, and there’s evidence that we’re not all Moseses, some of us are Joshuas and some of us are in between.
Andrina Rijken: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: And I guess we can have different roles on different days in different parts of our lives.
Andrina, how was the writing process itself for you? How did you go about it? Was it easy? Was it hard? Was it what you expected it to be?
Andrina Rijken: It wasn’t really hard. I enjoyed the whole process and that’s how, I guess, I know it was really something that God gave to me and I’m grateful for that. But I know it was very unorthodox and I think, probably, some people would be horrified how it all came together.
Nothing was written in order. I just wrote whatever it was that God was saying at the time but I did know very clearly when I’d finished and then it was a matter of trying to see how it would all piece together.
The other thing is, obviously, having a family and working and also studying at bible college, the space, the time to write was challenging. I didn’t always have time to just sit down for two weeks and write. It was when I was available. That might be six months from when I previously wrote.
A lot of my writing actually happened in my head, often in the car, too, and I just had to store what God was saying in there sometimes for months before I actually got it on paper. And I just had to pray, “Okay. Help me remember those things,” or whatever it is, the right thing will come out.
It was an interesting process but I also really allowed myself to take time because I didn’t want to write something that I was trying to contrive. I wanted it to be organic and really genuinely reflect me as a person. When my husband read the book, he’s like, “Oh, it’s just you inside a book.” And that really was encouraging because I felt like I’d done what I set out to do, be really genuine and real to myself and real to the people that are going to read it.
Belinda Pollard: I find it interesting that you say it wasn’t an orthodox way to write and we get so many messages from different places about what the right way is to write and sometimes they’re just really unhelpful!
Andrina Rijken: Yes!
Belinda Pollard: Because everybody writes differently. Some of us get up every morning at 5 o’clock and write 500 words and others are just chaos on legs and we’re just grabbing moments whenever we can. Sometimes there’s big gaps because stuff’s going on in our lives.
You said you didn’t write it from the beginning until the end.
Donita Bundy: That’s how I do it!
Belinda Pollard: I actually write fiction that way!
Andrina Rijken: Okay!
Belinda Pollard: Like, I might write overall in a sort of chronological movement, but then I’ll go back and think, “Oh no, I want to add something here,” or sometimes there’ll be an inspiration for a certain thing that’s miles in the future and I’ll think, “Getting that down now!”
I think it’s great for you to talk about that because our listeners also need to know that they can write however they like.
Andrina Rijken: That’s right. And it reflects where you’re journeying at the time. One of my favourite chapters in the book was the chapter I wrote about Naomi. That really was a key part of the book and it’s not until chapter seven but it was probably central then to everything else that happened.
It was written quite early in my journey. I felt where it sits in the book is the right place but it was just what I was going through at that particular time, it’s when I wrote.
Belinda Pollard: So, the biggest blockages and difficulties, were they just the time gaps? What where they?
Andrina Rijken: Yes. Time and probably patience. I’m a very driven and goal-oriented person and it’s about getting there and having that done. Crossing the finish line, I guess.
I needed to be patient which is not a strength for me but I’m learning!
Belinda Pollard: Did you feel like you grew in patience across the process?
Andrina Rijken: I think so, and in trust. I’ve grown in my trust in God and understanding. Because I was writing the book and studying at the same time, I was learning a lot of new skills and one thing I learnt sometimes is when we’re reading the bible, we just need to sit in whatever the story is or not be in a rush – I need to read the next verse or the next chapter – but just to sit and dig a bit and see what we discover.
That, I think, is part of being patient, as well. Yes. I did learn a lot through the whole process.
Belinda Pollard: I think self-kindness, too, is an underrated component of the writer’s kit bag. God is so kind to us and we’re so mean to ourselves.
Andrina Rijken: Yes!
Belinda Pollard: I meet so many writers and they are all quietly at home being kind to other people and mean to themselves!
Andrina Rijken: Very true.
Belinda Pollard: We need to be so much kinder to ourselves.
Are there more books coming, Andrina?
Andrina Rijken: Look, I don’t know. There’s some concepts, a whisper of something, so, I’d love to write again. I also enjoy and I put a few poems in the book. I do like writing poetry so there could be something in that respect but we will just have to wait and see.
I finish my Masters at the end of November and then we’ll see what’s next after that.
Belinda Pollard: Well, that sounds like a huge writing process, as well, is it? Is it a Master by course work or by thesis?
Andrina Rijken: It’s been course work but the final project is a thesis so that’s what I’m tightening up now and it will be good to have that finished but, again, I’ve learnt a lot. Academic writing is another style of writing that’s very different and I’ve had to be very humble in the learning process and allow my supervisor to help me and teach me but it’s been fulfilling.
Belinda Pollard: Do you find your faith influences your academic writing at all?
Andrina Rijken: Yes. And it was, I’m not going to say a downfall but early on when I was writing my thesis and I think the influence of the book which is a really inspirational style and a very conversational style, I was writing not necessarily in a conversational way but more in a pastoral kind of way and perhaps, putting a lot of feeling.
My thesis is actually about comparing Naomi and Hannah, their stories. I had to really come to a place where I set aside some of the feeling part and look at it in a more academic way. But in doing that, I’ve discovered some really beautiful things about the text and I’m excited about my paper.
Belinda Pollard: Sounds fabulous.
Donita Bundy: So, maybe that’ll be where the next book comes from? The inspiration and the more pastoral side of that thesis?
Andrina Rijken: Possibly. I’m not really sure. I’ve got a whisper of something a little bit different but I’ve learnt to love the Old Testament so, an Old Testament narrative.
I think that’s where my speech pathology comes in because I work with a lot of school-aged children and we do things like genre writing and narratives and I’m always analysing things. So, I’m really interested in the narrative of the Old Testament stories and just what you can glean when you start to break down the structure, the Hebrew words and all that sort of thing. So, there may be something along those lines.
Donita Bundy: Andrina, earlier you said that your patience has grown through the process of writing this book. What about your faith? Have you felt that there has been a shift in your faith and your closeness or relationship with God through this process of writing your book?
Andrina Rijken: Yes, definitely but my faith with God, and I try to convey it in the book, I was saved really young as a six-year-old girl and so, right from the beginning, and I’ll try and express this without becoming emotional, I really knew God as Father because I was so little and I’ve always tried to seek Him in that way as his daughter and, “Father, what do you want to show me? I want to understand you more as Father.”
And I think in the book, and in my writing, that’s where I’ve grown deeper and deeper is knowing how much He loves me and how much He wants to reveal of Himself to me as a Father. And that’s the beauty of, I think, my relationship is really special.
I had a prophecy before I started writing the book. At church, Pastor Phil Pringle, you may know of him, he’s fairly famous. A powerful prophecy but one of the things he prophesied over me, he said, “I see you like you’re betrothed to God and it’s like He’s putting a ring on your finger,” and he actually said, “I’ve never ever said that to anyone before but that is what I see your relationship with Him is just this one of great love and you’re betrothed to Him.”
I think, as I wrote and even now, I just want to go deeper and deeper and explore that level of my relationship as Father, as a betrothed one, as his daughter. Does that make sense?
Donita Bundy: Yes. It’s powerful and it’s a wonderful word to have spoken over you. What an encouragement.
Andrina, the Gracewriters slogan is Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture; how does this challenge you?
Andrina Rijken: Yes. It does really challenge me and I really love it.
I guess, one of the other things that I was battling with while writing and even leading into the book, was that whole “where do I fit within popular culture as a Christian”. And I think we’re really challenged in it today and I did battle with how do you have a voice amongst the millions of voices that seem to be shouting so loud. How does a Christian that is really strong – and I’m very word based and I have high standards and morals and I’m raising children in this culture – how am I heard in that.
And I think, sometimes, we can go, “Oh, I’m just not going to try. It’s too hard.” You’re so overcome with so many things and you’re like: I just will sit down and accept that.
The chapter about Wonder Woman, I talk about that scene and I know it’s very dramatized but she’s looking around going, “Well, who’s going to help all these people,” and they’re like, “Well, we can’t do anything,” and she says, “Well, I can.” I talk about how she climbs the ladder in the movie and that’s what I felt like and it doesn’t matter if it’s one book or one person or whatever it is. It’s not really about that but it was about I need to climb the ladder and be a voice and I might only touch one or two people but I’m not going to sit back in popular culture and just allow things to be as they are. I’m going to have a voice and so, that’s really what I’ve done just being obedient to that.
Donita Bundy: Yes. Powerful stuff. Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: That’s wonderful. That sounds like Gracewriting!
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: That’s wonderful. Thanks so much, Andrina. Where can people find you online?
My book is available. You can get it on Kindle so, if you’re looking for an e-version or I do have a small website which is this-wondrous-life.square.site. So you can go directly to that site and purchase copies of the book.
Belinda Pollard: Excellent! Thank you. How about I pray for you, Andrina, and for the Gracewriters?
Andrina Rijken: That would be wonderful. Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we just thank you so much that Andrina has been able to join us today and to talk about this process of working with you, being worked in by you and of bringing forth this message that has healing and nourishment in it for the people that you are preparing to read it.
And we pray that you will bless her abundantly, that you will give her wisdom with her family and how she goes forward with this and with her writing.
And I pray for all the other writers out there, as well. All the other Gracewriters who are thinking the way they do it is not right or that they need to be whipping themselves into being more efficient as writers and all kinds of different things that we think.
And I pray that you will cover them in your love and your grace and your mercy and give them your vision for their writing, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Donita Bundy: Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen.
Andrina Rijken: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Andrina Rijken, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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