In a manger

Joanne Prenzler Smith’s story, In a Manger, won first prize in the 2019 Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life category.

It’s a story from some years ago, when Joanne’s son was a baby – the perfect prop for a Christmas Eve production perhaps? Have a listen to Joanne read her story:

‘In a Manger’ by Joanne Prenzler Smith
Joanne Prenzler Smith recording her story at the 1079 Life FM studios in Adelaide.

In a manger‘ will be broadcast over 1079 LifeFM in Adelaide over summer. It has also been published in the 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa’s Shoes. If you enjoyed this story, why not get a copy of the book from Koorong or online.

The Golden Detour

Feature image of Kaitlin Turland on Mount Catherine supplied by Kaitlin herself.

Kaitlin Turland won first prize for her story, The Golden Detour, in the Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life 2019. She also recorded her story at the 1079 Life studios in Adelaide. In a Stories of Life first, you can hear Kaitlin’s recording here before it goes on-air in January 2020.

Kaitlin Turland reading her prize-winning story, The Golden Detour

Kaitlin recently wrote to the Stories of Life team:

Thanks so much for making this competition possible. It has been a childhood dream come true to have a story published. 

If you are a young person with a story of faith, won’t you consider sending in an entry next year? We accept submissions from April to July and there is no entry fee for writers aged 17 and under, who submit a story in the Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life category.

Kaitlin at the 1079 Life studios recording her story, The Golden Detour.

If you enjoyed this story, like our Facebook page for more audio recordings to be posted in the coming weeks, or grab a copy of Papa’s Shoes and other stories of life.

The 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa’s Shoes and other stories of life

Confessions of a Realist

Emily Maurits’ story, Confessions of a Realist, won first prize in the Tabor Open Stories of Life category. Her story is published in the 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa’s Shoes.Emily shares with us the background to this true story of faith.

When my sister Jasmine was diagnosed with a brain tumour just in time for my 21st birthday, I was distraught. Struggles with health were common in my family – but my little sister had always been the healthy one.

That diagnosis began a three month hospital stay, eleven operations, and countless hours spent in the Children’s hospital. It also began a journey. A journey which pushed us closer together, which uncovered the deep love of our church community, and ultimately, a journey which brought us hope.

Hope for healing, yes, but also hope in the kindness of others, in faith that can outlast tragedy, and in miracles after the eleventh hour.

After she was released from hospital I began a blog about loving people with chronic illnesses because, as we soon discovered, sometimes healing comes with complications and aftereffects. I named it Called to Watch (, because if there’s one thing I learnt over those long months and the years that followed, it’s this: I can’t save anyone. I am not the Saviour, Jesus is. Sometimes you can’t bear someone else’s burden; all you can do is watch – but you can watch in faith, in love, and in hope. You can watch because God has called you to this moment, even as he calls the sun up each morning and the cicadas each evening.

My entry into Stories of Life captures a moment of hope reawakened. It’s a glorious moment, a true gift from God. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that these moments can exist. In the long, hard slog of caring and being cared for, healthy pragmatism can become life-killing cynicism very quickly. I wanted to share my sister’s healing because there’s comfort in second-hand miracles. They are a reminder that our God holds each moment of each day in his hands. When He brought my sister home on the exact date I prayed for, against the expectations of everyone involved, he actually did two miracles: one of physical healing, and one of hope restored.

My prayer is that He would bless each of you with this second miracle through my sister’s story. Not all miracles are ground shaking or impressive looking, but each are a gift from our Father, and a reminder of a better future.

Emily Maurits (right) with her sister.
Photo supplied by Emily Maurits.

This is a photo of me and my sister three years after her first surgery. It makes me so happy, because there were many hospital days when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her again.

Drop Zone Backstory

We congratulate Juni Desireé Hoel’s for winning second prize in the 2019 Eternity Matters Short Story of Life competition. Her winning story, Drop Zone, has also been published in the 2019 Stories of Life anthology of true stories, Papa’s Shoes. In our blog spot today, Juni shares with us the backstory.

Juni Desireé Hoel

I wrote Drop Zone because I wanted to share a short encouraging story that is also a reminder to self. This story encourages me personally on two levels.

First, it reminds me that I am enough. I am only one person but God loves me as much as he loves any other person. And he will do whatever he can to get my attention and show me who he is. He shows me he wants to be in my life every day and we can talk to each other all the time.

Second, it reminds me that when we serve God and share God with others through words or actions, it is never in vain. We may think it has no impact and that it’s a waste of time and effort because we don’t see anything happen on the outside. But who knows what seed is being planted or watered or is growing in someone’s heart?

Having been on both sides of one being served and one serving, I can appreciate both sides and see how they work together. As a youth leader, I could become discouraged thinking that working with teens each week wasn’t making a difference. But Gabby’s words encouraged me that it mattered. It mattered in my life when Gabby ran Drop Zone every week, so, I would keep going because it might matter in someone else’s life.

In terms of how I wrote the story, I wanted to capture these two sides, so, that’s why the story is split into two episodes. I also wanted to focus on dialogue because it was a conversation with Gabby that gave me this insight about the one being worth it. I then chose a conversation with Gabby from the earlier episode where her words also gave me an insight that God is real and personal. I wanted to highlight that what she did matters. It wasn’t big, flashy, weird, or wacky, but it was simple, casual, normal, and relatable. It made a difference.

Juni Desireeé Hoel

Juni published her book, The Art of Mental Health, last month.

One Empowered Woman book launch

Hi. My name is Margot Ogilvie, and I’ve been thrilled to be a part of Stories of Life since its inception in 2016.

Some time ago, I enrolled in a secular writing course and was required to write a short biography, a story of some-one else’s life. I chose Lyn Barnes, a local Christian lady who raises money for widows and children in Tanzania. I had heard her speak several times and was very impressed by her passion for the work she does.

I chose Lyn as my subject and developed the biography through a series of assignments. The tutor was prolific in his feedback, including, ‘but the money couldn’t have just come from nowhere,’ when I told of God’s miraculous provision for Lyn’s ministry. He became more and more excited with each instalment and insisted that I had a full-length book if I chose to pursue it. With Lyn’s permission, I did just that, doing many more interviews and taking many more notes to expand 10,000 words into 100,000. One Empowered Woman was born.

Two years later, the book has been published and is about to be launched. The process has taught me a lot more about writing and publishing than I could ever learn through a course. And, best of all, I made a friend. Lyn is a remarkable woman, with an amazing story. The back-cover blurb tells you more:

One Empowered Woman

Do you sometimes feel too shy, too damaged, or too old to possibly be loved or useful?

If so, One Empowered Woman offers you hope and encouragement through the story of Lyn Barnes. It is an intimate story of violence and love betrayed, heartache and triumph, forgiveness and breakthrough. Lyn’s tumultuous spiritual journey is revealed, from lost, lonely, pregnant teenager through decades of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse to retired, twice-divorced woman with an amazing sense of humour, transforming the slums of Tanzania into a place of hope.

Lyn’s faith brought her to a place of forgiveness, purpose and empowerment.

Her life delivered empowerment and possibility to the poorest of the poor.

Her story offers those who read it optimism, inspiration and some suggestions on how to release God’s grace and empowerment in their own lives.

One Empowered Woman will be launched on Sunday 24th November at 3pm at Encounter Hall, 13 Leworthy St, Victor Harbor. Books will be available for purchase, and both Lyn and I will be available to sign your copy. Afternoon tea will be served. I’d love to see you there, but if you can’t make it and you can email book orders to me at

Ed: Feature image supplied by Margot to Stories of Life after the publication of her story ‘On the Clifftop‘ in the 2017 anthology. Margot also has a story in the 2019 anthology, Papa’s Shoes, titled ‘A sheep called Jeffrey.’

2019 Stories of Life winners

Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life

1st The Golden Detour by Kaitlin Turland

2nd The Happy Memoir by Baxter Gierus-Heintze

Equal 3rd My Mother’s Death by Jonah Teh and My Journey Climbing Mount Kinabalu by Leanne Low

Highly Commended Story of My Life by Joyce Ling

Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life

1st In a Manger by Joanne Prenzler Smith

2nd Drop Zone by Juni Desireé Hoel

3rd The Crazy Message from God by R J Rodda

Tabor Open Stories of Life

1st prize Confessions of a Realist by Emily Maurits
2nd prize No Place Like Home by Gaynor Faulkner
3rd prize Vessel by Rebecca Abdel-Nour

Introducing the Stories of Life team

We’re super excited to be launching the 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa’s Shoes, at Tabor College at 6:30pm tonight. Apart from launching the book, the Stories of Life team also hope to get to meet some of the contributors, and their friends and family members. So we thought we’d introduce ourselves to you in advance, hoping that you might come up to say ‘hi’ if there’s an opportunity to do so.

Peter will be presenting the prizes for the Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life. It was Peter who first came up with the idea of a writing competition that get stories of faith out there and we’re thrilled that his story, A Cab Trip, will be in the anthology this year. This is a story about an incident that took place when Peter was a cab driver in Sydney. Peter’s story is not in the running to win a prize, but it’s a great read and we’re so glad it’s in Papa’s Shoes.

Dr James Cooper, Senior Lecturer, Tabor Creative Writing program

Presenting the prizes on behalf of Tabor College, will be Dr James Cooper, Head of Creative Writing. James has been very generous with his time and expertise over the four years of the competition, providing notes and writing resources to participants of this competition to help us get our stories into the best shape possible.

All our books have more than one editor, and Rev Dr. Mark Worthing is the only person who has worked on all four anthologies. He is an established author who has published books across many genres. His book Matin Luther. A Wild Boat in the Lord’s Vineyard was shortlisted for the 2018 Christian Book of the Year Award.

Claire Bell, author and editor

Claire Bell has had numerous poems and short stories published, including her first novel, The Golden Hour. She blogs at The Character Forge.

Pete Court, editor

Apart from editing the anthology this year, Pete has managed the process of recording selected stories from the anthology for broadcast on 1079 Life since 2016. Pete Court has also published a novel, Sub Urban Tales.

Susan J Bruce

Susan J Bruce was the 2017 Stories of Life administrator and still pops in from time to time to encourage us with her bubbly personality and editorial nous. She edited the anthology, If They Could Talk: Bible stories told by the animals.

May-Kuan Lim, administrator

May-Kuan Lim is current the administrator who dreams up promotional possibilities and manages the website. She is currently publishing her book Refuge as a serial online release.

Stories of Life – more than a writing competition

In the lead-up to our 2019 book launch and prize winner announcement tomorrow, here is a summary of the different aspects of Stories of Life: writing competition, book publication, radio broadcast and an online community that celebrates life and faith.

Writing Competition

From 1 April to 31 July each year, we accept submissions of stories of faith and testimony from around the world. Entries are submitted online in one of three categories: Open, Short, Youth.

We are indebted to our sponsors Tabor College, Eternity Matters and Lutheran Education for sponsoring the cash prizes in each category: first (AUD500), second (AUD300) and third (AUD200).

Unusual for a writing competition, each year we nominate different judges. The judges receive stories in their categories as anonymous entries. This year we’ve been privileged to have the following judges: screenwriter and YouTuber Simon Kennedy (Open); radio host Kit Densley (Short); author and music teacher Ruth Bonetti (Youth).

A highly anticipated part of the book launch is the announcement of prize winners. All stories that are to be published are in the running for a prize.

Book Publication

Once our submission period closes on 31 July, the Stories of Life editorial team selects the best entries for compilation and publication in an anthology. Since 2016, we have published over a hundred short stories in three anthologies: A Chicken can Make a Difference, The Gecko Renewal, Three Dummies in a Dinghy.

2019 Stories of Life anthology

Tomorrow, apart from announcing the prize winners, we will be launching the fourth book in the series: Papa’s Shoes. Radio host and short story judge Kit Densley will be at the launch tomorrow and she has kindly agreed to read the title story, Papa’s Shoes. Books will be available for purchase at $20 per copy at the launch and thereafter in Koorong and online.

Radio Broadcast

1079 Life has been a strong supporter of this competition since its inception. Every year selected stories from the anthology are read (by the story writers where possible), recorded, and broadcast over summer and throughout the year.

Kaitlin at the 1079 Life studios in Adelaide recording her story, The Golden Detour

Online Community

The audio clips from the radio broadcasts are archived on this website by year of publication: 2016, 2017, 2018. Throughout the year we also publish blog posts to share photos and backstories from contributors to the anthology. In addition, we like to promote and support any other publication by Stories of Life alumni.

In all this, our aim is to promote the telling of stories of life and faith around the world in print, online and on-air.

We look forward to welcoming many of you to our book launch and announcement of prize winners tomorrow at Tabor or online.

Papa’s Shoes

Image courtesy of Valmai Redhead: Laurence

By Valmai Redhead

My husband Laurence and I were about to step into retirement, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After just a few short weeks, he stepped into eternity in July 2016. Losing my soul mate after forty-two years of marriage was the most difficult thing I have had to face. But the words of Psalm 30:5 are indeed true: Although weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.

A few years earlier, when my dear mother-in-law, Alice Redhead first gave me Laurence’s baby shoes, I was touched to have such a beautiful childhood keepsake.  Knowing that one day some creative inspiration would come, I put them away with no idea of how that would happen, or of the events that would unfold.

 After the sadness, the joy did come. On 21 November 2016 Archie Laurence was born. About the same time I remembered the baby shoes and I knew what I needed to do. Although Laurence (Papa to his grandchildren) had never met Archie, he did know that his second name would be Laurence.

On the day of Archie’s dedication, what a joy it was to present the gift that meant so much.  And what a privilege to see Laurence’s mother, aged 97 years, holding her great grandson. It was such a glorious picture of a legacy of faith through the generations.

Image courtesy of Valmai Redhead: Alice Redhead holding her great-grandson Archie Laurence

Memories of that day created the perfect image for birthing ‘Papa’s Shoes.’ The story almost wrote itself. As soon as I began, more than 700 words poured out on to the page. The challenge of editing, crafting and honing it into just 500 words took much longer. Finally it was finished and I knew that whatever the result of the competition, the journey had been worth it. Laurence and his mum would have both been proud of me, and in knowing that I am content.

What’s church got to do with it?

Being an anthology comprising stories of faith, you would expect Papa’s Shoes and other stories of Life to have stories featuring churches. Indeed, some stories are set in churches, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.

In A Lesson for Life, Alan Blunt brings us to a 1948 school yard in Darling Downs, southern Queensland, where he and his sister Patty are targeted, not just because they are new, but also because they are Catholic. Help comes from a most unlikely source.

In An Inclusive Church, John Alexander Duthie turns our attention to attitudes towards disability in the church, and how the physical spaces our churches occupy affect people with disabilities.

In A Stranger Passing Through, Maria Rudolph, a young German backpacker, arrives in Adelaide too early to check-in to her hostel. In the early morning stillness, Maria comes across a church with ‘a wide, open portal’. Stepping in, she muses that she has visited many church buildings, but had never experienced what goes on inside, in context. The story then unfolds through the heart of one experiencing church life for the first time: music and singing, stained glass and candles, church luncheons with Aussie sausage rolls and cold meats. What will it all add up to for this stranger passing through?

Read all these stories and more in Papa’s Shoes, to be launch on Thursday, 7 November, 2019.

Copies of the 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa's Shoes, now available in Koorong and online.