Welcome!

I’m TJ Withers-Ryan, a freelance editor based in Australia and a Jesus follower. Check out my freelance services if you need the best in copy editing, proofreading, or copy writing.

TJ Withers-Ryan, Your Editor

If you’re new to my site, come on in for tips on the creative process for writers, artists, and other creators and living out your faith. This site became “Called by Name” in 2016 in response to Isaiah 43, a powerful prophecy about Jesus and a prophecy for the lives of all his followers.

To all my regulars, welcome home – it’s always great to catch up. 🙂  Cheers – TJ

Best YA Books About the End of the World | TJ Withers-Ryan

I have always found books helpful in a crisis.

I’m not saying I’d sit down in a burning house and open my ebook reader…

But in that burning house, it’s because of the books I’ve read that I’d know to recognise whether the fire is getting out of control based on the colour and movement of the smoke.

It’s because of books that I’d know to check if a handle is hot before opening the door to another room.

It’s because of books that I’ve already spent time tonight about what I’d grab if I had to run out the door – my baby, my phone, and a blanket or jumper to keep the two of us warm.

So when the Australian government announced pandemic status for coronavirus yesterday, I had already been thinking in “prepper” mode for weeks, preparing for the end of the world, buying canned food, NOT toilet paper. 🙄

And the reason I have prepped, not panicked, is all because of a few AWESOME series of YA books that got me thinking about what different survival scenarios might require of me.

How I might be challenged.

How I could rise to the occasion.

I also found myself less scared after reading books, fiction, about things that could potentially happen for real in my lifetime – things like famine, climate destruction, and war.

Clarification: I’m not saying the world is ending. But a lot of scary things are happening. My country, Australia, has had more bushfires in the past months than it’s had per year at any point in history. Coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the globe and although it’s usually not deadly, it’s (so far) also looking not very stoppable. Climate change is flooding entire states and wiping cities off the map, while other states are crying out in the worst droughts of more than a decade. My only point is that it’s worth being prepared for all the big things that are happening, and more big things that might be in our future.

So here are my favourite reads for young people at the end of the world, in no particular order. I’ve tagged them with movie style ratings (PG, M, etc.) so you can make your own decisions about whether or not you’re mature enough to read each book.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are feeling anxious or depressed about the world events happening around you, please talk to an adult you trust. This might be your parents, a trusted teacher or your school chaplain, or even a professional counsellor. They can help you talk about these big events that cause big emotions, and help you find ways to stay upbeat and cope practically and emotionally with whatever life throws your way. If you’re feeling like all hope is lost, I’d encourage you to try the Beyond Blue online chat or their phone helpline.

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Treasure | Youth Group Devotions by TJ Talk

A youth group or kids club devotion for ages 5 to 15 on treasure

So tonight was all about pirates and what’s one thing pirates love more than anything else? What do you think?

[discussion]

Those are all great answers, and the one I want to talk about tonight is treasure – pirates love treasure!

Do you have anything in life that you would call your “treasure”? Your most precious things?

[discussion]

God actually talks about treasure in the Bible in a bunch of different places, and the first one I’m going to talk about tonight is Matthew 13, where Jesus says that God’s world, the kingdom of heaven, is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man finds that treasure, he sells everything he owns so that he has enough money to buy the field that contains the treasure – because he knows that treasure is so precious, it’s worth more than everything he owns.

If we think about this story for a second, Jesus is saying that God’s world – a world where people worship God, where people live sustainably and they live in harmony with nature, a world where people actually love each other and don’t hurt each other, a world where everyone has enough to eat – that world is so precious that it’s worth more than everything you own.

God’s world – a world where people worship God, where people live sustainably and they live in harmony with nature, a world where people actually love each other and don’t hurt each other, a world where everyone has enough to eat – that world is worth more than anything you could own

Then in Luke 12, Jesus literally tells his disciples, sell the things you own and give money to the poor. That way, you will earn a treasure in heaven that doesn’t disappear or break, and one that no thief could steal, and no bugs could eat it up. Basically it’s a reminder of what we were talking about a few weeks ago – that everything in life is temporary except for God. So if you make God your treasure, if you love God more than you love new clothes or music or money, and you use the things you have to help other people, not just yourself, then you won’t be disappointed when your “things” don’t last – because God does last.

God will always love you, no matter what else is happening in your life.

Let’s pray. God, please help us to love you more than we love anything else. Help us to have a great week and to help other people to have a great week, too. Amen.

Dear Dentist | An Open Letter to the Dental Profession

Dear dentist,

Yes, I occasionally grind my teeth when I’m stressed.

Yes, I do have some minor tooth stains from a coffee addiction – but as you know, I have a 1-year-old who doesn’t sleep much.

And yes, I do very often breathe through my mouth when I sleep, because my allergies make my nose get blocked when I lie down at night.

But here’s the thing you never seem to mention…

I have a great smile.

My teeth aren’t that crooked, thanks to orthodontic braces my parents paid a small fortune for when I was a teenager.

I brush and floss my teeth twice a day, every day. (A feat I consider to be nothing less than amazing, especially because when I was a kid you could not PAY me to floss.)

I have zero cavities, filings, or other common dental “problems”, thanks to eating pretty healthy, regular check ups, and the aforementioned teeth brushing.

I even use mouthwash, because I care not just about being clean but also smelling like a mint garden for the sake of those around me.

So why don’t you mention any of that?

Behavioural science has conclusively proven that positive reinforcement like, “Great flossing! You should be so proud that you still have no fillings at 31.” is endlessly more effective in getting me to take the positive health actions you want, rather than starting each check up with a cursory, “Still a teeth-grinder, eh?”

No one likes going to the dentist. No one. Cleaning is sometimes painful, you always feel like you’re going to choke on your own spit, which is a dreadfully unpleasant experience, and your health insurance fund never pays as much as their shiny advertising seems to suggest they will.

And you wonder why so many 50-year-olds are coming to you for an emergency root canal and crowns?

Oh but hold the phone! I accidentally cheated on you – I needed a check up on a Tuesday and apparently you don’t work that day, so I tried someone else.

They were younger.

Friendlier.

And they noticed that I have a lovely smile.

Also, when I said I had a kid, they showed me a photo of their kids and gave me their best tips to make tooth brushing fun – for both of us!

Oh, the best bit – they partner with several health funds to provide two free check ups per year per family. So it didn’t even cost me A CENT to see them!

So let’s just say I hope you learn something from me leaving, even though I doubt you noticed.

Improve, dear dentist, or be left behind by everyone but those emergency root canals we mentioned earlier.

All the best,

TJ

TJ Withers-Ryan and baby Zoe
Two happy smiles – priceless

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2020.

Top 13 Best DIY Baby Sensory Toys

Babies don’t need much to enjoy playing with you, and their favourite toys are not what you might expect (if you don’t yet have kids yourself).

For a baby’s first few months, all you really need is things that stimulate your baby’s senses – sensory toys – and the great thing is that almost all of these can be DIY things you make yourself, or items you already have around home.

So I’ve compiled a list of the top 13 baby sensory toys you can DIY or raid your cupboards for! (It was meant to be 10 but there are just too many good ones!)

Some of the photos below show my daughter, Zoe, so please be sensitive which images you use when sharing this post. Thanks!

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Trying New Things: I Made A YouTube Channel

I R vlogger now yayyyy

I am doing #nanowrimo again this year (National Novel Writing Month, write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November) and I am surprised to find that it is inspiring my creativity in other areas, as well!

So as the title of this post says, I finally started uploading videos to my YouTube channel! Check out my channel here and subscribe if you like what you see.

I am posting short blog-style encouragements from my day about how God is growing me, what he is teaching me, and how you can apply it to your own life.

Here’s a taster – my channel trailer:

Subscribe to my TJ Withers-Ryan YouTube channel to see my video updates as they come. 🙂

Bless you –

TJ

How do I know if it’s God’s will? Sticking to your beliefs in work and creativity

Can we know the will of God when making decisions? How do I know if I’m doing God’s will? How do I know if my feet are on the right path for God’s plan for me? How can I honour God with my work? How can I honour God in my writing or my art?

I was asked this recently by a friend and I’m going to answer it here as well because I think this question fundamentally affects our decisions when we’re living out our faith.

I went to the Planetarium recently and re-discovered that we are all just specks in this giant universe – no, less than specks. We cannot be seen from the moon. Our planet cannot be seen from outside the Milky Way.

We are miniscule – but God loves each of us as individuals, and Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a great plan for our lives. I can’t claim to know the will of God. But here’s what I think about when I’m trying to live out God’s will in both my paid work and my creative projects.

My feet at the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park.

About to start the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park. Image source: My camera.

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Best books and media I’ve found in 2016 so far

We’re only a few days into 2016 but I have found some AMAZING reads in my first days of 2016, which have also been my last few days of annual leave.

As a writer and editor, my “to read” list is too long for me to ever actually read, if it’s really true that you can only get through about 3,000 in the average lifetime. In my Google Docs “Books” folder, the list of all the books I’ve read in my life (only about 600 that I can remember so far) is far smaller than the list of books I would like to read (about 1 million). So I’ve told you how I chose the books I read last year, and I can definitely say I’m sticking with that strategy in 2016.

If you don’t know what to get yourself in the Boxing Day sales, and you have money left over after purchasing some truly meaningful gifts from Gifts of CompassionTEAR’s Useful Gifts, Christian Blind Mission’s Meaningful Gifts, or some other world-changing charity … then please consider the following reads for belated Christmas gifts to yourself.

Get ready.

They’ll knock your socks off.

Best books made of paper and stuff in January 2016

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

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How I chose which books to read in 2015

The long road to Fort Scratchley lighthouse at Nobby's Beach, Newcastle. Image source: My camera.

The long road to Fort Scratchley lighthouse at Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle. Image source: My camera.

The end of the year is a great time for reflecting on our habits from the year and how they changed us as a person. Here is just one snippet from my reflections on my habits in 2015: How I chose which books to read during the year.

It’s an important topic. The books you read are part of the inspiration you get, and that shapes who you become as a person over the course of a year. We’re always changing, and the input we choose for our hearts and minds is a huge part of that.

What does the Bible say about the input you should give your heart and mind?

Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of your life and everything you do flows from it.”

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about those things.”

(author’s paraphrase)

So in short, in 2015, I let God choose.

While standing at the shelves of my favourite bookshops or poring over new releases on my favourite online bookshops, or even leaning against my own bookshelves and wondering what to read next, I asked the Holy Spirit. I asked that God would reveal what book would help me the most in this season, or what book would give me encouragement, give me a laugh, show me afresh His power, or give me the key to spreading His power to others with my life.

Here’s my list of books read, how the let-God-pick method went, and the themes that emerged in what I read…

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Review of Star Wars Episode VII from a literary standpoint (spoiler alert)

***Contains some spoilers. Watch the movie first.***

I’ve spent a while waiting for the rest of Australia to get to the cinemas and see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens for nearly a week now, since the midnight screening that my engineer husband took me to while I yawned my head off. Post-Boxing Day, I figure enough people have seen it – and enough spoilers have already been posted all over the internet in reviews and Facebook posts. Here’s what I thought of Episode VII, from a strictly literary standpoint.

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