This is the website of Claire Musters, freelance writer and editor. Please feel free to look around – check out ‘About’ for more details of Claire’s publishing career.

Watch this space for some personal blogs from Claire on subjects ranging from juggling a writing career with young children to what life is like now her record-producing husband has become a full-time pastor!

Thanks for visiting the site – hope you enjoy it.

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Lessons from the cheese box

This morning I opened the fridge door and immediately spotted that the box that we keep our cheese in had moved shelves. My family had been staying for the weekend and had looked after our kids while we were out, so they had obviously put it back in a different place. I was intrigued by my response: I was both offended and surprised.

The offence came from my immediate reaction: “What’s the cheese box doing there? That’s not where it lives!” and the surprise, “Hmm, it looks neater there – perhaps that’s a better spot”.

As I shut the fridge door I felt God whisper to me, “That’s your response when people do things differently to you”. I knew He was talking about the ‘offended’ response. Ouch.

As part of a leadership training course I’m attending, we’ve spent time looking at how well we foster new leaders. I’ve started asking myself these sorts of questions:

Do I encourage others into new leadership roles or am I fearful of what that might mean for me?

Do I always ‘need’ to be involved in new initiatives or am I happy to see others bring them into fruition?

Do I gladly embrace new ways of doing things suggested by other people or do I do so half-heartedly, grumbling in my heart that it will never work and ‘knowing’ that mine is the better way?

Am I seeking to raise up other leaders who will be able to take over the roles I am currently in, or am I holding on too tightly?

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Parenting: a spotlight on your soul

Last night I went to the Care for the Family event: Mum’s the Word. Over 25o mums gathered at Everyday Church, Wimbledon for a night of encouragement and inspiration – hosted by the wonderful Cathy Madavan and Diane Louise Jordan.

There was so much I enjoyed about the night. After a frantic rush to get there, it was so lovely to be handed a cup of tea, sit down to a complimentary goody bag and bottle of water and listen to two inspiring women. Sometimes I can find the whole ‘we’re in this together’ approach cringe worthy, as speakers desperately try and show that they are just like you. Because the efforts of said speakers can have me squirming in my seat, totally turned off of what they are saying. But that didn’t happen with Cathy and Diane – somehow they had that mix of down-to-earth honesty, integrity, friendliness and authority just right. They managed to make us feel connected to them; it was definitely an evening of shared experiences. So hats off to them – I was incredibly impressed by their presentation skills.

So what did I learn? Well I was reminded of so many principles that my husband and I started off with as parents, but I guess can get overshadowed in the craziness of everyday life. Here’s some of the gems I took away from the evening:

Put yourself first – if you are frazzled you will have a short fuse with your kids. I think this is one that us mums find really difficult to do, because we can feel guilty about focusing on ourselves. We usually come down the bottom of the list of things to do and people to care for. But, as we were reminded last night, if you don’t look after yourself how can you hope to give out well to your kids?

Find the right priorities for the season you are in – we are all at different seasons and have different kids and different priorities (I loved how they kept emphasising the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach). We were challenged to look at our diaries and see if they reflect the priorities we have currently. I’ve never thought of doing that so I’ll definitely be trying it!

Keep a long-term view – every now and again stop and think about what you are doing with your parenting approach. Rather than just muddling through the daily mess, step back and check whether your approach is building confidence and security in your child(ren).

Give your kids roots… and wings – I love this one! Our kids need our help to grow solid, deep roots but also need the confidence to be able to fly.

As a parent the days feel long but the years are short – so true!

Diane’s three tips:
It’s all about love
Seek to understand
Look beyond the behaviour – yours as well as theirs

That last one really struck me and so I’m going to be totally honest here. I’m sure (I hope!) I’m not the only one, but I’ve found that parenting has highlighted my shortcomings. It has definitely been a spotlight on my soul and there are times I really don’t like what is revealed.

I can find myself reverting to childish responses when my kids push my buttons (mainly in my mind, but sometimes they come out in my actions too – ouch!). I can get so tired of dealing with the same issues that I just want to shout ‘it’s not fair!’. In fact, I do that sometimes. I go to God feeling like a miserable, moody child and have a good old moan. When I’m finally done with that, I ask Him to replace those emotions and equip me to love my children well.

My daughter, in particular, is the one that challenges me, because so often it is like looking in a mirror. I delight in seeing her fulfilling her potential, and am amazed at her creativity and imagination, but she also seems to have the same weaknesses as me. Sometimes I feel totally helpless and ill-prepared to guide her through how to deal with them, as I haven’t got all the answers myself and am still struggling with some of the issues too. But I’m learning that God is the source of all wisdom so I can ask Him for keys to unlock the issue for both of us. I’ve found also that it can be helpful to share honestly with your children when you make mistakes or are struggling. If I can model to my kids how to take those things to God and deal with them in partnership with Him then hopefully that is a habit they will cultivate too.

Being a mum is SUCH hard work – who knew we had to be an expert in so many areas?!! But it is so rewarding too – and incredible that God has given us such wonderful gifts in our children. Motherhood can be isolating at times, when we are juggling so many balls we don’t have time to share notes with other mums. Evenings like last night are invaluable reminders that we are never alone. And, as Diane and Cathy said last night, we are great mums, with great kids. Let’s never forget that…


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Feeling restless

St Augustine wrote, “[God] you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“Our hearts are restless”: that’s a great description of life today.

So often I feel restless. I’m rushing around making sure the kids get homework done, get to their after-school clubs, are fed and looked after.

I rush around with church activities, chatting issues through with my husband as he seeks to lead the church well, organising rehearsals and leading worship, trying to spot new people and welcome them as well as look after those who’ve been in the church for years.

I rush around with my work, meeting deadlines and thinking up new ideas for writing projects. Yes there is a bit of space for pondering within that, but too often it is pressurised, rather than restful.

I rush from one evening meeting to another – church meetings, governors’ meetings, music practices, even rushing to exercise classes.

I feel restless a lot of the time. I know the better way is to start by positioning myself at Jesus’ feet, learning from His wisdom rather than trying to do things in my own strength. But I find that so hard to do.

I wrote about finding the rhythm that works for me and my family recently; I’m still working on that if I’m honest!

I arrived at church a couple of Sundays ago totally at the end of myself, but with my keyboard ready to play. I could barely speak, let alone sing, so one of the guys helpfully suggested we prayed together before doing anything else. And what one of them prayed for me really stuck with me – here’s a summary of it:

‘Lord, Claire works so hard for you. Help her to learn to rest.

I’m one of those people who find it difficult to sit down and relax until all the jobs in the house are done. I simply can’t leave dirty dishes on the side or floors unvacuumed. That may be why our vacuum cleaner suddenly stopped working when I was midway through vacuuming one of the downstairs rooms that weekend. I still had the upstairs to do! But I simply couldn’t, which meant that, after church that Sunday, we were able to settle down and have a family film time.

I was forced to rest.

Does God ever make you stop, through circumstances or even illness? If only we’d rest more regularly without Him having to step in and force us.

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The healing paradox

God can heal, so why doesn’t it always happen?

A few weeks ago we had an amazing church outreach weekend. With meetings on the Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday and all day on the high street, we had plenty of time to receive prayer and speak to people about our faith.

Our faith was greatly encouraged through what we saw and experienced. Some highlights included watching a woman on the high street, who had been in wheelchair for over 30 years, walk for the first time and a man who had been deaf in one ear for over 50 years hear perfectly through it.

And yet why was it that, on the Sunday morning as my husband and I were chatting over what had happened and were praying for that morning’s meeting, the conversation took the inevitable turn of talking about those who aren’t healed?

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Finding a rhythm that works

Our children are back to school now and life is settling back into the recognisable term-time pattern. For me, the start of this particular term of each year is a time in which I take stock and look at my life’s rhythm.

This summer became of wonderful tapestry of visiting friends, enjoying holiday time as a family, reorganising my office and celebrating my daughter’s ninth birthday. Oh and we also managed to squeeze in our church’s big outreach event.

It was such a great few months – and yet we didn’t get a chance to draw breath at all. My husband and I commented that we hadn’t had any evenings on our own; we celebrated our 21st anniversary towards the end of the summer holidays and in my card to him I asked whether we could really try and pace ourselves this term!

I am now sitting surrounded by all the work I’ve kept simmering away while the kids were off school, but which I now need to tackle in earnest. I’m so grateful for the work, but taking a break to focus on the kids means there’s rather a big stack of it now!

Of course, the start of the autumn term is also usually the time that churches launch new initiatives and ours is no different. So, as I’m sure you can gather, it’s a busy time of year for us as a family.

With everything that has been going on, and which I know is coming up, I’ve had some moments when I have literally felt the panic rising up, trying to overtake me. I am, for instance, about to start a leadership training course. The material looks great but I’m wondering how I will cope with it all and fit in enough time to mull over and implement what I learn.

In those times of panic I’ve had to come back to God and ask for His wisdom. Of course, some of that is obvious common sense – I need to look after my family and myself in order to be able to serve consistently. So I know I/we need to look at the rhythm of our lives and make changes before we burn out.

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Interview with BRF

I was interviewed recently for BRFNews about the books I have written for BRF. Here’s a copy of the interview (click on the image to enlarge it):

my BRF interview

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Accepting God’s adventures

In the run up to the school summer holidays our daughter was able to take part in the special celebrations the Guides were having due to their 100th anniversary. She has been part of Brownies for almost three years now. Her first weekend away with them happened to coincide with my 40th birthday so I endured a weekend of worrying and wondering how she was!

My daughter is so much like me it can be quite scary. Confident, chatty and sociable within circles of people she feels secure with, she becomes a totally different person out of her comfort zone; shy, fearful and so, so quiet. She won’t take risks, drawing back into herself to keep safe.

So when it came time for this year’s adventure weekend she wasn’t sure she wanted to go. I really encouraged her to because it was a special celebration and I didn’t want her to miss out (and we had paid a fair amount of money for it!). Well, she totally blew us away with the vigour in which she grabbed hold of every element of the weekend.

Her leader captured her mood brilliantly in a picture that shows her dangling from a harness having just stacked and climbed crates – her face is beaming with a huge smile and she looks like she’s full-belly laughing. It was a joy to see – and even better when she said that that was what she had been like all weekend. She commented, “I now know the real girl, the one you’ve been telling me about all this time.”

A few weeks later, the Brownie pack spent a day in Windsor, bungee trampolining and zorbing. Again, I wasn’t sure how much she would join in, but apparently it was all brilliant fun and “zorbing was the best”!

Knowing that our daughter grabbed all the opportunities set before her and enjoyed them so much gave us such pleasure. And that’s how God responds when we really enjoy something He’s invited us to partake in.

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