Celebrating girls around the world

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My daughter having fun and running free with her brother 🙂 

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and the theme for this year is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. As UN Women explains, this is ‘a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.’

One of the reasons that stands in the way of girls making progress is a lack of education. When I realised that today is the Day of the Girl, I immediately thought of my daughter: how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She is so fortunate because she is given free access to education. She is at the point this year of choosing secondary schools and our area is one in which competition is fierce and the grammar schools, in particular, attract applicants from miles away. Some of the comprehensives, as well as the grammars, have entrance exams and so my daughter has been juggling various tests and auditions alongside her usual school work. She has had week after week of study and exams – and has done amazingly well under the pressure. I have felt so keenly how unfair the system is, especially when other counties across England have no such approach. But I have also been proud of how my daughter has risen to the challenge and met every new obstacle with a gritty determination.

I want my daughter to know that she is loved for who she is – not for how she performs in tests. But I also want her to know what a privilege it is to be educated freely. I want her eyes to be open to the plight of other girls her age around the world. In developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. This stunts their progress, not just because child marriage is often followed by pregnancy – even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready. Every day, over 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth in developing countries – over 7 million a year.

The statistics are still horrifying and I long for the day when they won’t be, remembering soberly that each number stands for a girl’s life. Today I simply want to stand alongside UN Women’s statement: ‘On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls.’ They are the women of the future – let us celebrate them not just today, but by doing all we can to support organisations that are seeking to educate and empower girls right around the world.

* Stats taken from UN Women.

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The fog is lifting

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I awoke this morning to a London skyline that looked more like Victorian London than present-day. The fog was ‘as thick as pea soup’ – a very apt description used by many a Victorian writer! The children were excited, but I was loathe to get in the car and drive through the fog to get them to school.

But it wasn’t until I got home and was sat with my Bible that I looked up and saw the sun beginning to shine through the fog. The fog was lifting and, as it did so, I felt God speak into my spirit too.

You see, we have recently been facing a change in our 10-year-old daughter’s behaviour. She is becoming exceedingly hormonal and has had some very irrational responses to situations and everyday life in general. Last night, both children were emotional – my son because he was over tired, but I could only assume that it was my daughter’s hormones kicking in as there was seemingly no other explanation.

After an hour and a half of tears and tantrums my daughter finally went to bed more peaceful – she was chirpy as she said goodnight and couldn’t understand why I was still reeling from what had happened. I then carried the sadness of the evening downstairs with me and struggled to concentrate on what I was meant to be doing.

Today I awoke and prayed for a better morning. It started off well, with smiles all round, but the pressure of ‘mufti day’ (wearing her own clothes to school) overtook my daughter and the rants and tears started again as she felt nothing fitted or looked good on her (sigh, why does that pressure seem to appear out of nowhere at such a young age?). I again felt the tears rising up in myself, and had to take myself out of the situation. I was so frustrated and yes, did lose my cool, and then hated how my husband could walk in calmly and help her choose an outfit that I had suggested much earlier and she simply put it on…

Once my daughter was finally dressed, she came downstairs as if nothing had happened, but, yet again, I knew in my heart that I had been emotionally affected by the episode. As I drove home from the school run I pondered this: I know we are only starting the journey towards adolescence and that my daughter is finding it hard to control her emotions. She needs love and stability from both her parents – but I know that her emotional outbursts trigger something in me as I can relate to them so much.

I started questioning whether I found it difficult to help her navigate these times because I know at times I can’t navigate my own emotional ups and downs. If I’m honest, I started to feel down, allowing my mind to tell me that I’m failing as a parent as I just spiral when I hear her outbursts rather than being a steadying influence for her.

But, as that fog lifted outside, I felt God nudge me to say ‘It’s okay, just relax and let the fog lift off your spirit too.’ The fog has already lifted from my daughter – she’s at school enjoying learning and being with her friends – and it’s time for me to let go and face my day free of fog too.

Yes, I know that the last 24 hours have highlighted things in both myself and my daughter that need God’s gentle touch, but, for now, I feel a real sense of His sunshine piercing through the fog. It’s warm and refreshing – so needed after a long, draining week. Whatever you are facing today, may you feel the fog lift in your own life and know His sunshine too.

As a total aside, I just wanted to let you know that I have the privilege of being a guest blogger on Amy Boucher Pye’s website today. I’ve written about Home: refuge and resource, and honestly share what it is like having our home used for so many church activities – so do please take a look and leave a comment :0) 

 

Celebrating World Book Day

My kids have gone to school today armed with their favourite book to share with their class. It got me thinking about how I can celebrate World Book Day, so I want to share with you a few of the books that I have read recently, which I have enjoyed and been impacted by. The rest of the family have joined in too – while this is a fairly long blog post I hope there’s something in here for everyone to enjoy on World Book Day 🙂

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

This was written by the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Its full title is The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. As a busy working mother, pastor’s wife and worship leader my life can seem an unending ‘to do’ list. I think our culture perpetuates the myth that we always need to be doing (or at least be seen to be doing!). But God has been talking to me about that recently, nudging me gently to take stock, learn to prioritise and say no in order to spend time with Him – and find my ‘best yeses’. As soon as I opened this book it felt like it could have been written just for me – it resonated so deeply and the illustrations were of situations I could relate to directly.

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Lysa explains the idea behind the book: ‘In the Spring of 2013, I sat down with 100 women from across America ranging from early twenties to retirement. I asked them their deepest needs and desires, challenging them to name the real struggles they face in striving to live well and follow Jesus.

‘The answer that surfaced over and over: feeling overwhelmed and empty in not knowing how to make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands. As I listened to them I thought, “me too”. I knew this was the next issue I must tackle in my writing.’

There is a LOT of wisdom within the pages of this book about the reasons behind why we always feel the need to say yes, and why saying no is so important. I hope that I remember and implement as much of the advice as possible as I know it will do me – and those around me – good. I heartily recommend this book if you regularly feel overwhelmed by the pace of your life.

Forgetful Heart by Lucy Mills

A fellow member of the Association of Christian Writers, I had already come across Lucy’s writing in other forms so was intrigued to see what her first book would be like. The subject matter already had my interest as I know I have a forgetful heart (as well as mind!), and that it can be difficult to connect with God in our busy, distracted world.

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Here is Lucy on the inspiration behind the book: ‘There were three main threads that came together to inspire and form Forgetful Heart. One was a recognition of my own spiritual forgetfulness, a confession of my own weakness. Another was the result of exploration – reading through scriptures that called on the people of God to remember him, not to forget the One in whom they found their very identity. The third thread was a fascination with how our minds work, how we retain and retrieve information. Together, these wound themselves into an idea that would not let me go. The book had to be written, regardless of whether anyone else cared to read it. I needed to make that journey.’

I love the way that Lucy writes with real honesty but also allows the grace of God to shine through the book. Unpacking what our memories are, why they are important, what causes us to forget and how we can learn to remember God, she definitely takes us on a journey – through her own experiences and those of biblical people. Each chapter ends with a poem she has penned herself – a beautiful touch and a great way of helping us to make things personal too as so many read like psalms or prayers. She also provides the reader with questions to ponder. There is a real richness to this book, and I am convinced it is one that I will come back to time and time again.

And now for something completely different…

A Killer’s Countdown by Wendy Jones

Wendy is the webmaster of the Association of Christian Writers and also provides information for Christian ebook downloads on Facebook. I have gotten to know her via these forums over the past few years. When her debut novel came out towards the end of last year I was excited to read it, especially as I know it is the type of book that I enjoy but very rarely go out of my way to get hold of. For the majority of time, my reading consists of reading non-fiction Christian books ‘for a reason’ – to review, for research, to help me develop, to help me lead others, and so it was refreshing to read something purely for pleasure, which I knew I wasn’t supposed to be learning from! 😉 It is the first in a series of books about Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie. She is new to the job so has something to prove – which she does in admirable fashion.

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Wendy explains why she chose to write crime fiction: ‘I have been a lifelong reader of mysteries and also enjoy writing. So my writing a murder mystery was a natural progression from that. I wanted to write a crime book that could be read by anyone so avoided the swearing and sex which is in so many books these days. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t realistic as it is gritty and somewhat gruesome in places. Although I am a Christian the book isn’t overly Christian but written for a crossover market.’

Wendy paints a great picture of DI McKenzie’s life as a detective within the Scottish backdrop (she had obviously done her research into the subject), as well as building tension perfectly. Even once you know who the killer is, the cat and mouse game has you turning pages more and more quickly as the suspense grips you. If you like crime / detective stories I would recommend you get hold of this book, as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it immensely.

My family’s choices…

My son, age 6, loves The Book with No Pictures because it makes parents say silly stuff when they are reading it to their kids. The premise of the book is the explanation it gives of how books work: ‘Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say’. Such as: ‘my head is made of blueberry pizza’. Yes, this book brings lots of giggles to our house – thanks to their auntie who bought it for Christmas 🙂

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My daughter, age 9, loves the whole Jane Blonde series. A young girl, she becomes an agent and, along with her friends and her family, try to stop her evil uncle Copernicus. The books are about her missions.

She also loves the Topz Secret Diaries. Topz is the daily Bible reading notes produced by CWR, which she also enjoys, and the books focus on particular characters – revealing their secret thoughts about friends and God as well as details of their everyday lives in diary form.

A recommendation from my husband: The Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung. This is a well known classic, which he read again recently while preparing for our Father Heart of God preaching series. It really brought home how fundamental it is to be assured of, and secure in, the Father’s total love and acceptance.

A final word from me…

There is a wealth of reading material out there – and so much treasure to discover. For instance, drawing on books I read more than a few months ago: of the novels I love (actually I ‘devour’) CF Dunn’s ‘The Secret of the Journal’ series; I also found Sisters of Lazarus by Paula K. Parker a refreshing take on a familiar subject. I was challenged and undone by Krish and Miriam Kandiah’s book on adoption and fostering Home for Good, and spurred on and encouraged by Chine Mbubaegbu’s Am I Beautiful? (a book I edited a couple of years ago, but which is definitely staying on my shelf for my daughter to read in her tweens). I laughed and learned through Rob Parsons’ new book The Wisdom House, thoroughly agreed with Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace and have also gleaned so much from Jeff Lucas’ latest title, which I have had the privilege of editing recently (called There are No Ordinary People it is due out in May).

As someone who reviews books it gives me such joy to feast my eyes on the piles of books I have waiting for me to dive into – I’m thrilled to have received Cathy Madavan’s first book Digging for Diamonds this morning – I just know that’s going to be a good one 🙂 So, whether you are an avid reader or not, can I encourage you to pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read today and get stuck into it?!

Happy World Book Day x

The ‘gift’ of chickenpox: slowing down

So last week chickenpox came to our house. The timing in some ways was terrible – it meant my mum couldn’t come to stay. But as the days wore on I saw how God held us and worked through the situation.

I had wanted my son to get chickenpox before he gets much older (he’s now 6). So when an outbreak happened in his class I was secretly fairly pleased. But when it actually happened I immediately started stressing – at the last minute my parents couldn’t come to be with the kids while we went to a leadership weekend (could we even go if he was really suffering with it?).

I then started stressing about how I was going to juggle my work with my son at home. My daughter is great at amusing herself – when ill she simply takes herself off to bed and reads and naps. But he is different. He doesn’t seem able to play for long on his own and wants constant attention.

After the first day of him appearing by my side constantly I was beginning to get irritated and even more stressed. So I made a conscious decision to bring it all before God and ask Him to help order our days and allow me to be there for my son and comfort him, but also get the work done that I needed to without too much difficulty. I also prayed that we would have precious moments together that we could look back on with fondness afterwards.

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What then followed were a few days of him either napping or playing for a little while so I could start some work, and then we’d snuggle up on the sofa and watch a film together. I always took a pile of reading or other work with me, but it usually stayed in a pile and I didn’t look at it at all.

One of the days this untouched work started to weigh on my mind but then I felt God really clearly tell me to stop worrying about it. The vital work was getting done – yes I didn’t feel like I had much head space but He gently reminded me that my body isn’t working at 100% at the moment and that the rest was good for me too so I should simply embrace it rather than not allowing myself to unwind and enjoy it because I thought I ‘ought to’ be doing something.

It made me think about how often we don’t allow ourselves to rest because we are in ‘do’ mode and rest seems lesser somehow – not worth as much as getting through our ‘to do’ list.

So, through my son’s illness, God was yet again gently reminding me that I need to slow down and allow myself to rest. The things I have to get done are no less important, but the way I view them and the hierarchy I so often put on the things in my life needs to change to allow me space just to ‘be’ more regularly.

 

Worshipping the King this Christmas

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Christmas is almost upon us. Have you wrapped all the presents, bought the turkey, and started to make up beds for family and friends that will be staying with you?

This time of year is really busy isn’t it? There are a few Christmas services still to attend/run too. And what about those films your kids are desperate to see, and the now seemingly obligatory visits to Santa available at every shopping and garden centre…

 I asked you in my last column what you would do if God wanted to interrupt your plans this Christmas. Whether He has or not, how have you made room for Him in these last couple of weeks?

I know Christmas can be a really pressurised time of year, as there is simply so much to organise and the coming together of people who don’t see each other regularly can be stressful.

But amongst all the heightened commercialisation of the season, how have you been worshipping the King?

Black Friday showed us how much our culture worships material goods – people were fighting over things they really don’t need just to get a ‘bargain’.

So, as we approach Christmas itself, I think it’s really important to slow down, just for a minute or two, and ask, ‘Am I worshipping the King in my Christmas plans?’.

To read the rest of this article please click here.

There’s a crack in my fishbowl

9781782641292I am delighted to welcome Gerard Kelly to my website as a guest blogger. A prolific poet/writer, he has just released his first novel, The Boy Who Loved Rain, a beautifully emotive book tackling huge issues: toxic family secrets, suicide, self-harming… As a pastor’s wife, I was intrigued to see how the central family would deal with the enormous crisis brewing in their lives – particularly as the father, a pastor, will not acknowledge their problems or seek help from outside the church. I was totally drawn into the novel, especially through the way Gerard portrayed the troubled teenager, Colom.

Politicians, entertainers, sports stars and other celebrities often talk of the pressures of living in the limelight. Work / life balance is hard to maintain and where they have families it is hard to establish any kind of normal rhythm for their children. They live in a fishbowl, visible to all. They are subject to constant judgements from those who look on – always ready to offer an opinion and all too often happy to see their idols fall.

My novel The Boy Who Loved Rain explores this fishbowl lifestyle through a different and very specific group of of people: the leaders of churches. Theirs is not a life of celebrity – it would be difficult to describe weekly sessions in the pulpit as ‘the limelight’ – but the pressures on their families are nonetheless real.

David and Fiona Dryden, church leaders and parents to the adolescent Colom, feel this pressure acutely, not least because the growth of their church has come from their acknowledged expertise in parenting. David in particular hands out advice quite publicly – saving marriages and keeping families together. All is not well, though, in the Dryden household. There are dark secrets not far below the surface, and the decision to keep them from the light only means the impending crisis will be deeper.

Renowned psychologist Paul Tournier in his book Secrets suggests that keeping a secret is the first step to becoming an individual. The second step, he says, is telling it. Colom, at fourteen, is on the cusp between the two, and the comfort that secrecy has brought him in childhood will not sustain him in his adult years. The question is whether his parents will have the courage, for the love of their son, to let light shine.

I’m intrigued by the dilemma faced by David and Fiona Dryden because this is my world. I’ve pastored churches and I’ve worked with others doing the same, and too often I’ve seen uncomfortable truths swept under the carpet. It doesn’t matter how successful your ministry is, or how well known you are for helping others: your children are your children and their needs will neither be defined nor be met by the success of your ministry. They need parents, not professionals, and if any role is a crash course in the power of truth-telling, it is parenting. I’ve made huge changes in my own life, including career decisions that on the surface seem foolish, when I’ve seen that the needs of my family are clashing with the demands of my role. My children, as they’ve grown, have become my teachers, and listening to them has been a hard-won but hugely rewarding discipline.

The Boy Who Loved Rain is about the battle to take adolescents seriously; to allow them to be the central actors in their own drama; to recognise that their journey and my journey are not one and the same. Adolescence is the period in which a child moves from being a passenger in someone else’s vehicle to learning to drive their own. Controlling parents, who love nothing more than having their hand on the wheel and assume that they will be making all the route decisions, don’t always take well to this transition. We have plans; goals; desires for our children’s lives: but it is not our job to deliver them. Only they can fight their battles; only they can live their life. Our job is to equip them; to set them on their way, but ultimately to free them to be the warriors their nature and their maker have designed them to be.

For families in the fishbowl, this process of freeing our children might mean a choice – of relationship over reputation; of family over fortune; of those we love over those we serve. In my experience, it is a choice worth making. Sometimes it is the only choice that will save our children’s lives – and our own.

The Boy Who Loved Rain is published by Lion Fiction. Thanks to them for the review copy and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Let justice roll…

“Let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)

This weekend I finally caught up with the rest of the world and watched Philomena. It wasn’t something my husband really fancied watching and so it hadn’t been that high on our list of films to rent. But when it came on he sat there transfixed. The story was incredible, the acting superb and the subject matter chilling. So often we hear about the older generation yearning to go back to the ‘good old days’ and yet, however much we may mourn some of the directions are society is going in, it is important to remember that the past wasn’t perfect.

I wasn’t going to blog about the film, thinking I’d missed the boat months ago, and then I watched the news last night. As you are undoubtedly aware there are currently two inquiries looking into the area of historical child abuse scandals due to claims of an ‘establishment cover-up’. As BBC News reported:

“One is an overarching inquiry into the way public bodies and other important institutions have handled child sex abuse claims. The other will look at how the Home Office dealt with allegations about powerful figures and paedophilia in the 1980s.”

I know that we are still reeling from the facts revealed in the Jimmy Savile case. And the inquiry into whether there was historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland children’s homes and other institutions was first set up in 2012.  I find it incredible that there is a possibility that child abuse was going on at a high level within government. Today the BBC reported:

“Last week, Amnesty’s NI director, Patrick Corrigan said there were fears that there were ‘many more victims and abusers’ at Kincora [children’s home] during the period between 1960 and 1980.

He said: ‘Allegations have persisted that paedophilia at Kincora was linked to British intelligence services, with claims that visitors to the home included members of the military, politicians and civil servants, and that police investigations into abuse at Kincora were blocked by the Ministry of Defence and MI5.’

It is not the specifics of child abuse cover-up that I want to talk about here, as I am at a complete loss to know quite how to respond (I also know that I am not qualified to share a well-rounded opinion as I know so little of the history). All I can do is describe the overriding sense of sorrow I felt when watching Philomena and then, subsequently, the news. Because last night it was also announced:

“Judge Yvonne Murphy will chair an inquiry into church-run ‘mother and baby homes’ in the Republic of Ireland. The Commission of Investigation was set up after the remains of almost 800 children were found in Tuam, County Galway, earlier this year. It was one of 10 institutions in which about 35,000 unmarried mothers – so-called fallen women – are thought to have been sent.”

However those young pregnant women arrived at the mother and baby homes, they ended up as mothers. I understand that some would have preferred not to have had their children. I also know that others would have realised they didn’t have the means to look after their children. But the point is, both in the film (based on a true story) and on the news last night, it was made very clear that mothers were sometimes either coerced into signing legal documents to say they no longer had any rights to their child or their child was sold without their prior knowledge or agreement. And often their children ended up in America or Australia, making it almost impossible for the young mothers to track their children down.

I know that as a mum myself my emotions really come into play when I watch things about children being taken from their parents, and so my heart bled as I watched the Judi Dench character in Philomena being told her son was being taken and she tried desperately to reach him before it was too late.

I am not standing in judgement on anyone – the nuns in the homes, the government who must have known what was happening. I do not have all the facts in front of me and I am not in a position to be able to do anything about it anyway. However I do believe that we should continue to push for the facts to be made known. It is scandalous that a lot of records were destroyed – that kind of action tends to knock any argument about people doing what they felt was best at the time out the water as that is deliberate cover-up. To hear that there may have been drug trials undertaken on children in institutional homes is yet another can of worms that needs investigating. How horrific.

What struck and pained me most last night is that so many of those mothers never found their children – Philomena at least learned of the successful life her son had had, but the news last night interviewed Helen Murphy, who found out her mother had been in the same city as her all along – Cork – but died three weeks before she tracked her down. How tragic. And how unjust.

Terri Harrison, who was sent to a mother and baby home in 1973 aged 18, told BBC News last night that the girls were repeatedly told, “You are here because nobody wants you… you are here because you sinned.”

What message would that have driven into the very souls of those girls, which would no doubt have lasted far longer than their time in the institution? Being told they were unwanted over and over again would have affected their identity and self-esteem. I am not condoning the fact that these girls were unwed mothers, but it does make me wonder what Jesus would have said to them – I suspect his message would have been very different…

As Christians we are called to “let justice roll like a river”. I think that when we hear of unjust issues like this we have a responsibility, first and foremost, to pray. Pray for that justice and pray for all those involved. Because they all need God’s intervention.

Life is short…

Memorial services are great for bringing perspective.

I recently attended one for a dear guy who, at one stage of our lives, was extremely instrumental in our continuing faith journey. He was the first small group leader we had in the church we attended more than 20 years ago. We’ve since moved on from that church, moving home to help start another church in a nearby community.

What shocked us about this situation was that his death was sudden – and he was so young (just four years older than my husband). So there we were, a group of people that had come back together from various corners of the country to celebrate and acknowledge the life of this unassuming man who had had an impact on us.

He had been a somewhat clumsy, awkward guy, but so friendly and gentle. Everyone who paid tribute to him recognised those qualities. But they also talked about his absolute assurance of the truth of the gospel. Although a scientist, he had had no problem marrying his faith with scientific fact, and his faith had been the stronger for it.

As I sat listening to people speaking that day, I suddenly heard a gentle whisper:

What would people be saying if it were you? How would people describe you?

I know that the word ‘gentle’ would certainly not be among the words used. Unfortunately that’s not a natural character trait for me…

But would there be the things I would hope for, such as: kind, loyal, honest, authentic, faith-filled, inspiring, encouraging? Or would there be, as I suspect I’m viewed as currently: over-busy, stressed, aloof, overbearing, difficult to approach, emotional?

I know I’m overstating the case somewhat, but sitting there that day made me take stock:

What is it I’m investing my time and efforts in, and are they worthwhile?

To read the rest of this post please click here.

The Monday Blog Tour

The Monday Blog Tour has seen some great writers talk about their work and provide insights into their writing processes. Lucy Mills kindly tagged me to continue the tour (read her post here). So here are my answers to the blog tour’s questions:
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What am I working on?

I find the mix of work I have fascinating. Working mainly during the time my children are at school I manage to squeeze in editing other people’s books, writing Bible study guides, writing articles, interviews and reviews for magazines and websites as well as writing books myself. I have a regular column on Christian Today’s website and also have three books coming out this year: on May 23rd the first two of the Foundations 21 book series Jesus and Prayer come out, which are small-group discipleship and study guides that work in tandem with the Bible Reading Fellowship’s Foundation 21 website. Later on, in June, I have a book, co-written with Chris Ledger, being published by CWR: Insight into Managing Conflict.

At the moment I’m deep into an editorial job, which I’m finding challenging but hugely enjoyable. I’ve also got some books I’m in the middle of reading that I will be reviewing and then interviewing the authors, as well as some articles about new initiatives to write. Oh and a set of Bible study notes to write in the next few months. At the end of last week I got a snippet of interest from a publisher about a book idea I’ve had mulling over in my head for quite some months – so I need to do some actual work on that too! It’s the first book in which the idea has come totally from me (the others happened by editorial contacts approaching me) and so I’m really excited about developing it. Sometimes I seem to be juggling too many plates. But it means I’m never bored and I love the variety!

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How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I mainly write Christian non-fiction and, when I started doing so, I felt quite overwhelmed, and almost put off before I really began, because there are so many other writers out there doing a similar thing. But I think once you have found your particular voice then you simply have to go with it. Publishers and sites that are a good ‘fit’ for you will begin to recognise and appreciate it. I would say, for me, the most important thing is being true to who I am – and that includes the struggles and the mistakes. I feel I have to write about the everyday. I don’t know if sometimes I’m too honest – I always have to be careful about treading that line, especially as my husband is a pastor and a lot of those in our church read what I write, but I write to encourage others. I want them to be free to be who they are supposed to be – and us all to be honest with one another on a much deeper level.

Why do I write what I do?

I felt called by God to pursue writing as well as editing when I was heavily pregnant with my second child. Since then He has opened up doors I would never have dreamed of. I can still compare myself to those with endless book deals and huge speaking tours – but He hasn’t called me to walk their walk. That may come in time – but it may not. And I’ve got to learn to be content with that. I’m to be faithful in my own journey in life. And that’s mainly what I write about. The fact that it is so important not to be afraid to open up and be vulnerable. Helping people to realise that we truly should be in this life journey together – we all struggle and need each other to admit it so we can support one another fully.

The other thing I really enjoy doing is flagging up the work of incredible organisations and individuals who truly are changing the world. I’ve had the privilege of writing about the A21 Campaign and 28 Too Many, to name just a couple.

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How does my writing process work?

As I said, I focus as much of my work into the school hours as I can, which means I have to be extremely disciplined. That said, I’m often found scribbling on bits of paper or tapping notes into my phone if I’ve suddenly had a bit of inspiration.

Generally, though, I make myself a cuppa after the kids have been dropped to school, sit and pray at my desk, read my daily Bible notes (wow, I’m making myself sound too holy – often this is done in a real rush!) and then I tackle whatever job is to hand, whether a chapter for a book or a set of interview questions. I type quickly, getting all my thoughts down, and then go back and edit everything I’ve written. I have found it much harder to edit myself, although I do try to be ruthless. I have a conversational style, and I know it can get unwieldy at times, so I usually ask my husband to read everything I’ve written before sending it anywhere!

There are times when I’m in the middle of a writing or editing flow when it is time to pick up the children. Sometimes I just have to let that go or, if there is a deadline looming, spend time with the kids and then get back to work later in the day if time allows.

To continue this tour, I’d like to tag Anita Mathias and Katherine Baldwin to take part in next Monday’s Blog Tour (Katherine will be guest blogging on my site).

Celebrating mothers – and my mum in particular :)

mum and ClaireAs we approach Mother’s Day, it felt appropriate for me to focus on motherhood – and the huge impact our mothers have on us. When I wrote about International Women’s Day, which we also celebrated this month, I spoke about what a privilege it is to be a mother to my own daughter, but what a challenge it is to bring her up in today’s society too.

I’m so grateful for the wisdom of the other women I have around me – who not only help me when I’m in those ‘tearing my hair out’ moments with my kids, but who also challenge me and push me not to settle for the mundane status quo. They continually urge me to seek hard after God and His purposes for my life and not to allow my insecurities to stop me from being all God wants me to be.

Those women include some great, close friends within my church, who I simply couldn’t cope without (hence I view them as God’s gift to me) as well as those I’m privileged enough to work with within my Christian publishing career. As women I think we often do a brilliant job of supporting one another. I mentioned in a previous post too that my sister also often ‘tells it like it is’ to me – while we may not see each other that often we speak words of truth into each other’s lives, and we know we are always there for each other.

Today, however, my focus has got to be on the one woman who has not only influenced me the most but also inspired me the most too: my mum. What a testimony she is to a life of faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

To read the rest of this, please click here.