What I have been reading: Spring

Here’s a selection of the books that I have been reading in recent months:

Realm of Darknessrealm of darknesspic
By C.F. Dunn

I waited until the Easter holidays to delve into this delight as the ‘Secret of the Journal’ series has a way of gripping your attention so much that reading the books takes over! This, the fourth in a series of five, was eagerly awaited by me (the books are huge, but I am always impatient for the author to finish the next one – and still find that I have to flick through the previous ones to remember where the storyline has got to, although she has thoughtfully provided a ‘The Story So Far’ section at the beginning of each book). The series is described as historical, romantic suspense – possibly not my usual genre of choice, but I LOVE Claire’s writing and have devoured each of these books. The last in the series is out in September – I heartily recommend you starting from book one now so that you are ready for it come the autumn!

she'salmostateenagerShe’s Almost a Teenager
By Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia ARP

I was sent this book and put it on the side in my office thinking it would become useful in a year or two. However, I recently picked it up and found it full of incredibly helpful advice. My daughter is at the tween stage, and there is so much understanding, grace and love in the pages of this book that I am thoroughly grateful for it right now. The strapline is ‘Essential conversations to have now…’ and the subjects covered include friends, academics, body image, faith, boys, money etc. I have to confess I’ve only read four of the eight chapters so far – but that’s because I am taking my time, being challenged, writing copious notes and engaging in the suggested topics of conversation with my daughter. She noticed the book sat on the side one day, picked it up and was straight away eager to start talking! What a blessing this book has been to me, and my relationship with my daughter, so I would definitely recommend it.

having a mary heartcoverHaving a Mary Heart in a Martha World
By Joanna Weaver

I am working through this book with my women’s book study group once a month, so I haven’t finished it yet – but, like the previous book, it is full of wisdom and is speaking to me hugely so I wanted to flag it up now. I love the way Joanna describes how those of us who can be duty led (and love our ‘to do’ lists) so well, and then also reflects the longings of our hearts – to be still and sit at Jesus’ feet. With so much vying for our time and talents, it can be so hard to do just that, but she has certainly helped me, and others in the group, to start putting little practises into place to facilitate being with Jesus. Of course much of it I already knew, or had read before, but I have found I have really connected with this book and many of the subjects covered are things God has already been talking to me about so it has been very timely. I have mentioned some of this in my regular column for Christian Today – here are links to two articles.

woundedbyGod's peopleWounded by God’s People
By Anne Graham Lotz

I was intrigued to read this book, as I had heard it is Anne’s most personal book (indeed the jacket says that). She has been very open about difficulties and hurts both her and her husband have endured, but doesn’t dwell on them – they are there to back up the biblical principles she is exploring through the story of Hagar. She also includes other people’s stories so it isn’t all about her, which I was pleased to see. I also liked the touches of reflection and wondering about different aspects of Hagar’s story – where she allows her mind to think about what might have happened in more detail than we read in scripture.
Anne is very honest, which is refreshing, but also very direct – she talks about what she has learned but then turns her attention to the reader and asks where they are at. I’m not sure there is anything particularly new but I have underlined much within the pages – and I am always convinced that we Christians can be forgetful and need reminding of basic truths constantly!
In today’s culture, which bangs on about freedom meaning that we can do and be exactly what we like, it is good to be challenged on that and realise that God calls us to be His disciples. That involves a process of refining – and that means we need to readily share our hurts with God, be open to His healing and also allow Him to reveal our own blind spots to us. As Anne states, there is a blessing in brokenness, and a power in forgiving others – although there is also a cost involved. If this book helps people move past hurt towards healing then it has done its job well.

At therapy's endAt Therapy’s End
By Susie Flashman Jarvis

This book is fiction, but tackles some hugely difficult subjects that sadly occur in many people’s daily lives – domestic abuse and family tragedy. Susie is very sensitive in the way she has portrayed the characters and storyline, and I found I was drawn in to the book very quickly. I am sure her years of experience as a counsellor has helped shape her work, and I learned a lot from reading it. I have read her non-fiction too (her own story) and I actually felt this book was better written (possibly due to her growing as a writer – if that isn’t too patronising to say!). If you are interested in understanding more about what people who are suffering abuse, or are grieving from deep loss, go through then I would say do get hold of a copy of this book.

Lucy 01_Crop-AW2.inddLucy Butterfly
By Heather Cursham
NB This review is by my 10-year-old daughter.

This is a very exciting book that I found difficult to put down. The fact that you always had to wait for Lucy to be asleep to find out what the next part of her quest was made me begin to imagine what was to happen next. It felt to me as if I was beside Lucy as she ventured across her dream world, facing problems and solving puzzles along the way. I felt the way she felt while she experienced both good times and bad times, as well as times when she had to make decisions. If you like adventure and fantasy books (and are a tween!) you will enjoy this fantastic story as much as I did, so try to find a copy of this book and its soon-to-come-out sequel, Lucy Ever After.
NB I believe Lucy Ever After is due to be published in January 2017.

 

 

 

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) 

 

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.

 

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.

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…

How well do we support parents?

I recently attended a day at a nearby church focused on equipping Christian parents. Whole families were able to go, and the organisers did a fantastic job of keeping our children engaged and excited about the activities they did while we had teaching and discussions.

I was really struck by one of the questions we were asked:

“What is the best piece of advice you have been taught about parenting in church?”

We were then given a few moments to discuss it with the person next to us.

Those of us sat together all said the same thing – we couldn’t think of anything we had been specifically taught about parenting on a Sunday morning (apart from the few comments preachers had given about what they’ve learned about parenting from their own kids and their own mistakes). This made me wonder: how intentional are our churches about teaching and equipping parents?

To read the rest of this article please click here.

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.

Let us never lose the wonder – or our enthusiasm…

The school Easter holidays are now in full swing; it seems strange this year that Easter Sunday is right at the end of the holiday as it creates quite a build up – the kids were excited about Easter well before school broke up!

Writing for a range of ‘dated publications’ such as Bible study guides means that I actually spend time reflecting on Easter for months before it is upon us. I have a set of notes out for Easter but probably finished writing them well over six months ago. Such long lead times can mean you feel out of kilter with the calendar at times.

But I can also find that social media can be awash with too much information about a certain event in the Church calendar. That, coupled with our general over-busyness, could mean that, while we see all the articles and postings about Easter, it leaves us somewhat untouched and unchanged.

What a shame, because this truly is the pivotal part of our story as believers. Without Jesus’ resolute determination to see His destiny completed we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the grace-filled relationship with God we have as Christians. I know you know that – but I also know how easy it is to say it and not be affected by it.

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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.

A typical writing day – for me

I can’t pretend to have had this idea first, as the great Wendy Jones posted hers earlier today on her site, but I thought I would share an entry of a writing competition – that I didn’t win. It was earlier in the year, when my son wasn’t in full-time school, so it gives more of an insight into that juggling act. Since October there has still been a massive juggling act – it’s just taken a slightly different form!

Anyway, both Wendy and I submitted entries for the Association of Christian Writers’ (ACW) writing competition A Day in the Life of a Writer. Here’s what I sent in, which I think sums up the pressure and panic I can sometimes experience as a writer:

I wake up early, with that pit in my stomach that always happens on writing days. I chew over what I need to get done before the kids get up, and then it is a mad rush to get them off to school. On my return the panic sets in; I always have the overriding sense that I can’t do it – I simply can’t put the words down. The empty page on the screen seems to taunt me until I pray and then force myself to get going. Then I allow the words just to flow; I wait until later to go back and read them. The editing process is a lot easier as I am an editor by trade. Although of course it is harder to change your own work than someone else’s…

Time is a huge constraint. My youngest is at nursery so my most productive hours HAVE to be the few I have free each morning. Sometimes that’s an enormous pressure; at other times it simply forces me to get over my feelings of inadequacy and get on. But not today…today has been particularly hard, and the morning wasted. Because earlier in the week I was approached by a new magazine. I had been recommended to them and they wanted me to write some articles by the end of the week. I had sent the requested examples of work and then waited…and waited. Then today the ‘ping’ of my email informed me a new message was in. And there, staring me in the face, was a rejection. It was beautifully put, full of praise for my writing, but I was, nevertheless, on reflection, ‘not quite right for their publication’. Oh how that stung! More so because I had been approached by them. To me that meant my writing must be even more unlovely for it to change their minds about me!

On days like today the writers’ forums, such as the ACW Facebook page, are invaluable. I posted how I was feeling and the enormous response I got – full of sympathy, empathy but also great wisdom – helped me to determine within myself to get up and get back to work. After all there was only one hour left before I had to do the next school run – and I do have a book to write! Thinking of all the positives, of how I have books, articles, bible study guides all lined up to write for the rest of the year, makes me so grateful and yet…that sting is still there. Okay it has lessened, but now it is a quiet, slow-burning background pang that is still tingeing my day with sadness. I am full of resolve; to make the writing I am doing the best it can be and to rejoice in everything I do have. And yet that uncertainty, that lack of belief in myself, is hovering, waiting to pounce if I give it the chance…