The Virgin Monologues

Interesting blog title huh? Well, it’s an even more interesting title for a book – and that’s precisely what it is. Towards the end of last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch for this new book, written by journalist and writing coach Carrie Lloyd. Sassy, beautiful and brilliant, Carrie has long been writing about her relationship experiences on her blog Her Glass Slipper.

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Carrie’s book sees her, as a 21st century Christian girl, honestly sharing her dating trials and considering such questions as: is purity relevant? Why does Mr Potential never reach his potential? Is the fear of singledom making you settle for second-rate? And why are so many Christians so Christ-less in their approach to dating?

Carrie also talks about how she used to have ‘the recipe’ – a list of everything she needed in ‘her man’, but how finding freedom for herself has enabled her to ditch it.

I loved editing the book, and, even though I’m an old ‘married’, I gleaned plenty of wisdom from it – Carrie certainly pulls no punches in her writing. She has the guts to write personally about what she’s learned as well directly challenge the reader. I highly recommend this title (its tactile cover is another good reason to buy it 😉 ).

Here is an eclectic selection of pithy quotes from Carrie, taken from the launch night:

“So you’re writing about purity & sexual discipline…” “Yeah. It’s a niche market.”

“If you know who you are, you don’t need a list.”

“Vulnerability is your greatest protector.”

“We have lots of books on joy but they don’t make me feel joyful. I wanted my book to be fun.”

“We need to think more carefully about what freedom really is.”

“I’ve been an atheist and I know how off-putting Christian language can be.”

The Virgin Monologues is out now on kindle and publishes in book form on 23 Jan – for a taste of what to expect see Carrie’s book teaser.

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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.

Why do we always want something different?

On Friday my two new books are published. I am taking a moment to celebrate that fact – to thank the editor who asked if I would like to write them, and to acknowledge all the hard work it took to put them together.

Learning with F21_Prayer Learning with F21_Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But it also makes me long for the day when the book I have burning within me makes it out of my heart and mind and onto the bookshelves. You see, so far I have four books under my writerly belt. But each one I was asked to write. The ideas did not originally come from me. Yes, I ran with them, developed them, put my all into them – but they don’t feel like they are quite ‘mine’.

I also look around at the Christian non-fiction authors who have huge followings, bestsellers and sell-out tours. I look and wonder – will I ever get anywhere close to that? And does God even want me to? In the times when I get frustrated, I have to consciously take my eyes off of another’s path and focus on my own. Because God has called me to walk out my own life, not someone else’s.

God really challenged me recently. I was considering whether I could feasibly take on the leadership training that I had been offered. So often we are told to look at our priorities, to check where all our time goes (yes I’ve previously written about doing a time budget – we got partway there!). I know that working parents will probably relate to what I’m going to say next: most of the time I feel like my whole self is being simultaneously stretched in at least four different directions.

Writing and editing make up my ‘job’, but I also believe they are part of my calling. I also know that first and foremost I am to love my God above everything and everyone – and then my husband and my children. I also now have a deep passion for those who attend our church. I want to see them reach their full potential, walk free from those things that have bound them and be all they can be. I am also fired up by worship and long to see people engaging with God in new and creative ways.

And yet so often I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface with each of those areas. That I’m just treading water rather than taking ground. I wonder whether I’m selling people short by not giving more – but then I know that, realistically, I haven’t got any more to give. So how can I take on anything else? But then that quiet small voice whispers to me, encouraging me and telling me it could be the one thing that equips me to serve others better, and gives me the time to actually stop and check my priorities.

To read the rest of this post 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…

International Day of the Girl

Yes, today is the UN’s International Day of the Girl. Twitter has been filled with useful links and helpful reminders. It is sobering to read some of the facts organisations such as PlanUK have on their sites:

• 66 million girls are currently denied an education – that’s one in five girls globally.
• 150 million girls under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence.
• 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
• Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in the world’s poorest countries.

These statistics are horrific and I totally endorse campaigns that fight for the right for girls to get an education. It has been recognised that those who are educated are much more likely to give back to their own communities – see my post on International Women’s Day for more on this.

In all honesty, my first thought today when I remembered it was the Day of the Girl was about my daughter. I am so grateful to God for her. For her tenacity, intelligence, care for others and quick humour. I’m also grateful she is in a good school and surrounded by lovely friends. The problems and difficulties she may face on a daily basis seem to be on such a different level to those girls who have to fight for the right to go to school. I want to remind her of how fortunate she is when she comes home from school, and encourage her to think about some of the ways she may be able to help reach out to others less fortunate than herself.

While I know my daughter’s difficulties are on a different scale to so many millions around the world they are no less real to her. She has had bouts of bullying to deal with, is shy beyond belief at times, lacks self-confidence and is growing up in a society that tells her beauty is SO important. What the latter is doing to her self-esteem I shudder to think and am so conscious that I need to be careful about the messages I give her about being a Christian woman today.

I want my daughter to achieve everything that she wants to – and that God has for her. I want her to experience so much of life – the amazing opportunities she has living so close to London, but also want her to be aware of what other children in other countries have to deal with on a daily basis. I want her to celebrate being a girl – and be as carefree as possible, secure in the knowledge that we, as her parents, have her back. Our country, even our town, is not as safe as it used to be, but I do want our daughter to feel safe. Most of all I want her to know that she is loved.

So on this, the International Day of the Girl, I want to celebrate my daughter. What a wonderful gift she is to me. She stretches my parenting skills to breaking point on many an occasion, dealing with her insecurities often brings mine to the fore and there are moments that are frustrating beyond belief. And yet the love I feel for my child is incredible, and being her mum is an honour way more than I feel I deserve. She is an incredible mix of the good (and bad!) in both me and my husband – and she is the future. Her and other girls her age. We MUST invest our time, talents and energy in ensuring girls reach their full potential – wherever they are in the world. For me, on a day-to-day basis, that means pouring my life out for my daughter. I can’t wait to see what am amazing woman she turns out to be 🙂

Yes I AM beautiful!

Having dropped my kids off at school, done the food shop and come home to unpack it, put washing on and had a very late breakfast before sitting at my computer, I can see that I’m now running behind. There have been some great posts on last night already (see Amy Boucher Pye’s here and Jennie Pollock’s here). And yet the launch of Chine Mbubaegbu’s book Am I Beautiful? meant so much to me that I simply have to record it here. Because the issues, of body image, self-esteem, outer beauty and inner beauty etc, are so close to my heart. I, too, have suffered from low self-esteem throughout my life and never felt beautiful enough. As a pastor’s wife I also see so many women struggle against what the media tells them they should look and act like, desperately wanting to walk in the freedom in Christ they know they should be enjoying.

The other reason is because I edited the book. It felt like such a privilege to do so; Chine was the first person I started writing articles for and now I was able to serve her by being her editor – it was great (and difficult at times – but more on that later! 😉 )

As both Amy and Jennie have admitted, I too sat here at my desk yesterday morning, annoyed that I was having a bad hair day and that I was shattered from catching up on work and church responsibilities as well as helping our youngest with his transition into ‘big’ school. I looked and felt every inch the 40-year-old woman I now am. I also knew I’d be seeing people I have worked with but not met yet, as well as other ‘movers and shakers’ in the Christian publishing and media world. I wanted to look my best, but, as a shy, work-from-home mum, I find that side of the business really hard at times. So, while I was looking forward so much to celebrating with Chine, I was also worried about how I would look and how I would come across to people I chatted with. As I sat there, trying to work but all the while telling myself off for being so silly (and smiling wryly at the irony of it all – after all the book is all about the fact that we ARE beauty as we are made in the image of Beauty), I was relieved to find I was not alone. Chine, too, had struggled with what to wear that morning (see her post here).

But that’s the point isn’t it? Chine was asked last night why she thinks Christian women struggle so much with this, when we know the truth of who we are. She quiet rightly pointed out that we are literally bombarded with images of society’s perceived ‘perfect woman’ day in day out – it’s hard to keep up your resistance to it all the time! Whatever age we are we ALL have to fight against the messages we are told constantly as, let’s face it, we are all much more likely to be taking in more of society’s messages than the Bible’s each day because the images are constantly with us. We HAVE to learn to soak ourselves in the Truth, remind each other that Beauty is so much more than outward appearance and teach those lessons to the younger generation before they start coming across the issues themselves. When my daughter saw the lovely bright pink cover of my advance copy of the book she immediately picked it up to read it. I told her I definitely want her to read it when she’s a little older – perhaps about to become a teenager. But then a similar story that Amy told last night about her daughter reminded me of what my daughter has said on more than one occasion and I thought perhaps she’ll need to read it earlier. At eight years of age she is, quite literally, a beanpole. Tall, slim and striking – sometimes she takes my breath away. But I’ve caught her at least twice already pulling at her flesh, saying she’s fat. How do these messages reach such young ones? A dad asked a question last night about how he should bring up his daughters in our society to know that beauty is not skin deep and yet to truly believe that they are beautiful. Chine’s answer was great – she told him not to give up telling his daughters that they are beautiful, as some parents do, but to ensure that that isn’t the only message he is giving. To encourage them by saying that they are also kind, funny, smart, loving etc. It’s a challenge for all of us who are parents – but also for all those in church families as it is up to you too! Our kids often pick up things far more easily from the wider church family than they will from us so those positive messages need to be coming from you too! 😉

So… back to the editing process. Amy has already mentioned this but I was waiting in great anticipation and slight nervousness to read the first draft of Chine’s book. If I’m honest I’ve been jealous and a little scared of her in the past. She’s such a successful, beautiful, funny, vivacious, confident woman – and a fantastic writer. I was amazed once when we had an honest email exchange that our perceptions of each other were so different from what I expected! The grass is definitely always greener…

When I sat and read Chine’s book it was well written, and very efficiently journalistic in its approach. Apart from the little snippets where she’d let herself be vulnerable. Like the story of being five years old and being asked to draw a self-portrait at school. She drew a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl and it wasn’t until a friend leant over and told her that it wasn’t her, that she realised she was different from everyone else. Nigerian-born, she was the only black girl in her class. That, I told Chine, HAD to be the opening story of the first chapter (and read it in Chine’s own words – she tells it far better! 😉 ). The moments when she opened up hit me so hard that I realised I simply had to encourage her to open up more, to be more vulnerable and totally honest.

When I looked at how we could rework the book and passed on all my suggestions to Chine I then held my breath. Would she be crushed? Would she hate me? Would she think my ideas ridiculous? As an author I know what it is like to submit a manuscript and then wait to see what the editor thinks of it. It’s so hard! I know Chine told us the second pass of the book was a much more painful process than the first – but oh how it was worth it! As every review and comment I have heard indicate, it is the rawness, the openness and absolute integrity that has touched people. It almost gives women permission to talk about this subject in a way that perhaps we haven’t before. With a new, dogged determination not to settle for society’s values, not to allow ourselves to feel less than – and to help each other with the process. Because we ALL are beautiful… even when we have a bad hair day! 😉

I would rather be a doorkeeper…

My body and mind are still trying to process the amazing, but frantic, week of conferences I had last week. I was at the HTB Leadership conference, then the ‘All that we are’ conference for women at the Christian Resources Exhibition and at the end of the week we travelled to Nottingham to hear Dave Fellingham speak on deliverance ministry. I had such a blessed week and learned a great deal. I had hoped to blog about my thoughts throughout the week, but it was all so intense I know I’ll simply be filtering through the things I’ve picked up and am mulling over during the next few weeks. And so much has already been tweeted and blogged about that I’ve decided to avoid going back over old news now!

Today I woke up feeling pretty under the weather and, in a manner so unlike my usual busy Martha self, I surprised myself by deciding to send the kids off to school with my husband and crawl back into bed with my bible. I just felt that small, still voice, pointing out that yes, I only had a couple of hours free before my son would need picking up but no, there was nothing I desperately needed to get done for work so I could actually simply relax and spend time catching up on a little bit of sleep and then catching up with God 😉

The passage of scripture that really struck me today was from Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling-place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young –
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favour and honour;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose way of life is blameless.

I realised that yes, my soul was yearning for that place of rest only found in Him, and that I can trust His provision for me personally. The mention of the sparrow immediately made me think of the passage in Matthew that urges us not to worry, reminding us that the birds of the air are looked after by God and the flowers of the field dressed more finely than Solomon. That is certainly a challenge to me as I am naturally a worrier. I’m learning to lean more on God though as the amount of stress we’ve been under recently would have caused me to explode otherwise!

The next part of the passage that really spoke to me was the part about being a doorkeeper. I was really challenged by that – would I rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house than be someone more noticed and important elsewhere? One of the things I’ve been wrestling with recently is where my role lies and exactly what I’m supposed to be pouring my time and energy into. That was mainly borne out of the tension of trying to support my husband while he works as the only full-time member of staff and looks after the church, as well as me working and being a mum. As I said, we’ve had a particularly stressful few weeks so that has caused me to think about everything I do – and both of us to realise we need to take a long, hard look at our priorities. Another part of it, though, came out of a disappointment over a long-term freelance job I went for. It was something I felt led to by God, something we prayed about and agreed I should go for, and also something I was told I almost got. So, understandably, I felt some disappointment, also questioned myself – and asked God a few questions too! I also saw many women at CRE last week who have a higher profile than me in the writing and editing fields and, while I know in my heart I’m not running after recognition or position, it is a lot easier to get work when you are ‘known’. I loved catching up with all the women I saw, but I also knew I had to let go. Let go of any striving to get to a certain place, to be a certain type of person – and to trust that God knows my future, knows where I am going and only asks me to be faithful with what I see put before me each day rather than worrying about what work I may or may not have two months down the line.

I was really encouraged by particular words I received last week that affirmed some of my heart’s desires – I had been getting to a place of wondering whether God was asking me to lay down my dreams for now in order to concentrate on building the church alongside my husband, but that burden has now been taken off me. A lot of what is on my heart does involve my ministry within the church, often working alongside my husband, as well as encouraging and equipping people in the wider Church through my work but I realise now that God is cheering me on in all of that. And, while I don’t know what form it is all going to take, I do realise that being a doorkeeper in His house is far, far more precious than trying to be something I’m not. I may never be as ‘recognised’ as some of the other people I work with – but that’s okay. I have my Father’s approval and today I’ve realised I am actually totally content with that. 🙂

How well dressed is your spirit?

I have been working a lot recently, hence my lack of postings. It has been an intense month of editing, which has been quite different as I usually edit and write in tandem. While it has been quite a struggle to fit the work round my parenting responsibilities, I have certainly been stretched and challenged by the subject matter of the books I have been editing. And my Bible study notes this morning seemed to build on a few of the issues raised – so I thought it was about time I spent some quality time thinking about them. This blog is the result of my initial ponderings on one…

Like many other women (I hate that I can generalise like that), I can struggle with my self-image. Post-kids I can feel self-conscious about what my daughter calls my ‘wobbly bits’ (!), and look wistfully at my younger friends’ figures. I can take a lot of time (okay not on school run mornings but any other morning, or if I’m going out!) choosing outfits that hide the bits I don’t want people to see, and make me look as presentable as possible. And yet I was really drawn up short this morning when I read about clothing my spirit.

The obvious passage about spiritual clothing is the one on the armour of God, found in Ephesians 6. And we certainly need to be intentional about putting that on, as we face daily battles. But I was also reminded of Colossians 3, in which we are exhorted to ‘wear’ another type of spiritual clothing. Here are verses 12–14 in two different versions:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (The Message)

Now it is quite obvious, reading the passage through, that we are being instructed to ‘clothe’ our spirits – to ensure our attitudes are godly. Imagine what the world would look like if we each spent time focusing on dressing ourselves with these virtues… I have to be honest here. I know that I can be impatient – when I’m stressed and tired (hello – welcome to the world of the working parent! 😉 ) it doesn’t take long for me to get harassed. I am also ‘blessed’ with a fiery temper, which I can often just accept rather than deal with – and am certainly not gentle that often. Embarrassingly, when I was part of my great church youth group, all those years ago, a visiting speaker asked us to each take it in turns to sit in the middle of the room, encircled by our friends and then we had to speak out words of encouragement over the one in the centre. I was asked to go first, and my friends were pretty shy about speaking up so the guy tried to start the ball rolling by saying, ‘Well, is she gentle?’ No one replied – they didn’t need to as the roars of laughter said it all. I didn’t feel that encouraged to be honest… But here, in scripture, we are being told to be ‘even-tempered’, gentle and kind. That is the ‘wardrobe God picked out for you’ – and yes, for me too. I think I fall short quite often…

So, why don’t I spend time ensuring my attitudes and actions line up with scripture each morning? I’m going to challenge myself to think about this every day when I’m getting dressed. To consciously ‘dress’ my spirit as well as my body. How about it? How well dressed is your spirit today? Or do you think you need to take up this challenge too?

I promise…to love my God

Last night I was a very proud mummy. My husband, son and I watched as our daughter was officially enrolled into Brownies. She has been uber excited for weeks, and yes, I’ll admit, it did bring a lump to my throat. Particularly because Brownies has been the one thing that has really helped her this term. She has been bullied by a close friend and starting Brownies has been a fantastic way for her to make friends outside of school and to build her self-esteem back up (man I could not believe how much a young child’s sense of self could get knocked down!). But, that huge issue aside, what really struck me was the words of the Brownie promise she made:

I promise that I will do my best:
To love my God,
To serve the Queen and my country,
To help other people
And
To keep the Brownie Guide Law.

Now copying that out from her Brownie book I’ve noticed the two asterisks after ‘God’ and  ‘country’ that refer to a note saying that Brownies can ask to insert different words at these points instead. That, to me, is a little sad. But… understandable. Indeed, on our walk home we met a friend from church. When we explained where we had been, and said a little bit of the promise, his response was, ‘Was there really a mention of God in there – surely that has been taken out by now?’ And he had a point. Everywhere in our British, national culture the parts that draw on a Christian heritage are being deliberately eroded away. Think about it. There’s so little left. I think that is why I was so struck by the words of the promise – because you don’t hear that sort of thing said much these days, particularly not in schools or children’s groups because it is not politically correct. So watching a group of excited girls all rooting for my daughter while she said those words was so refreshing. I understand that there will be those that say we can’t impose our beliefs on others – and I get that. Just hearing those words made me realise afresh how much our culture has been secularised – and I guess it made me mourn a little. I’m all for treating others equally, and for not making judgements based on religion, race or gender, but does that really mean we should simply give away all parts of our heritage and traditions that have any basis in Christianity, however small?

Moving on to a less contentious issue!… My daughter is 7. She is quite matter of fact, and prayed a prayer asking Jesus into her heart when it appeared in her daily bible notes when she was quite a bit younger. Now she is totally convinced she is a Christian, and I don’t doubt it, but I know she has a lot to learn and understand about what that means. But pondering the promise she made last night I thought it would be a good starting point – a good motto for life. I’m not particularly patriotic, but I do love my country – and I certainly love my God. So, actually, I think it would be a pretty good motto for me too! What about you? Fancy taking the Brownie promise as your motto for at least today?

The fickleness of freelance life…

This week is stretching before me as a long, black hole of nothingness, making me feel somewhat fed up and disillusioned. Why? (And yes I know I’m being overdramatic – but that’s how I’m feeling today. Please cut me some slack.) Because only a few weeks ago I was busy – far too busy – writing for various clients, enjoying new opportunities and so so grateful to God for allowing my career to develop in such a way. But the life of a freelancer is rather fickle and here I am with only unpaid work to do for the foreseeable future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the chance to write for everyone that I do write for, and I know that each piece I do is helping to create my portfolio, and ‘gets my name out there’ (a very strange concept I still struggle with!). But for someone like me, who yes, loves to write, but is also doing it in order to help pay the bills, having weeks with no paid work is really frustrating. And it also immediately raises questions in my mind – ‘am I really good enough?’; ‘have people decided they don’t like my writing?’. I know, in my rational head, that it isn’t down to me when opportunities dry up – more often than not it is due to budgets or the fact that there are so many other writers out there trying to do the same thing. But in my irrational head there can be a torrent of self-doubt that threatens to flood my very soul…

I know, over and above everything, that the opportunities that have come my way have been granted by God. I also know that it is in these leaner times that I have to believe and trust that God has my back – He knows where the next paying job is coming from and He isn’t going to lead me so far just to let me fall flat on my face. I also know I’m not the only freelancer to feel like this. It goes with the territory. Just last night I was with all our neighbours for a Jubilee Street Party planning meeting and one lady was talking about how next week is pay day, just in time for the long weekend. I can’t remember the last time I was paid my wages regularly, so that I knew both the amount that was coming in every month and which day it would appear. That is one of the benefits that you give up when you become freelance. I’m not moaning about that, as I feel that freelance life is perfect for me and my family. However, it can be frustrating when you do a piece of work but then have to wait months to be paid for it. Let’s face it – some clients are really good at paying, and others aren’t. But, again, I need to trust God that He knows what money I still have owed to me – and He knows what my family needs in order to survive. I’m very much a person who likes to be in control, and also likes ‘doing’ – so that I feel I’ve contributed. So perhaps I’ve been called to this fickle freelance life because it constantly changes and, in doing so, knocks the rough edges of self-sufficiency and control freakishness off of me. I don’t like it when I don’t know where the next job will come from; I don’t like it when I don’t know if I’ll be paid for any work this month or not. And yet, I’m still very grateful to be able to do a job that I love, that I believe utilises God-given talents in me. So, I will pick myself up, speak to my soul, and get on and do every piece of work I have this week to the best of my ability…