I seem to start all my entries these days with phrases such as ‘I know it has been a long time’… and here I am at it again! The last few weeks have been gruelling – not due to work, which I am afraid has had to sit on the back burner. I’ve simply been getting through each day – and night. The virus that is going around hit our household big time, and my youngest has been up night after night. Sleep deprivation is something I find so so difficult, and I admit I was getting pretty down. It didn’t help when, after our newly introduced family DVD night, he slipped and cut open his chin – the second trip to A&E with him! But last night he slept through for the first time in weeks – yay! And even more positive is that my attitude and conversations with God had changed before then! 😉 I don’t know if it was because it was such a beautiful, crisp day yesterday, but I found myself walking to my mum and toddler group full of thankfulness about the blessings God has poured on me. Okay, life had been tough – but I have two beautiful children, a wonderful husband and I’m making my way in a career that I love and can fit around family life. When I got home I was greeted by a message to say I had some more editorial work offered – to edit Jeff Lucas’ new book (which I found rather exciting!). I also suddenly realised an article I’m working on has the potential to be developed into a great book too, and managed to chat this through with a publisher. I made some great contacts for that too yesterday and, on top of that, feel that God just ‘dropped’ an idea for another piece of writing into my head. I was soooo excited yesterday afternoon and was brimming over with information that I just ‘had’ to share with my poor husband, who was trying to concentrate on his work in another room of the house! Well, if he will work from home too what does he expect?! 🙂 After calming down I had time for reflection and realised that, in less than a year, God has really helped me develop my career in a totally different direction. The contacts I have had for years in the publishing industry just seem to no longer get in touch with me. I was quite down about that for a while – after my first child they carried on giving me work, but after my second it was becoming a huge slog to find work with them – they blamed the economic climate and I know that is true, but I also know not being available full time had a lot to do with it (even though I have never missed a deadline and they have always been happy with my work). But now I realise God was making room for the writing and editing work He had in store for me. I have a lot of editorial work, but it is all with new Christian clients and I’m loving it! I have also had some real encouragements with my writing – people coming back to me about ideas I submitted back in the summer, accepting some straight off and changing their mind about others! I’ve now got some new book ideas too, which is wonderful because I really felt like I wanted to write another book but wasn’t quite sure what direction to take that in. There are still magazines I really want to have articles in that I haven’t managed to yet, and that is quite frustrating, but I feel like I’m now writing about the subjects closest to my heart and that I actually feel I have something of worth to say about. I realise what a great privilege that is, and am so grateful to God…
This week I have been struggling a little with self-pity syndrome. Silly I know – distasteful to me too, and really rather annoying because I know part of it is due to the change in my emotions that occur with the monthly shift of hormone levels too. I spend a fair amount of time with women younger than me, in a friendship capacity but also a discipleship one. And I find time and time again that it is the issue of a poor self-image that crops up. It just seems to be rife among young Christian women. I can understand why, given the way our culture and media bombard us with images that, rather than ‘doing their job’ and encouraging us to aspire to be like the women pictured, belittle us and make us feel somehow of less worth than others. I am glad that we don’t all rush out to spend money on trying to be like those photoshopped models, but nevertheless those images do take their toll. I know I have had to fight to fill my mind with the knowledge of who I am in Christ, of how he sees me, but I confess since having two children and speeding ever closer to the big 40, being around younger women, or those supermums who have managed to have kids and still retain no ounce of fat on their bodies, does make me ashamed of my physical body at times.
But it isn’t just the physical. Sometimes I feel like a waste of space. I know that may come as a surprise to some, but I am still, at heart, a pretty shy person. I have to work hard to push myself through the barrier of wanting to just hide in a corner. I have worked particularly hard at it in church – just as well really as people do not expect a pastor’s wife to hide! Having lots of useful jobs helps – behind the scenes ones are my most comfortable but I am also happy leading worship and talking up the front now. However, put me in a situation that is fairly new to me, or where I am surrounded by much louder, more confident people, and I seem to shrivel a little. My natural instinct is to close down – especially if I try to speak up but someone louder speaks over me.
The reason for this week’s struggle is the age-old playground scenario. My daughter has a lovely bunch of friends, and the mums are nice too. However I am one of the quieter ones, and I can be ignored or overlooked at times. For the second time in recent weeks my daughter was one of the few not invited back to a friend’s house (actually this week she was the only one) and I was really upset for her. On top of that I learned that while I had been away last week they had arranged a group collection for the teachers and not included me. I thought I’d make a special effort and invite them all back after the kids break up on Friday, but one by one they texted back to say they had already arranged to go to the park. I really wished I hadn’t bothered at that point. Now my sensible hat knows that one of the mums knew I had bought a little something for the teachers already, so may have thought I didn’t need to be asked about the collection. And I also realise that I don’t always do the dropping off to school as my husband works nearby, so I probably just wasn’t around when they arranged the park. I don’t know if it is my ego, or my insecurity, but my reaction inside was to think that it isn’t that hard to think about who is missing from the group and send a quick text. So I immediately began to spiral and think that they obviously don’t think that much of me. My lack of worth was further emphasised to me when I read that two other writers were in the middle of writing for a publication that doesn’t seem to want me.
I’m not in the best place today, but I have been working hard to remind myself of who I am, of who loves me – and that it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things! Even writing it down makes it seem rather petty – a bit silly – and yet, being honest to myself – and you – shows me that it has affected me this week.
It is hard when something you thought you had worked hard to conquer comes and seems to overtake you again – but I guess it is a good reminder that I can’t do things in my own strength so need to press into God more. He is the source of my life, goodness, sense of worth etc. Yes I feel sheepishly humbled – yet again – but at least it has reminded me that without him I can do nothing!
I found today really refreshing. I didn’t have a deadline to meet, or an article that I HAD to work on, so (apart from a few emails) I spent the whole day with my son and a few of our friends. It was so enjoyable to spend time with people I’ve been too busy to see on a regular basis recently, and I found I enjoyed being focused on ‘being mummy’ a lot more than I do when it is the only thing I do day in day out for a while. That made me think about the fact that it is actually good for my family that I’m now back to working more – not just financially but also because I am feeling more fulfilled as a person. I know there are some awkward moments – when I’ve got deadlines looming or an idea brewing so I can’t seem to focus on anything else – but surely a more fulfilled mum makes for a better mum? I do hope so, because I’d really like to continue on this path I’ve embarked upon! I’ve still got issues to sort – such as how to drop everything I’m in the middle of writing to deal with a ‘crisis’ of my daughter’s with a degree of grace and patience I haven’t as yet found! (And then to remember what on earth it was I meant to write next!) But as 21st-century mums we all have our juggling acts and I’m not here to moan – I love the fact I can work from home and be here for my kids as much as I need to be. I do have the best of both worlds and, while having a foot in both camps continuously can be quite a tall order at times, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Recently I was able to go to the Christian Resources Exhibition, armed with my newly printed business cards. I was determined to make contacts in Christian publishing there – for both my editorial and writing capacities. And I did have some incredibly interesting and fruitful discussions – only time will tell how fruitful they were!
It has been a fairly gruelling few months of contacting magazines and publishers and pitching articles. It makes such a difference when one or two positive responses result in work – then I just have to find a way to fit them round my beautiful children! 😉 There have been one or two publications that I have desperately wanted to write for – and yet all my ideas seem to either fall short of what they want or I have come up with the same idea as someone else who got there first. That is the frustration of this type of work. I may just be starting out, but the in-house magazine editors have countless others trying to write for them and what makes me special? But continuing thought down that avenue does not do me any good, so I have to learn to pick myself up and keep going. Because persistence and creative thought are the only ways forward for me. I am determined to make this work – and have been thrilled by the pieces that I have been involved with. Some of the subject matter is truly humbling. And some of the other articles really help to promote others rather than me – but that’s the nature of this freelance writing beast. And I have to learn to toughen up and take the rough with the smooth. It isn’t an attack on, or rejection of, my personality or character when an editor says no thank you – I just simply need to lay that idea aside and think of another one. Easier said than done at times, but I’m trying!
It was a couple of years ago, while at a leaders’ conference, that I felt God tell me He wanted me to concentrate on doing more writing. At the time I was heavily pregnant with my second child, so I didn’t think it was the best time to tell me that! However I did keep hold of what He said and kept mulling it over. Since the start of this year, some opportunities have arisen that have led me to investigate writing for magazines. I had one great lead straight away, and I think I naively thought it was all going to be that easy. I didn’t think about the hundreds of other people out there all trying to do the same thing. Or the fact that editors of magazines get loads of pitches every day so mine have to stand out somehow – and yes, I have to keep coming up with original ideas myself. With a two year old always with me that is quite a tall order!
I have learned a lot since I embarked on this new phase of my career though. Yes there is an awful lot for me to do, but I can’t do everything I’ve been trying to and I need to trust God in it all too. I need to trust that as I perhaps take a small step back I can still push doors, just at a slower pace, and believe that God will still open the right ones. Perhaps it is good to be reminded now that it is futile to try and do things simply in my own strength – because I won’t be much use to my family if I set off on this new phase trying to cope in my natural abilities.