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How Content Are You?

My latest 'Thought for the Week' made it into the Lynn News this week - here it is, for anyone who is interested!

Finding contentment is something I believe we all struggle with, at times – probably more often than we care to admit! We look at the size of our house, the state of our garden, the ‘perfect-looking’ families, smiling from their Facebook photographs and we feel the discontent stirring within.  What is the answer to this endless conundrum?  How can we find contentment and peace in a world that screams, all the time, that we need the next thing – the best, the biggest, and the brightest?

Paul, the writer of the letter to the Philippians, in the Bible, tells us that he managed to “[learn] the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I am amazed by this, whenever I read this verse or ponder his story.  Paul was writing this from prison, of all places, and yet was able to declare this, confidentl…
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The Last Jar of Jam

I wrote this a little while ago, as an attempt at a short story, for a competition.  It didn't win anything, but I thought I would share it here, for anyone who is interested.  It is based on real life, with my Nan, who was a very capable lady and an avid jam-maker, right up until she had a debilitating stroke, last August.  We are still working our way through her stock of jam and, knowing that, soon, we will reach the last jar, is heart-breaking.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story!
The Last Jar of Jam
It had always felt as though the jam jars had a life-cycle of their own – a perpetual circle of being: Nan would spend hours in her kitchen, humming as she stirred bubbling saucepans and filled jars by the dozen, lined up like soldiers, with matching red and white berets, on the kitchen side board.

My boys (her great-grandsons) would charm and beg more jars from her each time we visited, hastily making the desired exchange: a clanking bag of empty jars, for two fresh jars, re-filled.Th…

“I accidentally wrote a sonnet…”

“I accidentally wrote a sonnet,” I told my husband, when he returned from the swimming run last night.He laughed, understandably.
I hadn’t set out to write anything that evening – he had taken both boys swimming and I was supposed to be sorting washing, hoovering the house, getting things sorted for the working week ahead.But I sat down, first, to read some sonnets a writer friend had sent through – and there it was – inspiration struck!
I haven’t written much about grief for a while.Partly, I think, because it isn’t so raw now, so emotions don’t pour from the pen so readily.There is, though, still so much I want to write about it – but I often don’t know where to start, or, scarier still, if I start, where it will end.

This is where the sonnet form came into its own.The rhyme, rhythm and structural limits felt like they gave me the relative safety to explore some of my thoughts, whilst, at the same time, constraining them.I couldn’t get carried away on a torrent of emotion, whilst I was…

Today, You Are Two

If you follow my blog, you will know that we lost my sister seventeen months ago, when my nephew was just seven months old.  Today, he turns two and is a whirlwind of fun and love.  He has forced us all to keep going through some really tough times, as, too, has his big sister.  My sister would be so proud of them both.  I wanted to write a poem to celebrate him - and her continued presence in his life.
Today, You Are Two
Today, you are two.
I have watched you grow,    As babies do,  And marvelled,   At your perfect, quizzical face,  At your soft cheeks,  Dimpling,   As you smile   And run away,    Whenever I stoop To ask you For a hug.
Every time, I catch you and you giggle. You place your head, On my shoulder, For the briefest of moments; I breathe you in - A privilege, a delight.
In an instant, You are off again, Laughing and whirling; You show me cars, Or a train. You beckon me To kiss your teddies And tuck them Under your blanket.
Perfect little bundle Of laughter and love! Heaven’s gift of purest light – You …

Blessed are the Plodders - Thought for the Week

I write a 'Thought for the Week,' for our local paper, from time to time - here is the one I wrote for January, for anyone who is already ripping up the New Year's Resolutions!


Blessed are the Plodders
Have you ever started something with great gusto and enthusiasm, only to find, a few weeks in, that it isn’t quite as fun, rewarding or interesting as you had originally imagined?You’re not alone!As midnight strikes and a New Year dawns, people around the world resolve to get fit and lose weight – a whopping 71% of us, in fact, according to a poll, last year.
Haven’t we all made those resolutions at some point?Why, then, when we start with such determination, do we, along with millions like us, fail miserably by the time February rolls around?Haven’t we all done it – joined the gym and attended every day for a fortnight, before our aching legs buckle beneath us and we long to take refuge on the sofa? Or started a weight-loss group, existing on low carbs and no sugar, with great…

As the Years Roll On...

Those among you kind enough to have stuck with reading my blog over the years, will know that I like to write something, every year, to commemorate the birthday of Grace, our tiny girl, who didn't make it into this world, as she should have done. You can read previous years' posts here, here, here and here if you want to!
This year, I've experimented with a different form of writing, not with the aim of eliciting sympathy from everyone who reads, but more to show the long term impact of this sort of loss. I think those of us who have lost babies can sometimes minimise our own pain, playing it down, because we never really 'met' our babies, or knew them. But the trauma is real and the pain long-lasting. Everything I've written is real and true, although I've framed it in the form of a story. I hope it provides a bit of an insight into the long journey to healing that baby loss involves.  
Nine years on, it's different again. I'm grateful for the many h…

Light of the World - A Christmas Reflection

This year, I had the privilege of contributing a piece to a fantastic collection of pieces of writing about Advent and Christmas, published by the Association of Christian Writers.  It is an impressive collection, with over eighty contributors of pieces that range from reflections to stories and poems.  If you want to get yourself in a Christmassy mood, it's not too late to buy a copy on Kindle - follow this link to find out more!

Here is what I contributed:
Light of the World

Christmas doesn’t always deliver what the big-budget advertisements promise – wholeness, togetherness, peace. Worse, if it delivers trauma, sadness and loss, it can be hard, in the years that follow, to raise any festive cheer at all.
I swell the ranks of the Christmas trauma-sufferers; my baby was born, without life or breath, in the season of sparkly lights and festive joy. Then, and in the years that have followed, it has been hard to rekindle a love for this incongruent season, as I’ve navigated the wilderne…