This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
For better or worse, I’ve recently been receiving The Daily Mash emails. I find the humour a fitting antidote to the sadness, confusion and terror in the ‘real’ news – and, like all good satire, much of it is masking some important, but uncomfortable, truths about our culture.
One such headline this week was “My family not nearly as f****d up as theirs, says Meghan Markle”.
Apologies to any who might be offended by asterisks, but there’s so much we can learn from secular humour, that I couldn’t let this one go without sharing my thoughts.
Absolutely, you could say Meghan has come from a dysfunctional family. Absolutely, you could say that Harry has also come from one.
And absolutely, you could say that we’ve all come from dysfunctional families. Because however loving or supportive our families were and are, none of them are perfect: they’re all dysfunctional in some way.
We all like to speculate on the problematic family lives of the rich and famous whose lives are constantly on show, lacking the privilege most of us have of being able to hide a few more embarrassing family details from the world. Everything is on display, everything is up for grabs.
But I guess what this shows us is that neither money nor fame nor popularity nor success can deal with the human condition some of us call sin. Relationships break down in the royal family – and they break down on council estates. Deception is found within Hollywood families, and within families living on the poverty line.
Communication struggles, lack of empathy, self-centredness, hoarding, over-busyness – these problems exist everywhere, because humans exist everywhere. And where humans exist, there exists sin.
With such a depressing outlook, why should any of us bother to get married? Isn’t it inevitable that we will let our partner down? Let our children down, by bringing them into a relationship and a world that is far from perfect?
After nearly 16 years of marriage, and a heck of a lot of observation of other people’s marriages, I firmly believe that marriage brings hope.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable and sometimes painful: my experience of marriage has been like a mirror, held up to show me more clearly my failings and inadequacies, not only as a wife but as a friend, mentor, worker, daughter, sister and mum. As wonderful as my parents are, I am a product of their own struggles and difficulties – and my own children will bear the scars of mine.
And yet: there is hope. There is hope that two failed people can come together and make something which is beautiful, something which blesses the community of which it is a part, something which offers a haven and support to others, something which provides a secure base for children to develop.
We do it through listening, through laughing, through sharing our thoughts and feelings, through being willing to compromise, through learning from each other and from those around us. And hope comes.
It is this hope that delights me when I consider our own marriage, attend the weddings of friends, and look forward to Harry and Meghan’s big day tomorrow. Hope that we can be shaped by our families, but not defined by them.
As Harry and Meghan commit their lives to each other tomorrow, it is my prayer that they will know this truth: that they are not defined by their parents’ problems, but that they have every chance of success in their marriage and family life as they learn to listen, laugh, forgive and grow together.
Take a look at my other marriage posts:
They say that the three topics best avoided in polite company are sex, religion and money. I’m not planning to talk about the first one any time soon, but feel that as I frequently bare my soul on the second topic, I should probably ‘fess up my recent thoughts about money – namely, the idea of earning it in return for writing.
I’m hoping that, at some stage in the future, I’ll be able to make money from writing – but I’m also having a hard time justifying this to myself. After all, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly six years with no income – and none desired. The idea of people paying me for something I love seems wrong, somehow.
For those of you who are new to this blog, in January this year I decided to push my writing up a notch. I’d been offered a little paid freelance work, so I vowed to push a few other writing doors to see whether they opened too.
I’ve been wondering why I feel I need to earn a living from this. After all, if I’d chosen to remain at home as a full-time housewife, or commit my week to my church as a volunteer, wouldn’t these be valid uses of my time? What is it about writing that I feel the need to validate it with an income?
I think that, firstly, it’s a tangible sign of whether writing is worth pursuing in the long term. The hubs and I have agreed to give this initial ‘testing’ period two years. My aim, eventually, is to earn a part-time salary from writing – and, while I’m not expecting this to happen by the end of 2019, I think we’ll have a good idea at that point as to whether it’s going in that direction or not.
Secondly, I wasn’t ever really considering significant voluntary work at this stage of life. Whilst I love volunteering for school and church, my intention was always to try and do this alongside a part-time teaching job – and this, obviously, would have been paid. Why not writing?
Thirdly, I feel that to pursue my passion without bringing anything financial into the household would be irresponsible. My husband would love to have more time to write, but as things stand at the moment, he can’t do that because his paid job (i.e. the one which supports us and the kids) takes up too many hours. So why should I have this opportunity any more than him? (And – who knows – maybe one day my income will allow him to reduce his work commitments and have some more time to write!)
I have to keep reminding myself that writing is my business. Just like any of my friends who’ve started their own businesses, I need to work hard to improve what I do, build my brand, grow my audience and learn how to market myself. And I deserve to be paid for providing a service, every bit as much as my friends are paid for their photography or cooking skills.
The other week, with my husband out at a meeting, I got down to ‘business’, forming an email to send out to my subscriber list (click here if you’re not getting the emails!). When I finally sent it, someone my husband was with got the ping on her phone, saw it was me and said to my husband, “Wow…Lucy’s very audacious!”
But, the thing is, if I’m not audacious about my business – who will be? I’ve only ever been in jobs where others provide work for me to do. Now I’m self-employed, no one is going to throw work (or payment) at me – I need to seek it out myself.
You must understand, though, that none of this feels very comfortable right now. I’ve been writing this blog unpaid for so long, that to now start to use it as a platform towards an income seems wrong – even though my logical side tells me it’s not.
I genuinely want to keep this blog as it always has been: full of adoption/parenting/family/discipleship stuff, and anything else that floats my boat. Please would you tell me if it starts to become sales-y and annoying? I really don’t want that!
So, given my commitment to retaining Desertmum’s integrity, how am I hoping to build up my salary?
Affiliate links – you’ll be familiar with these from other websites. You see a link, click on it, make a purchase, and the author of the original website makes a small commission, at no extra cost to the customer. I’ve now become an affiliate of several companies, because recommending resources is something I’ve been doing since this blog began, and many of you have told me you’ve bought things you heard about here. Promoting new or unknown authors, bringing unusual or unexpected products to your attention – that kind of thing I’ve always loved to do, and will continue doing.
Books – I have two books in the pipeline – one hopefully coming out next year, the other to be confirmed. Obviously I hope to earn royalties from sales of these books – although unless you’re Julia Donaldson or Michael Rosen, this is hardly big bucks, particularly when you take into account the many hours spent travelling the country to promote your book, petrol costs, props/food/venue hire needed for book launches and signings. But having a book or two under your belt does help to build your brand, and bring in more work (hopefully).
Articles – I’m already doing some paid work for one of my favourite charities, and I would hope that this kind of work increases. One-off articles result in one-off fees (as opposed to continuous royalties from books) but, again, it helps to get your name known as a writer and builds your audience.
Freelance writing and proof-reading – I’m hoping that, eventually, I might have time to seek out this kind of work – again, it’ll be one-offs, but hopefully fairly regular and varied.
What I’ve learnt is that being a writer usually involves a certain amount of piecing together of a lot of different types of work, all of which feed off each other in terms of getting a name out there and building an audience.
It’ll be hard work, but hopefully one day all of these things might add up to an income which justifies the amount of time I spend writing!
I’m delighted to be sharing a Desertmum ‘first’ with you all today – a blog interview! Woop!
One of the huge, huge blessings I’ve encountered since starting my ‘proper’ writing journey in January has been getting to know other Christian writers through online networks. It’s my absolute pleasure to be able to introduce you to one of these new friends today.
I’ve asked Joanna to share a few thoughts about chasing our dreams – something that’s been on my mind since I started to pursue mine this year. Read away…
I’m so thrilled to have you with us today Joanna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
It’s great to be with you, Lucy! I’m Joanna, wife to an amazing man, and mum to four
wonderful teen kids. We’ve lived in several countries – Malaysia, Bosnia and Turkey – and are now settled back in England. We’ve had a few adventures! I love to write and teach, and have a heart to encourage and equip women to love their families and meet with God.
What’s the dream you’ve been chasing recently?
It’s always been my dream to write a book. And, in February this year, my first book Forever Loved: Eve’s Story was published! It’s the story of Father and daughter, as told by Eve, and focuses on God’s Father heart of love for Eve, and for us as women.
I still can’t believe I’m an author! Or that my book hit #1 Women’s Spirituality and #1 Christian Literature on Amazon UK in its first week of publication. If God can do that for me – an unknown, first time, self-publishing author – just think what he can do with your dream! God is a God of the impossible!
What obstacles did you face in seeing your book come to life?
The largest and most unexpected obstacle to getting my book out there was getting a cover designed! It took me 3 years to write the book (Mum with four children here!), but then another whole year back-and- forward with designers trying to get a cover I loved. I didn’t like anything they came up with, and got through designers and money. It was a hugely frustrating and difficult process. (You can read how my cover came to be, and see previous versions, in this blog post.) In the end, I designed the cover myself and just got a designer to tweak and perfect it.
During the book writing process, I also learned how to blog, how to grow an audience to market to, and how to self-publish. This involved a lot of research, and a lot of hard work. Fulfilment of a dream usually requires commitment, pushing through, and passion. The result is totally worth it!
How do we discern which dreams are God-given, and which are self-indulgent?
If we are pursuing God, then I’m not sure that any dream is self-indulgent! The Bible says
God gives us the desires of our hearts (as we delight in Him, Psalm 37:4). He is a good
Father; I think He gets really excited by the things that stir our hearts, and loves to see us
pressing into them.
Of course, there is timing. One dream may be for now. Another may be for future. The key is probably to ask God what to pursue when, and to go with what you have excitement and peace for.
What sort of things do you think keep us from pursuing our dreams?
So many things: lack of time, fear of failure, financial pressures, not knowing where to start, fear of what others will think, life overwhelm, feeling inadequate, questioning the timing and so on.
Are there particular obstacles for women, do you think, in pursuing their dreams?
There is one area I can think of straight off! I know many women dream to speak, to preach, to lead. Often this is hard because they do not have a platform to do so, or sadly, are not allowed or encouraged to.
The amazing thing is that the internet has totally opened things up for us as women. Anyone can create an online course, and teach or speak. Anyone can start an online community. Anyone can mentor others online. Yes, there are things to learn, but the internet truly makes it possible for you to pursue whatever is on your heart!
What advice would you give someone who felt God had given them a specific dream to pursue?
Go for it! Get excited. Dream big. Ask God for wisdom in pursuing your dream: how to start, and what to do each step of the way. Prioritise your dream. Carve out short time slots in your week to plan, to research, to implement. Even 5-10 minutes a day for a year adds up!
Search out others pursuing a similar dream – Facebook groups are great for that. Learn from them; receive support and encouragement. Find a friend to pray with and be accountable to. Know that God is able. He can work through you to make your dream reality. Receive from Him each day. He is your source and your strength.
I recently wrote a blog post titled Beautiful Mum … What’s Your Dream? where I expand on these thoughts, and share my own experiences of pursuing my dreams, as a busy mum with a million other things to do! I encourage you to read it … and go for your dream! There’s nothing more exciting in life than living with purpose and passion!
Joanna Chee gets excited about God! She loves to write, and is often awake in the night with a million ideas for her next book or project. Joanna blogs at JoannaMayChee.com and MumsKidsJesus.com, where it is her heart to encourage and equip women to love their families and meet with God. She is author of Forever Loved: Eve’s Story, a creative retelling of the Bible story of Eve, and a #1 Amazon UK bestseller. Connect with Joanna on Facebook.com/JoannaMayChee | Facebook.com/MumsKidsJesus | Pinterest.co.uk/MumsKidsJesus
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I earn a little commission at no cost to yourself.
Today’s sultry summer weather has reminded me of a similar day a few weeks ago.
It was a day of demands.
And, being the good British mum I am, I wanted to let my children experience the glories of summer in case the season decided not to greet us again until next year. Read: I got the paddling pool out.
It’s no mean feat, this. In my head, suffering with the amnesia which comes from not having done something for a whole year, it takes around 10 minutes to inflate and fill a paddling pool. The reality? Allow half a day.
So, by the time the big kids came back from school, all four were fired up and ready to go. The clothes came off, the swimsuits came on.
And the demands flowed like honey:
“Mum – can you put the slide in the paddling pool?”
“Can you get down my other swimsuit?”
“Can I have a drink?”
“I done wee-wee in my pants.”
“Can I have a snack?”
“Mum – can you help me with the slide?”
“Can you fill up my water gun?”
“I don’t like breadsticks.”
“Mum!! Monkey’s tipped water all over me and I’m soaked!”
“Meerkat’s fallen over and he’s crying.”
“Mum! There’s a nettle growing through the trampoline!”
(Silly me, thinking I might be able to hang out the washing while my children played contentedly.)
In the middle of the demands, though, came a small and almost-missed voice. See if you can spot it.
“Mum – can you fill up my water bottle?”
“I want more snack!”
“We’ve found some snails and we’ve called them Tilly and Billy and we’ve put them in my bed to live forever.”
“Mum – I want to get changed – where’s the towel?”
“I brought you some flowers Mummy.”
“Where my snack? Me hungry.”
“I need a poo!”
“Mummy help me – can’t get my swimsuit off.”
“Mum will you tell Monkey to stop hitting me?”
“I’ve put them by your bed, Mummy.”
By the time they all went to bed, I was exhausted. And yes, somehow, we’d managed to get some food into them, cleaned their teeth and got them safely to bed, but it had zapped all my energy, and I was lying comatose on the sofa for the rest of the evening.
Eventually, I dragged myself upstairs. Walking round the bed to get to my side, I was struck by a sight which made my eyes well up and a broad smile creep across my face.
More precious than any fancy bouquet I’ve ever received were these three half-dead flowers, lying in their quiet generosity on my bedside table. A sign of unconditional love from my girl – that amidst my snapping and gradual loss of patience, she not only still loved me, but wanted to give me something to show it, even going to the trouble of carrying them upstairs for me, as if she knew that this small action was going to be something I wouldn’t get round to today.
And I don’t really know what else to say, except Love. Love love love love love. It’s borne in the moments of impatience and frustration, of tiredness and snapping, as much as it is in the giving and the celebrating, the laughter and the smiles.
If you’ve had a day of demands: never underestimate what you are investing in your kids each day through the miracle of your humanness. You don’t need to be perfect: you just need to be you.
The adjective for me reading Ian McEwan’s Solar would, I think, be ‘ploughing through’. In many ways it was an enjoyable read – he has an amazing ability to articulate such fine details in precise but creative ways, teaching me so much about working with words – but, with lots of talk about physics, plus a lead character whose infidelity and general self-centredness didn’t endear me to him, it felt a bit of a slog.
It was the book chosen for my fab Book Club this month, and I’m glad I got to read it, as I’d never have picked up this sort of novel otherwise. But I’m also glad I’m through it!
I was also disappointed by the ending…I somehow felt that if there was a spectacular showdown in the last few pages (which I really did feel the story was building up to) then I would have forgiven the slog. But the end was an anti-climax – almost as if McEwan had got distracted by something – a wasp flying into the room, maybe? – and had finished the book in a rush.
This month I (and my housegroup) finished Kevin de Young’s The Hole in our Holiness. There were many great themes in this book of which I needed reminding – but the writing lacked nuance and sensitivity to those who might read the Bible slightly differently on issues, and the whole book seemed to sit in a frustrating no-man’s-land betweeen academic rigour and accessible discipleship. He used unnecessarily long or complicated language for the layman to understand – but also didn’t quite back up his points well enough, or make coherent enough arguments in places, for the book to be considered ‘academic’.
I am still, however, really enjoying Hands-Free Mama. Its author, Rachel Macy Stafford, recommends reading one chapter per month for a year, which is what I’m doing, except that, with the length of time passing between each chapter, I was finding myself losing the train of thought.
I’ve now got a better solution: keeping the book in the loo and reading a page or two regularly! I usually hate reading books on the loo, as I can’t get into them before my bottom goes numb. But this book is written in short sections and anecdotes which add up to the same idea, so it’s really easy to dip into for short bursts.
Well obviously I ate Too Much Chocolate. It was inevitable, really, after my Lenten fast. Since I have Zero Shame on this blog, you may as well know that I had the chocs lined up on my bedside table, ready to indulge first thing on Easter Sunday morning.
Besides that, my favourite York bistro launched its Pizza and Beer weekends, and I visited twice. If you’re a local, make sure you don’t miss out on these absolutely phenomenal log-fired pizzas, with crazy-awesome toppings. Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm, all through the summer.
We got out our old Karine Polwart CD and have been enjoying her fresh, light, folksy sound – even 6-year-old Missy’s been converted to Karine’s beautiful voice and lyrical melodies. If you don’t know her, all I can say is that she’s PERFECT for summer drives. (Karine, not Missy. Missy will spend the entire journey moaning that she’s too warm, complaining about her head-rest and requesting snacks – not nearly as relaxing as Karine.)
Stage and screen
The older kids and I went to a stage production of The Little Mermaid. It was breath-takingly beautiful: essentially a piece of musical theatre, with live ensemble integrated into the cast. But the most stunning and different aspect to it was the acrobatics – incredible circus-like feats which gave the impression of swimming through water. We were spellbound.
It’s currently on in Malvern till Saturday, then Windsor, then three weeks in London. I highly recommend getting some tickets if you’re within a stone’s throw of any of these places. The recommended age is 8+, but I took my 8yo and 6yo and they both loved it. The performance lasts just over an hour, so any child who can sit for that length of time would enjoy it I reckon. (Needless to say, you’d also enjoy it as an adult with no kids in tow!)
Films-wise, I enjoyed Kramer v. Kramer – an oldie I’d never got round to seeing. So much of the public gender debate covers discrimination against women, that it was refreshing – although painful – to watch an example of discrimination against a man. The story is fictional, but could have been real, very much reflecting the feeling at the time (and even now for some) that a man wasn’t as equipped as a women to raise a child. Needless to say, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep are incredible, as is Justin Henry, who plays their child – much of the film is pure dialogue, and requires these veritable talents to pull it off. Recommended if you haven’t seen!
About Time is the kind of film you’re still thinking about (and smiling at the memory of) the day after you watch it. Such an interesting premise, the idea that you can repeat moments over and over again, to get them ‘right’ – but, as with all time travel stories, there are complications and limitations. Learning how to balance this all out results in some heartwarming lessons – and, as you would expect from a Richard Curtis film, there are some stonkingly good lines throughout. I was laughing out loud one moment, and crying the next.
Finally – I enjoyed The Notebook, a touching drama about an ill-fated love affair between two teenagers in the 1940s. It avoids cliche by taking the perspective of the lady many years later, now suffering from dementia in a nursing home – and I love the way we’re left till soooooo near the end before discovering how the love story turned out.
Love is not a Feeling is so beautifully written, so wise and thought-provoking – and deserves to be read by everyone!
On the blog
I launched my career as a HuffPost blogger with a plea to stop talking about ‘working mums’ as if some of us laze around all day with nothing but Loose Women and a big bag of Haribo for company.
The Association of Christian Writers (ACW) has a fabulous blog – most days of the month are covered, and all the contributors are writers (doh!) so the quality is really high. I recommend you take a look! I’ve recently bagged the 2nd-of-the-month slot, and April was my maiden voyage.
On the Home for Good website, you can catch my article What the Church needs to know about Trauma (actually, it’s what we all need to know about trauma, church-goers or not), and read the incredibly powerful story of Fran, who spent her childhood in a disfunctional family and her adolescence in foster care. It was a privilege to be able to interview Fran, understand her story and glean her wisdom.
And I was delighted to share some ideas for when you and your partner disagree on parenting issues over at the fabulous To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.
In other news…
* thank you to what is lovingly referred to as ‘Beauty Twitter’ for advising me that coconut oil removes make up. It really does! And is cheap as chips!
* I spent an inordinate amount of time this month sorting out GDPR for my mailing list, learning how to blog properly (after six years…who knew there was actually some skill to this blogging lark?), designing a few exciting graphics for forthcoming blog posts, and signing up for affiliate programs (see below).
* Did I mention my mailing list?! If you’re not on it – get on it! The form won’t even take you a minute to fill in, and I’ll send you ‘Ten Tried-and-Tested Tips for Kids’ Parties’ as a thank you. (Or, rather, Mailchimp will. Because I worked out the automation feature. Yay me.)
Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into’ series.
This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link and make a purchase, I will earn a small amount of commission, at no extra cost to yourself. I seriously only recommend stuff I like – I never lie just to earn commission!