Should we avoid Mothers’ Day just because it’s hard?

Luke 13:34 “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” Photo credit: Pixabay

Every year Mother’s Day rolls around. And every year I see a barrage of comments on social media or blogs about how hard Mother’s Day is for many people. And every year there’s someone who’s calling for the whole thing to be abolished.

I do wonder whether Mother’s Day – like many festivals, special days and life events – has become harder since the advent of social media. Prior to the late 2000s, one could easily avoid card shops in February/March, distract themselves with other pursuits, and then burrow themselves away on the day itself. Nowadays, we’re faced with post after post about people’s brilliant Mums, brilliant kids, heartfelt messages or extravagant gifts.

It’s hard for many people. Not just those whose desire to have children hasn’t been fulfilled, but those whose own mother was absent, neglectful or abusive, those who have lost their mum, those whose mum no longer recognises them, those who have lost a child, Dads who have lost their partner and Mum of their children, and countless other situations.

For others, it’s not necessarily a hard day, but it’s complicated. I can (and will) praise God for giving me each of my four children, but knowing that two of them have a biological mum who they will never meet adds a different dimension to the day.

And this begs the question: should we stop doing something because it’s hard?

This is the world’s way, certainly, and this is the individualistic mindset. It’s a hard place for me to go, so I just won’t make the journey.

But, as Christians, we’re no longer just individuals. We are part of a wide and diverse community. We are called to share in each other’s joys (2 Corinthians 1:7), which means celebrating when one of our sisters is blessed with the gift of children, or another sister is celebrating her close relationship with her own mum, even if we’re not in that situation ourselves.

And here lies another question: does celebration have to be about forced smiles and pretend joy?

Again, this is the world’s way. The world, for all its glitzy appeal, has only very limited possibilities for celebration. It’s really all about looking like you’re having a good time. But, again, as Christians we know a different way.

The Bible speaks of joy and suffering alongside each other (Romans 8:17). Celebrating with a friend who has a big, noisy family, when we’ve suffered a series of failed IVF attempts, is not about being happy all the time. Yes, we share in their joy, but we also share in their suffering: their tiredness, their guilt at not being the Mum they want to be, their sense of helplessness at not knowing how to respond to a child’s behaviour. And they share in our suffering and joy too. We are permitted to cry and be honest with them.

I love the Jewish culture of celebration: it is loud, vibrant and authentic. And I love what they say to those who are suffering: apparently, when someone has suffered a bereavement, they are excused from dancing at celebrations for one year following the event. Note that there is still an expectation to show up at parties. It is acknowledged that a grieving person may not feel like dancing, but that it is still good for them to be in that place of celebration, to be reminded of (and uplifted by) the joys of others.

Mother’s Day is not about boasting of all the cards and presents we’ve received. It’s not about gloating over social media. But neither is it about avoidance. Celebration in its truest sense will involve having conversations with those who are different to us. We need to hear their stories, and they need to hear ours.

Furthermore, Mother’s Day should be a day for celebrating ‘mothering’ in the broadest sense of what it means in a Christian community. And we can all do that. Who has spiritually mothered you? They might be a ‘mother’ figure, or they might be physically younger than you, but Mother’s Day can and should be an opportunity to thank them for the impact they’ve had on your life.

I have two godmothers, neither of whom have children. It saddens me that I have never thought to honour them on Mother’s Day, because both of them have had a positive spiritual impact on my life, and still keep in touch with me well into my 30s. Maybe this is a tradition I can start next year.

One of my friends hasn’t had her own children, but has had a large involvement in the lives of her nieces, and each Mother’s Day they give her special ‘Aunt’ cards and presents, to acknowledge her mothering influence in their lives.

Rather than succumb to the secular urge of Mother’s Day, which is to highlight our nuclear families over any other way of living, we should use this day to do what we Christians need to do daily: thank God for what He has given us (1 Thessalonians 5:18), honestly share our feelings with Him (as modelled all over the Bible, a good example being Job 3), acknowledge our sin in failing to trust him with our parenting, or looking to children to bring fulfilment (John 4:13-14), and being assured of His forgiveness and grace (Psalm 32:1-2), knowing that He longs to draw us closer and change us more towards Christ’s likeness.

So, this Mother’s Day, celebrate. Celebrate with laughter and smiles, with tears and grumpy moments, with elation and confusion, happy thoughts and sadder ones. Embrace the fullness of our God, who has created us capable of experiencing the full gamut of emotions – and take them all to Him.

I’ve always loved this sensitive liturgy suggestion for Mother’s Day – take a read!


in search of a flatter stomach? the mixed motivations behind fasting

Image credit: Pixabay

It is becoming customary, at the start of January, for our church to take some time out, corporately and individually, to pray and fast for the coming year.

Coincidentally, January is also the time I’m keen to lose a few pounds. With Christmas out of the way, I can start planning our summer holiday – and, despite the fact we can’t yet bring ourselves to fly somewhere exotic and warm with our 8-6-3-3 combination of kiddoes, I feel like I need to have a bikini-ready body.

The fact that we will probably end up in Anglesey is beside the point.

If, at some unknown point in the future, I might wish to expose my midriff on a crowded beach, fasting is going to be helpful.

And therein lies the problem. Perhaps the reason that many of us don’t fast is that we’re a little bit scared of doing it for the wrong reasons.

Perhaps we have a complicated relationship with food, and fear that withholding it from our bodies will be more about controlling ourselves rather than allowing God to have control.

Perhaps we are desperate for God to respond to our prayers in a particular way, and fear that fasting will feel like bribing our ‘cosmic Santa’ God to give us what we most desire.

Or perhaps fasting simply feels like ‘work’ within a faith-based salvation. Surely our grace-filled God can’t demand that we carry out such an ancient religious ritual?

Image credit: Pixabay

I misunderstood fasting for years. I did it – occasionally – because I thought it was a helpful practice, but I didn’t really know why. Nowadays, however, it’s becoming an important spiritual discipline in my life.

On the eve of Ash Wednesday, when many of us might be planning to fast something for Lent, perhaps it’s helpful for me to share what God has taught me as I’ve plodded along:

  1. Fasting is expected (see Matthew 6:16-17). Like prayer, it is not an empty trapping of our religion, but something Jesus upheld which brings us closer to God. Unlike prayer, it doesn’t need to be part of our daily routine (Jesus didn’t fast every day as far as it is possible to tell), but should be a regular part of our lives.
  2. Fasting doesn’t have to be food! Anything which we love, crave, spend a lot of time on, or claim to be addicted to, can be withdrawn as the spiritual discipline of fasting. Social media, alcohol, screentime, a particular TV show…this is particularly helpful when a food fast is not recommended (e.g. in pregnancy, while breastfeeding or where particular health issues are present).
  3. Fasting doesn’t have to be as extreme as 40 days in the desert. It could mean certain times of day (e.g. not snacking between meals, or not eating until the evening), for a few consecutive days (e.g. no social media during a particular week), one day a week (e.g. no TV on Sundays), or for a specified period (e.g. giving up chocolate for Lent).
  4.  Fasting reminds us how much we have. And we have a lot, especially here in the UK. If we never fast, we run the risk of taking what we have for granted, assuming it to be an unchallengeable fact of the modern Western Christian’s life that we are ‘entitled’ to these possessions or that luxury. But God may have other ideas.
  5. Fasting helps us to relinquish our idols. It says to God that we are more serious about him than about food, alcohol, sex, social media, TV, or anything else we may feel is becoming an idol. But I think it says more to ourselves. Fasting reminds me that God is worth more than these things – and that, much as I believe I ‘need’ chocolate to get through each day, what I really need is God’s word. (Matthew 4:4)
  6. Fasting creates long-term habits of holiness. If we are serious about allowing God to develop a more Christ-like character in us, then I think fasting will be involved somewhere along the line. Several years ago, I gave up my favourite soap opera for Lent, using the time to read Isaiah instead. I’d been addicted for nearly 20 years, and was gripping on tightly. But the six weeks without it made me realise I didn’t even want to return to it. The grip was gone, the addiction was gone, and I was free to pursue God a little more than I had before.
  7. Fasting realigns our priorities. It keeps us focussed on God in this distraction-riddled life. I pray more when I’m fasting – because every time I feel a pang of hunger, or desperation for whatever it is that I’ve given up, it’s a reminder to pray. So if there are big needs in my life, or the lives of those close to me, fasting is a great way to prioritise spending time with God, offering Him these prayer requests, over any of the other ‘loves’ of my life.

I often picture the Christian journey as a pair of closed fists, holding tightly onto life and independence. As we mature, these fists gradually release, as God gently works in us to loosen our grip on the things which hold us back from loving Him completely.

Fasting, for me, has become a way of submitting my fists to God, asking that He will open whichever fingers necessary in order to let go of what is holding me back, and make more space for that which He would want to develop in me.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 3:12-14)

I would like to encourage you that, even if your motivation to fast is mixed or complex, please allow God to work in you through this important discipline. God doesn’t need our  fasting – but we probably do.

And, despite what images come to mind when you hear the word ‘fasting’, the Bible assures us that a life lived for God is more joyous, more full and more exciting than any alternative. Go for it!

sexuality, faith and the art of conversation (review – and a GIVEAWAY!!)


It’s been on my mind for a while now that, whilst there is a place for debate and argument when it comes to the ‘grey’ areas of Christianity, we would do better to find ways of living alongside those who take a different stance to us, rather than relentlessly trying to persuade others to adopt our own viewpoint.

After all, Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Call me a crazy fundamentalist, but I think Jesus had a point. We gain nothing by arguing people into submission. We gain much, however, from conversing with our brothers and sisters, listening to their views and sharing ours. The deep love which can be experienced through relationships where there are differences can be highly attractive to those who observe it.

So I was delighted when I discovered, last year, that Stephen Elmes had written a book which was encouraging just this sort of open conversation on a subject close to my heart – sexuality.

Quite simply, this book is wonderful. The friend who lent it to me offered the proviso, “It won’t give you any answers – just more questions”, but I’m grateful for this.

For eight months of 2014, Baptist pastor Stephen Elmes led a working party in his church to discuss the issue of sexuality, with the aim of ‘considering how a local Baptist church might respond to those who live with same-sex desires and seek to follow Christ’. The results formed the main research vehicle for a dissertation Elmes submitted for a Masters degree in 2015.

This book alternates four strands, woven together to make a whole: summaries of the working party’s discussion, pieces of theological writing by Elmes, true life stories (names changed), and fictional conversations with a non-Christian protagonist ‘Alex’, whose role is to question Elmes’ research methods, and make sure no stone has been left unturned.

I loved a lot of things about this book. The gracious, gentle tone of its author. The compassion and love which flood every chapter. The engaging, ‘storyteller’ style at which Elmes is adept; the book prompts and challenges its readers, but feels easy to read. However, most of all, I liked hearing the reasoning behind those views which are different to my own on this issue. It gave me more understanding, and I hope it will give me more humility and openness when discussing this issue with others in the future. It’s a book all Christians should read.

A slight niggle of mine was that we never got to see the response which Elmes’ working party fed back to their church. Perhaps this was because such a response outside of its proper context could have been easily misinterpreted – and, with such a sensitive subject, this could have far-reaching consequences.

Whatever the reason, it would have been helpful to include some ideas of what a church’s response to those with same-sex attraction could look like. The book ends with ‘to be continued…’ – so perhaps this gives hope that we’ll be reading more from Stephen Elmes in the future! (In fact, I only just noticed that the book’s title bears the heading ‘Part One’, so I would think that a sequel was happily inevitable!)

Yes, perhaps this book won’t give you ‘answers’. But perhaps answers aren’t what we need. Perhaps a deeper awareness of the questions can help to formulate a response which is compassionate, God-centred and Christ-exalting. This book leads you to believe that such a response is possible. I thoroughly recommend it.

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy, simply comment here on the blog (Facebook/Twitter comments won’t be entered) by 11pm this Thursday, 8th February. I’ll use a random generator to pick a name, and put a copy in the post a.s.a.p. Good luck!


Disclaimer: All views are my own. I did not receive a free copy of the book in return for this review, and haven’t been bribed in any other way. But if enough people buy this book upon my recommendation, maybe Stephen Elmes will buy me a glass of wine if we ever meet 😉


24: cheerleaders

Hands-up who also has a sad remnant of an Advent candle sat on their dining table?
Well, the 24th is here, and I can hardly believe I’m still writing. I set out on this #randomadvent project rather spontaneously, more for my own spiritual reflection throughout Advent than anything else – but I’ve been absolutely flabbergasted and humbled that so many of you lovely Desert-wanderers have decided to join me! A huge and heartfelt thank you from the bottom of my heart – I totally wouldn’t be here without you all.

If you’ve been one of the lovely people who have encouraged me with comments, texts, messages or emails this month, then a special thank you to you guys. I know you’ll all have been busy during December, so the fact that you’ve taken a few minutes to write and let me know you’re reading does mean a huge amount to me – and, in fact, has spurred me on to completion. (And sorry to those of you I haven’t replied to yet – it will happen, just maybe not in 2017!)

It reminds me of that wonderful passage in Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Advent is a small representation of a longer journey that we’re all on. The journey to draw closer to that babe in the manger. Throughout the year, day in, day out, we plod on, seeking Jesus at every step. Sometimes it’s as easy as pie, sometimes it’s a joy, sometimes it takes courage, sometimes it feels as hard as climbing a wall with no support, sometimes it’s the last thing we want to do, and sometimes it’s the only thing we can do. But we can’t do it without one another.

There are two other things I’d like to draw out from this passage in Hebrews. Firstly: when our Christian journey feels tough, we are to remember him who endured the cross and ‘opposition from sinners’. There is nothing we will go through that will be tougher than that. Jesus went through this for the joy of being with God forever – and, one day, after this tough race has finished, we will know that joy too.

Secondly, we are to throw off ‘the sin that so easily entangles’. It would be ludicrous for a marathon-runner to carry a backpack or wear a heavy overcoat – and yet, so often, we are loath to look at our own lives and deal with the sin we find, in order that we can move forward in our relationship with Jesus. When we are struggling, it is not always as a direct result of our sin, of course, but I know that in my own life, it so often is. I want the blessings of a close relationship with God, a sense of His calling in my life, the joy and the peace that come from knowing Him – and yet I stubbornly refuse to deal with a sinful attitude, a grudge against a friend, the ungodly way I interact with my children. Like the heavy overcoat worn by the marathon runner, this is going to significantly hinder my chances of reaching the end point.

* However easy or difficult your Christian journey feels right now, allow God to speak into one area where He wants to offer encouragement, comfort, or challenge.

Lord God, thank you for your precious gift of Jesus. Thank you that, through his suffering, I can not only have eternal life with you, but also a friend who empathises with my own suffering. Thank you for the ‘cheerleaders’ you have put in my life who spur me on to complete the race – and please equip me to encourage others around me, so that we may all enjoy the crown of eternal life when the race ends. Amen.


This Advent, I’ve mentioned everything from The Apprentice to wrapping paper to Christmas lights to supermarkets. My posts haven’t been super-holy, and at points they haven’t even been very Christmassy – but they’ve been real, daily acknowledgements of the Jesus I want to know better, through the craziness of this season (and normal life). I hope you feel, as I do, spurred on to grab 2018 by the horns and seek more of God’s presence in your life. I suspect most of us could do with emptying our lives a little to spend more time listening and waiting on God – and, if we did, I reckon we’d see a little more of the Kingdom we await.

Here’s to seeing His Kingdom Come in 2018.

See you then – meanwhile, happy Christmas!

Lucy xx


23: the feast

Does anyone else, at this point in December, feel like they’re taking up residency in a number of different supermarkets?

We had a supermarket delivery on Monday. I popped back there on Wednesday, and again on Friday. In danger of sounding like a Craig David song (but far less fun), yes, I’m popping back again today. And I’m not even hosting Christmas. But somehow four lots of Christmas parties, a heck of a lot of homemade sweets and treats, a bit of entertaining, and my usual forgetfulness means that the supermarket does become my second home in the last few days before Christmas.

It’s a little tiresome to have to make so many trips, but I enjoy the result: homemade puddings stashed away in the freezer (looks like we will have time after all – hooray!), personal gifts for special people in our lives, shelves well-stocked with drinks, posh crisps, chocolates and the wherewithal to create (I hope) decent meals for when my family comes.

When I’ve had the choice of products, or quantities, I have to say I’ve over-catered. (Which flavour? We’ll get both. Three tubs or four? Best go for five.) I really don’t want to run out of anything and be doing these supermarket-runs when people are staying, even though we all know I’ve ordered too much.

Whilst there’s a very real issue of food waste at Christmas, and I know I’ll need to be creative to ensure that leftovers are eaten up before going bad, I do think that, as long as it’s not putting you in debt, this is how Christian festivals should be celebrated.

All the abundance, decadence and extravagance that we can muster at this time of year does not come close to the great riches we will one day inherit from our heavenly Father. It’s merely a very, very faint substitute. But it’s a wonderful way to celebrate our Saviour’s birth, because it reminds us of the feast that is awaiting us in heaven, thanks to his great sacrifice.

For anyone who thinks I may be going a bit prosperity here, let me make clear that I don’t hold with that stuff at all. I’m not suggesting that we should eat like this throughout the year – but that we should mark the Kingdom-coming-ness of Christmas with a nod towards that Kingdom.

My parents-in-law have taught me most about this – not through words or philosophy, but simply by how they go about their hospitality. My mother-in-law loves to spend time, energy, money and love on others. When you eat at Casa Grand-Desert, you feel like royalty – beautiful food and drink, wonderful conversation, thoughtful little ‘extras’ like nibbles before the meal, or champagne on your birthday, regardless of how well they know you. My father-in-law won’t let you lift a finger either – he does the behind-the-scenes work of setting up and clearing away with no fuss or complaint.

It’s appropriate, because it gives us a glimpse – albeit pale – of the kingdom of God, which is so often described in Scripture as a feast or banquet:

…“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15)

I mentioned yesterday that everyone is invited to participate in God’s heavenly banquet. Likewise, our extravagant hospitality at Christmas should be inclusive, and seek to involve those on the fringes. This might not necessarily mean someone who it’s hard to have in your home – it could be a good friend who you wouldn’t dream of not asking but who, without your invitation, would be on their own. (Or it could be someone living on the streets. Be inclusive.)

If much of our food lasts into January, it won’t go to waste. In fact, this is all the better, as it will simply extend the celebration, the feast, the thankfulness for all the good things God provides, day by day.

* You may have noticed I’m a bit obsessed by food. If you’re not, pick an area of Christmas you absolutely love obsessing over: how can you re-claim it for Jesus this Christmas?

Jesus Christ, you came into the world to point to the Kingdom of God, and to give us a way to get there. I praise you for your sacrifice. In my celebrations over the next few days, please help me orientate the extravagance towards you, using it both as an opportunity to thank you for your provision throughout the year, and a chance to bless others by showing them a little of how much they mean to you. Thank you that, one day, we will experience a feast which is wilder than anything we could dream up here on earth. Amen.

22: the vicar’s kid at christmas


Vicarages are crazy places at Christmas. Every time you try and tidy up for the next social gathering or family get-together, the house becomes flooded with boxes of Christmas flyers to go round the parish, or bags of food for a community Christmas lunch. Like the rest of the year, your home is also your Other Half’s office and warehouse.

But vicarages are also fun places at Christmas. I grew up in one, and used to spend hours looking through all the goodies that started to appear under the tree from grateful parishioners. I don’t know if it was my frugal parents, or the fact it was the 1980s (probably a bit of both), but we didn’t tend to see a box of chocolates all year, so the appearance of several tins of Roses and Quality Street at Christmas, in addition to posh cheese boards, smoked salmon and All The Alcohol got me excited just a little.

This year, I’m getting flashbacks. Already, we’ve been the recipients of some very generous gifts from those in our church family. I’m particularly in awe of those who’ve made time to buy and wrap a gift for each of our children. I mean – we have a few, so that’s a tall order. It’s not at all expected – a tub of Heroes would be more than appreciated by the six of us. But there are some at our church who are particularly good at looking out for our children, and we appreciate it so much.

Being a vicar’s kid can be wonderful but also pretty tough. Your ordained parent – mum or dad – has to work funny hours. Yes, you usually see them for breakfast, but they’re often out on an evening, or at awkward times across the weekend. You have to share your home – and your life – with any odds and sods your parent brings home (and some of them are very odd). Sometimes plans have to be changed at the last minute, or something you thought you’d be doing with both parents, you now have to do with just one. You’re fending for yourself at church after every Sunday service, because both of your parents are otherwise-engaged (very rarely does a vicar’s wife or husband ever get off scot-free on a Sunday!), sorting everything from children’s work to worship band, finance to toddler group. Sometimes, if it’s a tight week, Mum and Dad will both be involved in the service, and on these weeks you’re ignored for an hour before the service too. Fun times.

The gifts that our kids will be opening next week are a token of appreciation from members of our church family. These gifts say, “Thank you for lending us your Dad. We see you, and are so grateful for what you give up in order for us to be blessed by his leadership.”

Now if you’re reading this and you belong to our church family, please don’t rush out and buy our kids anything! We don’t need our whole church family to acknowledge our children – just a few of them – and they already do. Our kids get plenty at Christmas, and don’t need anything else.

But I think there’s a message here about seeing the ‘unseen’. Some of our church family are great at seeing our kids – not just buying them lovely Christmas presents, but chatting to them throughout the year, getting to know them, and treating them as full and valued members of our church. They know it can be tough to grow up in a vicar’s family, constantly in the spotlight. Others in our church are great at seeing the single mums, or the older folk, or those recently bereaved or divorced. We all have different gifts, and we all ‘see’ different people at different times.

I don’t need to remind you that Jesus ‘saw’ the unseen – encounters with prostitutes and tax collectors are strewn through the gospels like over-zealous confetti. But sometimes we forget that there were a heck of a lot of people that Jesus didn’t minister to, either. It wasn’t that they’d been left out of the Kingdom of heaven – but that it was going to be down to someone else to share the good news with them. Jesus came primarily for the Jewish people – it was Peter, and later Paul, who would have a ministry among the Gentiles (the ‘non-Jews’).

The story of Jesus healing the daughter of a Canaanite woman is really striking. It does seem as if Jesus isn’t going to act, purely because the woman isn’t a Jew – in the end he does, because her strong faith is so evident.

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)

Although Jesus does heal the girl, he makes it quite clear that he has come for the Israelites – not the Canaanites. And of course the gospel accounts only tell who he did minister to – we’re left to fill in the gaps of all those he wouldn’t have been able to engage with, through lack of time or opportunity, or needing to move on to the next town.

We’re very grateful for those who see our kids, and are so generous to them each Christmas. We’re also delighted by others in our church family, who pour their gifts and time into different people who need encouragement. Where would we be if everyone spoilt our kids at Christmas, but never invited the single parents for Christmas lunch? Or if all the single parents were well cared-for, but the elderly or housebound were never visited? The body of Christ works best when we look out for each other.

* Who are the ‘unseen’ people in your life? Those who need an encouraging card written to them, or a small gift, or day-by-day messages of support? This person, or group of people, might overlap with who you thought of for Day 19, or it might be someone totally different. Don’t try and ‘see’ everyone, but allow God to bring to mind a person or two He wants you to encourage over the next few months.

Dear Father God, you see EVERYONE. No one is left out of your invitation to the Kingdom of heaven. Thank you for your hospitality. And thank you that you use us as your ‘eyes’, to notice and walk beside those who need encouragement. Please tell me who you would like me to draw alongside this year. Amen.

21: the jobs left undone


This week, for me, has been largely one of ticking jobs off a list. Food has been ordered. Presents largely bought and wrapped. Good headway made on the handmade gifts. Teacher cards written. The extra-long airbed for our nephew who, all of a sudden, appears to be 6ft tall has been purchased.

But there are still jobs I haven’t done, and perhaps won’t get a chance to do. The hopes I had of making a few puddings ahead of our big family New Year gathering may have to be whittled down to ordering a few ready-made cheesecakes. I haven’t made a start on the packing for our trip to the in-laws over Christmas. None of the food contributions for my children’s class Christmas parties have been handmade.

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit like this too. The DIY jobs you’d hoped to complete in time for family arriving will now not happen. Tasks you’d hoped to finish at work have been shelved, with a ‘January 2018’ label. Dishes you’d hoped to make, presents you’d hoped to wrap, extras you’d wanted to buy – time is running out, and it’s a case of taking short-cuts, or leaving things out altogether.

At the start of this Advent series, I told you about my unrealistic ambitions. To be honest, I’m pretty amazed that it’s Day 21 and I’m still here. I always, always have expectations of myself much higher than I’ll ever manage to achieve. Perhaps there is something good about this: it keeps me motivated, aiming for my best. Or perhaps it has the opposite effect: de-motivating. The little voice inside my head which says, “You’ve failed. You haven’t met your expectations. You haven’t kept all the plates spinning. You’re a mess.”

At several points during 2017 when I haven’t managed to do things I was hoping to do, I’ve had to stop and tell myself, “But you weren’t called to do that. You have four children. You have adoption clouding the mix. You have a husband with a pastorally-demanding job. You’re not called to have a show-home/cook everything from scratch/commit to this voluntary body or that community group.” [Insert whatever is most appropriate into the last sentence.]

It’s of enormous comfort to me when I realise that we each have different callings. I may be blessed by entering someone else’s immaculate house – but they may be blessed by my messy parenting. I may be blessed by the financial giving of someone on a great salary – but they may be blessed by my heart for adoption.

We are not called to do everything, much as it’s hard for some of us to accept this. Mary had a very clear sense of calling, and she did it with obedience and joy.

 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

In 2018, I will aim to pursue my calling of parenthood, adoption and writing with obedience and joy. When I’m distracted by callings which are not mine, I may even try and remember to jot them down and stick them to my mirror, as a reminder that these are not my callings.

* Do you get tempted to take on too much, or to do what you’re already doing to impossibly high standards?

* What is your actual calling, and what distracts you from it?

Lord God, thank you that you have planned good works for me to do (Ephesians 2:10), and thank you that you have planned other good works for other people to do. As I end 2017 and look towards 2018, please give me a clearer sense of calling, so that I may pursue what you have asked of me with the same obedience and joy that Mary did. Help me not to compare myself with others who have been given different callings. In your name, Amen.