ACW

ACW

Friday, 11 December 2015

Look Both Ways, by Deborah Jenkins

It's breezy and dull, the kind of Monday that drives you to coffee and Radio 2 to try and jolly up a bit. Radio 4 is just too staid and gloomy for grey days. So I'm staring out of the window at the tree across the road, where wind loops leaves into an uneasy jive. Wondering what to write for this post, the screen saver comes on. As you may have done, I've set this up to show random photos from our lives over the years. These days, with the children married/at uni, it is especially poignant to be reminded of the time they lined up all their doggies for Doggy School or that holiday where we played Jenga all week. Such memories have a bittersweet quality don't they? You are simultaneously grateful for all those happy days while wishing you had squeezed more juice out of them at the time. When they told you the years would pass quickly, and you nodded (while feeding the cat, answering the phone and plugging the baby with his bottle) why didn't you believe them? Why didn't they make you listen?
The bible is a great leveller with the issue of time. For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven...Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that the seasons change and as the grey November wind howls outside, there is time for other matters under heaven; stoking up the wood burner, lighting candles, reading. It is quiet in our house, with more time for things like walking and writing. The piano is dusty but I can actually hear the radio when I'm ironing or cooking. And of course there is great joy anticipating our daughter's return from uni, our son and daughter-in-law's visit at Christmas. Looking back is not bad, as long as can still look forward.

This is true of writing too. Are you looking back at past successes and feeling wistful for those exciting times? Or maybe you're feeling paralysed by the past - not having achieved all you'd hoped to. "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3 warns us not to dwell too much on the past whatever it holds. The years pass quickly, as they warned us they would. It's fine to look back but only so we can look forward more hopefully.

If we allow our writing to define us, we will always have regrets. The highs and lows of the writing life - plot lines, submissions, waiting, refreshing that inbox - must only be part of our lives. A big part, it is true but nevertheless not the whole. Just as the partner, children, career should never be the whole.There's also home and work and being kind to friends and strangers. Going out and helping others and teaching Sunday School or drawing up the coffee rota. Do these things have as much value in our eyes? They do in God's. He calls us to be faithful with all the gifts we have, and to trust that He will bring along the right opportunities at the right time.
"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand" Psalm 31:15

The light is going, the street lamps are on. I seem to have spent all day, on and off, assembling these random thoughts. Whatever season we inhabit, in writing and in life, let's galvanise each other to embrace the memories, give thanks or grieve, and refocus. '"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future...You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."' Jerem, 29:11-13

Writers are seekers, always looking for new ways to describe and express things. When we do this well, it brings us huge satisfaction. Looking back at where we've come from, moving ahead with hope, as Christian writers we are ultimately truth-seekers. We will find God's presence and direction in writing and in life, when we seek Him with all our hearts.


Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, devotional notes and short stories. She has recently completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel.. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.



To look at the book, please click on the link



10 comments:

  1. Deborah, this was a timely word for me today.Of course drawing up the prayer rota, or visiting your friend who has cancer, or buying blankets for the Calais migrants, or whatever else we are doing, including staring out of the window thinking, is of value in God's eyes, but I tend to give more weight to what is happening (or not) with my writing, and that can be hope-draining. So thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Yes I think we all do that. It's so hard not to be dominated by writing successes or failures, isn't it? And you're right - staring out of windows is nothing to feel guilty about either, especially for creatives! Thanks for your thoughts on this :)

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  2. I loved reading this and found it really encouraging. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Ros! I really appreciate that :)

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  3. Beautifully written, Deborah. I do regret having found my feet in writing at a late stage in my life, but you have reminded me of all the things I wouldn't have given time to if I'd been a full time author. It was a privilege to teach four and five year olds, and I don't regret the exhausting, draining, incredibly happy times I spent in school. Thank you for an inspiring read.

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    2. Made a mess of the previous comment! Thank you so much Veronica :) Like you, I've turned to "serious writing" later in life, but am now lucky enough to be able to combine it with part time teaching at a school where I'm happy. Your comments have reminded me not to fantasise about retirement and full time writing, but to enjoy the current situation while it lasts!

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  4. Great post. I wish I'd written that jive metaphor.

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  5. Beautiful word, Deborah, with lots of little nuggets to chew over. This:"Looking back is not bad, as long as can still look forward." is a gem and really helpful as we close a year and attempt to embrace a new one with hope rather than trepidation in our hearts.
    I also love: "If we allow our writing to define us, we will always have regrets." - another wise insight. Life has many components and it's very tempting to make our writing the be all and end all of everything. Your pondering has provided much rich food for thought. Thank you! :) x

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