I haven't written for a few days. Life kind of took over.Sometimes best laid plans have to be put to one side to deal with the important stuff of real life.Last Thursday was my 37th birthday. It was a fine day, I caught up with a few friends, and received some lovely gifts.Last Thursday was also the day I said goodbye to my Nan.My Mum phoned at about 3:30pm, as I was finishing coffee with some friends, to say it looked like the end was close and I might want to make my way over to see Nan sooner rather...

When my girls were little I was always trying harder.Every few months I would come up with a new concept I believed would enable me to be the person I felt I ought to be.Through reading the latest Christian book, or hearing the latest talk on how to live a successful life (spiritual or otherwise) I would arm myself with a list of top 5 ways to improve myself and set to work. If only I could get hold of this idea, if only I could press in for the breakthrough, if only I could be put into practise these...

Learning to love someone is like poetry.I don't mean that it is beautiful and full of romantic imagery.I mean that it is hard.Poetry is hard.When I was 17 I went on a school trip to a day of talks about literature in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. There were many speakers. They talked about their favourite texts, or about their own work.Some of it was very boring.But two of the talks have stayed with me, and I remember them all these (nearly 20) years later.Germaine Greer talked about her favourite Shakespearean sonnet and Simon Armitage unpicked his poem, Kid.I happened...

I wrote this week about comparison. I realised the idea of competition got a bit of a bad rap in this post. I felt the need to redress the balance.Not everything about competition is bad.Competition can provoke work that improves standards. It can be the impulse leading to scientific breakthroughs, or to sporting achievements. As iron sharpens iron, so those working in a similar field can spur each other on, to better their ideas, their communication, their achievements. And this can be good for everyone.The London 2012 Olympic Games showed us how a display of sporting brilliance can influence a...

This morning I dropped my three children off at school for the first day of the Autumn term. I returned to a blissfully quiet house and put the kettle on. I exhaled and thought,Congratulations, you survived the summer.This summer has been good.I have stayed in bed late and when I have finally come downstairs I have chosen to ignore the cartoons that are still on and the dried cereal adding a crunch topping to the lounge floor. I have been more relaxed about what and when we are going to eat occasionally making an effort and cooking from scratch, and...

I'm all about the grace. Grace is one of my favourite words.At my darkest of times, when it felt like the world was closing in on me I have known the sweet relief of grace. Grace in the actions of my friends, calling at the right moment, anticipating my needs. Grace revealed in a beautiful sunset, refreshing rain, or the flowers in my garden. Grace for my soul, in the quiet knowledge I am accepted and loved regardless of my mood or actions, knowing I belong.Mercy, grace, favour when I really don't deserve it. Amen and hallelujah.But. But.If Grace is poured...

In my battle against the anxiety I have amassed an arsenal of weapons.I moderate my alcohol and caffeine consumption, try to eat and sleep well, practise mindfulness, exercise regularly, use 7/11 breathing techniques and try to schedule in time to rest.But recently I noticed a new habit that is also having a big impact on the pull of anxious thoughts.I am fairly well at the moment. The past six months have been some of the most stable and relaxed I have known in a while. I have managed to do many things that, even a year ago, would have seemed...

I went to see my Nan yesterday. Nan is 95 and has lung cancer. She is pleased to know she will soon be leaving this planet and has wanted the Lord to take her for a while. All my friends are dead, she tells us.Although obviously weakening she is still bright and fairly active. She gets tired more and her eyesight is failing her, but apart from that you still wouldn't know she was ill unless she told you.I like to talk to her about her life, and have recorded a number of interviews with her over the last few...

Some weeks I have a phrase that hovers around me no matter what I am doing.This has been one of those weeks. And the words have been:On Tuesday they got 'magnetic letters' status.Relinquish:to lay down or surrender. To give up ownership and authority over.To release from your grip. To loosen your hold and let go.This week I have had to relinquish control of a number of things: My diary. At the start of the week I had so many things I wanted to get done. So many people I wanted to see.But I hadn't factored Matt or the kids into my plans...

Edward, my seven year old, told me this morning he didn't want to go to school. I pointed out that today is Friday, his favourite day of the week, the day of the week with most school time dedicated to fun and play. To this he responded, 'well, I only want to go if it can be golden time and star of the week straight away.'I know how he feels.Can't we skip straight to the good bit?In The Rock that is Higher: Story as Truth, Madeleine L'Engle writes a somewhat surprising statement; "...