A Mauritian Christmas – Palms and Starlight

palm Christmas TreeI found myself standing under a most unusual Christmas tree last week. A giant palm tree strung with star-like lights on its stem and swaying branches, this was a Mauritian Christmas tree very different to the conifer shaped trees at home. Yet, it was particularly lovely and perhaps reminded me of Jesus’ birth more than the tinselled tree in my lounge does.

After all, palm trees crop up often in the Bible. Palm branches formed a carpet for the hooves of the donkey carrying Jesus in to Jerusalem, and in the Jewish feast of Sukkot, families made booths from palm branches and slept under them for a week. So, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that the rough stable in which Jesus was born might have had a roof made of palm fronds. And that the swaddled baby lying in a feeding trough could—on opening his eyes—catch a glimpse of starlight through the gaps of that modest covering. Continue reading

Breaking His Heart

Break my heart for what breaks yours. This single line of a song we sing in church somehow got stuck in my mind, like a repeating refrain.  I began to think about these words—what  was it that broke God’s heart? I could think of quite a few things off the top of my head. There’s so much wrong with the world. So much sin and evil, hardship and pain.

Still the line continued to play through my mind. Break my heart for what breaks yours. I thought a little harder. Would I want my heart to break at all the sorrow around me? Would I want to see the world through God’s eyes for even a single moment? Could my heart bear it? I decided, no. Safer not to let that kind of pain into my heart. Rather keep the world and its heartbreak at arm’s length. I wouldn’t even sing that line the next time the song came up. Continue reading

Journey to Publication – Deadlines and Insecurity

Here’s something that wasn’t in my life before a publishing contract – writing deadlines. For the last few years I’ve happily worked away at The Poison Tree Path Chronicles without having anybody peering over my shoulder. If I wanted to write, I wrote. If I didn’t…I didn’t.

All that changed when I signed a contract with Enclave Publishing. The manuscript for “Chains of Gwydorr” had to be delivered by July; the second, “Heirs of Tirragyl”, by October. Heirs particurarly needed a lot of work as it was only at first draft stage and it was too long. Continue reading

My Tapestry of Women

woman weavingToday has me thinking about the women in my life. Other than two significant men—my husband and father—my life is a rich tapestry of relationships with women. There’s my mother of course, that strong thread of gold woven throughout my life. My sister’s thread appeared often in the earlier parts of the tapestry—sometimes slightly dark and knotty. Now it appears less often, but has transformed into the warm, welcoming colours of familiarity and friendship. My daughters’ threads are light and lovely—the colour of sky, sea and hope. They intertwine playfully with the vibrant swirls of my nieces’ threads. Continue reading

Why it’s taken me this long to feel like a Joan

father and child 2I’ve never felt like a ‘Joan’. When I was younger I was sure I was somebody else. Maybe Sarah, or Danielle or even Joanna. But definitely not Joan.

Now this admission is going to be rather heart-breaking for my father, who hand-picked this name for me. As a boy, my dad spent most of his holidays with an English family on the Isles of Scilly, just off the Cornish coast. My Dutch grand-father decided he wanted his son to learn to speak English and, given that he had business dealings with the bulb-growers on the Islands, Scilly was the perfect place to send his twelve year old son. Continue reading

Journey to Publication – Bringing Down the Walls

contract smallerThree and a half years ago God gave me a promise. Now I’m not one of those people who hear clearly from God on a daily basis. For me it’s always a lot hazier than that. I might hear a sermon on a specific verse and read the same verse in a book later that day; I take that as God speaking to me. I might get a sudden sense of clarity in a situation, or a particular feeling of peace surrounding a struggle. Sometimes, like John Wesley, ‘my heart is strangely warmed’. Continue reading

My African Heart

africa smlEverything conspires against my calling myself an African.

To begin with I am White when the very word ‘African’ implies Black. Even Americans who have added the word African to their identity, seem to have a greater claim on the continent of my birth than I do. To complicate matters, I am the child of European immigrants, always suspended between two cultures and two continents, never fully belonging to either. Continue reading

Courageous Voices

voices smlThis past weekend I did something rather terrifying. No, I didn’t go bungee jumping … or cage diving with sharks. Not the ‘Tower of Terror’ at Gold Reef City, either. No, definitely not sky diving. Okay, these guesses aren’t leading anywhere, so let me just tell you. This weekend I ran a Writing Workshop for 13 people. Was that a slight huff I heard? Not terrifying at all, you say? Continue reading