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I was sitting chatting to a young woman from Norway the other day. It was 8 0’clock in the morning and still fairly dark and gloomy outside. Forgetting who I was talking to, I was commenting on the grey sky, talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder and how miserable the lack of light can make people feel in Britain during the winter months. She listened, smiled and then informed me that, in her home town in Norway, they would be lucky to have three hours of daylight a day during the winter. From her perspective British winters are full of light (if lacking in serious snow).
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As I look back on 2015 with all its ups and downs, the thing that strikes me most is, unlike any other time in my life, how much of it I have spent on my own. For many years, working full time and raising children, I craved a bit of time and space away from others. Well, I’ve had that this year. As an extrovert, albeit a sometimes shy one, being alone can easily become an invitation to self-pity. But, if I have learned anything this year, it’s not to go there, or, if I have already tobogganed down that slippery slope, to seek God’s help to climb my way out of it.
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‘But the angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’ (Luke 2:10 NIV)
As a kid in church I was always slightly puzzled by the idea of a whole host of angels announcing the news of great joy to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It wasn’t that I struggled with the idea of angels, or the virgin birth, or God’s decision to announce his amazing gift to a bunch of lowly shepherds. No, it was the idea that joy could have anything to do with God.
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Is it just me, or do you ever find yourself smacked on the back of the head by the anger, resentment and yes, let’s be honest, the desire to do grievous bodily harm, to the person you thought you had forgiven? Time after time I have taken these foul and poisonous emotions to the cross, and time and time again they seem to boomerang back, filling my heart with the black, oily filth associated with them.
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I often wonder how Abraham stood the waiting for the child God had promised him. I often wonder if he used to look at his own ageing body, and that of his wife, and be tempted to think, “Nah, I must have heard God wrongly on this one.” Do you ever feel like that in terms of your own life, and the things that you are waiting on God for?
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This time two years ago I wrote a novel. It was a very dark time in my life. My marriage had ended, my house was up for sale, I was sofa surfing every other weekend, my job was really very stressful and I was off work with depression. I never set out to write a novel, it just happened. For about a year I did nothing with it, just left it stored on my laptop gathering whatever the equivalent of dust is, for electronic files. And then, about 9 months ago I sent it for professional critique. When the report came back it was brutal. Everything about the novel was wrong. I was devastated.