F is for Flowers


I’m a pretty inconstant gardener, but over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed having a flower bed and some pots in our back garden, which was just an area of tarmac when we moved in.

My mother loved her garden. Our house might be upside down and she’d be outside, pulling dead leaves off the rose bush or inspecting the white alyssum. We had a beautiful blossom tree, and in the house, there was always a vase of daffodils when they were in season. She loved daffodils. So I had to start with planting some of those. Mine aren’t out like the ones in the picture here. These ones are in the other flower bed in the church grounds. They get more sun. But mine are getting there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Daffodils always remind me of my mam. She loved spring time.

I confess I didn’t do enough research before writing this post. When I say research, I mean looking at the tag to remind myself what flowers my friend Karenne planted.

Yes, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that this work has not been done by me. My friend Karenne helped me pick the plants, then when we got them home she planted them. Oh, did you spot the sheep?

So this is Brian and Cully – my sheep. They are named after the two guys who maintain the church site. Cully gave us the large rocks to make the flower beds. The bright green plant above them in the bed is a bunch of Welsh poppies. I didn’t plant them there. Last year they were on the other side of the garden. They are great at migrating and are a beautiful yellow when they bloom.

I love my little garden and the flowers give me more joy than I ever thought they would. I’m not as engrossed in my garden as my mother was, but I can see why she loved spending time with her flowers ๐Ÿ™‚ Tomorrow, I’m going to share some flash fiction that was inspired by her x

E is for Extemporise (or Excogitate)


As I mentioned in my first post of this year’s April AtoZ Blogging Challenge I haven’t got a theme this year and I have not prescheduled, or pre-thought about any of my posts. Each day I’m just going to write something different.

I’ve just asked my husband to give me a few words beginning with ‘E.’ He gave me – Evergreen, Event, and Enter. So I’m going to free-write for a few minutes and the only rule, is that I have to get each of those words in. It’ll be nonsense and rubbish, but the piece will be raw material for something to be worked on later. Freewriting is not usually something to be shared, but here we go anyway…

The queue was moving too slowly. Cath was freezing, dressed for the better weather that had been promised. If that wasn’t bad enough, the event organiser made her wear a filthy hi-vis jacket with a sign sellotaped on the back of it, reading ‘STAFF,’ covering the fact that the jacket was for a First Aider. It had sounded like a great deal, do a couple of hours work at the entrance gate and get into the festival for free. She’d been there four hours already and still people were arriving. Two artists she loved had already played, her absolute favourite band, Enter At Your Peril, would be on the main stage soon, and she was bursting for the loo. Then inspiration struck.

“Bob,” she shouted across the turnstiles to her fellow ticketmaster. “Can you radio base to say I need someone to take over please?” She then mouthed, “I need to go.”

“Go where?” he shouted back.

“I need to GO.”

“Awh right yeah, hang on.” Bob got on the radio and Cath continued to stamp tickets ignoring shouts of “can she have a pee, please Bob?”

Eventually Cath was rescued. She ran past the Portaloos and straight to the main stage. She got there just as it was being announced that Enter At Your Peril were not coming on until later. There was some booing and some shouting as a terrified looking kid with an acoustic guitar came on stage. Once he got going, the crowd sang along with his cover of an Oasis classic. Cath was singing along when she felt someone pull her arm out of the crowd. “We’ve got a fainter.” her captor shouted. “We need someone back stage.” Cath was pulled through the crowd and past security by the side of the stage, through the curtain to the back stage area where she saw a crowd standing around some someone lying on the ground.

“What do want me to do?” said Cath.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You’re the first aider.”

The ‘STAFF’ sign was being trampled on by Oasis fans.

“You’ve got to help him, love. We need to get Evergreen on that stage.”

Cath recognised the members of Enter at Your Peril standing around the lead singer, who was lying on the ground.

“What happened?” Cath asked, kneeling on the floor beside him. “Did he bang his head? Drink too much? Take something he shouldn’t?”

“Worse! A huge spider fell on his head just before we were due to go on.”

“And it bit him?!

“Nah, he’s afraid of them. He fainted.”

Evergreen groaned and opened his eyes. “Where is it? Is it still on me?” He jumped up, shaking his head and jumping up and down.

Cath stamped her foot. “There! He’s dead,” she lied. “Squished under my boot.”

Evergreen turned to her. He held her face for a moment. “You are my hero,” he kissed her and the band ran on to the stage.

“Yeah,” she said, as the crowds roared. “And you used to be mine.”

D is for Depression


Today’s post is a kind of poem about my experience of depression. Not everyone’s experience is the same. So I’m just going to share a little of mine. I’m not a poet but I find writing the truth can be hard. It’ll be easier to do it in a more creative way.

Depression is a funny thing,
It does not make me laugh
It used to make me cry, it used to stab me in the heart
until the pain would make me angry, hungry,
sending me for food,
to make me feel the way I felt
when I was small, and safe, and good

But now it doesn’t do that. This time I’m more stressed out
In case somebody asks me to do, or say, or shout
and tell them, “everything is fine, I’ll take care of that.”
Cos it’s what I do, I sort things out.
Except for age-old fat
that I am trying trying to disrobe from
but I cannot concentrate
on every single thing that’s asked of me.

No one asked me? Oh wait

It was me who piled the stuff on?
It was me who got it wrong?
expectations, responsibilities
more words, more songs
I thought I had to do it all and carry all the weight
while trying to lose it without losing it
while not losing the faith

Does it look like I am losing
any sense of sense right now?
Well that is it, you’ve now seen how it works, it makes me feel that
now, I must explain and say I’m sorry, that I don’t know where, why, how

Stop!

See how it steals my peace?

So, I’ll stop and ask you just to wait, and let me find a way
back to thinking, breathing, eating, normally (is the word normal okay?)
You see, depression is a funny thing
It does not make me laugh
but the joke’s on me and will be while I travel on this path
to God knows where and God knows when
but that is good enough for me
cos though I live with my depression, my God, He lives in me

C is for Cypher


I thought I would wait until today to do ‘C’ as it’s Easter Sunday, and I love today’s word, which is ‘cypher’ or ‘cipher’. It means the same, which ever way you spell it.

Being a lover of spy films and programs, I see cyphers used at lot. Whole plotlines are sometimes built around a secret code that must be ‘de-ciphered’ to understand what is being said or what is going to happen. Dictionary.com defines cypher as, “a secret or disguised way of writing; a code.” I remember hearing someone say they believed the Bible was a cryptogram and if the right cypher could be found, then the origins of existence and the purpose and future of the universe would be solved.

After almost 27 years of being a Christian, a BTh and a PGDip in Applied Theology, I am still no expert. However I don’t believe the Bible’s message to be hidden in any code. The origins of the universe are right there in the first few pages. There are sections of the Bible I still don’t understand and some Biblical history is hard to accept, and don’t get me started on the many opinions on the Book of Revelation. But a lot of what God is trying to say to us through the Bible is clear. For eg. love God, love your neighbour, follow Jesus, you are loved – to mention just a few basic messages.

The other reason I left Cypher for today is that it’s other meaning is ‘zero’, nought, nothing, or empty. Just like the grave that Jesus was put into when he died. He is Risen. HALLELUJAH! ๐Ÿ˜€

See you tomorrow… A x

B is for Blood


Today is Good Friday. There are so many things about the Crucifixion that blow my mind. But I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that blood of Jesus cleanses us. 1 John 1:7 says, “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Have you ever bled on your clothing? A cut on your hand which stains you sleeve or a sudden nosebleed that stains your shirt? Blood can be a nightmare to get out of fabric.

Yet the blood of Jesus, instead of leaving stains, does a purifying work. Not on fabric, but on our very souls. Jesus was innocent but died to save sinners from having to shed their own blood. Jesus’ blood is the only blood that removes stains instead of causing them. It’s amazing. And I am so grateful to God that I get to benefit from it.

HALLELUJAH!

The old hymn goes…

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

See you tomorrow for C… A x

A is for Ash


It’s been a while since I gave the April AtoZ Blogging Challenge a go. The last couple of times I took part, I didn’t finish it. I’m hoping to use the challenge to commit to writing every day for the month of April. My daily writing habit has not just gone by the wayside, it has fallen off a cliff!

This year I don’t have a theme. so I’ll be rambling about whatever is on my heart and mind each day. A bit of free writing. I’ll add some flash fiction as I go, as I’ve written quite a few pieces during lockdown – thanks to my local writing group, Afon Llwyd Writers’ Zoom meetings with some great prompts. I’ll share about a project I am praying about as lockdown and depression both are starting to ease. There’ll be some spiritual ponderings too. Today, however, I’ll start by sharing a little about my current fiction project. My second novel – working title is ‘Ash’

I wrote the first draft of ‘Ash’ during NaNoWriMo 2020. It is inspired by the story of Silas Marner (SM). I adored the story when we read it in school.

I love that Marner saved Eppie, and she saved him. He was betrayed by his best friend, lost the love of his life, was shunned by his faith community and robbed of his treasure; yet he ended up with more than he could ever have wanted. He was blessed to come to understand what truly matters in life. You know me – I’m a sucker for a happy ending. ๐Ÿ™‚

I wanted to write something where an abandoned child is rescued, but in my story it is the child who has a percieved strangeness about them (as opposed to the adult character – Marner suffered with what reads as a form of epilepsy or catalepsy). Ash’s problem is, he is a genius. He has an eidetic/photographic memory. He can read anything and understand it. He does not have to be taught or shown anything twice. Set in a similar time to SM, Ash’s intelligence is seen as of the devil and as the community get to know him and his adoptive family, they are more cynical. There is one scene where some of the women in the village discuss how unholy it is for a child to be able to recite a Psalm! There are characters who are afraid of Ash for different reasons and they use the fears of the locals to try to get rid of him. Especially as the local landowner has taken an interest in the boy and his family.

I’m hoping to self-publish Ash before the end of the year. In the meantime, if you’re interested in checking out my other fiction, you can find out about it on my writer website www.annmariemiles.co.uk

See you tomorrow… A x

Pushing forward


Thank you so much to those who commented and messaged me about my last post. It’s great to know you’re still happy to read my witterings ๐Ÿ™‚ Having completed the plan I mentioned in that post, I was quite daunted by a year’s worth of empty spaces. But already I have most of January filled, either done or preparing to do. It feels good, after a year of sitting around not doing much at all.

My experience of anxiety and depression doesn’t feel like any I’ve read or heard about. Maybe each journey is unique. I’ve come a long way, there are some days when I feel totally normal but others when I get a wave of anxiety every time the house phone rings or my mobile buzzes. Though why I’m worried about calls on the landline, I can’t tell you. My Amazon account is fine thank you very much.

I felt I’d levelled off in my recovery, the two main problems being headaches and not sleeping very well. So I arranged a chat with the doctor, and we tweaked my medication a bit. Already I can feel the benefits. If we weren’t in lockdown, the doc said she’d be advising me to get out and about. I’m sure it would aid my recovery to visit nice places. Meet with friends, have coffee and laughs. Maybe a couple of nights away with himself. None of that is possible at the moment.

But I have to do something. I was on the treadmill this morning for half an hour. After falling and really hurting myself last year AND the year before, I’m still very nervous about being outside. Especially in this snowy weather.

I need to move forward. I want to move forward. but I’m going to take my time and go at my own pace. I’m so grateful to God for the time and space that lockdown brought, but I feel ready to start making my way back in to regular face to face contact, that is NOT on a computer screen.

One step at a time eh?

Happy New(ish) Year


I have emerged from my biannual “why do I bother writing? what’s the point? yada yada” phase, set for another year of scribbling. I’m in the process of making a plan for the year. Dividing the year in to four quarters with a the intention *coughs* of working on one major project each quarter, with some flash fiction, research and social media malarkey as I go. During my “woe is me, I am unpublished” season, I did wonder about shutting this blog down. The thought stayed with me during the planning. Who reads blogs any more? Anything longer than a tweet and people scroll on don’t they?

Hello?

You still there?

*cue tumbleweed*

I have deliberately not written much about Covid or Lockdown. What is there to say? I ate too much, moved to little but did use the restricted time to aid my recovery from anxiety and depression which I wrote about back in October last year. I’m doing so much better. The depression has lifted for the most part, thank God, but anxiety is still an issue for me. Increasing Covid numbers do not help.

I’m finding that having a plan for the year is helpful. Not just a writing plan – a life plan. I pray it will give me something to focus on when I’m feeling a bit wobbly and uncertain. It includes getting rid of the weight I put on during lockdown. And getting back into running. I got to the stage of doing 3 x 5k runs each week. The I fell. My confidence has not repaired to the degree my injured knee has. I had been praying for a treadmill for a couple of years. So I could walk regularly in the winter weather. God miraculously provided one – from the people who I was on my way to visit when I fell. (Bit of a Matrix moment there. You know the bit where the oracle says, “don’t worry about the vase,” and Neo says, “what vase?” he turns around and knocks a vase over. ) Anyway, I’m ready for writing, running, counting my carbs, and watching my mental health; doing all of those things with God’s help and guidance.

God has been with me all the way and I pray for his blessing on all those areas of my life. He underpins it all. The only time there’ll be no point in writing, is if He ever decides I should go and do something else ๐Ÿ™‚ So if you’re still here and still reading, thank you so much for sticking with me.

God bless each and every one of you in 2021!

A x

p.s. if you read Gorse Lodge, thank you! Do leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It really means a lot to a writer.
In the meantime, this quarter I’ll be working on edits to publish my second novel.

NaNoWriMo Time!


It’s November! So as well as premature Christmas ads and dark evenings, it’s also time for 50,000 words in 30 days. I haven’t always ‘won’ NaNoWriMo (by winning I mean hit the word count), but it has given me some great raw material. Two of the books I’ve self published, my novel Gorse Lodge, and my second collection of short stories, A Sense of the Sea and other stories came from work done during NaNoWriMo. My non fic WIP, Have Mercy, is also a NaNo project.

As if I had nothing to do, I am starting a brand new novel idea. I just love starting stories and I get such a buzz out of finding out what happens next as I write. This time last year I barely wrote 2000 words and it shows how low and exhausted I was. I will return to that WIP, but I feel I need to move on this year.

One of my favourite stories from school is Silas Marner and my new novel is inspired by that story. How an abandoned child changed someone’s life forever. On NaNoWriMo, my username is auntyamo, if you’re doing the challenge and you’d like to buddy up. You can keep an eye on my progress on the bar at the top right.

ttfn x

Light in the Darkness by Liz Carter part 2


It’s great to have Liz Carter back today. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you really should. Liz’s honesty and openness is such a blessing. Here she is with the second part of her post on Light and Dark.

It’s good to be back ๐Ÿ™‚ I finished yesterday, by saying, the more I dig into Scripture, the more I find the most starkly honest writings there poured out for all to see, overflowings of emotion and anger and sorrow spilling onto the pages – most of the prophetic writings are like this and the Psalms are full of songs of lament as much as songs of praise.

It seems to me that we are on dangerous ground if we insist that we must keep our own darkness hidden in the darkness, because that is not the biblical model.

Biblical writers craft their words with honesty and authenticity. They tell it how it is. They do not tell us that there will be no suffering in the Christian life, nor do they tell us that the Christian life will be blessed with health and wealth and no pain. In fact, if anything, they tell us the opposite. Paul tells us that he lived in hardship and persecution, suffering for Christ and with Christ – and his words are full of the profound mystery of the intersection of brokenness and the peace of God that passes all understanding. The Psalmists wrote of isolation and imprisonment, of sickness and danger. And in the centre of it all we have Jesus, a man of sorrows who knew the great depths of suffering like no other.

I always think it would be so hard to follow a faith where the deity remains outside of our understanding and experience. Christianity is unprecedented among faiths in that God became one of us and sunk into our pain and mess with us. The incarnation points to the beautiful and complex intricacies of the fingerprints of God amongst us; a God willing to lay aside all his majesty and fall into the dust, to suffer and die, to take all our pain and sin and mess upon his body. It is a mystery that cannot be contained in words, but a mystery bursting at the seams with hope and life, and one that speaks loud into our own agonies like nothing else.

And this, ultimately, is what lights our path ahead; the knowledge that God is not far away, but is with us by his Spirit and in his experience of broken humanity. On days I have nothing left I can only look back to God, as the Psalmists so often did in their wretched poems of sadness and yearning. I can still choose to โ€˜yet praiseโ€™ within the days of trouble.

This winter will be long and bleak, and bleaker still for some of us, for many reasons. But winter ends in a glorious awakening, and God reminds us of that in a love song:

โ€˜See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.โ€™ (Song of Songs 2:10)

One of my poems from my new book incorporates this theme, and so I would like to share a few words from this poem with you today, with the prayer that God will speak to the deep places in you and flood you with a hope wider, deeper, longer and higher than you could ever imagine:

Oh hasten the day
when death flees away
when the winter of mourning
melts to joy in the morning,
when bleak shadows are drenched
in the glory of your dazzling light,
when darkest places and worn-down wastes
are crushed in the power of outrageous grace
The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone,
find love that is deep and love that is long
find immersive light and ageless depths
find crazy love in inexorable breadth
Oh hasten the day
when night flees away.

Treasure in Dark Places is a collection of poetry and short stories which are re-imaginings of biblical accounts and encounters with Jesus that take the reader into the heart of the stories, where you yourself can experience and encounter the God who loves you, and where you will find resonance and comfort in your own struggle.

Click here to see the trailer video

Liz Carter is a writer and poet from Shropshire who likes to write about finding gold in the mess of life. She is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied (IVP) and her new book, Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting, is out now.