My first Christian novel is about everyday family trials and triumphs and shows how God is an important part of the mix. I hope you read and enjoy this sample of my book.
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How to make a Victoria Sponge
1. Take one recipe book off the shelf and follow the instructions
2. Pop cake into the oven
3. Trust temperature and cooking skills
How to make Victoria Sponge
1. Take recipe book
2. Throw it in bin
3. Trust God
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”- Jesus of Nazareth; John 10:27-30
Monday six fifteen in the morning and the alarm wakes me up for a new day.
My first words are ‘Yes Father’ although I do not know the question.
Then I praise God for my family, husband Bob and my four children. Henry my eldest, Gabby and Johnny who are twins and lastly Lily Pink my youngest.
The day begins very quickly with a yell.
‘Where’s my school uniform?’ Henry declares, ‘Where’s my PE kit?’
Of course, the items are in the wardrobe, but for a teenager that is like saying they are on Mars. They don’t see through doors and can only identify something if it is on their floor.
‘Look in your wardrobe’ I suggest helpfully.
‘It’s not there’ Henry replies.
I wonder if he has actually looked and pop my head into his bedroom. Henry is still under the duvet.
Oh Lord, give me eyes that can see and ears that can hear. Give me a love that is patient, kind and tolerant.
I suggest that my son gets up and has another look, this time opening the door of the wardrobe. I dare not venture inside his room as it is a health and safety nightmare. First I might catch something and second I may end up in hospital having fallen over an object on the floor.
Oh Lord, please help me to keep to the straight and narrow road that you have prepared for me. But when I stumble and fall remind me to look where I am going!
I hear Henry yelling again, as I descend the stairs. He can’t find his pants now. Then there is a rather large clonk.
‘Oh that frigging drawer, why doesn’t someone fix it?’ he says frustratingly.
Oh Lord and carpenter, fix and heal those things in me that are troubling my soul and keeping me away from your presence.
From the commotion coming from Henry’s bedroom, the drawer sounds like it is being relocated, probably with all the contents still in it, to the other side of the room.
Oh Lord, may your peace descend on this household!
With the bacon spitting and the kettle steaming, toast popping up rather blacker than anyone likes it, I ask my husband, Bob to watch the breakfast cooking, and then I ascend to the room of another teenager. Dare I knock?
Oh Lord, give me courage in the face of tribulation and strife, help me to see beyond the darkness into the beauty that I know is residing somewhere behind this door.
I knock; will it be a good or bad day today? Nothing stirs. I sheepishly put on the light.
‘Good morning dear’ I say.
‘I’m behind you mum’ I hear. I jump out of my skin; Gabby is already awake and smiling. What a relief, it appears to be a good day. I sigh and say a thank you to the Father. Gabby is looking a picture of happiness.
Oh Lord, thank you for this moment of joy.
The smoke alarm starts to penetrate my being; its ear-piercing wail puts my nerves on edge.
‘Something’s burning!’ Bob yells.
I’m sure it is the bacon. When I return to the kitchen Bob is sitting at the computer not nursing the bacon, no wonder it is burnt. All that remains are charcoal remnants. Bob then leaves the computer and places a couple more slices into the frying pan and cooks up a meal that resembles an edible form.
Oh Lord, help me to rejoice for the help I receive however late it may be.
Back upstairs I trudge, two more little treasures to awake. I decide to check on Johnny first. He is still sleeping even though his alarm is trying its best to wake him up.
‘Johnny’ I say quietly. Nothing.
‘Johnny’ I repeat with a little bit more gusto. Nothing again.
‘JOHNNY’ I yell as loudly as I can. But still not a peep or any sign of movement, so I pull the duvet off his head. No wonder he can’t hear me he still has his ear phones in.
Oh Lord, so often I am deaf to your calling, because I would rather do my own thing. Help me to listen to YOU.
Gabby enters her brother’s room.
‘Uh Johnny, your room stinks, open a window.’
She brushes past me and takes out his earphones. ‘Its half past eight, you are late.’
A bemused young man looks up at his sister; she must appear bleary without his glasses.
‘Stop winding your brother up, it’s not that late’ I say to my daughter.
She prances off to do her make-up and then all hell breaks out.
‘No you can’t borrow my make-up, go and use your own.’ Lily Pink, Gabby’s younger sister says in an irate voice.
Oh Lord, so often I am late in talking to you about matters that concern me. I know that you don’t mind being bothered about my needs and long to hear my requests. Help me to remember that we only have to ask and we shall receive.
Gabby and Lily Pink have an off/on relationship and today it seems it is an off one.
‘Well thank you very much, I am going to be late now because I can’t find my foundation’ she yells. The girls share a room which is divided by a curtain down the middle to give them each a little bit of privacy. Their make-up takes up most of the surface of their individual chests of drawers; however Gabby also uses her floor space too, the carpet having been ruined by spilt or trodden on remnants.
‘All I want is a little bit, oh, you are so selfish’ she says.
This is not an argument that I want to be part of so I walk downstairs again and am handed a welcome cup of tea.
Oh Lord, it is easy to become argumentative and angry during the course of the day. Help me not to be selfish and distracted from focusing on YOU.
I believe that two elephants are descending the stairs as the racket is deafening.
‘Mind the light’ the kid’s father reminds them as they jump the last four steps. Too late, there is a ping and the light blows as Henry head-butts it out of the way. Johnny is the first to the kitchen and picks up a plate with eggs and bacon on it. His hair is all over the place and it looks and smells like he did a spot lick instead of having a shower.
Oh Lord, wash me clean from my sins and renew my flagging spirit.
‘Thanks, mum’ he says and opens the fridge. He downs a pint of milk in one go and puts the empty bottle back. He then takes half a loaf of bread for his lunch and leaves for school.
‘What about your sandwiches son?’ my husband asks.
‘I’ve got them’ he calls out, not realizing that the half a loaf of bread was for the other sandwiches I need to make for the hungry mob that is left.
Oh Lord, give me wise words to feed my children with each day. Help me to point them to your LOVE and quench their thirst.
I quickly defrost another loaf of bread in the microwave. Henry meanwhile is bemoaning the fact that Johnny drank all the milk. I reassure him that the milkman will be here in a minute with enough for everyone. The telephone rings, it is Johnny; he has left his maths book at home. As soon as I put the phone down it rings again. Surprise, surprise it is my son again; he needs his science folder too. My husband and I search the possible places that might camouflage the two items but we find nothing. Gabby who has vacated the bathroom and ventured downstairs, holds up a wet plastic folder.
‘Do you think Johnny needs this?’ she asks. Thank the Lord it is the science project, not only is it wet but it is sticky with some sort of fluid all over it too, but at least it has been found. Unfortunately, the maths book is still elusive.
Oh Lord, thank you that you are not elusive. Help me to seek and find you in all things, both great and small.
Gabby looks like a million dollars and much older than her fourteen years. My breath is taken away by her beauty. I am not sure if her make-up is part of the uniform, but she assures me that it is in compliance with the regulations. I suggest that she pulls her skirt down and she agrees to unroll it a fraction. Gabby doesn’t do breakfast, but removes the empty bottle of milk that Johnny left in the fridge, has a cursory glance at the rest of the contents and then closes the door. Well, I suppose she looked at the food. She stuffs her pocket with snacks for the bus ride and takes her sandwiches and drink. Gabby air kisses us both, takes Johnny’s folder and departs for school. Henry meanwhile is still waiting for the milkman.
Oh Lord, you blow me away with your beautiful creation. You have painted a masterpiece from an empty canvas. Nothing is bland or ugly in YOUR vision, so help me to see everything through YOUR eyes today.
Johnny appears at the front door, he is worried about his maths book. He is almost in tears as he doesn’t want a detention. We search the house again and then I search Johnny’s rucksack. I find it in the front pocket looking more like a fly swat than a book. His relief is very apparent and he rushes off with a hasty thank you. He bumps into the milkman who drops our long-awaited delivery. The milk smashes on the driveway and splatters all over our son’s blazer and trousers. But Johnny just brushes himself down and runs as fast as he can to catch the bus.
Oh Lord, thank you for finding me when I was lost and alone. Help me never to lose sight of YOUR way.
Henry is now upstairs on his computer; he loves to cut everything fine.
‘You are going to be late Henry’ I call out.
‘I won’t be long’ he calls down.
The front door bursts open, it is Johnny again.
‘Where’s Henry?’ Johnny asks anxiously.
If Henry isn’t on the bus with Johnny he panics. I am not sure what he will do when Henry leaves school and Johnny is left to do the journey with Gabby.
Oh Lord, often the road seems long and hard when we are frightened. Give me courage to walk the path you have chosen for me each day.
Henry swings down the dogleg stairs and picks up his school bag and I toss him his sandwich box and drink. He hugs his brother and tells him not to worry so much as they have plenty of time. They try to leave the house side by side, but the door isn’t wide enough and once they sort out who is going first they slam the door behind them. From a distance, I hear my husband’s exasperated voice.
‘Don’t slam the ………’
Oh Lord, please protect my children as they start a new day. Help them to cope with the ups and downs of school life and support them in their friendship issues which will invariably challenge them today.
I hear a little voice coming from upstairs.
‘Mum, I don’t feel very well, can I stay at home today?’ questions Lily Pink.
She has the shortest distance to go to school as she is in the last year of primary education. It is just a short walk away and Lily Pink usually makes the trip with some of her friends each morning. I take a look at her face, her tongue, feel her temperature and generally use a sympathetic tone stating that she will be much better at school if she makes the effort.
‘But my tummy hurts’ she pleads. I sigh but don’t give in, as I have to go to work today.
‘Please’ she whines. I stand firm and help her to get dressed. At 10 she is perfectly able to do this herself, but she likes the fuss and decides that perhaps she can struggle in today after all. She gives me a hug and a kiss and says that she will be alright now.
Oh Lord, bless my youngest child and help her to be brave in all that she does. Thank you for her smiles and cuddles that light up her face and make me feel warm inside and remind me of your loving gaze as you watch and care for us in our daily lives.
There is a commotion downstairs, rushing of feet, a yell of ‘where’s my keys’ and the door slamming again. I look out of the bedroom window and see my husband with Henry and Johnny. They obviously missed the bus so need a lift into school. I look at Lily Pink and think how pretty her blond curly hair is. She is so different from the others, she has brown eyes and an olive toned skin. I am not sure who she takes after, perhaps she is an offshoot from a distant relative.
Oh Lord, thank you that we are all unique.
Lily Pink has a hearty breakfast of bacon, sausage and egg washed down with fruit juice. So maybe her tummy ache is better now! She packs her own bag and gives me instructions as to what she wants in her lunch box. All sorted she messages her friend to say that she is ready. Her thumbs travel over the keypad at an alarming rate and then stops for a second before answering another message from another friend. I am beginning to wonder if we will evolve into a thumb only race. I mean what do you need the other fingers for?
Oh Lord, I am not sure how we keep up with all the technology that floods our marketplace. Thank God that you are consistent and we can rely on your presence in an ever-changing world.
The doorbell rings.
‘Don’t worry mum, I’ll get it as it is bound to be for me!’
My daughter has a better social life than I do! But it is good to see her happy and excited about life. My shoulders relax at the thought that I have managed to complete the first phase of the day without too much hassle. Now it is my turn. Shower, get dressed, breakfast, teeth, lippy and prepare bag. The bathroom is strewn with wet, soaking towels thrown on the floor. Shampoo drips from its container into the bath and the soap is sliding around precariously close to my foot which is about to step into the shower. I have let the water run for a little while to warm up. As I think about the delights of washing away the stress of this morning’s preschool antics I step under the shower head. IT IS COLD. I jump back out of the way shaking with the shock of being drenched by such a stark realization that my family have left me with no hot water. I grind my teeth in frustration and mutter impure thoughts about each of my offspring. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Oh Lord, I understand that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. But could you organise a warm shower for me just for once? I have served my family this morning and the least I ask for is a little bit of consideration. You said ask and you shall receive, well I am asking for a shower with hot water. It’s not much!
I do a quick over the body flit with a kettle of boiled water into the wash basin. Spray lots of all-purpose smelly all over, smudge some lipstick on and throw a few things into my bag. I forget to have some breakfast and open the door to the outside world. Oh great, God is having some fun because it is pouring down with rain. By the time I walk to work I will have had a shower. And who said God doesn’t have a sense of humour!
And as I walk in the rain God says:
Vicki your prayer today was ‘Yes Father’, even though you didn’t know what the question was. My dear daughter, you have been holy this morning through your service to your family. Be blessed by my outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your everyday situations.
Eight forty-five and the team are nearly ready to open the doors to the preschool where I work. There is a bubbly atmosphere and the fact that we work in a church building helps us to focus on our service to the children in our care.
Oh Lord and teacher, help me to be open to the needs of the children today. May our enthusiasm rub off onto the children so that they can believe that they can attempt anything that we have prepared for them or they initiate for themselves.
As the doors open there are eager faces from both the children and the adults. The young ones run in and some put their coats on their pegs and others just throw them at the hooks. The parents follow by picking up their child’s coat or nipping out quickly after their charge into the main room. All ready for the action, some have found the activities and start building, climbing or enthusiastically greeting friends they haven’t seen since their last session. With the image of a happy child resting calmly on their hearts, the adult leaves content that all is well and they say their goodbyes. Some children are too absorbed in their world to say goodbye.
There is one child who refuses to leave their parent and starts to become hysterical. I gently encourage her mother to walk away and look through the glass door from the hallway. I create a distraction for the little one and after a few screams of, ‘I want my mummy’, and she slowly looks around to see what the other children are doing.
Oh Lord, sometimes leaving my comfort zone is very scary and I would rather not make that move. I might have a tantrum or thrash about, pushing against the idea. When this occurs Lord, help me to be brave and take your hand knowing that you would never lead me to some place that I cannot cope with.
When all the children have arrived we sit them down on the floor and the manager tells them about the exciting morning ahead of them. The team have already been allocated their duties so everyone knows the general run of the morning’s session. I get to do the creative stuff and toilet duty!
Oh Lord, if only my day was written down in a book with easy instructions of what and where to do and go, life would be so much easier. Instead, my world is crazy and confusing most of the time. Grant me the flexibility and patience to cope with all the dramas each day presents to me.
My remit is the Art Room today, making bubble pictures. I sit ready with a straw in hand waiting for my first three-year-old to appear. But instead of one keen preschooler, four arrive at once eager to get paint all over them. One dives straight in not wanting to hear instructions, another asks for help with their apron, the next starts drinking the paint through the straw and the last just stands there watching, looking very hesitant. I deal with the paint drinker and get the first child to put on an apron otherwise he will be covered in red, blue, green and yellow before he finishes his masterpiece. Then I gently encourage the little girl who doesn’t appear to want to join in. I take a piece of paper and blow red paint onto it, then accidentally slip with the paint and end up with a blob on my face. She laughs, thinking this is very funny and slowly applies her own finger which she coats in yellow and draws on my face. The ice is broken and before you know it the shy eyes have gone and a beautiful picture covered in bubbles produced. My little student is delighted with her efforts.
Oh, Lord and artist, how overjoyed You must be when we overcome our fears and try to bring colour into our lives. Help me to mirror your beauty to others through the gifts You have given me.
A teenager on work experience joins me and figures that I am not in control of the children’s play, so she suggests kindly that I might like to go to the toilets and clean myself up! Several more children arrive in the room who don’t want to get their hands messy. This time the children and I decide to produce a collage which, of course, involves me first getting my hands painted. Eagerly the group slop the colours over my outstretched hands. At this point, a preschool assistant pops her head into the room and laughs at the state I am in. Surprised at the reaction of another adult to my chaotic condition the children realise that it is okay to have messy hands, so the aspiring artists get stuck in. They make swirls and blend colours on a large sheet of paper, dotting hand prints in any empty spaces. My teenage shadow decides after a while that perhaps getting down to the nub of the problem means that a hand on approach can reap many rewards.
Oh Lord, help me not to prejudge a situation before I have the whole facts. Help me to be humble in my opinions and generous in listening.
With the art session over the room has to be cleaned up for snack time. Paint is wiped off all surfaces, including my face and hands; with pots, straws and other items taken out for washing. The tables are put together to form little areas for socialization and eating. When all is ready the children are seated and we show them how to pass and share the fruit with each other. Some little ones like to dominate while others sit and survey the proceedings. Drinks are handed out and a general noise of chomping, slurping and plate moving fills the air. All is relaxed until someone spills their drink. Chairs scrape, shrieks are emitted from other children, tears flow, cloths appear to mop up the fluid, and wet clothes are replaced with dry clean ones. Quick, calm, efficient, loving.
Oh Lord of Calmness, when storms gather and life seems to take on a wobble or two, enable me to stay grounded and firm in Your power.
With snack time over the children are taken outside to let off some steam. There are scooters, trikes, and little cars, pushchairs with dolls in them, a playhouse and a climbing frame. All manner of things to keep the young mind happy and occupied. Meanwhile, I am indoors changing the pull-up of a lad that doesn’t want to wear another one. I try him on the potty and he sits happily doing nothing. After he says he has finished and with some coaxing I achieve the job of putting a clean pull up on, only to see the little boy going red in the face and pushing very hard!
Oh Lord, mess happens. Give me strength.
I strip him down, trying to keep him distracted with ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall’ smiling as I sing. He chuckles, is it my singing or the fact that he has given me a present to clean up?!
Oh Lord, how many times have you had to clean up after me? Thank you for your patience and love.
Having finished this service, I take the little boy outside where he instantly rushes around feeling free and at peace with his world. It is truly amazing to see children with arms outstretched embracing their world. No worries, just enjoyment of the present. We can learn so much from these young ones.
Oh Lord, you said ‘bring me the little children’, and ‘unless you become like children’…. Help me to see and trust You by embracing the simplicity of a child’s view, uncomplicated and pure.
With outdoor play over we head back indoors where we get the parachute out. There is a lot of excitement as the children love this activity. The rules are explained as usual for their safety and an adult stands next to the smallest girl to make sure that her feet stay firmly on the ground when the parachute is in full flight! Hindsight is a wonderful thing! I cannot help but smile and laugh at the little faces as they ooh and ah at the rising and falling of the piece of material. After a bit we let the youngsters go under it and lie down while we shake it vigorously over them. There are shrieks and screams of delight, their trust in us complete. They emerge with hair standing on end and an excited cry of ‘again, again!’
Oh Lord, help me to fly with you through the winds of enjoyment that come unexpectedly during the day. Help me to catch these sudden air currents when they present themselves and use them to glide me into your presence.
We let the children have another go under the parachute and then play a little game with them to see if they know each other’s name. When the parachute goes up two names are called out and the two children have to swap places. Davy looks bemused as Lucy heads for his place. He doesn’t want to move and she wants his handle. He pushes her and she falls down, tears well up from Lucy and Davy just looks at her. He doesn’t understand what the commotion is all about and runs off.
Oh Lord, it is so easy for me to misunderstand other people and to feel hurt by their actions. Please heal my lack of understanding and help me to discern their true intentions.
An assistant leaves the parachute activity and sits down close to Davy. He is standing with his arms folded and tapping his foot. He is confused and angry by the situation that has just occurred. He doesn’t want to hear about his actions and closes down his receptors. My colleague is gentle and compassionate towards him and diverts his attention by bringing out a little puppet from her pocket. She talks to the puppet and uses it to talk about being kind to other children. Davy slowly unfolds his arms and makes a request to see the puppet. He talks to it, vents his anger at what has happened and then punches it several times before throwing it away. He is a lot calmer now and moves towards the assistant laying his head in her lap and closing his eyes.
Oh lord, sometimes a problem seems too large for me to handle when I cannot see a solution. When this happens help me to rest my head in your lap knowing that you are the answer to everything and can bring healing and solace during these times.
The fun with the parachute is nearly over and Becky, the manager of the preschool, suggests that an adult crawls under the colourful material. The children are allowed to choose who. A chant goes up and it appears that it is me who they want for this treat. I get down on my hands and knees and crawl into the middle of the parachute. As the swishing and laughter grow louder the air underneath builds up and it sounds like there is a storm brewing above me. The parachute goes up and down and side to side wriggling over my body. It is a funny sensation knowing that you have no control over what is happening. By the time it all stops I am completely blown away and my hair is standing on end. I must look a state but the children all think it very funny. When the parachute is folded up and put away, some of them come over and give me a hug and tell me how funny I looked when I emerged from the experience.
Oh Lord, thank you that I am able to laugh at myself, even when it puts me in a vulnerable situation controlled by others. Help me never to lose that trust in YOU knowing that you always have my best interests at heart, and are in control of my life even when I am not.
We sit the children down for a quiet time with a story. As I make myself comfortable on the floor several children come and lounge on me with big smiles. Everyone loves story time. What will it be about today? Oh, it is my favourite, ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’. The children join in with the verse that runs through the book, ‘you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it…..’ it is a wonderful end to a fun filled morning. As the mums, dads, grandparents and carers begin to filter in to collect their charges, we see the excited faces of the little ones as they scan through the expectant faces looking for a familiar smile. They run to their adult with outstretch arms and full of news about their morning. One child hugs her mum and then decides she has forgotten something, she turns and looks at me and rushes back to give me a thank you cuddle. A perfect end to a morning full of service.
Oh Lord, how you delight when I rush to you with all my news whether it is good, bad, celebrating or complaining. You love to hear all about my day. Thank you for always being available when I need to share.
But this is not quite the end of the session for the rest of us, who have to tidy away all the efforts of the day. All the outside toys need to be stored in their shed and the indoor toys stacked neatly away in cupboards for another day. The floor needs to be hoovered and records written up. I share with the other members the highlight of my art morning and they talk about their experiences. We eat chocolate and relax, happy to be in one another’s company. The team is supportive and challenging towards each other. I enjoy their company and the time spent in this way. It is a different kind of busyness in my life as it is not in the confines of my home. I can leave it behind me at the end of the morning, hoovered and clean, and find it in that state the next day! It is an atmosphere of sharing with everyone helping, supporting and carrying the load together.
Oh Lord, thank you that You see me for whom I really am. You see the beauty and warts and You still love me. Even though I hoover on the outside there is so much to spring clean on the inside; but You are gentle and kind, encouraging and compassionate, patient and challenging, always prepared to support me when it is time to spring clean.
And God said:
Vicki, you have delighted me all morning with your smile and laughter, what a wonderful daughter you are. I am so proud of you. Thank you for bringing me to work with you today. For some people the only Bible that they see or read is you.