Jane Austen and Me (Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT)

It’s not convenient trying to be a writer in the midst of other, just as important, commitments: a full time job, voluntary work, a house to look after, a family to care for. Even this blog post has been interrupted already by a furniture delivery!

How to maintain the tension between all these responsibilities? How to prioritise and allocate the right amount of time and energies to all these different callings? Am I being directed along a new path towards less of one and more of another? Am I being given a practical lesson in learning to delegate?

I love my writing. It’s where I feel most ‘me’. But sometimes I wonder if I am being self indulgent and neglecting others by spending time on it. I don’t believe I am meant to be a fulltime write (at least, not at this moment in my life) but how do I get the balance right?

I’ve recently finished reading Lucy Worsley’s ‘Jane Austen at Home’ and it’s been encouraging to discover than an author of such international renown composed most of her novels in between domestic duties and in the midst of family life.

Hers was not the entirely genteel life we traditionally envisage of a Georgian lady. In her younger days, her family took in boy lodgers as scholars and maintained livestock in the grounds of Steventon Rectory to supplement her father’s earnings. We know from the exchange of recipes between Jane and her female friends that she was ‘hands on’ in the kitchen. And then there were the duties involved in nursing sick relatives, making clothes and household linens, as well as the constant pressure to be useful and convivial to those she relied on for financial support, and frequently having to relocate.

Although she had a treasured writing desk (more of a sloped box than the substantial furniture item we’d recognise), she had no separate study to write in. She made small ‘books’ of paper, handy for scribbling in tiny script whenever she had time, often during social gatherings of family and friends.

Writing did not fit conveniently into her life.

Being a Christian isn’t very convenient either. And sometimes the demands that God puts on us, the circumstances that He allows into our lives feel overwhelming, beyond our capabilities of time or energy. It would be so easy to give up or just let our standards slip a little.

But when I reach the end of my own strength, when I am backed into a corner and crying out to Him at the unreasonableness of the weight of the demands on me, that is when I am forced to rely on His resources instead of mine. Inconvenient? Yes. Humbling? Yes. Utterly reliable and trustworthy though? Absolutely.

‘When I am weak, then am I strong in the Lord,’ as St Paul put it.

In Jesus’ topsy turvy kingdom, I have to remember that if He is calling me to something, He will provide the time and the energy and the means to do it. And His approach is so much more flexible and creative than mine, so much better in the long run, however inconvenient it seems at first.

And if Jane Austen, a devout Christian herself, could write masterpieces in the spare moments of her other duties, what could God achieve with me?

Kiss It BETTER (Five Minute Friday)

It’s the time of year. The drop in temperature, the icy wind, maybe even the ongoing lack of daylight had all served to bring on the familiar.

“My lips are sore,” I complained as I got in from work, the dryness and chapping having become painful by the end of the day.

“Here,” said my husband, before I could open my lip salve, “let me kiss them better.”

Suddenly, I was in one of those moments when time freezes and simultaneously plays the present in slow motion along with a hundred memories: my mum kissing the dressing on my knee after I’d fallen over in the playground yet again; my grandmother kissing the top of my head after another bout of tonsillitis-induced vomiting; me kissing my boys, on so many occasions, as I promised them that the pain of illness or injury or heartache would come to an end.

Sometimes kissing something better really does work. Research has shown that kissing and physical affection releases oxytocin, which modulates inflammation and promotes wound healing, as well as reducing anxiety, and promoting bonding and a feeling of wellbeing. It counters stress hormones and rebalances our immune systems.

And then I am reminded of that old hymn, ‘Here is Love Vast as the Ocean’, with one of my favourite lines as it refers to the crucifixion in these terms:

‘And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.’


So Jesus’ death, reconciling us with God, bringing us back into His arms of love, was His way of kissing us all better.

It’s lovely to be back with the Five Minute Friday community of writers with the first link up of 2019. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, we’re an international bunch of Christian writers, who respond to a prompt word with 5 minutes of flash-writing each week. You can find out more here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/