My Radiant Friend

Standard

On Thursday of last week, the news I and countless others had been waiting to hear, dreading to hear, came through. A woman we had come to know and love had finally lost her eight year battle with breast cancer. Some had known Jan a short time, others a lifetime. For me, it was thirty six years, earthly years that took only the blink of an eye to pass. Since Thursday, I have looked though the mementoes of friendship collected over the decades. As a thank you for being her bridesmaid when she married the love of her life, Rob, Jan gave me a small crystal swan, which has travelled with me for over thirty years, through all the changing scenes of my life, and I have always placed it where I can see it. These past few days, it has been right in front of me when I have sought solitude, catching the sunlight and throwing rainbows round the room as I have wept and cried out with the agony of loss, as I have replayed memories like a favourite film I haven’t watched for far too long. And as the swan refracts the sunlight, I am again reminded of the Jan the world has lost, a woman who became more radiant with each year.

The first time I met Jan, I was dazzled by the sparkling young woman who fizzed withA sparkling young woman love for others and welcomed me into her heart and life with arms that never grew tired of gathering, never failed to be full of love. As I sit today, once again wondering how I could begin to write a tribute to this remarkable woman – where can I start? – the sunlight hits my little swan and I know: Jan has left this world a lighter place because of her life.

Rob’s calling as an Officer in the British army meant that they led a somewhat nomadic existence: at one point they had nineteen house moves in twenty years. That sort of nomadic life resulted in hundreds (and hundreds) of lives that crossed Jan’s and witnessed her radiance: not for Jan the life of a lamp in the corner of a carefully co-ordinated room, but the life of a beacon on a hill, one that illuminated a path for the lost, the lonely, the heartbroken, the simply broken. The lamp of Jan’s life was not a perfect Jan and Rob Sunday 9th April 2017vessel, over the years it was knocked and dropped and bashed. The years she learned to wait, to lay aside personal ambitions, the years of struggles and pressures she couldn’t skirt, the final years of failing health and the prospect of missing the joys so many get to experience – retirement, grandchildren – have been the very means by which she discovered her greatest treasure: the goodness of God, which springs from His love that endures forever.

We spoke several times over the past few months about that goodness, laid out like a feast, the grandest of picnics, right in face of the final enemy, death. The goodness of God that sends fear fleeing back into the shadows of the valley. The goodness of God that brings peace and rest when our hearts would have us despair. The cracks and fissures and dents that shaped Jan’s life created a lamp so intricate, so beautiful that there was little left of any hard veneer that would limit the light it radiated: there was nowhere for the light that filled Jan’s life to go other than to spill out into the world from the depth of her surrendered soul. And now, dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, she stands before the throne of the heavenly father she adores, the days of knocks and cracks behind her because: ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever … And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city and the Lamb is its light.’ (Revelation 21 verses 2 and 23)

There are things in life, circumstances, choices, people, that knock us and wound us and break us. And there are people in life who stand with us, who give us their arms and hearts and help remould us. Jan was one of my shaping-people: she was light and salt and a channel of God’s grace and love. Jan taught me that there is a love, there is a grace that has no limits, no depths, no sides, no heights that can ever be scaled, and she walked in the mystery of the goodness of God in the face of her enemies, for her the cancer that A friendship that spanned decadesfinally destroyed her body. I am ever grateful that I had the privilege of knowing this radiant woman.

Jan in her own words:  

29 June 2016 ‘…My journey of surrender is not one of believing that somehow the bad things that happen are ok, but that in the midst of the bad things I am ok, because God can take care of my heart and provide all I need to be at peace and to live a godly life, and also knowing that God is doing all he can, working for the good to surface. Sometimes the good is so amazing that we think God wanted the bad to happen, but no – it is his amazing surrendered self to winning us back that is his work. He is utterly, utterly good …’

New Year’s Eve 2016: ‘… Hope means the confident expectation of goodness and I believe in hope for us both this coming year. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives …’

Rest – Matt Maher

Christmas Kindle Countdown

Standard

Over the course of this week, both of my books are available at reduced prices thanks to a Kindle Countdown Deal on Amazon (no Kindle required, as there’s a free app for any and every device imaginable).

The UK link is here

The dot com link is here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First Kisses, First Novels and a little bit of Darkly Wood …

Standard

Fellow author and blogger, Max Power, is promoting his novel, Darkly Wood, this week. I’ve just started reading it, and have high expectations judging from the reviews I’ve read. His post, First Kiss, which can be found here (which made me laugh and cringe in equal measure, and which I recommend you read) reminded me of a post I first shared in April 2014 in which I share the story of my first kiss, a kiss that went on to inspire the love story that became my first novel, Strong as Death. For those of you who downloaded it whilst it was free over the past forty eight hours, thank you. I hope you get to fall in love again for the first time with one of the characters (Mullog seems to have quite a fan club).

My first kiss …

Ships in the night. The summer I learned what that meant, I was fourteen. And a half. I was on holiday with my family. Camping. That was the summer the realisation of my own mortality struck me so forcibly that, so afraid of falling asleep and never waking again, I spent the whole night nestled in the safety that was the space between my parents. It was also the summer of my not-quite-kiss. His name was Mark and he was not-quite-eighteen. For a few brief days, our lives sailed alongside one another. On the last of those days, for the briefest of not-quite-single afternoons, Mark held my hand. And at the end of that afternoon, for a moment that lasted less than a breath, he brushed his lips across mine and was gone and I didn’t know whether I’d been kissed or not. Ships that pass in the night. Some people are with you for a season, then gone for a lifetime, my father explained as I nursed a heart not-quite-broken. That was the summer I stopped being fourteen and a half. That was the summer I turned not-quite fifteen. 

Years, more than I could ever imagine living when I was not-quite-fifteen, have passed since that summer. Other Marks came and went. Some left my heart more than broken, some limped away with their heart not-quite-intact. The seasons I spent sailing alongside my parents have gone. My eldest child has lived for more than half of my lifetime. And I thank God for those ships that have passed; for those whose waters I have yet to share. I am even thankful for the times I was so broken I thought I would never mend. I am thankful to have learned about love and loss and the treasuring of times that can never be gone as long as they live in my heart. And I look forward to discovering alongside which of those ships I will sail in eternity.

Mark was the template for Dylan Lachlan in my novel ‘Strong as Death’. Dylan has Mark’s eyes …

first posted as in April 2014 as ‘Where characters come from (3): Dylan Lachlan