Sunday, 4 December 2016

Life in November // All the Updates // A Vlog?


Happy Advent!

The year is in its old age. Snow has fallen. Life spirals on towards Christmas in a vacuum of busyness and glitter.

A picture of my garden. We have had the most beautiful frosty November. What an incredible world God has made for us!

For me, November saw Kenya preparations: designing team T-shirts (they're gonna be great, I'm just saying), getting about a million vaccinations (and I'm not done yet) and having a second weekend with the team. There are eight of us, all girls, and it's a really lovely group.

While I'm in Kenya, there is going to be a fortnightly(ish) team prayer letter. I will not be blogging during my trip (which makes me wanna cry, but there it is) because of very limited Internet. But if you would like to pray for me -- which I'd love! -- please leave a comment with your email address, or email me at I would really value it!

Illustration by Becca Stadtlander:
[source] // Becca Stadtlander

November has also seen work getting really busy. Remember how I used to work in the little shop selling the sparkly trainers? Now I work in a massive shop selling very expensive everything. Christmas is upon us -- not just upon us, mauling us with its ravening claws, or so it's felt -- and sometimes I spend my days stacking cards and wrapping paper and £20 faux-glass reindeer. The Christmas section is right by large electricals, so I can watch suburban couples, accountants and lawyers, pay £500 for coffee makers to take home to their clean streets with their two big cars and holidays to Tuscany. In the cheap sparkly trainer shop, the materialism accepted itself for what it was. Cheap and cheerful were the buzzwords. But this big shop takes itself so seriously (remember the trouser suits?) it can hardly admit it's a consumerist temple in a consumerist nation selling people very expensive things they don't need. As I stacked cards the other week I reflected on these things, and I thought of lines from Mary Oliver:
I want to think again of dangerous and noble things / I want to be light and frolicsome / I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.
And I thought of how the suburban coffee machine buyers would look at me and see a rather wan-faced small girl in large black trousers, stacking Christmas cards in a robotic fashion, and never know that I want to be noble and improbable. And it made me think of lines from Jackie Kay's poem Watching People Sing:
Oh, I think, Oh, who will
sleep at my foot, who will sing to me like that
eyes brimming with love and change and spark.
And then I remembered that I only work part-time, and I'm very lucky to have a job at all when I think of all the beggars I walk past on my way to work, and that I am a writer and an heir of God's kingdom, and I live in the most beautiful country, which is at peace, with a democratic government, and I have parents and brothers and sisters and food and warmth.

And I felt foolish for my dark reflections at the Christmas card shelf.

I have a difficult relationship with the world and myself.


I feel this -- the lines from Dylan Thomas -- so very strongly, and yet I know that I romanticise everything and break my heart over realities that don't exact, over loves that are not fulfilled. But perhaps it is about finding the balance between on the one hand being improbable and holding fast to your dreams and not giving up, and on the other committing everything to Jesus, the one who will never disappoint.

That got a bit deeper than I meant.

how beautiful is this though?
Let's talk about Starting Sparks.

You may have noticed that no December prompt has been posted. This is because we are taking a Starting Sparks hiatus.

After over a year of running the link-up, neither Ashley nor I could exactly pretend it has taken off. We normally get one or two linkers and ourselves -- or not even ourselves, sometimes (I am working on my November story, honest). Because we're all busy. And as Ashley pointed out, maybe some of you are reluctant to publish your short fiction online because you are hoping to sell it. As I said, I won't be blogging while I'm in Kenya, and so we've decided to suspend the link-up.

If you've got any suggestions, they'd be very welcome. Is there any other kind of link-up you'd like to see? A way that would make it easier to participate in Starting Sparks? Let us know!

In Books
Not a great month in terms of numbers of books, but they were good (and Lanark was frigging massive, so I can be forgiven). Out of Africa was a beautiful portrayal of Kenya, shimmering with a love of the land that made me really excited to see it for myself. A Grain of Wheat was also about Kenya at the time of its Independence from the British: a story of village life, interweaving the personal and the political, and a really wonderful book.

Other Life News

 (Notice how I skilfully wove all my life news together? Not.) I have a new niece, Alice, who was born three weeks ago in Singapore! I cannot wait to meet her on Boxing Day. Every baby I see makes me more excited.

Any maker will tell you, it's a compulsion. #type #typography #handmade…:
[source] // I really love this

I'm currently in Oxford. Remember how this happened this time last year? And I got interviewed and I didn't get in and I ended up taking a gap year? Well, we're back. I think I have actually forgotten to tell y'all (do you like my use of y'all? I'm basically American what can I say) that I got an offer from Glasgow. Increasingly I feel that leaving Glasgow is a ridiculous idea and why would anyone do that? So basically I am a confused crocodile (don't question the metaphor). But I am not worried. God will send me where I need to go. And Shakespeare will be Shakespeare, and Fitzgerald will be Fitzgerald, and I shall read Hughes and marvel, so what could actually go wrong?


A Vlog Proposal

One last thing: I am, I think, going to make a vlog soon, because we all know vlogging is the most fun way to do tags, and you'll miss me so much when I'm in Kenya you'll want to see my face before I go. I have a couple of tags for this. (One of them is, like, a year old, don't judge.) But if you would like to add to the Q&A -- because the more the merrier, right? -- drop me an email to (or just a comment would do the trick!). 

Anne Morin I Wonderwall:

maria elena alvarez:
red cats look best in stripes (by Marc Johns):
[source] // one of my favourite illustrations


How was your November? Best book you read? Are you excited for Christmas? Remember: email me with vlog questions or if you'd like the Kenya prayer letter!


  1. Ahhh you're going to Kenya? I'll be praying -- that's such an incredible opportunity. <3

  2. Ooh, I love that cat picture and also those teapots. I JUST MUST SAY THAT. *nods* And also if only I had that much money to spend on a coffee machine....haha.😂 Just kidding. I'd spend it on books, obviously.
    ALL THE BEST FOR THE KENYA TRIP!! I hope you stay safe and have a wonderful time. :)

    1. Me too! Hahahahaha I know. SO MANY BOOKS. (My TBR'd fall and crush me and I'd die never having read them, probably, but that's irrelevant.) But thanks, Cait! :)

  3. I hope you'll have a good time in Kenya, Emily - regardless of the lack of internet connection. It sounds like it will be a very interesting trip!

    500 for a coffee maker?! Wow. Aside from working in a library, I also work in a home improvement store and sometimes I do special custom orders for window blinds - and the amount of money some people are willing to them could buy a decent used car. Like they'll go for the most expensive style and brand for every window in their house. One of the biggest orders lately (for just one house) needed the best of the best blinds for 50 windows - 50 windows in one house! Some people just have too much money for their own good...

    Hopefully, the hiatus won't be for too long... I've really enjoyed taking part in Starting Sparks this past year.

    That gif!

    1. Thanks, Lauren! <3

      I know. It's crazy. 50 windows?! That is insane!!!!!

      I'm so glad, I've loved having you! (Our, uh, only linker most of the time -- and therefore my favourite!)

      ISN'T IT AMAZING?? His mouth I can't cope

  4. I'm sorry to hear about the Starting Sparks hiatus. I liked the idea, and the stories that came out of it- even if my schedule won't allow me to participate as often as I'd like. I wonder if it would be easier if Starting Sparks came up every two months or so?

    Aw, a new niece! Welcome to the world, little Alice!

    "do you like my use of y'all? I'm basically American what can I say" Y'all is a fun word, whatever your nationality. My pastor uses 'y'all' all the time, and now the associate pastor is using it.

    1. I'm glad you liked it! Maybe a less frequent link-up would be good. Thanks for the suggestion, Blue!

      Thank you! <3

      Such a fun word! And I love when words rub off on other people XD

  5. Wow lots of exciting traveling for you! I wish you a safe journey!

  6. YES TO A VLOG. And have a great time in Kenya, and I'll be praying for you, and congrats on Alice (!!!) and don't think about consumerism too much or your brain will boil and die ;)

    1. Thank you! And thank you, and thank you! And yes I try not to ahahaha-- D:

      Thank you for commenting, anyway, Victoria! :*

  7. Not all Americans use "y'all," but I do sometimes, even though I'm just north of the Mason-Dixon line. I support the "y'all." November was pretty solid.

    1. I support y'all also! XD And I'm glad to hear you had a good November, Patrick! :)


    Of course I want to pray for you while you're in Kenya! I mean, I already am, so why change that? XD But yes, I am praying and I'm so excited for you! And I will miss you around the blogsphere.

    Gosh, though this post. I was nodding along to all the "deep stuff". That paragraph about consumerism taking itself too seriously. Um, yes. What's it's problem anyway? It should give itself a good look in the mirror and just maybe it'll see how ridiculous it looks in that business suit.

    *cough* Sorry that was angsty.

    I always think these things and then look at my own life and feel like a hypocrite because I have things (not that I take having things overly serious though, who wants to be serious?). And then I have to remind myself that just because I have things doesn't make me a bad person and I shouldn't feel guilty because I'm not the guy at the corner of the street holding a cardboard sign. I just can't let things be the ruler of me.

    I agree! I want to do the improbable. And chase dreams (and hopefully, you know, catch dreams too, that seems quite improbable some days). And I want to find that balance of chasing dreams and being completely committed to Jesus in all that I do. When I was out of high school and trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I stumbled on the realization that while I had all these different good paths to follow, it didn't matter to God which good path I followed. What matters is that I do what I chose to do in God's strength, that I trusted in Him and did my best at whatever it was, so that He would receive glory out of my success. I think I might need to realize that realization again. What I want to do doesn't have to conflict with what God wants me to do because it's not so much about what I'm doing as it is about how I execute it and who I'm doing it for. Does that make any sense?

    So I really want to read Dylan Thomas now.

    ALDKJASDLFJA! That Cumberbatch gif! I love it. Almost every time, I think "oops!" now I think of this gif. XD

    A VLOG SOUNDS AMAZING! Do it! Yeeeesss!

    So I'm marginally confused about the you are in Oxford? But got an offering in Glasglow? So you are trying for Oxford again, but you've decided you might go to uni in Glasglow instead? That's how I'm understanding it, but I'm not sure if I've misconstrued something.

    I should probably just email you. Yeah, I'll do that soon.


      Thank youuu! You are so kind <3

      Don't apologise! I agree wholeheartedly XD

      And yes, I agree with that SO MUCH I CANNOT TELL YOU. The tension between wanting to be left-wing/anti-capitalist, and also being middle class and steeped in possessions/opportunities! I guess people would say that's just an idealistic Smiths-loving pacifist teenager's problem. That we'll grow out of. But that is the most patronising thing to say! Gah!

      Love that next para. Makes so much sense. Some Christians get obsessed with, like, waiting for signs and making sure we're doing what God wants ... when actually what he wants is for us to follow him as he's revealed in the Bible?? And the Bible is not going to tell you what job to do, or whom to marry, or any of that stuff. God gave us brains for a reason!

      You should read Under Milk Wood, I looove it!

      SAME! So good :')


      Firstly, I'm laughing at “an offering in Glasgow". Makes it sound like a sacrifice! XD So in Britain we apply to five unis. I have had three offers -- Glasgow, York, Dundee -- and am waiting to hear from Oxford and St Andrews. So when I wrote this post I was in Oxford for an interview. Most places don't interview, they just read your application (digitally submitted). I received my offer from Glasgow in October. So yes I have tried for Oxford again, but yes I may go to uni in Glasgow instead. Savvy?

      I should do that too, though, because I got your Florida email nearly a month ago! After pressuring you for it! And I've still not replied! Soon, though, I promise!

  9. Definitely do a vlog, I will miss your blog when you are gone.

  10. All the Kenya prep! :D I would love to receive that prayer letter, so add me to that list.

    You have a lovely way of making ordinary life sound like a novel. And I so related to "I have a difficult relationship with the world and myself." And also this part: "...and yet I know that I romanticise everything and break my heart over realities that don't exact, over loves that are not fulfilled. But perhaps it is about finding the balance between on the one hand being improbable and holding fast to your dreams and not giving up, and on the other committing everything to Jesus, the one who will never disappoint." YES AND AMEN AND I AGREE.

    Congrats on the new niece! And yipes, all the decisions and Oxford vs. Glasgow... Praying you'll have wisdom. <3

    That's too bad about Starting Sparks. :( I had fun with it when I did participate. I think the reason I didn't join every month is because I only post once a week, and that means four or five posts a month. So to come up with new flash fiction every time when I also have lots of other post ideas swirling in my head didn't always work. But that doesn't mean I didn't love SS! I'm currently idea-less as to how to tweak or change it in the future, though...

    Ooh, a vlog! I loved your last one, so I can't wait for another! Here's a question for the Q&A: What made you decide to go to Kenya, and what do you hope it will do for you in the end?

    1. Did you receive the prayer letters? I realise now I never asked. (I did add you to the list!)

      THAT IS SUCH A NICE THING TO SAY. Seriously, top compliment right there! Always striving to be a novel ... !

      Thanks! And I wrote about uni in that letter I sent you ... !!! :D

      We are brainstorming a new format!

      Ah, that vlog. I never got round to it, but I am keen! Hopefully soon ...

    2. I did get the prayer letters! It was neat to get that regular glimpse into your Kenya happenings, especially when you were one of the contributing writers. :D Plus the emails were a great reminder to pray for you.

      Looking forward to the possible vlog and new-and-improved SS!

    3. I'm so glad! Thank you so much for your prayers <3

      Me too!


Thanks for commenting! :)