Books, Christian Writer, Faith, God in control, Grief, Healing, Holy Spirit, Medieval Fiction, New Author, pilgrimage, Seasons of life, The Word of God

A Heart Set on Pilgrimage

image of a path across a headland, with the island of Bardsey on the horizon

As I write this, I really should be doing something else. I am supposed to be editing my manuscript for my second full length novel, The Pilgrim. The editing has been taking up most of my time and energy for the last few days. I know it has to be done, but I am finding it both exciting and exhausting. It is with mixed feelings that I read and re-read, and correct the words that I have written. And always the questions… is it going to be good enough? Are people actually going to want to read this?

Heart pilgrimage

At the end of each chapter, as I did in my first book, I have inserted a verse or two of scripture. In The Pilgrim these are taken from the Psalms. Each one is chosen for how it speaks into what is happening in the life of the central character, Brother Hywel, as he walks his own spiritual journey. But many of them have personal meaning to me too, like this one:

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Psalm 84: 5-7 NKJV

I have chosen to write about a real pilgrimage in the book, hence the title. But it isn’t just the physical path of pilgrimage that is Hywel’s journey to grace. It is also the inclination of his heart, to truly seek after God. 

Image of a valley path with the text of Psalm 84 :5

Tears bringing life

On my own journey I have been through some dark valley times, when it really feels like the Valley of Baca (‘Baca’ means ‘weeping’). I have struggled to understand why, but it isn’t always for me to understand. I only have to keep my heart set on Him. My ‘pilgrimage’ is to step by step walk the path that leads me closer to His heart. And it isn’t always easy to stay on that path, especially when blinded by tears.

But what if the very tears that I weep actually help to water the dry ground around me and turn it into springs of life? My strength to keep going actually comes from Him, if I ask for it! And He will increase that strength as I keep walking, make me even more resilient and fruitful. Nothing is wasted in Him. I might walk through the Valley of Weeping, but my very presence turns it into a place of blessing!

Image of the front cover of The Pilgrim. The title of The Pilgrim is in black font against a white background that looks like manuscript paper. The 'P ' is illuminated. Beneath this is a brightly coloured stained glass image of a group of pilgrims.

The Pilgrim: a pool of blessing

My tears have fed into the story I have written in The Pilgrim. My prayer is that the book becomes a pool of blessing for many. I am blown away that God has chosen to use the things that I have gone through, in my own pilgrimage journey, to create books that might just do that. I’ll remember that as I continue the sometimes painful editing process!

At least the book already has the most beautiful of cover designs. I pray that the words inside will be just as beautiful.

(The Pilgrim is due to be published in July 2022, but you can pre-order your copy now, by commenting on this blog post)


Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, christmas, Faith, Forgiveness, Grief, Seasons of life

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

Christmas is coming! I know, I’m beginning to panic a bit too – it’s less than a month to go and I don’t feel in any way prepared for it! I am however praying that this Christmas will be a good one; a celebration of family and fun, a ray of light in the dark winter days, a time full of joy and hope. It will be wonderful, yet again, to tap into the true meaning of Christmas and look beyond the festivities to the One who came to bring the joy and hope, and dare I say it, fun!

I love Christmas. I treasure the memories of Christmases past and truly look forward to this one, especially as it is my first as a grandparent! But for many, Christmas isn’t a time for celebration, and may not carry those happy memories. For many, Christmas is a stark reminder of loved ones lost, of childhood traumas, of heartbreak and of the relentless passing of the years. It can be an acutely painful and lonely time.

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

Chick Yuill has drawn on that reality in his latest novel, Talking to Calippa Cumberland and I am absolutely thrilled to have been included in the blog tour. It all starts one Christmas Eve in 1976. A small child shopping with her mother in a department store hears the tannoy announce that there is a little girl lost and crying for her parents. For 3 year old Lori Bloom that lost child stays in her heart and imagination. The name she thinks she has heard is ‘Calippa Cumberland,’ and Calippa becomes her imaginary friend, someone she can talk to and confide in, someone who perhaps understands her. Because the truth is that Lori Bloom is herself lost.

As chapter follows chapter we follow Lori’s life through a snapshot of subsequent Christmas Eves. We journey with her into her teens and into adulthood, as she discovers painful secrets, faces betrayal, suffers heart-breaking loss, and makes life choices with complicated consequences. All the time she is confiding in her faceless friend, Calippa Cumberland. All the time searching for someone who understands and someone she can finally, fully trust.

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

The book is utterly compelling. I read it in almost one sitting. Chick draws Lori’s character so well, and describes the things she goes through sensitively and convincingly. It is not a maudlin book, but it is real and raw in places. The story brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat, but also the odd smile and nod of understanding. It covers subject matters that are not uncommon, things that many of us can relate to in some degree. You find yourself rooting for Lori, hoping that she will ultimately find what she is looking for.

She does find good friends, and one in particular has a lasting and positive effect on her. Not to divulge any spoilers. Let’s just say things definitely get better for Lori, and she comes to terms with much of what life has thrown at her in a deeply pleasing way.

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

I was unsure at first of the device Chick used to let us hear Lori’s deepest thoughts. Is it strange to have an imaginary friend, even in adulthood? Is it strange to write notes to them pouring out your soul? Well as one of the characters in the book says…

 ‘every night before I sleep I have a conversation with someone I can’t see, who many people tell me is a figment of my imagination and whose existence I can’t prove…’

What Lori is doing, is what many of us do in praying and journaling. Except of course, for those who know Him, Jesus is no imaginary friend. Talking to Calippa Cumberland is Christian fiction, and the message of the gospel is there subtly throughout, but is never forced down your throat. I found myself yearning for Lori to meet the one person she could completely trust and pour out her thoughts, fears and feelings to. The One who could make the lost child feel found again, and forever secure.

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

I loved this book, and Chick writes so well, especially as he convinces us that he knows what it feels to be like a woman with definite female issues to contend with! And I salute his encyclopaedic knowledge of Christmas Number Ones! I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially seeing as Christmas is just around the corner. This book would make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves a well written and beautifully told story based around Christmas. And perhaps is also a book not just for Christmas…

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

As a special offer, Chick is offering readers of this blog, a signed paperback copy of the book for the discounted price of £9.00. To avail yourself of this kind offer, and to bless the author, contact him via margaretyuill@martyart.co.uk  before 4th December and quote the code joysblogg

Talking to Calippa Cumberland by Chick Yuill, was published by Instant Apostle (22 Oct 2021), ISBN 1912726483, RRP £9.99, and is available from all the usual places.

Bearing Fruit, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, God in control, God's faithfulness, Grief, Healing, Lessons from life, Medieval Fiction, New Author, Seasons of life, The Passion Translation, The Word of God

HARVESTING JOY: A NEW BOOK!

I have realised that four out of my last five blog posts have featured other people’s books. Now that is not a bad thing; I love reading and reviewing books. And there have been some great books to read and review! But I do think that perhaps I should dedicate this blog post to talking about my own book!

A NEW BOOK

A smiling author signing a publishing contract

 Not The Healing, or even The Beloved, much as I love talking about them. No, I’d like to talk to you about another book. A new book. I have gone and done it again. I written a second full length novel and have signed a publishing contract with Instant Apostle. The Pilgrim will be published, God willing, in July of next year. Which seems an awful long time to wait, but I’m sure will speed by! There is plenty to keep me and my wonderful publishers busy between then and now, I’m sure.

When I wrote The Healing, I had no idea where it would lead! I loved the whole writing and publishing process so much that almost as soon as The Healing was published I had started writing The Pilgrim. Brother Hywel needed his own story, and so the idea for a prequel was born. (Now I know that isn’t the normal way to do things, but it worked for Star Wars!). It was a much harder slog to get the book down this time, made yet harder by the disruption of major house renovations and the arrival of a new grandson. But the manuscript is finally finished, and I am so grateful for Instant Apostle having enough faith in it to publish it for me.

I won’t bore you with all the story details at this stage, as I’m sure there will be time enough for that over the next few months. Needless to say it involves monks, abbeys, and horses, and a redemptive journey in the form of a pilgrimage.  If you want to get sneak previews you can always go to my website and sign up to receive my newsletter, as that will be where I will be posting a lot more about the book in the coming weeks. http://www.joymaretts.com

HARVEST OF JOY

Sheaves of ripened wheat in a sunlit field

I was reading Psalm 126 this week, ‘ They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’ I know there are many ways of interpreting that verse, but for me it seemed to just speak into what God has miraculously been doing in my life. There has been a lot of weeping. I grieved, and still do grieve at times, the life that my illness stole from me. But I can look back now, and see that what was being sown, as I wept, was the seed for what I am able to do now. Now I can write; words of truth and life, words of hope and redemption, all wrapped up in historic fiction about medieval Welsh monks! And my words can touch many –  I have had  so many messages from readers to prove that this is actually happening. Maybe this is the harvest – the abundance of sheaves that can have my heart rejoicing. It really feels like it might be. And it is all down to Him.

Those who sow their tears as seeds
    will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee.
 They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow,
    but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness
    as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!

PSALM 126 :5 – 6 The Passion Translation

The Pilgrim Fantastical pre-order Prize draw. Sign up for a pre-order copy now to win a chance of winning one of three great prizes.

Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, will be published by Instant Apostle in July 2022

More information on Joy and her writing can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, CHOOSING HOPE, Christian Writer, Dealing with Fear, Faith, God in control, God's faithfulness, Grief, Healing, Seasons of life, Thankfulness, The Word of God, words of comfort

SCENT OF WATER

Scent of Water (Words of Comfort in Times of Grief) is a beautiful, moving, and honestly real devotional for those experiencing loss. Penelope has bravely written out of her own traumatic experience of witnessing her elderly mother’s life taken violently. And out of the subsequent deep grief response that left her numb and flailing.

The moment I read the blurb for Penelope Swithinbank’s new book Scent of Water, I knew that I wanted to read it. In her own words…

‘she found nothing that reached her dark night of the soul, nothing that let her know that God was still with her… she found it very difficult to pray or to read the bible… hugs rubbed her raw and consoling well meant cliches did not ring true… she wished there was a specific daily devotional to help her connect with God in and through the grief’

I was drawn to those words because I’ve been there. This book is a book for those who grieve, and grief comes in many forms and for many reasons. When I was at my lowest point, grieving the life I had once lived and loved, I longed for something easy to read, that would plug me into a God that I had known for years, but who at the time seemed so distant. A simple, non- demanding devotional, of maybe a single line from scripture and a word that spoke into my pain, was what I longed for. I was given books to read, great books on moving on, looking up, strengthening myself in the Lord; but they were too much, too soon. I wish now that I had had Scent of Water.

“For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
 Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
 Yet at the scent of water it will bud …

Job 14 :7 – 9 NKJV*

The book takes it’s title from this scripture, and it is about hope, but maybe only flickering hope – the merest scent of water – not the deluge, not the soaking, just enough hope to keep you holding on, barely, by your fingertips. I get that.

Penelope is a woman of deep faith, with a lifetime of following and serving Jesus. But that did not make her immune to pain, doubt and despair. She wrote Scent of Water out of her own need to just hold on through the storm. And her words in it are real, the emotions expressed raw and totally relatable, and yet hope also sings from every page. Like the Psalmists of old she has not hidden how grief has made her feel: the frustration, anger, disbelief, hollowness, confusion, and sheer exhaustion. But alongside her heart cries are the gentle words of God, the reassurances, the moments of strength for the weary soul, the thankfulness. It is just so beautifully moving to read. And to return to, over and over again.

Scent of Water comes as a small, easy to hold hardback, designed to be given as a gift. It’s design and appearance are stunning, from the front cover to the lovely colour photograph plates that mark the start of each new devotional. There are 25 of these six day devotions, enough for six months. Each has it’s own theme, some based on an extract from a bible chapter or a Psalm, others following a thought through, using different scriptures, with titles such as ‘Punched in the stomach : shock and agony’ and ‘Learning to Lean : when I need to rest’. The daily scriptures and thoughts are brief and undemanding, and end with a heartfelt prayer each day.

Penelope has also added a section at the beginning of the book with devotionals for the difficult days e.g. the day of the funeral, first birthday, first anniversary, first Christmas, as well as some additional meditations at the end of the book for people to dip into as they feel able. This book is so sensitively thought out and put together. I, for one, am going to treasure my copy and am so pleased that this book is out there. I know I will be buying it and giving it as a gift for those who need help to get through their grief, gently and slowly, but in connection with a Father who knows and loves them.

Penelope Swithinbank is a chaplain at Bath Abbey, and a vicar with twenty years of experience, specialising in spiritual counselling and therapy. She also loves both undertaking and leading others on pilgrimage, both in the UK and in Europe. You can read more about her and purchase Scent of Water via her website at https://penelopeswithinbank.com/

Scent of Water was published by Sarah Grace Publishing on 7th July 2021 and is now widely available online and in bookstores.

*New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission, all rights reserved

Read more about my own writing here http://www.joymargetts.com