Is your life really your own or are you part of a bigger plan? What if the answer could be ‘all of the above’?

There’s a fun new game doing the rounds on Facebook. You might have seen this one already. You click a button, give the app the relevant permissions and, before you can blink, it shows you your Facebook status update ten years into the future.

When I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall, hers too was focussed on travelling and it made me wonder two things:

(1) Was the app sponsored by a travel company? and,

(2) What would I really like El from the future to be posting about?

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb.

Now here’s the bit where I sometimes get into a bit of a pickle …

Is our life really our own or are we part of a bigger plan? And if the answer is the latter, how do hopes and dreams and aspirations come into it?

Because about four or five years ago, towards the end of the year, I wrote a letter to myself, twelve months into the future. I wrote it as if everything had already happened and it was super inspiring. And then I forgot all about it and got on with my year.

What do you think happened to all the stuff I’d written down? Did any of it come true? If you laughed and guessed “no way” give yourself a gold star because, without exception, every single item in my letter failed to materialise.

I decided that planning was a complete waste of time, gave it all up as a bad idea and carried on with my life.

Until a couple of years ago when, after hearing Michael Hyatt speak at WDS, I decided to give his Best Year Ever programme a try. I did all the exercises (on paper and everything. I didn’t just write them in my head!) and came to the conclusion as a result that 2015 was not to be the year of fiction for me. I simply couldn’t fit it in with all the other stuff I was going to do!

What do you think happened this time around? Long time readers will still be laughing because, after a few months of ignoring the fiction, by November it all got too much and I started work on my first novella series. I ended 2015 celebrating the best year ever because I was finally a published author, but still none of the stuff I’d written down at the start of the year had come true.

Seriously, what gives?!?

Is, as I was starting to suspect, this planning lark little more than throwing spaghetti at a wall, waiting to see what sticks? Or could this big, amazing God of ours who purports to love us so much, actually have some way to guide us in the right direction?

And what does “right direction” mean anyway? Right for who?!?

Am I little more than a puppet on a string, being dragged around wherever the puppet master might have me go, or might I actually have some say in the matter?

After starting the fiction in November I decided that that was it for me and faith work. I’d been around the block way too many times trying to figure out what this work was that I was meant to be doing. That was it. I was done. And I meant it, I really did. I finished the novella series in March and already had ideas for what I would write next, a full length novel this time. Life was feeling great!

And then, much like what happened with the fiction in November 2015, the faith work started niggling at me again.

And you know what happens to a niggle when you try and ignore it? It does one of two things. Sometimes it packs up and goes away. And other times it simply gets louder and more persistent. I went from dead website to fully-fledged new thing up and running and ready to share with the wider world in the space of two weeks. It was crazy!

Having gone through this experience twice now, I’m more convinced than ever before that those niggles, those things that keep on itching at you and will not let you go, are God speaking, trying to get your attention. To remind you that there are things in your life that he would love to have a play at with you.

But the even better thing I came to realise?

The stuff that niggles at you is always, without exception, linked to the very best version of you. The ‘you on a good day’ you. In the flow, doing work that lights you up and leaves you feeling purposeful and inspired. God never niggles at you to do stuff you hate. He doesn’t coerce you into trying hard at something that should really be on your stop doing list. It’s always the cool, wonderful, brilliant stuff.

All of which led me to conclude that, yes your life really is your own, but you’re also part of a bigger plan.

They’re not two distinct entities. They’re actually part of one and the same thing. How cool is that?!?

All of which leaves me with just one more question …

What are those things that are niggling at you? What’s it going to take for you to move forward with them?

(Oooops, yes, you got me – that was actually two questions!)

What if your today wasn’t ‘same old, same old’?

In the continuing adventures of France, we packed up our things last Saturday (yes, we totally misjudged the strawberry tarts and ended up having to throw some away. Très horrible!) and headed a couple of hours south west to a little gîte near Loche.

We always knew that this second gîte wasn’t likely to match up to the delights of our home from home the previous week (the place we stayed in week one was only available that first week – probably before most of the UK broke up for the summer!) and I must confess that, despite being the queen of silver linings, I found myself a little teary Saturday evening.

Here I was, hundreds of miles from home, missing a house that I’d only lived in for a week. How ridiculous is that?!?

What’s really stupid is that, had we only been to this second gite, if we’d never sat and drank wine with Bertrand in his château the previous week, if the children had never met Filous, the thieving, adorable golden retriever, if Michael (my son who speaks no French) hadn’t laughed and giggled playing football with Louis (the little boy from the château who understood no English) this second gîte would have been wonderful.

We’d have been thrilled and charmed by the winding staircase. We’d have been blown away by the collection of fruit trees in the garden and the wonderful outside space. We would still have been a little let down by the pool (it’s covered and kinda smells funny) but we’d have focussed on the wonderful waterpark five miles away instead.

And it got me to thinking about how this perspective thing can have an impact on day to day life, times when we’re not on vacation and it’s a same ‘old same, old kinda’ day.

What if your today wasn’t ‘same old, same old’? What if today was instead about wonder and adventure and delight?

Because the thing we’ve learned this week is that you can be in one of the most beautiful towns in the world but, unless you open your eyes to the lovely all around you, you’ll end the day miserable!

(You’ll be glad to hear that I did of course keep my eyes open. I have hundreds of photos of Loche and half a novel outline in my head. It was a wonderfully inspiring town!)

August is almost upon us which will either mean a month of glorious sunshine and fun or a month until the kids return to school and you can have your house back! 😉 What if how August unfolds is all a matter of perspective?

Which leads me to your challenge for this week, if you choose to accept it …

I dare you to decide that August will be awesome. I dare you to find just one wonderful thing, every day, that causes you to smile (or even an outright belly laugh!) and share it with me and everyone you know on Instagram.

And yes, there is a hashtag for that: #AwesomeAugust. (I know, I know, it’s not August for a few more days but since when did we let a little thing like the calendar stop us?!?) Tag me if you like because there’s already some action on that hashtag (I’m ‘mseledwards’ on Instagram.) but I’ll keeping a look out for your smiles. I can’t wait to see them!

What if you made a contract with yourself?

I just got back from a Friday morning coffee with my fella and something we were chatting about got me thinking about you. Let me tell you the story …

So we were talking about 10 years from now when he can retire. (No, he’s not as old as all that. He’s a policeman and the job is structured such that he could leave as young as 50 if he wants to.) That totally fits with my dreams of travelling round France ten years from now and so I agreed that it was a fab idea. Between you and I, I’d love him to leave sooner, it’s not a fun job and there are days when it breaks him but, we’ll see 🙂

Anyway, as soon as the words were out of his mouth he started second guessing himself. He said that lots of his colleagues, when they got to that age, start talking themselves into staying a little longer because of what it does to the pension.

And that’s when I said the thing that also made me think of you …

“What if we do the sums now and get things set up such that, when it comes time, there is no discussion about if you should stay on a little longer because we’ll have already been planning for it and anything else would be breaking what we’d promised ourselves?”

Clever chap that he is, he agreed. (He knows better than to argue with a woman on a mission!) But of course I thought of you …

What are those things that are important to you? And what’s it going to take for those things to become a reality?

What if you promised yourself that it would be so, no excuses, no second guessing, just taking it as so and moving forward from there? What would that look like?

Too often we make all sorts of promises to other people but when it comes to our own passions, the things that get us fired up, we let them take second place to the wants and needs of others.

And there are times when this must be so. Children need to be fed. Nappies need to be changed. Homework needs to be helped with.

But who says that that stuff must be all that you’re about? And (dare I say it?) who says that you must be the one to do it all? (Gasp! Sacrilege, I know!) But seriously, you don’t have to do everything and you certainly don’t have to do everything to the detriment of yourself.

The stuff that lights you up, that thing that you can’t forget about or let go of, that stuff is vital to this world. It is your magic. Your secret sauce. The very essence of what it means for you to be you.

Choose you.

Make a promise to yourself and keep it.

Decide what’s important and declare that it will be so.

Show up, all you, all in.

And on behalf of the world, I thank you 🙂

I’m ready to come out. How about you?

Random question but, do you adore Doctor Who? Once upon a time, thanks to one of those conversations that, afterward, feel somewhat serendipitous, I found out that a higher than average percentage of lovely people around here are Whovians.

That delighted my little mind greatly but it also got me to thinking …

Is it a case of attracting like-minded people or more that, because I might randomly quote The Doctor from time to time, it then causes people to go “oooh, I love Doctor Who too!”?

I believe that life should be fun.

Sure, there will be times when it’s stressful or you have boring stuff to do but even then, I’d prefer to be like Mary Poppins and find the fun.

That’s probably why I get so stupidly delighted when I find out that yet another person around these parts is into Doctor Who. I mean, it’s not like it’s a requirement or anything (although it’d make for some fun marketing eh!) but it does make me smile.

So then I got to thinking some more about this idea of outing ourselves.

It’s tied to my love of you being youier of course. Where’s the fun in hiding those quirks and silly little things that make you you?

It drives my husband ever so slightly bonkers that I can not help but do foot jiggling, head bobbing and shoulder dancing, every time a slightly upbeat tune is played in a film but does that stop me?

No way!

It’s fun and it makes us both giggle.

And the same is true for you too. There will be things that make you, you that, for some people, will be a major problem. But do you know what? Life’s too short to waste time and energy on those people.

My biggest goal is for you to live a full-to-the-top-and-spilling-over life of joy, love and happiness.

That doesn’t come from dumbing down or playing small.

God created you to be you, in all areas of your life. There is nothing that makes him smile more than to see you being you. So full to the top with his love that it can’t help but leak out onto others.

This world needs you to be you.

God needs you to be you.

And so my challenge to you is this:

Look at where you are right now, the person you are showing up as. Is that you? Or are there parts of you that you keep safely stored away in a box?

It’s time to get really honest with ourselves. Are you game? 🙂

Some straight talk about love and inspiration …

So I was in the shower, thinking about the day, wondering what little gem I might share with you this morning, when a quote about being inspired popped in my head:

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning” – Peter De Vries

It’s a funny thing, inspiration. Chase it too hard and it’ll run away and hide but wait for it to show up and you could be waiting forever!

And then I had another thought … It’s easy to step up and be the loving people God created us to be when we feel loved, but how about we see to it that we’re loved at nine o’clock every morning?

Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Because here’s the pinch that no one seems to talk about very often …

Sometimes God can feel very far away.

Sometimes I wonder if it is all actually going to be OK.

Sometimes it all feels totally pointless.

Sometimes I just don’t know.

“Hey, where’s the little hit of happiness in that?” Ha! Good question.

But don’t worry, it’s a coming. Because, you know what? Even when we feel like that, God’s still there, doing his thing, loving on us.

And I know that you probably know that, logically, academically. But what I really want is to know it deep in my very being.

Painted onto my heart with every sunset that makes me stop and smile. Sloshed onto my soul like how my youngest likes to cover every inch of his body with water from the hose on a baking hot day. So dripping wet with God’s love that I leave soggy wet footprints with every step I take.

Just imagine what that might look like. What a difference that could make in this world of ours.

And so I guess my challenge for you is this … what’s it going to take for that to be a reality for you? And what does that look like?

Just a little something for you to ponder on as you head into your day 🙂

What if it wasn’t difficult?

So this morning, before writing this little post, I wrote the latest El Post letter. I’d done my usual trick of giving myself a deadline and then pushing up next to said deadline, so close they totally need to get a room! 😉

Ironically, this edition is all about stories and how the stories we tell ourselves (either consciously but, more often sub-consciously) impact day to day life. I say ‘ironically’ because one of the stories I seem to have sub-consciously told myself is that writing anything of length is hard. I write these missives to you easily, they are fun, but longer form stuff is a whole other ballgame.

The reality is that this is totally not true!

Once I actually got started I had a blast writing that letter. I need to go back and edit it a little ahead of tomorrow’s printing and posting of course, but the piece I’d been putting off as tricky? Anything but! If I wasn’t British and totally rubbish at tooting my own trumpet, I’d even go so far as to say it’s actually really good stuff and I wish I could send it to more people because it could be really helpful.

So why all the drama around starting? Because of that stupid story of course!

What if it wasn’t difficult? What if we told ourselves it was easy?

That reminds me of the time I cut up a whole chicken. I don’t remember why I was doing it (I usually go to great lengths to avoid touching raw meat!) but I remember that the instructions I found from Delia Smith told me that it was easy. I simply followed the steps and bingo, it actually was easy! I didn’t know it at the time but I was totally living a story (even if that story came disguised as cooking instructions!) The story was it was easy, and so it was.

What things have you been putting off, holding back on or just plain refused to do because of rubbish story telling?

What if you changed the story and decided it would be easy?

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.


What are your obligatory scenes?

I’ve been working on the outline for that new novel idea from earlier in the week (ideally just enough barebones to allow me to gauge my interest in exploring it properly but not so much that I throw myself off track on the other one I’m actually meant to be writing right now!) and I got to thinking about the ‘lovers meet’ scene.

You know the one I mean, it’s in every romance novel the world over, that moment when we first set eyes on our heroine’s love interest. He strolls onto the page and even if she doesn’t know it yet, we the reader know that he will be “the one”.

And yes, it’s a total cliche because real life doesn’t always quite work out like that, but without it, the whole thing just doesn’t work.

I didn’t want that to be true so I went in search of exceptions to the rule and yes, I found some and yes, they were terrible!

In chic lit at least, we have got to meet “the one” and the sooner the better. We can experiment with how it plays out, bring a new perspective to the scene in a bid to break free from the cliches but, like it or not, the scene is obligatory.

Which got me to thinking about you … what are your obligatory scenes?

It helps if you know what kinda story you want your life to be telling of course (lots of stories have a love interest but it’s only really in the romance genre that the two must meet and soon!) but even if you’re not totally sure, think about it …

What are the ‘must have’ or set pieces you want from life? When all else fails, do you believe that it’ll all work out well in the end or is your story fairly tragic?

Here’s the really neat part … you totally get to choose!

The stories you live by are not the final draft.

If you don’t like how things are playing out, all is not lost. You can tweak the plot. Make a new choice, change the direction of the action and watch a whole other story unfold.

You simply have to choose 🙂

No-one actively dislikes vanilla, but they don’t adore it either!

When was the last time you asked someone what their favourite flavour of ice-cream was and they got all excited and started jumping up and down about plain ol’ vanilla?

What’s that? You love vanilla with the little black flecks in it? Me too! But that’s hardly plain old vanilla is it? 😉

Or, when was the last time you stood in front of a crowd of one thousand random people, told them your favourite joke, and they all laughed?

Ok, ok, poor example. I adore people but I would never tell my favourite joke to a random crowd that big. That would be terrifying! But, play along and pretend that you did, do you think they’d all get it?

Not likely. They might laugh because you’re laughing, or get swept along in the moment and chuckle, but the chances of a mixed bag of people all finding the same thing funny are low.

So why is it that we all too easily find ourselves a little surprised when someone doesn’t quite get us? Or, maybe that’s just me? 😉

What if, for the next six months, we practiced showing up like that ice-cream with the little flecks of vanilla pod in it? Or, blueberry cheesecake, cherry or even olive oil and pine nut ice-cream? (Yeah, I think that last one sounds kinda funky too, but I’d love to try it!)

Whatever flavour of ice-cream you are, however many or few or weird people dig you, what if, for the the next six months, you showed up, all in, all you?

Collect photos of cloud porn if that’s what floats your boat. Laugh loudly and deeply at Miranda while sipping a freshly ground flat white if that fills your heart with delight. Marvel at the wonder that is Hawkeye (pun totally intended!) if comic-book heroes are your thing.

Whoever you are and whatever it looks like to be all you, all in, I dare you to be that person for this next six months and let’s see if that can help make it the best year ever.

Are you game? Fabulous! I look forward to playing along with you 🙂

Sometimes you have to throw out the list and just go with it ….

So if you’ve been playing along, you’ll know that yesterday was a bit of a wobbly day. I woke up feeling pretty, hmmm, there’s no other word for it than ‘meh’ and it did not get any better until I acknowledged the feeling out loud.

That’s so not like me, I decided to poke at it with a stick a little and see what came out.

The short answer … good old, unexciting and totally unsexy uncertainty, that’s what.

Triggered by the shootings in Tunisia (the victims were having fun on holiday. I’m looking forward to going on holiday soon. Very loose connection but it doesn’t take much!) and fuelled by a fab idea I had for a whole other novel to the one I’m currently working on (I simultaneously both love and hate it when that happens!) my poor old brain did not stand a chance.

And (usually) ever the optimist, it left me feeling pretty shaky. (And yes, I know how lame that sounds, having those two massively contrasting events alongside each other. I never said that my brain was sensible!)

Everything I had planned for these little happiness hits this week felt contrived and silly (and not a good kind of silly!) and I felt totally lost.

And that’s when it hit me ….

Sometimes you have to give up the plans and the commitments and the expectations and just go with it.

Sometimes it needs you to go outside in the fresh air, to walk barefoot in the sand and to just be, for no other reason than to revel in how alive you really are.

Today is a gift.

And yes, it is a gift that I would love to have keep on giving tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, but none of us knows just how many todays we have left so enjoy this day and all the wonder and delight it offers.

Throw out the lists.

Allow yourself space and time and freedom to breath really slowly and deeply. Smile. And love.

Because, like we said yesterday, when all else fails, love is the one thing this world can not get too much of. So don’t be shy about spreading it around a little.

If you find yourself getting freaked out by all the bad news stories, read this.

You remember how I told you last week that anyone who tells you they’re happy all of the time is either lying or bonkers? Well today, after a weekend of celebrations and happiness on social media (my entire Facebook feed is full of rainbows!) the reality of what’s happening in other parts of the world left me reeling.

It felt like a tale of two contrasts. Love and hate. Delight and despair. New families joined together while others were torn apart.

It left me feeling more ponderous and thoughtful than usual. Our British government tell us that we’re targets. There is an increase in violence across Europe. It’s being labelled the “struggle of our generation.”

And while history probably won’t prove you and I to be victims of this fight, I got to thinking if and how we might be part of a solution.

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Or so the song goes.

A couple of weeks ago it was my turn to do the preaching at church and I found myself in 1 John: “Let’s love one another, for love is from God … God is love.”

And this morning, as I was thinking about all of this stuff, I was reminded again of that statement. Sometimes it feels like we don’t know what to do, some days it can be really easy to get overwhelmed by the horrid stuff in this world but, if we can do nothing else, we can do love, right?

I mean, even when we’re having a bad day, we can do love.

And so today, as you get ready for a brand new week, I wanted to encourage you to do love, whatever that looks like in the context of who you come into contact with today.

Hug the people you care about. Smile at that random stranger on the street. Let her rabbit on about her weekend for an extra moment longer than you might ordinarily like to.

Do love. Because love wins 🙂