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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Other Versions of Me, by Deborah Jenkins

It had been a grim few weeks - illness in the family, the death of a friend, anxiety about our move, and stress at work, due to my own inability to give less that 120 per cent to everything. Worst of all, I couldn't sleep.

So I was sad and anxious and angry and tired. I need to write I thought, I need to write or I will not get through this. But I couldn't concentrate long enough to work on my novel or my non-fiction book or my articles or my devotional notes. So I found what my daughter used to call my "God book' and decided to write in that - I was planning a long, shapeless rant about evil, death and the depressing march of time (to say nothing of the John Lewis Christmas advert). But before I started, I had a flick through previous entries in older books (I am a sporadic but life-long diarist). And here's the thing. Whenever I look back, I'm transported - to the time when we couldn't find anywhere to live, to my longing for a baby, to our crazy times living overseas, to those terrible days when my husband was rushed into hospital, to the first stirrings of possibility re moving. The words penned by The Younger Versions of Me made me miss her, this hopeful woman who expressed her fears so keenly yet remained filled with faith and hope for writing and life. She seemed so good at looking for positives, for seeing signposts, for keeping her eyes open for surprising things. There she was, reaching across the years, as if she was trying to tell me something.

Have you ever been touched by your own writing? More often, we cringe when we read things we wrote years ago when our style was wordy or unformed. We wonder how we could ever have thought we were any good, and then worry that one day we'll think the same about our writing now. But it's
quite lovely to reread things you wrote that conjure up impressions of other times in your life, what you were afraid of, and how God put your fears to rest, what you dreamed of and how God gave you better dreams. Through the pages of my 'God books' I remembered...these Other Versions of Me - exultant, hopeful, dreamy, scared. And I saw how, over time, the same God met with each one in His own surprising and tender way, encouraging, revealing, realigning, blessing. I smiled as I read of small miracles and big graces. And I was comforted.
Another version of me
As Christian writers, we long for our writing to nourish others - to make them think, to build them up, to echo the eternal song spun over the universe as it swings on its axis. But perhaps there's a time and a place for our writing to be just for ourselves, in diaries, 'God books' or stories that we write because that's exactly where we're at in life. Not for people, not for publication, just for us. And in retelling our stories of hope, disappointment, curiosity, pain and wonder we retell God's stories too, the loving ones he whispers across our lives through years.

I've heard it said that we write so we are not alone. It's not always helpful to look back, but sometimes, those Other Versions of Us might want to remind us how to hold on, stay focused, keep the faith. At least, mine did. Better days will come, she told me. And they did...

Click on the link to see the novella on amazon
Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 













11 comments:

  1. All the versions of you are (the ones I know, anyway) kind, honest, encouraging and very human. I once found the diaries I'd kept as a teenager, and was surprised - I came over in the text a bit nicer than I remembered!Sometimes looking back can give new insight into God's working in our lives. Thank you for this lovely and thoughtful post.

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  2. And thank you for your kind, encouraging comment 🙂 I can't believe you haven't always been nice, even as a teenager!

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  3. I don't think I knew you wrote a diary. I used to, years and years ago. There's a picture of me, heavily pregnant with Sarah, with a face like a tomato in the punishing heat of 1983, filling in a full A4 page with the day's events and thoughts. But I didn't keep the diary - in fact, I don't know what happened to it. I'd be fascinated to re-read it now!

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  4. Yes, it is fascinating. I've kept one since I was a child, but, as I say, very sporadically. I love rereading them now.

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  5. Thanks, Deborah. Hitting the mark with your thoughts, as ever. So often, in our striving to be become better versions of ourselves, we leave our old reincarnations in the dust as we speed off into the future. I have found it far more healing and, dare I say, realistic, to think of the different "me" (I want to pluralise it but am overcome by apostrophe dilemmas) all coming with me on the journey. Silly me, spotty me, anxious me, in-love me, hopeful me. All are present still. And actually I love them all 😊

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    1. That's a fab way of putting it, Janey! Yes, I agree. Despite their craziness, failures and bad hair days, I love all mine too :)

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  6. I love reading my old prayer journals. As you say, they immediately transport me back to moments long gone, bringing back memories I had forgotten. I love how you glimpsed the hopeful young woman you were. Hope can get beaten out of us, but it can spring up, unbidden, too.

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  7. That is so true. Beautifully put, Amy. Thanks a lot for commenting :)

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  8. I never managed to keep a diary. I tried, a few times, but in the end my daydreams about other lives were much more alluring than recording my own! Perhaps I missed out on something there... thanks for a thoughtful and encouraging blog, Deborah.

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  9. I also have never managed to keep a diary going. Someone once asked me to keep a journal as part of my Christian Studies course, but I failed horribly.

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  10. This is lovely Deborah. I journal pretty regularly and love reading back through old journals. They are such good reminders of various things, giving me courage and hope to carry on now. x

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