For many people this coming season is one of non-stop rush and busyness. Even for those of us unable to be as busy, it’s a time where there is so much competing for our attention – on TV, on social media, at church, in the street. Our focus can so easily get pulled in a million directions. That’s one reason I love this new Advent devotional book by Lucy Rycroft so much. It’s like a warm invitation into space and stillness in the midst of the noise. (Scroll to the end of this post for my full review – and to enter a giveaway for a copy of the book!)
Because of this, I’m delighted that Lucy is my guest on the blog today, answering some of my questions and telling us more about this wonderful book.
Hi Lucy, it’s so fantastic to have you on the blog today! Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello Liz! Thanks for having me here. I’m Lucy, married to Al who leads a church in York, where we live with our four children, aged 5-10. We came here for 3-4 years, but this summer celebrated a decade of living here! God is always surprising us!
I’m mainly a mum and wife, but when the kids are at school I blog about parenting, adoption and faith over at The Hope Filled Family, and write freelance for a number of different organisations. Redeeming Advent is my first book, which is very exciting! Besides writing, I love music, cooking, hospitality, reading and going out with friends, usually for a good meal and a natter. I love to talk! And, most importantly, everything’s better with a good smattering of chocolate.
What led you to write this book? Who is this book aimed towards?
In November 2017 I could see Advent approaching, and was feeling a little pessimistic about whether I’d actually be able to use it to draw closer to God. Life gets so busy, doesn’t it? Not least in December when there are a trillion other jobs to pack into an already busy schedule.
Having not had much luck sticking to Advent devotionals in previous years, I decided to write my own! Each night during Advent I wrote a blog post which was published the next day. To begin with, it was really for me – forcing myself to sit down for an hour or so and reflect on what God had taught me that day was such a helpful spiritual discipline.
But a few others joined in and read it, and started to ask whether I’d be making it into a book. Lots of editing later, and here we are! So I’d say the book is aimed towards people like me: busy, busy, busy, with a desire to draw closer to God, but overwhelmed by tasks and commitments. Each day’s reflection begins with a typical December anecdote – wrapping gifts, decorating the house, and so on – taking the reader from the day they’ve had into the encouragement and challenge of Scripture.
It’s a great read for busy parents, but you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate it.
I loved reading this book, and found the devotionals warm, funny and
real as well. Were there any parts you found particularly challenging to write – and what were your favourite sections to write?
To be honest, because it was initially written in a time-pressured way, I just had to write the first thing which came to mind each night! I never thought I would complete all 24 days, so was pretty chuffed with myself on the evening of December 23rd, writing the final reflection for Christmas Eve!
But the challenging part was the editing, which came several months later, once the book had been accepted for publication by Gilead. Because I edited during the really hot months of May-July 2018, thinking and writing about Advent took some effort!
Another challenge was that each of the reflections had originally been a stand-alone blog post. Now that they were going to be made into a book, I had to think very carefully about how to rearrange them so that they made sense from start to finish, leading the reader through a coherent Advent journey.
And once I was going through my original blog posts with a fine toothcomb, I found so many sections where I hadn’t followed through with my line of thinking, or where there were too many disparate thoughts being communicated. Tightening these up did not always come easily to me.
So many people struggle with the busyness and rush of life, especially
in the run up to Christmas. One of the things I appreciated about
Redeeming Advent is its call to take time where we can to be still with
God, and find God in the midst of all the chaos. Could you give us a few
tips about how to do this, even when life seems unrelenting?
Oh gosh, I am not a still or quiet person, so I find this really difficult!
One of my favourite days is Day 7 ‘What are you actually celebrating?’. The point is that yes, we are celebrating Jesus’ birth, but there are so many different aspects to that, so let’s focus on what we’re particularly grateful for this year.
If your life doesn’t offer many opportunities for physically slowing down and/or being still, it’s possible to find a moment of mental or emotional ‘stillness’ to praise God for what you do have. The job which keeps you busy but which provides an income and a chance to use your skills. The children who exhaust you but are a precious gift from God. The elderly relatives who are draining your time and energy, but who invested in you as a child.
There’s that phrase ‘living in the moment’, and I think it’s true, but none-the-less hard to do! For me, it’s about creating habits of enjoying the peace when it comes – even if it’s only five minutes, or 30 seconds! The habit of saying a quick ‘thank you’ prayer, before rushing on with the next job, helps us all to find God in the midst of chaos.
For me, it’s about creating habits of enjoying the peace when it comes – even if it’s only five minutes, or 30 seconds! The habit of saying a quick ‘thank you’ prayer, before rushing on with the next job, helps us all to find God in the midst of chaos.
What would you hope that readers would take away from your book?
Ultimately, I hope readers feel that by the end of the book they’ve drawn closer to Jesus.
What does this look like? For me, it’s three-fold. I hope readers will discover something new about God, I hope they will discover something new about themselves in relation to God, and I hope they feel encouraged to go into the new year with hope and anticipation at what God might do.
Finally, your book is centred around the time of Advent. What does
Advent mean to you, and how do you celebrate or mark advent with your family?
I love the celebratory feel of Advent which is all around us: in shops, at school, at work, on the TV. OK, most people aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, but I think we Christians can redeem the sparkles and the colour to the glory of God – they just make our celebration better!
As a family, we like to spend Advent encouraging our children’s growing excitement and focus it onto Jesus.
This means creative storytelling, an Advent basket books and games which comes out each December (see What goes in our Advent Basket? for more on this!), counting down using Advent calendars and candles, playing out the story with our Playmobil Nativity, decorating the house with lights and hearts to remind us of God’s great love shown to us in sending Jesus Light of the World, singing, baking, cooking, crafting – but all in the spirit of how wonderful it is that we have Jesus, and what a gift to be able to share him with others!
Thank you so much to Lucy for joining us here at Great Adventure. Don’t forget to hop on over to The Hope-Filled Family to check out Lucy’s amazing website!
In the meantime, would you like to win a signed copy of Redeeming Advent? Here’s my review, just in case you need any further persuasion!
I love this advent devotional by Lucy Rycroft. Advent can be a rushed, busy time, where all we see on TV and social media are images of perfect lives, of Christmas as a time of perfection where families all get on and trees are decorated in great style. The reality is that most of us are struggling through, with all sorts of things going on in our lives. Lucy’s book gives us permission to sit and be, to wait a while with a God who loves us and who longs to spend time with us, without expectations that our lives are all sorted out and twinkly. It’s a warm, humourous book which also provides comfort and challenge, in short, bitesize chunks which is great to dip into on a daily basis through advent. You’ll find empathy and sensitivity, beauty and profound depth. Highly recommended.
If you’d like to win, all you need to do is sign up to my mailing list. You’ll also get a free PDF of my Bible Study course based around Beauty and the Beast, A Tale of Beauty from Ashes. And the occasional newsletter with my news and stuff about my writing. I’d love you to join the Great Adventure community. 🙂 Just sign up here! If you’re already a member, just leave a comment in the comments here and you’ll be entered into the hat.
Check out more of Lucy’s writing and posts about her new book on her blog tour: