I’m very excited to interview author and blogger Lucy Rycroft as part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her brand new Advent devotional ‘Redeeming Advent’. I’ve been reading Lucy’s blog ‘The Hope-Filled Family’ for a while now and it’s really wonderful to have this talented writer on my blog! If you would like a chance to win a signed copy of Lucy’s new book, follow the instructions at the bottom of this post! But before then… have a read… ***GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED!***
Tell us a little bit about you!
Hi Ruth! I’m married to Al, and we have four children aged between 5 and 10, so they keep me pretty busy, but when they’re at school I write and blog at Desertmum. If I get any free time, I love to read, play piano, cook, have friends over, and engage in some good adult conversation!
You have been blogging at Desertmum for over seven years and recently received ‘Runner-Up’ for Blogger of the Year at the Premier Digital Awards – congratulations! You are ‘Desertmum’ – could you explain that title? Why did you start blogging?
A friend described early parenthood as being like a spiritual ‘desert’, and that really resonated with me – the struggle to read my Bible regularly, the difficulty of focusing at church when feeding/winding/changing a baby, and later chasing a toddler, during the service.
So I started blogging as my own spiritual accountability, sort of me saying to God, “Look, I don’t want to stagnate in my faith. I want to draw closer to you even though it’s harder to do so. Please show me how”. As I did so, others started to read, so it’s now become a way to connect with others as well as with God.
You cover many topics from adoption, marriage and parenting, to education, home organisation and Christian living – plus more! How has your blog changed over the years?
Oh gosh, that sounds like a lot doesn’t it?! You’re meant to narrow down a blog’s focus, and I’m just too interested in too many different things! But I think it works because actually most of these topics are relevant when we become parents.
I started off writing about parenting and Christian living. Every now and then I’d write about marriage, as many of my audience are married. Then my son started school, so education got included. And the biggie was adoption, which I started writing about in 2015 when we began the process – that’s become a key part of what I do now, and lots of my readers are adopters/foster carers, or considering it in the future.
Home organisation has become a more intentional part of me as a parent, because having four kids – well, I’m no domestic goddess! So any ideas which help us to organise meals, chores and the house in general are helpful, I think.
Interestingly, I’ve felt a call this year to write more regularly about marriage. There are a few posts on my blog already, but there will be lots more coming!
How do you decide what to focus on when writing (e.g. articles, blog posts, social media, marketing, book writing etc.) and balance that with the busyness of everyday life?
I’ve tried various different systems, but now I simply have a Word document which contains all my work in a table with three columns: Blog, Freelance and Book. I have different rows for tasks which are urgent, tasks which would be nice to complete soon, tasks which can be left for a couple of weeks.
It’s about prioritising and making sure what needs to happen does happen, even if that means putting paid work to one side. Sometimes, for example, getting a book proposal in is more important than one piece of freelance work, even if the latter is going to be paid. If you don’t look to the long term, you get stuck in the present I think, and the work eventually dries up. So it’s important to think ahead to the next piece of work whilst also fulfilling current commitments.
It’s hard and I definitely don’t think I get the balance right very much! In terms of balancing work with everyday life, now my kids are at school I’m very strict with my working hours: they happen during the day, and the kids are my priority from 3-8pm. There is so much more I could do, work-wise, but my family is my main calling, and I want to be present with them.
You have taken the leap to write as a career. What are some of the lessons you have learnt so far? What are the challenges?
I’ve had to learn to compartmentalise my life better (see previous question!), and I’ve had to learn to just stop. Writing is one of the many jobs which doesn’t have a set end point – you can always write one more social media post, always do a few more edits, always write another book proposal – but at the end of the day it’s still a job, and rest is important.
A brilliant lesson I heard from a more experienced writer earlier this year is: “Our job [as writers] is to deepen the message – God’s job is to widen the audience”. I keep coming back to this, as I find it so reassuring. If I didn’t have time to keep up with Facebook posts this week, God is still more than capable of getting my writing to whoever needs to read it!
Could you give some advice to aspiring writers as they set out on the same journey?
Work on the quality of your writing, not the spread of your social influence. I think the temptations of money and fame are real, especially with Instagram and YouTube – more and more people are becoming ‘influencers’ on that platform without even having a blog.
This can be great if people are influencing others towards Jesus – but we need to be so careful as writers that we keep doing those things which draw us deeper into relationship with Jesus and understanding of the Bible. We can easily become the influencers, the cult leaders, but in all we do we need to point to Jesus.
A simple habit I’m trying to adopt is that of turning to praise every time I receive a compliment on my writing. I received an incredible and unexpected email a few weeks ago from someone who’d had an advance copy of my book. As soon as I read how it had affected her, I fell to my knees and started worshipping God!
Does that sound weird? It shouldn’t do! All our gifts and talents come from God – if He uses them to bless someone else, then all glory should go to Him.
We’re really here to talk about your fabulous new book ‘Redeeming Advent’! Congratulations on its publication! What inspired you to write it?
Thank you so much! I wrote it for the blog back in December 2017 because I wasn’t very good at following Advent devotionals, yet so wanted to focus on Jesus through the busyness of the season.
Who is this book for and what message do you hope readers will take away from it?
It is for everyone who considers themselves ‘busy’ and wants to get to know Jesus better this December. I guess it will particularly appeal to parents, because many of my anecdotes come from the busyness of family life approaching Christmas, but those without children have read and enjoyed it too.
I hope those who read it will take away a message of deep joy and peace as well as an increased focus on Christ this Christmas, and especially that their more ‘secular’ festivities can actually be used to glorify God.
What were some of the highs and lows for you on the journey from the initial idea to publication? How have you found the transition from writing blog posts to writing a book?
I never intended to write a book – not this kind of book, anyway! But after I’d posted the original Advent blog posts, a few people who’d read and enjoyed them brought up the idea of a book, so I couldn’t ignore it really. I approached Chris Hayes at Gilead Books, a local indie Christian publisher, and he liked the concept and said ‘yes’.
It was a fairly smooth process – am I allowed to say that?! – so there weren’t really any ‘lows’, but the challenge was, as you say, transitioning from blog to book. I didn’t re-write the whole thing, which perhaps would have been easier, but had to do a lot of work editing and re-working what I’d already written for the blog.
When you blog, it’s stand-alone, unrelated to anything else. And I was blogging every day through December, so you can imagine it was pretty rough and ready, written and posted in an hour or so each evening. I then had to smarten up the phrasing, the articulation, flesh out the brief theological points – and somehow draw the posts together in a way that made sense to the reader, to lead them on a journey through Advent. It took a lot of work!
The whole book from start to finish is warm, relatable and humorous. You write in such an honest, conversational style and bring the reader back to Jesus in the busyness of the season. As brilliant as the whole book is, can you share a couple of your personal favourite parts in ‘Redeeming Advent’?
Thank you! I’m so pleased – and breathing a huge sigh of relief – that others are finding it honest and relatable, as that was my aim right from the start.
It’s hard to pick favourite parts, actually, because the book is smattered with so many stories of our own Advent that the whole book feels intensely personal, like a piece of me. (Maybe it’s my fifth child!)
But I guess Day 12 “The Feast” is particularly close to my heart. Hospitality has always been important in our marriage and family life, and there’s a richness to being able to celebrate Jesus’ birth with food, inviting others to share with us, and being family to those who perhaps don’t have people around them at this time of year.
And Day 23 “The Jobs Left Undone” is a constant challenge to me, as I like to be on top of everything, but God is teaching me that I’m not called to everything!
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us Lucy!
Lucy Rycroft blogs at The Hope-Filled Family about parenting, adoption and faith. Redeeming Advent is her first book – besides writing, she enjoys music, good food, hospitality, reading and chocolate. Lucy lives in York with her husband Al and their four children.
GIVEAWAY INSTRUCTIONS *** NOW CLOSED** – To be in for a chance of winning a signed copy of ‘Redeeming Advent’:
- Like my Facebook page if you haven’t already.
- Like and share my Giveaway Facebook post of my interview with Lucy Rycroft.
- Deadline for entries: Friday 15th November at Noon – 12pm (GMT)
- One winner will be selected at random and it will be announced on my Facebook page on Friday 15th November at 8pm (GMT). **UK residents only**
- The winner will be contacted via Facebook Messenger and given two days to respond with their postal address, after which a new winner will be chosen.