For today’s post, we are joined by writer Lucy Mills, whose new book, Undivided Heart, is out now! I asked her a little bit about herself and her work…
Tell us a bit about yourself.
In no particular order, I am: a writer and editor; a country girl who enjoys visiting the city; wife to Andy; guinea-pig owner; distracted disciple; lover of words, colour, sea and sky.
What are three of your favourite ‘small things’?
1. I want to say the sky, but that is a vast thing! I suppose ‘looking up’ might be a better way of putting it. I find, when life causes my chest to constrict, looking up at the sky helps me breathe again. One moment of staring, pausing, can re-centre me. Trees, too, against the sky – the lace of branches, a squirrel observing me from behind a trunk, the flutter of birds… all to do with that one small thing – looking up.
2. Sitting in a coffee shop with an americano, a notebook and a pen. Always a delight, especially on the odd (and currently rare) occasion when there is no particular deadline or commission and I can just pour out my thoughts onto paper and see where they take me.
3. Ducks. I love ducks, always have. I grew up with them; I was even foster mother to a duckling when I was eight. If I sit on the ground surrounded by ducks, I immediately revert to that child’s delight.
What are some of the books that have most influenced you, in writing and in life?
This is tricky to answer – as I journey through life, my tastes change. I grew up a voracious reader but am haplessly forgetful (as confessed in my first book!). As a child I loved Anne of Green Gables (Anne of the Island was my favourite), Goodnight Mister Tom (the first book to make me cry) and Hinds’ Feet on High Places. My teen book diet included plenty of Adrian Plass, whose humour and honesty has always refreshed me. The ability to laugh, even when life feels appalling, has helped me on many an occasion. Recently I’ve become a fan of Robert Benson, an American writer whose books include the delightful Dancing on the Head of a Pen – the sort of book that connects with me on a soul-deep level. A friend of mine once lent me her copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water and again, there was that deep connection. It took me a while to find my ‘voice’ as a writer; I can only aspire to the sweet, soul-rending words of these people.
In your new book, Undivided Heart, you write ‘Something heart-driven has staying power’. Tell us a little about what drives your writing.
At the core of it is a sense that writing is how I learn – about myself, about life, about God. ‘Thinking on paper’ is how it starts, as well as a love of words and a desire to say something in a new way, to create something beautiful. As someone who writes about faith, I find that sense of Holy-Spirit-whispering as my words fall onto the page, I make new discoveries in the very act of writing, new connections, things that delight me. Not that it isn’t pure drudgery on occasion, when deadlines loom, exhaustion hits and everything I write feels like pure drivel! But deep down, I have a desire to create.
Your writing clearly centres on your faith and relationship with God. Is it possible to sum up what this means to you?
My life has been shaped by my faith. My early and deep love for God tied in with a fascination with learning more, understanding more of the deeper things, of the things I found important. This craving led me to study theology; an incredible privilege which both strengthened me and disassembled me in equal measure. I’m a complicated person. I overthink things. This means I do battle with doubt, a lot. So my faith often has a shadow side. But love, that sense of utter love for God and from God, will not let me go. I cling on screaming through the storms of my own muddledness. It is myself I distrust – doubting my own ability to know God, and then I hang back. That’s something I’ve realised. My life has become a quest to know God, to drop all my own suppositions and preconceptions and find God as God is, not what we make of God. It can be scary and comforting all at once. Like being in love, I suppose…
Your last book, Forgetful Heart, contrasted our human tendency towards distraction and fickleness with God’s unfailing love. How did this pave the way for your new book, Undivided Heart?
Everything I write sows seeds. Undivided Heart is not a sequel to Forgetful Heart , but there will be things that I touched on in first book which are expanded on and explored further in the second. Forgetful Heart focused on what it means to ‘remember’ God in a deep and active way; Undivided Heart looks at the focus of our lives, our motivation, why we do what we do. I wish I could say that writing my first book made me a better ‘remember-er’. It hasn’t. I still have the same symptoms, though perhaps I am better at recognising them. Undivided Heart brings me back again to the primary focus of my life and in a sense Forgetful Heart, as a diagnosis, does come first.
Tell us about your new book: what’s it about, who should read it and why?
Funnily enough, this question is the one I find hardest to answer. What is the book about? I can give you a 10 second summary: it reflects on the questions ‘what makes me who I am?’ and ‘why do I do what I do?’. But these questions merely launch the book on its journey – into the things which shape our lives, what directs
our actions and reactions, how we perceive our world, how we define ourselves. Whose approval do we seek? What are the things that drive us on or hold us back? Then I start to look more deeply at the biblical narrative and what motivation is found there. What rewards are worth striving for? When do we get side-tracked by unworthy things or treasures that fade? How do we encourage each other without become applause junkies?
If God rewards those who seek him, what do we make of suffering? Some questions burn when I touch them, and I don’t have pat answers. But to follow Jesus on a path of suffering needs a powerful motivator indeed.
I bring it together by reflecting on what it means to seek God’s kingdom first, to be compelled by the love of Christ and to be led by the Spirit. To be ‘in Christ’ means that all other labels lose their adhesive power.
If you’re interested in identity and meaning, purpose and motivation, you may find value here. If you’ve been labelled and are fed up with all that is stuck to you, you may catch a glimpse of freedom. If you have become consumed with the material and the temporary, driven by appearance or approval, you may be challenged by the words in this book.
But perhaps it is simplest to say: do you love this idea of having an ‘undivided heart’? Is it something you long for? Then I invite you to take this journey with me, and maybe we can reach for it together.
Lucy Mills is a writer and editor who lives in the South West of England with her husband Andy. She is the author of Forgetful Heart: Remembering God in a Distracted World (2014) and Undivided Heart: Finding Meaning and Motivation in Christ (2017), both published by Darton, Longman and Todd. She also writes feature articles, poems, prayers and other worship resources. She oversees the editorial team at magnet magazine. Find out more on her website: http://www.lucy-mills.com. Her new book is out now!