Faith Worked Out: Coralie Tomlinson
Introducing our newest Faith Worked Out interviewee: Coralie Tomlinson! Married with 4 children, Coralie lives and works in the North West and has shared so much wisdom with More Precious today. I have absolutely loved reading about Coralie's journey of faith and the lessons she's learnt, and think I might print out the advice in her last answer and pin it to my wall forever... You will love this interview! Lucy x
Book on my bedside table: Cook book of some description
Ideal dinner party guest: William Wilberforce or Michelle Obama
Habit I wish I could stop: Starting a new project late at night
Place on Earth most like Heaven: Anywhere in the Caribbean
Fictional character I'd most like to be: Margaret Hale (North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell)
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what do you do, and how did you come to know Jesus?
Originally from Dublin, followed by university in Scotland, I spent a year working in Germany, then joined an IFES team in Poland supporting the pioneering Polish Christian Student Movement, before being invited* to work with an American Private Equity fund in Poland. I then had the opportunity* to move to London to work for Ernst and Young, followed by JP Morgan investment bank for 10 years.
After the birth of my second child, I was keen to have more control over my working week and left the City to start my own confectionery business, when the opportunity* to purchase 2 existing brands presented itself to me. I was able to develop the business to the point where another opportunity* presented itself and 6 years later sold the brands to a large UK confectionery company who approached me with a purchase offer. I am currently working on new business plans.
* For clarity, there is no doubt in my mind that these were all God-incidences!
I had the enormous privilege of growing up in a Christian family with active, gospel-hearted parents, so have never doubted the gospel message but would say that my personal moment of conviction came at a Scripture Union camp aged 12 and I have stuck with Him every since.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day or week but I have just achieved a major milestone in that all my children are now at school, so generally my day is framed by school runs, numerous extra-curricular activities, and various church-related commitments into the middle of which I am aiming to squeeze the equivalent of a 3 day working week.
How do you try to keep God at the centre of your day to day life?
By actively seeking to be content with my lot, conscious of God’s sovereignty and providence in everything life throws at me, and by seeking to have a gospel mindset towards my non-Christian friends. Praying about the day ahead when I wake up. Having Bibles in different places round the house as a tangible memory jolt. Belonging to a local bible-preaching and believing church which never ceases to encourage and teach its members to live whole hearted Gospel lives and spurs us all on together through both the good and the testing times.
Was there a time in your life when you found it particularly hard to keep God at the centre? What encouraged you to keep pursuing Him?
Generally no, but looking back, arguably you could say one summer at university when I allowed myself to be distracted by a non-Christian relationship whilst working abroad doing a fun job, with a fun group of people. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage comes to mind, but at the end of the summer, I knew I had let myself slip. Although I did return to the same employment the following summer I didn’t allow the distraction to happen again, though I could have! Fortunately my conscience wouldn’t let me a second time and my resolve held. It was a valuable lesson in how easy it can be to lose eternal focus for short-term satisfaction and gain.
As a Christian, what do you find most challenging about your work?
I have loved the great variety of things I’ve been able to spend my time doing throughout my career since leaving university. I’ve had enormous privileges and opportunities, none of which I take lightly.
However through it all, I have been very conscious of God’s hand being in everything that has presented itself to me, and when I haven’t felt that something was His will, I have not pursued it. This was most poignant right at the start, when I turned down a job in the UK which humanly speaking I would love to have done, and on paper looked right for me, to take up the offer to go to Poland to work with the IFES movement. At the time, I had complete conviction that I had to do what seemed to be the harder thing and forfeit the ‘obvious’ career step. I never for one moment regretted this decision, and I was very sure it was what I was meant to do.
As time went on and my career subsequently unfolded, it became so clear in retrospect that in fact it had been the best decision I could ever have made, as it opened the door to so many things that could never have happened in my career otherwise. In retrospect, it also felt like the Lord was blessing me beyond my expectations, for that tiny leap of faith into the unknown at the start.
Were there specific lessons that you learnt whilst working in the City?
I don’t think the City is any worse or any better than other working environments for a Christian, though it’s such an easy target, and a well-trotted out mantra to talk about bankers’ excesses. Like any working environment, there are nice people and not so nice people! As a Christian, if you have a clear understanding of who you are, who you belong to, and where you’re ultimately going, that’s incredibly freeing and directional and it allows you to give your best whilst not being overly aspirational or grasping.
So, whilst I’ve generally sought to give my best, to progress ‘up the ladder’, given myself targets to achieve, and wanted to be successful, those things have not been the ‘be all and end all’ of my working life, though they could so easily have been. Because I’ve always trusted in God’s providence, and believed that I am for that moment, where God wants me to be, I have simply tried to work hard, and give my best to my employer and the colleagues around me. Obviously it’s important to make sure you embody the principles you represent – so, for example, being reliably (but not annoyingly!) cheery, being a good friend, and an easy colleague to work with, as opposed to someone who is difficult to be around, not a complainer!
Equally, having a measured sense of value – so, for example, whilst most of my colleagues presented our bosses with their individual annual bonus targets, I didn’t. I wasn’t necessarily conscious of not gossiping about my colleagues, but I didn’t gossip. I only became conscious of this, when one of my friends pointed it out to me! If you steep yourself in Scripture and know what the Lord requires of you, it becomes less and less challenging to want to do the opposite, and becomes more second-nature.
When life is busy, how do you make time for rest and space with God?
There is no easy answer to this. You need to understand yourself and what works best for you, as well as recognising what life stage you are in. What I did in my twenties was a lot different to what I can do now in my forties and this too will pass. Knowing that God is our Father, and remembering that He knows us better than we know ourselves helps. Hence not beating myself up when I compare my failed walk with another’s successful walk or when life is full and busy or things feel particularly stressed.
Reflecting on a Psalm and echoing the psalmist’s cries can be hugely helpful. Keeping it simple can also be helpful. Reading a few Bible verses is better than not reading any at all. Better to read a few verses, than not start at all because you know you don’t have time to finish reading all of Romans today.
At key decision points, I have found it helpful to get out in to nature somewhere – walking alone by the sea or in the countryside. Since moving to the countryside, the latter is much easier for me! I’ve found it helpful to get very early and go out with the dog for a walk before the rest of the household is awake so that I can pray and meditate. When I lived in London, going for a reflective walk on my own in a huge park or by the Thames worked, as did using my daily Tube commute time.
How would you encourage girls who are at a bit of a crossroads in their life, or about to face new challenges at school, university or work, and are unsure of the best way to serve God passionately and whole-heartedly?
Pray earnestly that His plans would be revealed in His timing – and mean it: i.e being accepting of the outcome; wait patiently whilst this is happening but don’t do nothing whilst you are waiting - actively pursue opportunities and allow Him to shut the wrong doors and open the right ones;
Be honest with yourself about and thankful for your talents and abilities and make sure you are putting them to good use; don’t wish you had someone else’s life – live your own one to its full potential;
Remember you might be the only Christian your friend/work colleague ever encounters.
Keep eternity as your goal and seek to be content accepting His will for whatever happens in between.
Above all be wholehearted in whatever you do – don’t settle for mediocrity, or second best – ever!