|Blue Mosque interior|
On a sunny day, I wrote a happy little blog called Praise the Lord, Anyway.
And the Lord read it, and smiled, and said, “Good girl, Anita! Yes, yes, you are right, of course. And so that the nice words you’ve written truly move from head to heart, I will give you opportunities to practice, so that you truly believe it.”
But I did not hear him, and so I continued being happy, without trepidation. Right through an intense holiday in the Istanbul, a loud bustling megapolis—with intense, exotic unique beauty, as well as time wasted going to museums “closed for renovation;” getting to mosques just as they close for “ritual prayers;” climbing up Istanbul’s highest hill to the Topkapi Palace, just as there was the biggest, most massive dust-storm I’ve ever been in, and then, just as we got there, it was closed because of the risk of the massive unpruned trees falling.
Unpredictability is a factor in the third and second world. And living in the midst of it, gives you good practice in being happy, whatever! Realising that we do have control over our mental states, that we can decide to be positive and happy—or not!!
And then, after a relatively uneventful holiday, over which I had had unusual fears, things went a bit pear-shaped. Our airport shuttle didn’t arrive. Many calls later, it came, drove us a bit to a main road, and then waited interminably, and finally hailed another shuttle. Scary!!
And then we found the flight had been overbooked. And so, we accepted £750 in cash compensation for the 3 of us (not bad for a flight which only cost a total of £500) and vouchers for a five star hotel and dinner and taxis. (And the delicious free restaurant dinner was, ironically, the best we had in Istanbul). But with all the faffing, we got just 3.5 hours sleep, waking up early for a shuttle, which was, again, an hour late!!
Oh well, £750 for the inconvenience and the adventure. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem too bad!!
* * *
Though we kept well within budget this holiday I felt uneasy at the money we were forking out.
I was mentored in prayer over a five year period by someone who prayed big, sweeping, quixotic, no-harm-in-asking prayers. Just because you love me prayers. Paul Miller who wrote the inspiring A Praying Life. He often quoted Jesus’ words, “Ask anything in my name, and it will be done for you.” John 14;14 “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,” John 15:7.
It’s like Jesus is saying, “Come on, really. Ask me for your heart’s desire. Ask me for whimsical things. Ask me for ANY birthday present you like, ANYTHING child. I can afford it. Really. Trust your father.”
And so (I share this with you, a little shyly) whenever I thought, “Gosh, we are hemorrhaging money,” (and what else is travel but hemorrahging money?) I’d say, “Lord, let something happen because of, or as a result of, this trip that will help us recoup the money we’ve spent.”
Is a bit ignoble to involve God in the nitty-gritty of your financial affairs–to ask for a little water-into-wine, 5 into 5000, the fruitless night-turning-into-bursting-nets kind of fairy dust and magic?
Goodness, no! Who else could we involve in our affairs whose intervention would be half so intelligent and effective?
Isaac Newton wrote “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Even the intelligent among us are but children playing on a seashore, so limited is our intelligence. We are children, really, as God so often calls us in Scripture, and need the help of a superior intelligence to get through life intelligently!!
* * *
Let me share another trivial request he granted kindly. When our business went into profit in 2008, after 14 nail-biting months, and we had a surplus, the first thing I did was not to pay off some of my mortgage, as an intelligent woman would have done (but I have just confessed the limitations of my intelligence) but build a lovely conservatory.
I used to suffer from mild SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and found my mood, my reading speed, my creative thinking, my energy and gusto slowed down dramatically in a dark house. We have a 1711 cottage which Roy loves (but I want to punch out the walls and put in windows. Have succeeded in two rooms, but he calls the darkness “cosy.”)
So I built this conservatory, and immediately find my mood lifted, my concentration sharpened, and new energy and optimism seep into me as I enter its warm, sunny spaces.
But I felt guilty at the cost, and prayed that as a result of the work we did there, or the things that happened there, we’d recoup the cost.
And we did, sooner than I expected. Having a large, lovely, sunny space to invite people to (without having to tidy up the rest of the house!!) meant we became very hospitable, and had people over to a meal or coffee several times a month. Our business was expanding to the point so much that it left me no time to write; it was becoming overwhelming and was stressful. In conversation, we found intelligent friends we trusted who needed more income, or a job, or another job, at the same time as we were desperate for help.
So we hired 12 people, six of whom really clicked with the eccentric business and are still working with us. And, of course, the growth and expansion they brought covered the cost of the conservatory, as I had prayed something would—without any idea of what or how!!
* * *
I love travel. I love its perfect moment: meals in scenic locations, perfect gardens, perfect paintings, perfect churches, beautiful scenes, exploration, adventure, experience, relaxation. Beauty, newness, understanding history better, understanding cultures better. The sort of travel I enjoy is really an education. And it is often sheer happiness for our family.
But travel is rather expensive. There are aspects which are rough—cramped seats in planes; lines in airports; cancelled or delayed flights, “wasted” time when things don’t go according to plan, one’s body clock messed up on the days of travel. One thing I like to do on holidays is wander aimlessly down Old Cities, and cobbled streets, getting the feel of ancient cities, sampling their food, their sights and their pleasures. But this can be exhausting!!
We have been travelling a lot, since Roy transitioned from working as a math professor to being self-employed at our company. English school have 6 six week half-terms, interspersed with holidays, so we’ve travelled like addicts during most holidays—Norway, Aug 2009, New Zealand, Dec. 2009, France, Easter 2010; Ireland and Brittany, Summer 2010; Prague, Autumn 2010; Granada, Dec 2010; Rome, Feb 2011; Ravenna/Bologna, April 2011; Sweden, Aug. 2011, and Istanbul, 2012.
Which has led to unhealthy work patterns. We work intensely for six weeks after which we are often quite mentally, intellectually and creatively fatigued, then completely relax, and come back recharged, as good as new for another six intense weeks.
I read a blog post from Joe Thorn, a pastor who burned out and after that constructed a daily schedule with everything built in. Everything! Exercise, gardening, couple time, family time, rest, work etc. He says, I’m healthier, happier, and bearing more fruit as a result. I’m actually accomplishing more now than when I was trying to do more before.
So I have decided to pace myself to work less, but more sustainably (and so more in the long run.) I am slowly working on a schedule, building in gardening, exercise, housekeeping, family and couple time, prayer and scripture into my day as well as reading and writing. Building in family outings and movies and documentaries on a weekly basis. And this hopefully will keep me fresh and green for longer, so that I will not need to travel every half-term, even if we choose to.
And ah, travelling a little less—that might help me recoup the expenses of that intense, rich holiday in Istanbul, as I had prayed something would.
But, of course, since we are dealing with God here, he may choose to answer the prayer in a way I had not asked or imagined!!