Lake Bled, Slovenia where we were last summer
A friend describes her passion as: exercising and travel and exercising when she travels. The last phrase made me feel wistful because I never used to exercise when I travel. I found spending all day on my feet challenge enough. But then, on my return, it took me several weeks, a couple of months, to recover the distances and speed I had achieved before I went travelling–those personal bests.
On our last trip however, I exercised–ran for half an hour one day, walked a mile as fast as I could on the next, and, oddly, had plenty of energy for everything else.
I thought of what Annie Dillard says of writing, “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful: it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
What’s true of writing and blogging is true too of hoarding strength, as I did on holiday (or of hoarding money!). “You open your safe and find ashes.”
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My own favourite thing is not so much exercising when I travel, though, as praying when I walk, and walking when I pray. I came back today from doing a German presentation at the class I am taking “for fun,” (which is proving far more challenging than I expected). And I walked and walked, all the cobwebs and adrenaline leaching from my mind, my spirit quietening down, turning naturally to prayer.
Worries surfaced and I took them to Father, for had not Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and neither let them be afraid,” and I prayed for his eyes to see. My lane has changed its character in the ten years I’ve lived here; five new people–four of them Traveller families–have moved in on what was undeveloped green belt land; my peaceful rural retreat has suddenly become noisy.
I had counted myself blessed to be able to buy a one and a half acre garden in Oxford. I love my garden, but I cannot maintain it in the eight hours a week I have budgeted to work in my garden. Perhaps—heresy—I would be happier with a smaller garden, .50 acre; .75 acre?
I am always driving across town to North Oxford, to church, to small group, to visit friends, to the German class at Oxford University, to Writers in Oxford meetings, to walk in the University Parks, or by the river. The centre of my life in Oxford is there. The thought of moving there and walking everywhere is powerfully attractive.
I remembered a pastor saying that God guides us through a kick from behind, and a pull from the front. Is this it? Is it time for a move? Yes, I think so. If God is in an idea, it clarifies and strengthens through time. I think this is from him…
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I brought my tired mind to God, and asked him to place his giant hand on it, and heal it. I brought my spirit to him, and asked him to breathe, breathe, breathe on it. For is this not the greatest inheritance we have, that Jesus promises us his Holy Spirit, that Jesus breathes on us, as he breathed on the disciples? I placed my worries in God’s hand, and let the Father sing over me, and quiet me with his love.
When I looked at the time on my Runkeeper app, I had got my fastest times for a mile. Three years ago, I so despaired of my fitness that I (don’t laugh) got a walking coach to teach me to walk fast. Joanna said that I would not improve fitness, unless I pushed myself to walk as fast as I can. And I do push myself a bit every day, a fast mile on one day, and a half hour run on the next. However, since I got a Fitbit in January, I have faithfully walked 10,000 to 11,500 steps every day. And now with the increased endurance, I get personal bests without the bursting lungs, straining heart, aching muscles and sweat-drenching that it took before.
The sweetest things in life come while we are focused on other and usually better things. He was seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who seeks Jesus first will also get the things the rest of the world restlessly seeks for. (Matt 6:33).
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In my first decade or two as a married woman, I was dismayed by the weight of domesticity (especially with a rather messy and absent-minded husband). All that shopping and cleaning and cooking and laundry and child-amusing; how on earth would I ever get any writing done, writing which I felt was my one call from God? So I grabbed and fought for and stole writing time, ignoring the mundane tasks of domesticity (though I loved the reading to children part), but I did not complete the big project of my heart. Perhaps God did not let me complete it then, for I had not yet learnt the lessons he needed to teach me.
More recently, I have revised my sense of calling. I am called to be a writer, yes, but that is not my only calling. I am also called to live in relationship with my family, to run a house and keep a garden pretty, and to be a friend of Jesus and to my real-life friends. The intensity about writing has vanished. Writing is part of my worship of Jesus, as is running a house and garden, and being a friend to my family and friends, and loving Jesus through prayer and studying his beautiful Words.
And as the intensity about writing leached away what I had wanted, time to write, is being given to me without angst and conflict. The pages are piling up on the big project of my heart.
Seek to save your life and you lose it. Seek first the Kingdom and all the things the Pagans run after will be added to you.
C. S. Lewis writes, “The principle runs through all life from top to bottom: Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”