Thursday, 21 March 2013

Washing my spirit clean

Good morning, Lord.

I have a diary. You see, there are all these days and I need to keep track of them. No sooner one finishes than another starts and I hate just letting them slip away without being marked. 

Actually, I have several diaries. I have a calendar in the kitchen for dates and arrangements; one of those with four columns so that I can keep track of the children's social lives as well as my own. On the whole, they're doing better than me, but since any event in their column also has to go in mine, I look pretty busy. 

That calendar isn't very portable, so I have a little diary that I transfer from handbag to handbag which has a copy of the important stuff so that I can flip efficiently through it when scheduling something and say, 'Sorry, can't do Wednesday, I'm at Little Monkeys Play Centre from four till six...' and so on. The problem with this is that I found that appointments from the calendar didn't make it into the diary and vice versa, which just made life even more complicated than it was before. So the small diary languishes redundant.

And then there are other diaries. Electronic ones that I can never be bothered to programme. My prayer journal where I chat with you about my day, flap about what might be and work through what might have been. There's my 'Happy Book' where I write down anecdotes, answered prayers, good things that happen and funny things the kids say. There's my lovely desk calendar with a picture and a scriptural quotation for me to take into the day. 

And then there's my Beautiful Diary. 

I'm not sure what to call this one. It's a gorgeous thing to behold; a large square thing full of wonderful full page photographs so beautiful is perhaps the best word. 

It's from the John Muir Trust, promoting its work in wild land conservation. The photos are by some of the best wildlife and landscape photographers in the country and they are honestly amazing. 

From the preface, by John Beatty:
'In March 1867 John Muir suffered a serious accident that caused him to be completely blind for several months, believing he may never recover his sight. The subsequent return of his sight was an epiphany in his life that led to a lifelong commitment to experience the natural world. 
He wandered for years in the wilds absorbing the richness of all life forms, seeing the world with increased intensity, reflecting its wonders through the written word.' 
I stood with this beautiful book in my hands in the shop and read about John Muir and his appreciation of the natural world and I thought, 'Yes.' 

I want to do that. I want to notice, and record, and give thanks. 

I decided to buy this diary and write in it every day, but not use it for appointments at all. Each day I make a note of a glimpse of you that happened that day. Some days I see you everywhere and I have lots to write and there are other days when I'm so wrapped up and inward looking that I've missed you completely. I know that you were no less there all around me on those days, and I'm starting to see the correlation between my 'What can I write today?' days and my prevailing mood. 

One day there was a buzzard in the garden; a big majestic looking bird with a bright yellow eye and big claws. Another day it was the way the low morning sun shone golden on the church clock as we walked past on the way to school. Early this year we saw tiny shiny ice crystals on the car roof, and the other evening the sunset between storm clouds lit the world up in orange and purple. 

Other days it's different; it might be me on my own in the car with the music turned up so, so loud, singing along to Phil Wickham:
'I give you all my life, I'm letting it go
A living sacrifice, no longer my own
All I am is yours, all I am is yours...
It might be a special hour over coffee with a friend, but you're right there with us, because we meet in your name. It might be holding hands with my daughter on the way to school, holding hands with my husband on the sofa in front of a film or holding hands with you as I realise all over again that I can't do any of it without you.

Ann Voskamp wrote down A Thousand Gifts and people all over the world are inspired and making their lists. I know that if I write one thing a day I'll only have 365 in a year, but it's a start. I'm adding between the pages little things that I want to remember; a note from one of the children or a page from the desk calendar with a scripture that jumped at me. I'm making a year of Thank Yous.

John Muir wrote:
'...keep close to nature's heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.'
I would so love to disappear off into the wilderness once in a while. I used to be afraid of silence but now I long for it. To stop the hamster-wheel and find a remote little windswept cottage on an island in the Hebrides, perhaps, just me and a kettle and my journal and some custard creams. And my computer. (And an internet connection...ha!... alright, just a notebook!) But to find solitude. No noise but the wind and the birds. Peace, quiet. Undisturbed nature. Sky and landscape and freedom and air to breathe. To wash my spirit clean.

Not so fussed about climbing a mountain.

So in the absence of such an opportunity I want to make a note of the moments that allow my soul to breathe, even if only for a moment. 

I want to see them, appreciate them, savour them and store them up for the times when I can't remember how it feels. Because I can't just disappear into the wilderness for years like Mr Muir, I want to pin down and bottle the bits of you that come my way so that I can take off the lid and inhale when the walls seem to close and claustrophobic. 

Waking up to the sound of birdsong.

Mist and sunshine on the moors.

Photograph memories of my girls as babies.

Two planes vapour trails crossing in the sky like a heavenly kiss.

Vanilla latte and a good friend. 

A sky full of stars.

Wonder on my daughter's face as we watch the sunset.

So this is my project, Lord. 

Give me eyes to see and ears to hear the wonders that you place in my path just because you are a God who delights to delight. 

Don't let me walk past the gifts that you give me. 

Please don't ever let my eyes be so focused on the dirt under my feet that I don't see the vastness and beauty of your creation. 

John Muir again:
'Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.'

The John Muir Wild Nature Diary 2013, published by the John Muir Trust:


  1. This is superb, Helen. What a wonderful variety of ways you have to record your days. The Beautiful Diary sounds amazing! I love the poetic reflections you have shared here as thanksgiving to the Lord. It would be a great practice for us all "to bottle the bits" of God that come our way, so that we can "take off the lid and inhale when the walls seem too close and claustrophobic"
    Having been housebound for months, my walls definitely need breaking down to allow God to reveal more of His beauty and glory to me in the world outside.
    PS:I'm with you on the solitude and the notebook rather than the mountain climbing!

  2. Thank you, Joy! I need eyes to see and ears to hear; I miss so much.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...