If at first you don’t succeed….

The story of Bruce and the spider is a familiar one to every child growing up in Scotland.

The determination of a little spider attempting to swing out on her line from one side of a cave to the other.  Six times she met with defeat but on the seventh attempt she triumphed much to the amazement of her onlooker, the beliguered leader of the scottish rebellion, Robert the Bruce.  Her tiny act of determination spurred him on to try one more time to rally his troops against the english army, against whom they had fallen six times.  The seventh attempt was the resounding victory at the Battle of Bannockburn afterwhich Scotland gained it’s independence with Bruce as king.

It’s a great story and a perfect example of, ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try again’.  Like Bruce, we all meet with times of discouragement and need to see or hear something that will rouse the hero within and encourage us to carry on….but is that always the thing to do?  Are we to hang on with dog eared determination every time, or are there times when we have to accept defeat, to put something down that was held on to so tightly, to move on and do something new rather than willing oursleves to, ‘never, never, never give up.’

I have another image in my mind, this time not of a spider swinging on a thin thread but of a couple called Tarzan and Jane….yes, you know the ones I mean, swinging out from one jungle vine to the next!  Their forward motion is a process of holding on and then letting go at the right moment to grab hold of the next vine that is going to take them further.  The previous vine that brought them this far, if held onto for too long would only swing them backwards and hinder them in their journey.  Their letting go is not a negative but a positive.  Not defeat but progress.

So, sometimes we have to fight and hold on with every bit of strength and determination we find within us and other times we need to let go to make progress. The challenge is knowing which one is called for this time…

Of course, there is no formula, but two pieces of advice we have received over the years have made some things easier.

The first one is, ‘whatever you do, do it as if you are going to do it for the rest of your life.’ Or put differently, ‘wherever you are, be all there’…that’s holding on and giving something your best as long as you have to.  This helps you to make quality decisions and when the time comes to move on you can be satisfied that you gave it all you’ve got.

The second one is, ‘hold everything lightly in your hand’ so that when the time comes to let go you don’t have to struggle with a clenched fist. That may sound limp and non-commital to some but if you are holding an open hand before a loving Father who knows what is best for you, it is a case of confident trust.  This is the joy of the Christian who can commit their way to the Lord, knowing that they can trust His judgement.

So whether you’re like the determined spider or Tarzan and Jane you can swing out into the irresistable future believing that the best  is yet to come.

Keeping it simple.

Noise, hurry and crowds…it almost seems impossible in this modern, high speed world to keep life simple while staying on top of eveything. If you are anything like me, you sometimes have a sinking feeling, as though everything you are meant to be on top of is on top of you instead! There are some things however, that I am finding quite helpful in keeping me from that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling, which range from the physical to the spiritual. So here are my random reflections on ‘keeping it simple’…

First up… Walking.  It doesn’t get more simple than that.  I have to admit to having had a life long aversion to the subjects of diet and exercise.  Counting calories takes all the pleasure out of the meal in front of me and the idea of enjoying a run was totally lost on me….but I can walk!  I was thrilled when a fitness instructor friend told Simon and I that an hour long, brisk walk is one of the most effective fat burning exercises that doesn’t damage joints, is completely free and doesn’t even necessitate dieting. Whoop whoop!!!… An all round winner!  And guess what…it’s working!  We try as much as possible to start the day with an hours ‘power walk’ and I feel great.  I have loads more energy (which was seriously lacking) and am eating  (a bit)  less than usual just because I feel better and have shed some pounds. Even the dog is calmer now that she is getting enough exercise! I wish we had done this years ago.

So what is next on my list of ‘how to keep things simple’?

A couple of years ago we were starting to feel, as most people do at times, the ‘financial squeeze’. While looking at our options of how to plug the gaps, some interesting possibilities came our way.  One involved starting up a business requiring a rather hefty loan.  The thought was quite exciting to begin with but in reality would have taken all our time and energy and quite possibly failed, leaving us in a worse position than before. So we scrapped that rather complicated plan and instead opted for something much simpler, ‘Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can’. It also involved that special ingredient that transforms the ordinary into something extra-ordinary…Faith.  So, in obedience to what I believed to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I started at home, using what I had, which was a few old T-shirts, and did what I could ….and it looked like this:

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Now, don’t fall off your chair in amazement!  I mean, I know it is astounding!!! 😉

But, hey, that is how our Etsy shop started. It has moved on a lot since then and morphed in a hundred ways that I couldn’t have imagined but how much pleasure I have had in doing it.  It will help with the finances, leaves us with time for the real reasons for being here and can all be done from home which allows me to be here for the kids. It’s pretty simple and yet I could never have come up with the idea myself. It started with, the word of God, faith and a headband.

Now, going back to the subject of walking, I watched for the umpteenth time a DVD called ‘The Cross’ about the life of a man called Arthur Blessit.  This man has walked on foot through every country and island group in the world carrying a large wooden cross, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. I am not here to discuss the life and ministry of this man but the facts of what he has done are pretty astounding.  So what does a man that has taken approximately 76 million steps, met every nationality under the sun, walked through war zones and jungles, over mountains and through wildernesses, meeting the most powerful leaders in the world and the poorest of all, have to tell us about keeping life simple while fulfilling a huge vision.  Here are a couple of his astounding insights ….

wait for it…..

‘Take one step at a time’….hardly earth shattering is it!? Yet coming to think of it, that was the way the walls of Jericho came tumbling to the ground. A million feet in unison taking one step at a time, persistently, day in day out until the earth shook under their feet and the previously unthinkable happened. So keep going forward one step at a time, one day at a time, in faith, being obedient to the word of God…do the next thing. Amazing things can happen if we persist.

well if that didn’t do it for you, try this one from Arthur….

‘Let your vision be no bigger than the next person you meet.’

So simple…and yet so difficult when all I want to do is rush past that person and ‘get on with the job in hand.’ Yet, that person is important and I might never have a chance to share the love of God with them again. Every smile, every thank you, every hello and goodbye counts, especially how it’s done…I am talking to myself here. It is certainly food for thought.

So these are the beginnings of my thoughts on keeping it simple and I could say a lot more but I guess I had better stop here before it gets too long and complicated.

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Where in the world is that?!

It all started twelve years ago when a friend told us about his recent visit to Estonia. I have a confession to make…I thought to myself, “where in the world is that!?”. I mean how could anyone not know where this precious jewel of a country is on the map? If you are like me, then let me explain to you that Estonia is one of the three baltic states located just south of Finland (divided by the gulf of Finland) and bordering Latvia and Russia. It is roughly the same size as Denmark and has a population of approximately 1.3 million…no, I haven’t omitted any zeros, that is the population; about one sixth of the population of greater London! That’s small but neat!

‘And though she be but little, she is fierce!’… Known as the ‘baltic tiger’, Estonia experienced an economic boom from 2001-2007 with an average economic growth of 8%. Now a member of the European Union and eurozone, Estonia still has one of the highest GDP growth rates in Europe…Go Estonia!

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