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.

There’s no place like home…

People often ask, ‘where would you rather live, Britain or Estonia? Or, ‘where do you most feel at home?’. I am honestly not sure I know anymore. I find myself feeling at home in both places while at the same time feeling entirely foreign!

We recently ‘went home’ to spend 5 1/2 weeks in the UK, and have to say that we enjoyed the great pleaure of being able to communicate in our native language. No matter how long you live in another country and do life in that language you cannot find the same liberty and freedom of expression that you do in your mother tongue. It is something emotionally very deep and fundamental to your identity and a background pressure when you aren’t able to use it.

The other great joy was seeing family and friends who have known you for years and who share the same cultural background to their thinking. You have no idea how british you are until you leave the country and discover that nobody else sees the world the way you do…except other brits!

Then there were the pleaures of eating familiar family favourites like fish and chips smothered in malt vinegar, prawn cocktail crisps, melton mowberry pork pies and of course haggis! There is an over abundance of absolutely everything in the shops at ridiculously good prices and as for the customer service, it is a joy to actually have some! People smile at you in the streets and say hello and will have a bit of banter while standing in a queue. And then the greatest higlight of all…ASDA!!!

On the other hand there is the feeling of rising stress levels the moment you get off the plane and have to face the British roads, traffic jams and car fumes. Our kids walked in bewilderment through the bustling streets of London and gripped our hands in the confusion of the underground. You get pulled, here, there and everywhere and can feel overcome with an attack of sensory overload…oh for the peace and tranquility of Estonia where everyone moves around in a state of subdued quietness!

Towards the end of our stay I was gripped with the feeling of, ‘I want to go home,’ back to the comfort of our own space in a sleepy little town in Estonia where nothing was likely to have happened in the space of time we had been gone. The apple trees would be heavy with fruit and the crickets would be chirping happily with only the sound of the odd lawn mower to disturb the peace. Then we arrived….yes, the feeling of home was definitely there in our own house and garden, but oh, how eastern european everything seemed; I hadn’t seen it like that for years! How slow the pace of life and how enigmatic the expressions of the people. It was a disorienting feeling just walking to the shops and back! It only lasted a few days though and then we felt submerged once again in the culture of a remarkably different people to the brits and amongst whom we have found good friends.

So which place is home to me? I guess both in a measure. And yet no matter how many times I get a pang of home sickness in either country, a visit to the other never seems to fully satisfy, although it feels good for a time. And that is when I realise that the need for ‘home’ is something so much deeper than a geographical location or the presence of certain people. It’s a place where the soul can truly find rest and be satisfied regardless of where it is.

It just so happened as I was writing this that I came across a poem by an an unknow author that expressed the essence of what I have come to know so clearly in my own journey as a follower of Jesus. It’s quoted in part.

“And now “my home is God,” and sheltered there,
God meets the trials of my earthly life,
God compasses me round from storm and strife,
God takes the burden of my daily care.
O Wondrous Place! O home divinely fair!…

My soul may evermore and only see
My God in everything and everywhere;
My Home is God.”

The great thing is, I can take this ‘home’ with me everywhere and bloom wherever I am planted. There is truly no place like this home. You can make it yours too…