blogging

Daring

A daring life is a life of unmasking. Fear, I am discovering, likes to dress up as all kinds of things that sneakily stop us from making brave choices.

When I chose dare as my one word for 2014 I resolved to say yes to more opportunities that might not work out. That might not sound particularly daring but for someone as shamefully risk-averse as I am, it is a stretch.

Here’s an example.

Back in December someone tweeted me a link to a challenge from the development agency Tearfund. They were looking for three bloggers to travel to Cambodia and tell stories of their work there to help them raise funds.

I looked at it and I said ‘No’ – just like that.

No – I don’t write well enough to win. No – I haven’t got a big enough platform. No – it would be hugely presumptuous and big headed of me to enter something like that.

Anyway I clicked on the link and the headline over the details of the contest made me jump. It said: ‘We’ve discovered something pretty incredible’ and then went on to explain how to enter.

Incredible! is the title of the book I’ve been writing for the past two years. I felt the headline was a kind of sign that I should enter. Sorry if this sounds whacky. I do believe God sometimes speaks to us through words that have important personal resonance.

So I wrote my entry. It took me the whole of New Year’s Day. The more I wrote, the more excited I felt about what Tearfund is doing in Cambodia. Working with local people, they are empowering villagers in great poverty to find ways of improving their lives through small scale agriculture, carried out in community, with the support of the local church. If ever a project tapped into the things that I care most about, this was it.

I hit ‘send’. That was a daring moment for me, exposing myself to the risk of failure and rejection.

I thought and prayed about the trip almost constantly for the next couple of weeks. My prayers were embarrassingly close to ‘Oh God, if you fix this for me I promise I will never, ever, ever do anything naughty for the whole of the rest of my life.’ I really wanted that trip, like I wanted a pony when I was eight and a boyfriend when I was 16.

(You might think that sounds like a pretty immature way to think about something aimed at helping people out of poverty. You would be right.)

Soon after, on a Friday morning when I was sitting at my desk doing revisions on the book, the news came.

I didn’t get it.

I had dared and I had failed.

But I didn’t lose and here’s why.

:: By daring to enter, I saw my initial objections for what they were: fear and pride masquerading as humility. God preserve us from false humility. It stinks to high heaven – literally, I would imagine. The real reason I didn’t want to enter was that I didn’t want to risk losing. But look! I lost and I’m still alive!

:: I tapped into some really strong emotions. They weren’t all pretty but I’ve been learning lately that the scary feelings, the ones we’d prefer not to own up to, can be points of growth. That’s a whole other blog post but as an example I think that being prepared to look at our jealousy can be a way of discovering desires that we’ve been afraid to acknowledge. Desires that, handled properly, can actually lead to discovering more of our purpose in life.

:: I got inspired to improve my work. Winner Rich Wells’ beautifully illustrated blog, for example, made me want to get much better at using visuals and so I’ve started experimenting with a digital SLR camera, even though I know it’ll be ages before I can use it well. (Rich’s main blog is here but the one I really love is Daddy Daycare, an enchanting record of his weekly days out with his toddler.)

:: I feel better about myself as someone who tried and failed than I would if I’d listened to my initial objections. And despite not being a winner I feel more inclined to risk the next challenge, not less.

Do I still wish I’d won? Yes of course I do. Do I regret entering? Absolutely not.

I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection: open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Corinthians 6:11-13, from The Message version of the Bible)

You can read more about Tearfund’s inspiring work in Cambodia here and more about the winning bloggers here.

cheered

Well I meant to have a little rest after all the Advent blogging, but not to be away for quite as long as this. I went down with a virus just after handing in a particularly demanding assignment – there are many things about student life that are actually easier when you are older, but staying up late to write essays is not one of them.

Still, there were some consolations about languishing in my sick bed and one of them was fellow mature student Jacqueline bestowing the ‘one lovely blog’ award on me. It was a wonderful surprise and cheered me up completely. Thank you so much, Jacqueline.

Although the award did not stipulate this, I would imagine I am supposed to pass it on. The problem is that nearly all the blogs I read are written by people who have been around for years and have thousands of followers and probably hundreds of awards too. So instead of directly passing it on, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite posts from the many I have read in the last couple of weeks.

Even if you don’t like knitting, you should take a look at this amazing design from Kate. I think it is something like a work of art. And in many ways it is typical of Kate’s blog, too – done to an extremely high standard but full of fun at the same time.

I have been visiting the Lake District since I was seven years old and many of my very happiest memories involve tramping the fells either alone or with people I love. So I was quite envious when I read that Felix was heading that way to record some sheep and develop a wool-related art project. Of course sheep are an essential part of the Cumbrian landscape; even so, when I listened to her first recording, of a Rough Fell ram, I was amazed that tears immediately sprang into my eyes. It seems that for me the sound of sheep has a direct link to some pretty deep emotions. Her sheep pictures are fabulous, too.

Moving some way away from sheep, this review of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American deals brilliantly with issues of colonialism, culture and mission.

Official ‘eco nomad’ Nick recently returned from Romania where he witnessed at first hand a fast-vanishing way of life on some remote hillside farms. His thoughts and pictures are fascinating.

Finally, here is a beautiful post from the ever-wise Soulemama on the importance of living life at the pace of your children (when they are small, that is – I definitely don’t plan to live life at the same speed as my teenagers do).