Writing in public

One of the things that I’ve been trying to work out this year is to start writing in public again. The thing is, though, I have found that I have almost no interest in blogging. I don’t really read them anymore.

So, like so many others, I am shifting my online writing to email. This is a personal email newsletter and it is mainly about:

  • family & rural life
  • being an expat
  • language learning beginner – Scots Gaelic
  • and occasionally there will be poetry

I’d really appreciate it if you subscribed. Because I’m hosting it with Buttondown, you can subscribe via email or RSS.


SU Gowanbank

While we continue our house hunt, we’ve been incredibly blessed to have a place to stay that’s only 15 minutes away from Strathaven. SU Gowanbank is a part of Scripture Union in the U.K. and normally run events and retreats for churches and school groups.

Because of lockdown restrictions in Scotland, they have had to greatly limit what they are able to do. This has ended up working out for us, though, because it has meant we’ve been able to affordably rent a couple of bedrooms and a lounge here along with access to the kitchen and grounds.

Something to show for it

At the start of lockdown, one of the more annoying things that was showing up online was advice from Vay-ner-chuk wannabes.

You have to crush this lockdown!

All while showing that they clearly had no idea what was actually about to happen.

You need to be better at the end of this thing!

All while clearly demonstrating that they have no idea what it takes to try and work while your kids are around ALL. THE. TIME. And those kids have schoolwork to do.

One of the biggest struggles that I’ve had over lockdown is that I’ve simply not been able to be as productive as I wanted. Most of the time it was simply out of my control because I had to wait for something, an email or a call.

When things started, I had hoped to have done more writing or even to have done more reading. And I kind of did. I moved into a new notebook and sketchbook. I packed up my books to get them ready to ship. I helped the worship team for our church here figure out how to move forward while the church is still dispersed. We recorded songs and have prayed together.

But the thing that has proven to be the thing that I accomplished over lockdown was learning to enjoy exercise. The problem has never been disliking it, it was just never motivating enough on its own for me to keep doing. And it probably wouldn’t have happened outside of lockdown. As a family we have been doing PE With Joe.

Doing interval training five days a week has a way of building up a basic foundation for getting fit. What’s been most encouraging is being able to feel and see changes. My wife and I have both lost weight and gotten stronger, our kids are stronger now. We are in the slightly tricky stage of our wardrobe still kind of fitting, but fitting badly.

The biggest change, though, is that it now feels like it is just a part of what we do. After fifteen weeks of working out every day, it has become a part of our identity in a way we never expected. I had feared coming out of lockdown because I figured we’d just end up back where we started.

But the thing about habits is they have a tendency to stick. And this is one that I’ve come to enjoy. Every day I have a solid 30-45 minutes of focusing on one single task. And that’s what I have to show from lockdown. Despite the stress and the inability to do everything else well, I can at least say I didn’t let myself go.

being far and helpless

I checked my phone and saw a message that came in at 1am. More complications for my dad. He went in for surgery on Monday morning and was even able to send a selfie later that evening.

Today is different though. Things aren’t going as smoothly as we hoped. The doctors think they have things under control. It’s still scary.

I always knew that this was a thing I would have to face eventually. Perhaps I just didn’t realise it would be this soon or during the most psychologically, emotionally and spiritually taxing season of my life so far. Right now, I’m in Warsaw. They’re in the suburbs of Chicago. A small comfort is knowing that we are getting updates quickly. This would have been even more difficult just a decade ago.

The strange thing is that being far away from loved ones during a crisis doesn’t get easier. It just seems to become…


racing and stopping

There is no real way to get ready for leaving. It’s something that I’ve had to do a bunch of and I am in the process of doing that right now. The last time I had to get ready to leave, I didn’t know.

As I boarded the flight with my wife, I didn’t know that my visa to return to the UK would be refused three weeks later. I didn’t know that getting on that plane would mark the beginning of being away from my kids for two months. I wonder how I would have reacted if I had known.

Now, my family and I are preparing to leave Poland. This is the third time we’ve moved in three years. We are hoping that this will be the last time for a while. At least, a big move like this. Moving within a town would be mostly ok, and will even be necessary, but we are ready to be done. We’re ready to find a place where we can stay and grow.

Life in lockdown has shown us that we need friends. I need friends. Besides my wife, my closest friend is all the way in California. Right now, that’s a 9-hour time difference which makes contact a practical impossibility. At least with any consistency. And so, like my kids, I am hoping that this next move brings the opportunity for friends.

One of the things about moving is that it comes with this weird pace. It feels like there is everything to be done until one day, there’s nothing to be done. Right now it feels like everything and nothing all at the same time.

Travel hasn’t officially opened as I write this. I can’t even apply for my next visa for another six weeks. So we race and we stop all at once. And it is tiring.

Thankful for Government

Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

As I went through my normal routine of checking my RSS feeds, I read this article by Tim Challies and I realised that I am thankful for the same things.

It has struck me that the New Testament’s posture toward civil leaders is generally positive. It seems to nudge us toward the assumption that governments are acting wisely, not foolishly; that our opinion toward their actions should generally be favorable, not skeptical; that our words about them should be supportive, not rebellious; and that our response to their decrees should generally be submissive, not resistant. Romans 13:1-7 is not about the limits of governmental authority, but about the goodness and necessity of Christian obedience.

Tim Challies

There was a time when I would have identified as a libertarian (in the American sense of the word). Over time, and especially since leaving the US, I have noticed a shift in my feelings toward the government that my younger self would declare anathema. I often disagree with how the government runs things but I no longer consider the whole enterprise to be a waste.

When life is complicated and we struggle to understand why things are happening the way they are, we crave simple solutions. The problem is that there are no simple solutions at this scale.