Washing my spirit clean - by Helen Murray

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 dates all over the place. I have a calendar in the kitchen for appointments and arrangements; one of those with multiple columns so that I can keep track of the whole family's social and sporting commitments. My column looks much more impressive than it really is because it consists largely of chauffeuring duties and swimming training - overflow from other people's columns. Of course, this calendar isn't portable so I have a tiny diary that is supposed to enable me to make a note of appointments as I schedule them. Unfortunately, because I never get round to transferring calendar-notes to diary and vice versa, I find that much of the time I am attempting to live two parallel lives.

The system is in need of refinement.

Then there are other diaries. Electronic ones that I can never be bothered to programme. My prayer journal where I chat with the Lord about my day, flap about what might be and work through what might have been. There's the desk calendar I got for Christmas with a scriptural quotation for me to take into the day. 

And then there's my Diary. 

I'm not sure what to call this one. It's gorgeous to behold; a large square thing full of wonderful full page photographs.

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 breathtaking. 

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, 'Oh, 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 God that happened that day. Some days I see Him everywhere and I have lots to write and there are other days when I'm so wrapped up and inward looking that I miss Him completely. I'm starting to see the correlation between the depth of my awareness of His presence 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 loud.

It might be a special hour over coffee with a friend. 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 Jesus as I realise all over again that I can't do any of it without Him.

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 to remember.

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. 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 WiFi!). But to find solitude. No noise but the wind and the birds. Peace, quiet. Undisturbed nature. Sky and landscape and freedom and space.

To wash my spirit clean indeed. 

Not so fussed about climbing a mountain.

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 glimpses of God that come my way so that I can take off the lid and inhale deeply when the walls seem too close and claustrophobic. 

Waking up to the sound of birdsong.

Mist and sunshine on the moors.

The first jaw-aching sip of red wine on a Friday night.

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

A letter from an old friend

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

Vanilla latte and a good friend. 

A sky full of stars.

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.'
Amen to that.



  1. What a beautiful post Helen. Thank you for sharing about your diaries. I love the idea of a diary whose sole purpose is to find glimpses of God in the day.

    1. Thanks, Lynda. I've found it really lifts the spirit.

  2. Lovely post Helan. An inspirational way to start the day

    1. Thank you, Wendy. Beautiful crisp day here in Derbyshire. Blue sky, frost patterns on the car, touches of green on some of the trees... :-)

  3. This is a delight. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! What a lovely thing to say. You're most welcome. :-)

  4. I love what you have written, and I am so with you on this. I have discovered that if there's a delay on the journey into work, if I have the radio on it's an irksome commute, but if I switch it off and just enjoy the presence of God, it's an extended worship session and a great way to start the day. I am trying to discipline myself to cut out the distractions and be so much more aware of Him in His world.

    1. Yes! Exactly. What amazes me is how some days it's easy, and I see Him all around me in a variety of ways and my soul is reaching for Him - and other days I sit with my pen poised and can think of nothing. He's still very much there, but I have been wrapped up in myself, or in a black mood, with eyes firmly closed. When I look for God, I can always find Him.

  5. This is wonderful. You have made me want to add to my already overly extensive pile of diaries and journals!

    1. Do it! Another one! Maybe even a special pen as well.

  6. Such an inspiring piece :) I used to write this kind of diary when my children were younger but in recent years have stopped doing so, even though I now have more time than ever. You have inspired me to start again. I also read something yesterday - While you are looking up at the aeroplane envying the pilot, he is looking down at you, longing to be home. It reminded me that it's too easy to spend our time wishing for something else rather than taking the moment by the neck and shaking the living daylights out of it! Super post :)

    1. Thanks Deborah. I'm so glad it inspired you. Thanks for the thing about the pilot too - I really need to gaze much less often at other people's green grass and start to enjoy my own.

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you. And thanks for taking the trouble to comment.

  8. If you find that cottage in the Hebrides, can I come too? - I promise not to talk to you! Lovely, challenging post, Helen. xx

    1. Of course. We'll have an understanding. :-)

  9. Just about becoming aware of the One who is always there. Beautiful reminder. Thank you

  10. That was beautiful. I have my prayer journal too - but I think writing down those moments in another book is such a good idea. I think my teenagers would like it too. At night we take it in turns to thank God for something that happened in the day - I think as they leave home, writing it down would be lovely. Thank you.

    1. I'm glad it's inspired you, Anne. I love that in the Bible lots of times there is the command to 'write this down'. There are so many times when everything seems very dark and lonely and to look back at what I've written makes a big difference to me.
      Thanks for leaving your lovely comment. x

  11. What a delightful and inspirational post! I love the words and images you shared but I love most of all the way God is awakening your soul to wonder as you remember to notice the grace gifts He strews along your pathway. Simply beautiful, Helen. You have me weak with longing here: "I want to pin down and bottle the glimpses of God that come my way so that I can take off the lid and inhale deeply when the walls seem too close and claustrophobic." Yes and Amen! Bless you for sharing this special glimpse into your diary keeping. :) x

    1. Thanks so much, Joy. I suppose really it should have been the 'fragrance' of God that I want to bottle if I'm to inhale it! I am terrible at mixing my metaphors.... but thank you. I know that you feel it too, my friend.
      Bless you for your generous encouragement. x


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