On the Grace of Being Too Busy and Leaf By Niggle [Updated]

I prayed for work.

And boy howdy did God send it.

Now if I can only live through the deluge. I’m working days, evenings, and weekends to meet an immovable client deadline with the printer. I barely have time to get to the grocery store, wash dishes, do laundry and talk to my husband … who, by the way, works in the office next to mine. That’s doable for a few weeks. Making hay while the sun shines and all that.

It also means I don’t have time to blog, podcast, or work on my own private little writing project. Which was also ok once I got over the guilt of not blogging or podcasting and began just tossing out the snippets that came forcibly to mind when I had a few minutes.

Presumably this is the sort of thing that happens to every writer who doesn’t have the happy occupation of writing full time. It doesn’t come up often for me. I am so very blessed and I know it.

Interestingly, what I’m beginning to suspect is that perhaps this enforced “no writing” time is one God is using to take my head in both hands, gently turn it to a new view, and say, “Here’s something new to think about.”

I’ll be reading The Hobbit for a podcast in December. I’m still not sure how this happened but that must be why  I happened upon Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen while wandering around the Kindle section at Amazon. One reviewer mentioned Olsen is The Tolkien Professor and said, “WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO THE PODCAST?”

Good point and I wondered the same thing myself, especially since I’d listened back when that podcast began. The one thing I have time to do these days is listen to podcasts since the all-absorbing work I’m engaged in is catalog layout. I have to think, but not a lot, so my mind is free to take in audiobooks and, as it turns out, Corey Olsen’s lectures on Tolkien which are some of the most enlightening and absorbing I’ve heard. In fact, I listen to several a day.

One of the things I love about listening to the lectures is that Olsen is not afraid to put Tolkien’s Catholic faith and worldview at the very center of conversation. Beginning with Leaf By Niggle, one of Tolkien’s more famous short stories, Olsen takes his students into many of the details that I, as a simple reader, would never catch.

In fact, his two-part discussion of Leaf By Niggle, an allegory about Purgatory, has had me thinking about the story ever since. I have a bit more understanding of God’s relationship to me, my actions versus intentions, and it made me evaluate the uses to which I put my time. Do I work and never take time to notice the art around me? Do I niggle and just want to work on my art, avoiding work whenever possible? Hmmm …

Not bad for two hours’ worth of listening.

That podcast has proven to be simply the first step in a continued focus on J.R.R. Tolkien, with nods to C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton (you know, the “initials crowd”). I have a little chuckle whenever I think about how this time is being guided. What will come of it? I don’t know. But already I view it as a time of grace, when God is once again pushing me a little further than I’d have gone on my own … and in a way that I am absolutely delighted to discover. While he smiles in the indulgent way that Gandalf does at Bilbo. And, you know, I don’t mind realizing that I am more like Bilbo than I’d have thought.


I was reminded this weekend that actually I am more like Niggle than I’d have thought. Bilbo might be aiming a bit too high … at least in the context of writing. And that’s ok too, especially when I am reminded with such love as I felt at Mass yesterday.

This entry was posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On the Grace of Being Too Busy and Leaf By Niggle [Updated]

  1. Nancy Ward says:

    Julie, what a great observation! I haven’t taken the time listen to podcasts lately, but yours will be the next one I find the time for. Did you see my fb entry on the DFW Catholic Writers? I know you are busy but hope that you will visit us at least once or twice in 2013. I still remember you excellent presentation at the Catholic Writers Conference in August. You always give me much to ponder. Thanks for that.