Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One Step!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Confucius

As has become the custom at the office I have worked at for the past few years (I’ve worked with the same company for almost 6 years, but switched offices), I have worked full days between Christmas and New Year’s as opposed to my normal 1-5 PM shift.  And as is the custom for offices where many co-workers and customers are otherwise engaged, things were quiet.  Last year was no exception.

So I did what I could to keep busy.  I straightened/cleaned my desk in-between the work-related tasks I did have to do. I drank coffee.  I may have exchanged an e-mail or two with a co-worker from yet another office within the company.  And I thought about a blog post I had read from one of my favourite bloggers – Jon Acuff.  He was asking for help with his next book.  You can read the original post here:  I need your help with my next book.

I don’t remember exactly when I read the above post, but on Thursday, December 30, 2010, when the phones were quiet and my work for the moment was done, I sent an e-mail.  (And I realized just now I never did include my phone number.  Hey, I live in Canada and Jon lives in the States.  I was being conscientious of long distance charges.  Yeah, that’s it.)

Anyhow, here is most of what I wrote:

. . . my husband and I are both in a “I’m _____ but _____” time of our lives . . .

I presently work as an administrative assistant, but would like to be a stay-at-home mom who writes devotional-type pieces and fiction . . . And as I get closer to 40 (I just turned 39) I wonder if it’s even fair [to have kids now] considering the statistics that stick in my head about older women having children.  Couple that with too may reminders that our parents are getting older and my sisters’ kids are getting closer to being adults themselves and . . . yeah.  I wonder if our time is past for such things.  I also wonder if there is validity and real worth in regards to writing fiction.  It would be easy right now for me to blame my questions and doubts in that regards on what other people have said about it, but that feels like a cop-out.  It’s easier than dealing with my own lack of discipline.

So in a nutshell, that’s it.  I do remind myself God has His perfect timing and can use all things for good. It’s just really hard to wait sometimes and to let go of my own flubs and failures and questions as to whether I have basically messed things up too many times.

With a degree of trepidation, I hit the ‘send’ button and wondered if anything would ever come of it.  Jon’s blog has a wide readership, and lots of people have infinitely more interesting “I’m ____ but ____” stories.  (That’s not to be down on myself – it’s just the truth.  There are some amazing stories out there!)  So I more or less put it out of my mind.  Well, the forefront of it.  Hence I was surprised and excited to receive an e-mail on Monday, February 28, 2011 penned by Jon asking people to fill out an online form to help them (them being he and the people he works with at Dave Ramsey’s company) get to know my story a little better.  I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember allowing myself to hope I’d be one of the ‘select group of people’ who would get ‘the entire manuscript’ of the new book to read in advance and then offer feedback on it.  Once again, the ‘send’ button was hit with a degree of trepidation. 

One week and one day later, I almost squealed out loud with excitement at work upon making a quick check of my home e-mail account.  I WAS GOING TO ‘BETA-TEST’ JON ACUFF’S NEW BOOK!!

Then came the longest week of waiting for said manuscript to arrive.  It was harder than the countdown to Christmas when I was kid.  But then I pulled into the driveway at home after work on Wednesday, March 16 and there in the mailbox on our fence was the best present ever left by the UPS delivery driver:  the manuscript!  As soon as I was able, I sat down and began to read.  I had until Friday to read the entire thing and offer my feedback via an online form. 

I finished the book – Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job – and the form at approximately 8:30 PM, MST the next day.

And it is a great book.  Seriously.  I’m not just being kind or trying to get good comments or anything.  It is a challenging, insightful, honest book and if you can in fill in the “I’m ___ but ____” statement, you should read it.  In fact, it is available for preorder on Amazon with a release date of May 10th.

Naturally, I thought that was it.  The manuscript was read and the form was filled out – finito, right?  Well, besides having to return the manuscript as per the nondisclosure agreement I read and signed off on.  (Because I was worried lawyers from The Lampo Company would come after me like the dudes in that one Stride gum commercial if I didn’t return it ASAP.)

But it wasn’t.  That one, seemingly small step I took back in December still has some more to follow it.  In the form of a conference call with Jon Acuff and other beta-testers of the book next week!  As I posted as my Facebook status update on Monday: “. . . "Über-excited" about covers it.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Star Gazing

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
--Vincent van Gogh

It’s easy, I think, to dream things for one’s life, to make a list of things to do and things to pursue and such.  But as I’m sure many can attest to, it’s quite another thing to get out there and realize one’s dreams, to help bring them to fruition in the here and now.

I look at where I actually am with certain things compared to where I thought I could be at one time or another, and I realize I’d like to move directly from ‘dreams’ to ‘reality’ in a transport of some sort (Beam me up, Scotty).  Lets just bypass the drudgery, the dips and the hard work to get from A to B, shall we?  Wouldn’t that be more fun?  (Now, I’ve never said that is what I’d like to do in so many words.  But my actions (or lack thereof) certainly do indicate that is a desire of mine on some level.)

But life and even fiction rarely work that way.  More often than not, there are countless hours of work logged in by an ‘overnight success’, hours of practice put by the ‘musical prodigy’, many sketches and rough drafts preceding the finished work of an artist and a writer.  Van Gogh didn’t just look at the stars and dream – he painted them in swirls of colour and feeling.  Charles Dickens didn’t merely think it would someday make a neat story to write about an old miser whose worldview is changed courtesy of three spirits who visit him one cold Christmas Eve – he wrote A Christmas Carol.  Nor did Beethoven think a handful of notes would one day make a nice ditty – he wrote his Fifth Symphony.

So I don’t want to leave tales of Plot Ninjas, high school teachers, or time travellers to languish on hard drives, in binders, and on various scraps of paper.  Nor do I want to keep dwelling in the past or ‘playing it safe’ and end up missing out on what God is doing now and what He’s got planned for the future.  It’s time to move past a simple recitation of Philippians 4:13 and get to putting it into practice.  I don’t know it all, and it may very well be there are dreams I will need to let go of and others that need to be tweaked or completely overhauled.  But that’s okay.  God promises in Psalm 32:8 that He will guide us along the best pathway for our lives, that He will advise and watch over us.  It’s up to me to either go where He leads or to fight Him like a stubborn mule (v. 9).  But if I go His way, it’s going to be wild, it’s going to be great, and it’s going to be full of Him. Ü

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Couple of Things

No one, I would dare say, likes to get punched in the face.  But it’s amazing how often we’ll do just that to one another with our words, the way we say things, or a mixture of the two.  It’s easy to talk about speaking kinds words to turn away much wrath (Proverbs 15:1) when things are going well, but when people are stressed or tired or frustrated it is easier (but still not right) to let fly with whatever comes to mind without considering the words and/or tone one is using. 

Thankfully, there is grace.  And a sincere apology can do much to mend things.  Though I’d really like to get to the point where I more consistently am able to bite my tongue until I can say things in a way that doesn’t lead to a verbal bop on the nose.  It involves less mess, no scars, and a better result to be enjoyed by all involved. 

But onto something else . . .

I was at Wal-Mart yesterday picking up some odds ‘n’ ends when I purchased the latest issue of Real Simple magazine based entirely on one headline:  “Spring Cleaning Shortcuts:  28 Strategies and Products That Really Work”.  Now I have to actually flip to the article and see if it’s just a giant plug for the products (some of which I may not even be able to get as it’s a U.S. magazine and I live in Canada), or if its tips (and some elbow grease) will help me get my house spiffed up.  Save for the Rooms of Doom.  Because those rooms . . . well, they need more than a spring-cleaning – they need a serious purge.  But those will be taken care of this year.

Hmmm . . . I think I need to seriously check out (and implement) any tips in the article mentioned in the bottom-left corner as well.  ϡ

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wondering Wanderings

I have mentioned in the past I have felt like a Supreme Waffler in matters of faith.  One moment I’m fine with saying, “You know what?  I have faith for XYZ, and that’s okay.  It’s cool.”  But then I’m in a room with people with big, move-entire-mountain-ranges-into-the-sea faith, and I wonder . . . I ponder . . . I (dare I say it?) . . . I doubt.  Not so much in God’s Word or His provisions.  I mean, He’s God – He doesn’t mess things up!  No, it’s more a question of what I’m missing that is keeping mountains from moving (Matthew 17:20) and trees from uprooting (Luke 17:6).

Too often I forget the following:

I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think
 you are better than you really are.  Use good sense and measure yourself by
 the amount of faith that God has given you.
~ Romans 12:3 (CEV)

It could very well be, then, that God has given me a measure of faith not the same as the mountain-movers and tree-uprooters.  And there isn’t anything wrong with that.  I’m not bad or evil because I have questions, either.  The thing is to acknowledge them, to look for answers, and to be okay when I’m not finding the sought-for answers.  (At least not yet.  Because I believe one day I’ll see the whole picture and it will make sense.)  My faith will only grow when I move out of my comfortable, having-answers zone, as I hope for and believe for those things that are not yet here in a tangible form.

So it was with thoughts like this in mind that I picked up the book O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling by Jason Boyett.  I read it in the days after my mom’s heart surgery when I was filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’, and found a great deal of hope and comfort in reading of someone else’s struggles and questions as he tries to wrap his finite mind around an infinite God.  And I highlighted things like “Faith is . . . believing God will arrive, even if you can barely hear his song right now” and “Jesus doesn’t show up where he’s expected . . . He appears in places we hadn’t thought to look before” and held in my heart the encouragement to keep on keeping on even when my ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ are left hanging in the air.  Now Boyett doesn’t’ say “Hey, everyone!  Doubt!  You’ll be more spiritual!”  That would be crazy talk.  But he does write openly and honestly (with some very funny footnotes) about his own journey.  And through his honesty, I found an answer or two along with a great deal of hope for this journey we’re all on.

I have questions.  I don’t have all the answers.  And sometimes it feels as though the One who does have the answers is silent.  But I’m learning that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean I stop moving.  It means I light another candle of hope and keep moving towards the One who promises that while I may stumble and falter He will never lose His grip on me (Psalm 37:24).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Annnnd . . . Now . . . No? How About . . . Now!?

My first inclination is to blame Walt Disney, specifically his take on the story of Cinderella.  Ah yes, the beautiful young maiden who captures the heart of a prince thanks to the help of her fairy godmother, and no thanks to her evil stepmother and stepsisters.  Yup, all with a ‘bibbity-boppity-boo’ and a wave of a magic want and Cinderella was in the palace.

I mean, why else would I have this crazy idea that insists on lurking in the back of my mind (sometimes in the front, kickin’ in the front seat, sittin’ in the back se—oops, sorry) that I should instantaneously be good at something as soon as I start it or decide to start it?  I mean, I spent at least half an hour over the weekend mapping out some writing goals, so I should be über -disciplined and meeting those goals already, right?

Yet even as I typed out the last paragraph, the ridiculousness of it was ringing in my ears like a chiming clock (and a catchy, if inane, pop tune).  There are many things I can look back on in not only my own life but also in the lives of others and see where time, patience, and diligence are what got us to where we are now.  For instance, it’s with those three things I learned out to drive as a teenager.  It’s how my husband became a talented guitar player.  It’s how our parents, families, and friends have all achieved countless things in their lives. 

And, in a way, it’s how Cinderella got to the point where she was ready to receive the gifts her fairy godmother had for her.  Because you know what we sometimes forget?  The Fairy Godmother didn’t show up until after Cinderella had completed her myriad of chores, until after her animal friends had taken risks and put in the work to make her a dress for the ball.  It is quite possible the tale could have taken another turn if all of the unpleasant circumstances in Cinderella’s life had been jumped over with a wand and a magical song.  She may not have been as grateful, as appreciative, as beautiful in the ways that matter most had she circumvented all of that and had everything simply handed to her on a silver platter.

Just look at her stepsisters.  (Just think of how lovely they would have been (and looked) if they had been kind, nice, and generous!)

So I (and perhaps you, too) need to remember every journey begins with a single step, but it is not completed until many more steps have been taken, one after the other.  And I need to keep at it even (or perhaps especially) when I don’t feel like it, when the ‘easy’ way is so tempting a route to take.  Don’t, to loosely paraphrase Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, get so caught up in seeking out the treasure – the end result – of your destiny that you don’t actually live out your destiny.  The journey, after all, makes the arrival at the destination all the sweeter and the ball that much more magical.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tick-Tock, Tickety-Tock

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had to wait for my computer to boot up. 

I had to wait for Firefox to get going.

I had to wait for Word to open, and then to open the document I wanted.

I even had to wait for it to allow me to change the alignment for the above quote.

Some days I find it very hard to wait.  It can be especially frustrating when you see people around you not waiting.  They have deadlines to end current jobs and start new ones . . . they are entering into their God-given purpose in life in a way you have yet to experience . . . families are growing and changing, the world is marching on and yet you feel like you’re just sitting there.  It’s not even that you feel like that in your life as a whole.  It could be an area or two or three.  And you find yourself double-checking your number, wondering if you missed the call of ‘Next!’, asking yourself if you’re waiting in the right place and always wondering ‘when’ and ‘how’.

That is why it is a comfort to see time and again in the Bible, in my life, and in the lives of others the faithfulness of God.  We all may get antsy at one time or another as we wait for His timetable to come to pass.  But just as surely as winter leads to spring, so we can know what God has planned for us will come to pass as we follow Him.  May we all learn to rest in and trust Him as we wait. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

So Long & Farewell (To the Past, Not the Blog)

It’s sort of a funny thing, I suppose, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I find it much easier to let go of the mistakes and failures of my ‘pre-Christian’ life than I do of the mistakes and failures I have made since I became a Christian.  It’s like a little voice niggles away in my ear, reminding me of how I really should know better by now.  And while it is true with a good many things that I should be doing better in the areas where I’ve heard better, I have to remember God does not use my past to determine my future.  He didn’t with the children of Israel, as can be seen in the following passage from Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message):

Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

Besides which God’s grace and mercy are not any less now that I’m one of His kids – that is just my own messed-up thinking getting in the way when that thought pops out. 

Now I was going to wax eloquently (or try to at any rate) about my muck-ups and the aforementioned grace and the things I do need to let go of, but I’m not going to.  Many eulogies have been given (in one form or another) for my past.  Instead, it is time I simply let some things go and leave the gravesite.  As L. Thomas Holdcroft put it, “The past a guidepost, not a hitching post.”  And grave yards sort of squick me out. 

 In the words of Relient K in their song "Forget and Not Slow Down":  

I'd rather forget and not slow down, 
than gather regret for the things I can't change now . . .
what good do "What ifs?" do?

As many of us know, not much good good at all.  So lets bid them all adieu and move on.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Happy Saturday, everyone!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

" . . . "

As you may have noticed, I like to find (and, obviously, read) quotes from other people.  They can be famous or anonymous, serious or funny.  But I like it when they are in some way thought provoking, when I’m challenged in some way, or when they cause me to have a ‘light bulb’ moment.

I entered the following passage from what is known as The Prayer of St. Patrick into the Notes section of my iPhone after my mom had heart surgery (as found in a devotional reading in my Bible):

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to teach me,
God’s eyes to watch over me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me:
Against the snares of devils,
Against the seduction of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who shall wish me ill,
Whether far or near, many or few.

I find something (and I can’t quite put my finger on it) about reading the words, the thoughts and the prayers of fellow believers who have gone on long before me.  The commonality of our questions and musings, the insights and understandings they gleaned can be as relevant today as they were back then.  As always, such things need to be checked against the standard of God’s Word.  But they shouldn’t be tossed out merely because they are old or because, for some, they’re mindless recitations devoid of life or meaning or power. 

That’s just my two cents on a little something.

Monday, March 7, 2011

No Direction . . . Yet

“He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher . . .
or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”
~Douglas Adams

I do not know the context of the above quote from author Douglas Adams (of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame), but it struck me as amusing along with having a ring of truth to it.  Because who hasn’t, at one time or another, heard from other people or even from your self why a dream you have won’t come to be?  The dissenting voice could be a pessimist believing they’re ‘just being realistic’; it could be your own memories reminding you of all the times you tried and failed (or all the opportunities you missed); or it could be you hearing someone saying something they may not actually mean at all. 

Or you may be in a room full of people sharing dreams about doing all kinds of great, big things for God (missions, helping hurting people, living an impactful life, etc.) and you’re sitting there, avoiding making eye contact with the person leading the meeting, so you won’t (pleaseohplease) be asked to share your dream which sounds small and frivolous in comparison to the dreams of the people around you.  Because really, who cares if you write a silly little fictional story about a high school teacher or a fellow who works with Plot Ninjas or a time traveler?  Really, what does it matter, what sort of an impact can such a thing make in the light of eternity?  And is it merely your dream, the dream of your grandiose self?  Is it a ‘decoy dream’ to keep you from what God really wants you to do?   Or has the dream been given God’s stamp of approval and you think you’ve wasted too much time and too many opportunities, that the ship in question has sailed and it’s not turning around for you?

It’s times like this when I either a) quit thinking about my dreams altogether because I’m giving myself a pretty massive headache, b) take it to God and ask Him to basically spell it out for me because I just want to know, or c) do ‘b’ followed by ‘a’ so I don’t then talk myself out of hearing from God.

Yeah . . . as you may have gathered, none of those options are working out for me.  And I’d like to say I have some ‘magic formula’ or Scripture reference that has plopped into my mind to help me see the first steps out, but instead I am, honestly, going to have to leave it at this for the time being:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beautiful Day

It’s so very easy to grumble and complain about things.  And I know of what I speak, for last night and this morning in particular, many words that were not edifying or encouraging were rolling off of my tongue with a (sadly) practiced ease.

But if I can find the something good in a day that may not be good overall, something inside me shifts.  No longer am I focused on the things I cannot change – things such as the weather, the decisions of others, things that are long past.  Now I am in the ‘now’, changing what I can in and about me.  And then the day doesn’t seem so bad.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In All Things

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJ)

It’s 8:30 a.m. as I begin typing this, and I haven’t had the best of starts to my day.  I slept later than what I really should have, will probably not have the time to get done what all needs doing, and am having to fight the urge to fall into old habits of self-recrimination and the like. 

But then I had the pleasure of reading the latest from my cousin Julie’s blog – Finding Beautiful – and was reminded of how we can give thanks in everything even when everything is not currently going in the best direction.  At the end of today’s post, Julie asked what good things her readers are grateful for these days.  So I decided to post mine here: 

   1.     I’m grateful for my family – via biology, marriage, and the church I’m a member of.  None of us are perfect, but we do our best to love and support each other.  Not everyone has that, and I’m glad that I do. 
   2.     I’m grateful for the good friends I have.  I’ve never been one to have a really large social circle, but the people I am friends with are, well, good people. 
   3.     I’m grateful to have people who fall under #1 and #2.  It’s like a bonus, a win-win. 
   4.     I’m grateful for fellow travelers on this road called life, some of whom I have never met in person, but their writings and such have encouraged and challenged me.  We may not agree on everything, but what is life if you’re surrounded by a bunch of ‘yes men’? 
5.     I’m grateful for this day.  Sure, the first bit of it wasn’t the greatest, but there are still approximately 14 hours left in it.  Still much that can be done, and still much to be thankful for. 

I hope you, too, have things to be grateful for today.