While most people are in the "making resolutions" stage, I prefer to use the end of the year to take a look back at what I've learned and accomplished, and to decide how to move forward. I believe resolutions are more effective if we consider what we want to do with what we have rather than blindly shooting darts at a random goal. After all, we have an entire life, and our resolutions are more likely to stick if they're things that serve many aspects of it. So without further ado, let me share that during 2012 I have learned:
1. More about the legislative process than I ever imagined possible - or even wanted to know. My work move in 2010 was a result of changes to the law governing the landscape architect and soil classifiers programs that I worked with. I got a crash course in bills becoming laws that year and believe me, the old "School House Rock" on how a bill becomes a law didn't even scratch the surface! Once the move was done, I still had to assist with getting regulations passed to go with that new law - a process that crossed over two sessions due to some oversights in the statute for the soil classifiers. Over the past 3 legislative sessions I've sat in more legislative subcommittee and committee meetings than I can count - including that fateful meeting in May 2011 when the cemetery regulations were on the agenda before mine and I also got a crash course education in things that can go wrong with burials that curbed my appetite for a few days and scarred my poor mind forever (note to self: dying is disgusting). It's not easy. In fact, it's slow, and snafus and roadblocks can pop up when you least expect it (think my "life is like a jack-in-the box analogy). You have to have a pound of patience and a ton of flexibility. But boy have I learned a lot now, and I have a new respect (or rather, understanding and better knowledtge) of what's happening in the State House. Thankfully, everything has been updated for both programs, and now they're all up to date. Barring any unexpected changes from the inside or other sourses outside the Boards, we will hopefully be ok.
What I'll do with this knowledge: As it turns out, the architects are updating their regulations and the engineers are considering updates to their statute. Those are bigger programs, so my "hands on" assistance won't be needed as much as it was for the smaller programs I worked with, but I will track their documents through the process and do whatever I can to help.
2. More about writing and publishing than I thought possible. This all started with a power resolution I made in 2011 to do everything possible to improve as a writer and to get myself published again by going "outside of the box." I brushed up on my grammer rules, revised my work, and decided to give e-publishing one more try (I had a contract to e-publish Quarantine in 2009, but the company broke the contract and filed for bankruptcy before it went to print). It worked - I got contracts for Blurry and Anywhere But Here, and they've both been published. This year, I added educating myself on publicity and promotional opportunities for my published works, and I decided to work in the areas of keeping a strong online presence and pursuing book reviews and author interviews. I also signed a contract for Splinter, the National Novel Writing Month book I wrote in 2010, and started another mystery novel and another non-fiction book for bird owners this year.
What I'll do with this knowledge: First and foremost is to finish Move and Feathered Frenzy,to work with Whiskey Creek Press on Splinter when they're ready to take it into pre-production, and to promote it like crazy when it's published. I'd also like to expand on a couple of projects that will serve in the promotion and the writing more and writing better categories: I'd like to get back into writing articles, short stories, and novellas. Shorter works are a bit more of a challenge for me because I'm a novelist at heart, but the fact is that I need to have new material to release more regularly than is possible to do with a novel, and the only way to do that is to delve into shorter markets. I'm already working on some articles, and once I get Move and Feathered Frenzy done, I'd like to brush up on my skills with the shorter stuff and see what I can get out there.
3. I flew! I did it twice, actually. My job started to require me to travel to the landscape architect conferences, so I made trips to Miami and San Francisco last year. That was a new experience for me, but not as bad as I thought. Actually, I was fortunate that my flights went well and I don't mind flying at all. This educated me in so many ways. I learned that I can travel with two carry-on bags and less than I imagined possible. I learned that it's not terribly difficult to find your way around an airport, and that Charlotte really is reasonable and easy to get around. I learned that although I love ebooks, paperbacks are really a better way to go with reading material since you have to turn off electronics so much. I learned that if you're nice to the stewardess, they'll give you the bag of pretzels that aren't all broken and crunched up. I learned that Miami International Airport is about a million square miles, and I think I walked every bit of it - but Salt Lake City is like Walmart on Christmas Eve, and located in what looks like a crater to boot, so there are different kinds of suffering. I learned that taxi drivers can scare the hell out of you. And I learned that turbulence is really a "come to Jesus" moment in a patch of rough airspace over Kansas. And yes, I've seen places I probably wouldn't have gone before. I mean, San Francisco? I had never been on the west coast,in a different time zone, or put up in a five star hotel (albeit business class) before that. It was something.
What I'll do with what I learned: Become more travel savvy, whether I planned to or not. And next up is Scottsdale, Arizona.
4. Smartphones don't make you smarter, but they sure help you look smarter. Rick and I finally got iPhones last January, and I'm so glad we did. For all the people that say "how can a phone make you smarter?" I say in about a zillion ways. I can keep up with things. I can be reached just about anywhere (unless I'm on a flight). I can keep my schedule, make lists, check news and weather, and set reminders. Heck, the only things it won't do are clean the house, clean the bird cages, cook my meals, and rake the yard. But it's the 21st century. Who knows? Rosie the Robot maid might come about in my lifetime yet.
What I'll do with what I learned: Thank God that I live in an era of computers and smartphones to make life easier and keep using them to the fullest advantage!
5. Balance in life is a personal responsibility, and sometimes you must make hard choices to maintain it. There are only so many hours in a day, and it's impossible to do everything you want to do. With personal responsibilities and the relationships in our lives, we often have to choose what we like best, do that, and drop other things. This really hit me when I quit the evangelism committee at church in October. I didn't want to do it, but frankly I'd felt the nagging in my spirit that my life was too full and I needed to let go of some things to focus on what was growing in my life. Rick and I are fortunate to have a good marriage, our birds, all of our parents alive, our families, good, stable jobs, and our home. Rick does some website design here and there, and my writing is continuing to build and grow. We have some excellent friends that we're in contact with. Unfortunately - that's all we have time for. The time we had for volunteer activities has filled up with other things growing, and we both had to accept that it was time to let the volunteering go, for a while at least. His term on council just ended and it's obvious that we need to take a break to nurture the things that are most important and tend to the biggest responsibilities that the Lord has laid before us. Life does change, so it's inevitable that this season will pass and perhaps we'll have time to resume the volunteer activities. But for now, we've decided that we want to dedicate ourselves to and fully appreciate the blessings we have at hand without overcommitting ourselves to secondary or perphiery endeavors.
What I'll do with what I've learned: This sounds like it's coming out of left field, but pondering this discovery inspired me to make getting on the treadmill regularly a part of my life again. I believe we've made good decisions to keep a balance of our responsibilities and relationships in order, but balance is a holistic thing, and it occured to me that while my priorities are in order, I'm still stressed out because I'm not physically in order. I sit behind a desk at my job, then come home and sit behind a computer to write. I need to get more physically active, and the best way to do that is to get on that treadmill sitting in the computer room upstairs. I felt better, got sick less, and actually was less stressed and had better ideas for my writing when I was walking regularly. So I'm expanding the balance issue to my body as well as my mind and soul by getting back on the treadmill and integrating exercise into my life again.
6. Breaking Bad and Arrow are awesome shows. OMG! If you aren't watching these shows, you should be. Thanks so much to whoever it was that suggested Breaking Bad to Rick. We caught up on that show through Netflix and it's addictive! And Arrow, the new CW show based on The Green Arrow, has surprised me by hitting the ground running right in it's first season. I don't watch much TV (in fact, Supernatural is the only other show I do watch, and it's much better this season too), but these are worth checking out. Arrow and Supernatural come on The CW Wednesday nights at 8 and 9. Breaking Bad is a summer show that comes on AMC. Unfortunately, we don't get AMC through Dish TV, so we'll have to make arrangements to buy the 2013 season through our iTunes account and catch the episodes as they're released.
7. Skimping on sleep is counterproductive. I had a bad habit of staying up late to work on my writing, then getting up early for work the next day. It used to not bother me but, well, I'm not in my 20's anymore and skimping on sleep plus increasing job duties = bad idea. When Rick and I changed our work schedules in August, we decided that we needed to be serious about getting to sleep on time and getting a full night's rest so we could focus and be at our best the next day. So no more late nights for me. And you know what? I've actually been MORE productive since then, because I find I plan and utilize my time better (for example, I can do some pretty good writing and editing on my lunch hour if I take my laptop to work).
8. Transitions are tough, but once you've been hit with so many, you get numb. I learned this when our church lost our head pastor and associate pastor within a month earlier this year. Did it hurt? Yea, like hell. But I was amazed at how people seemed traumatized by it. At first I thought wow, that's selfish. Don't you want them to move ahead and better themselves? It's unfortunate they both left, but I couldn't begrudge either of them taking new opportunities and frankly, pastors are always going to move on eventually. Then it hit me: No, that's not it. It's just that after my life got smashed to smithereens in 2010 and I had to completely reconstruct it, losing two pastors was barely a blip on my radar. Other people hadn't seen the massive changes in their own lives that I'd just gone through, so this WAS major to them. And while we have certainly had to find new pastors plenty of times, it had been a while so frankly, we as a congregation were settled in and since we didn't see it coming, it was a shock to many. But to me shocks and adjustments had been a way of life for a while.
What I'll do with this knowledge: This was a good reminder of the concept of grace and of realizing that perspective is a personal thing. We all come from different places, and I believe this is a good illustration of how your experiences color your perception. Frankly, I'm still pondering this realization and what it means to me, and I really don't want to rush it because I think it's one that needs to sink in and grow strong roots in my own mind. But I think it's a good thing because one thing I already see is that we all handle things differently, and we need to be patient with one another and work together to help others and move forward. Where they are weak, we might be strong and where we are weak they might be strong. Working together, we can come through with a greater overall perspective. And it's a good lesson of faith too, as we work, wait, and look for a new leader for us.
I'm sure there are many more discoveries I've made during the year, but these are the big ones that spoke to me and are guiding me into my future. I hope that you'll also take some time to take stock and forge ahead into the new year using the confidence and wisdom you've gained through your experiences to keep moving ahead and making a better life, each and every day.
In closing, I believe today's benediction at church was a wonderful and beautiful sentiment that I wish all of you for the new year, and beyond:
"May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirigt bless you now and forever."
Amen. Bless you friends.I wish you all joy, peace, prosperity, and happiness and thank you for being there to listen, help and support me.
Happy New Year!
In the wake of that horrible tragedy on Connecticut, I think we're jumping at shadows. What do I mean?
People are saying we need gun control, but that's not it. In fact, I think the uncertainty of knowing who might be carrying keeps more tragedies from happening. Have you noticed that the worst shootings happen in places where carrying concealed weapons is banned? Why? Because only the law abiding people aren't packing there. They disarm like they're supposed to, and the criminals know there's nobody there that will put a bullet between their eyes. Call me crazy, but I think we're coming at this backwards. Instead of disarming, I say we need to arm more. If concealed carry were allowed more places, I bet the element of uncertainty over who might shoot back would cause a decrease in these tragedies. Maybe. Maybe not. They would be more uncertain of their odds, anyway.
People say we need to bring God back in the schools. I won't deny that I'd certainly like to see religion brought back in the schools, but the fact is that there's no law against teaching children about God at home. If we call this a lack of morals, then the blame can't be on a system that's banned it for 30 years before we had this problem. Take that blame to the root of the matter: the home.
People say we need mental health reform. Here again I'll agree that's a need, but we also need to remember that the field of mental health is still relatively young. Compared to other sciences, it's barely out of it's infancy. There's a lot that can be helped, but there's also a lot we still don't know. Having known a lot of people struggling with depression, I can tell you there's a lot of trial and error in getting the medication "just right" to keep it controlled. It usually takes an adjustment period - and I know this is true of medications for other conditions too, but it seems it's a bigger struggle when dealing with mental health issues than it is with other medical conditions. Or from what I've seen it is, anyway. And often it takes months or even years to correctly diagnose things because one symptom can be a sign of five different disorders, and it takes time to pin things down.
You know what the real problem is? Free will. We all have a right to choose and unfortunately, that means that some will choose to abandon morals and ethics and to do what they feel over what's right. It's been a problem since the beginning of time. I heard someone on TV say "elementary schools should be safe!" Folks, the whole WORLD should be save. We should be living in Eden. None of us should have to live in fear of ANYTHING. And yet we do, all the time. We always have. It began even before time, when Satan fell. God gave man the greatest gift of free will, and, well, it didn't take long for that to go to heck.
Blame it on what you will. Blame it on Eve, or Adam, or the devil, or even God for giving it to us. The bottom line is that it is what it is. God loved us enough to give us free will and give us the choices to led to the world we've got.
I remember an episode of Supernatural a few seasons ago when Castiel said "free will is God's greatest gift - and just enough rope to hang yourself." I believe that's the most accurate way to put it. Free will is our greatest gift. The problem is; we don't always know what to do with it. And unfortunately, those that choose to hang usually put other necks in the noose with them. Connecticut is a perfect example of that. One man's choice to cause chaos denied twenty children the chance to grow up. It's beyond insanity. It's still, days later, incomprehensible.
Like I said yesterday, I can't justify it. I can only say to be honest with the questions, frustrations and anger. Honest anger is greater than fake faith anytime.
I will say that the free will paradox is something I've pondered a lot the last few days. It is mind boggling. We say how can this kind of evil be in the world, but yet there's still good and beauty here too. For everyone that causes chaos, there's a peacemaker. For all that's ugly, there's something beautiful. For all that hurts, there is healing. Every struggle can build strength. Every doubt can build faith. Every trial can be a step toward victory. It takes time. It takes work - more work than we think we can ever do. And it takes faith - more faith that we can muster on our own. But most of all, it takes the honesty to admit that we don't have all the answers, and the courage to decide that we will have faith and do what is right even if we don't understand why. And that's the hardest thing of all to do.
It's heavy stuff folks; there's no doubt about that. I don't think that now is the time to jump to action, though. We have a lot to process and acting in emotion usually leads to mistakes. What we need is to grieve. What we need is to heal. What we need is something good to remind us that all hope is not lost. The world is still turning. It's not over yet.
And what do you know - it's Christmas, the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah. Who knows? Perhaps the reminder of earth's greatest miracle, of time to celebrate with family and friends, is exactly what we need right now.
That's all today. Take care.
As if the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning weren't bad enough, apparantly there are some in Newton, Connecticut that want to keep bringing the chaos as a Catholic church in the community received a death threat for their noon mass today. Fortunately, Yahoo News
reports there was no incident and the church was evacuated, but it's still a disturbing reminder that there are people out there that want to do nothing but cause chaos and keep people in a state of paranoia and hysteria during a time that's supposed to be about forgiveness, celebration, and peace.
It's sick, I know. It's tragic and incomprehensible to even fathom what those families are going through. They were preparing for Christmas and now they're planning funerals - something that's too much for most of us to even think about, and we wonder how they can possibly live through this. And the #1 question on most minds is "how could God allow such an awful thing to happen?"
As a Christian, I'll tell you the truth: I don't know. And I won't even try to justify or explain it either, because I'm not afraid to admit that I have absolutely no clue why this was allowed to happen. Honestly, I can't imagine how this tragedy could work toward any kind of good, now or even in the long term. How could the senseless death of 20 children be justified? How is that possible? I don't know.
Really, that's a conflict that many Christian's face, although many won't admit it. You can't justify faith, and when it comes to situations like this when you don't have the answer, I'm afraid that even many believers have too much pride to admit that they don't have all the answers and they can't explain why they choose to maintain a trusting faith in God when the truth is that they struggle with fear, doubts, and our own lack of understanding. They say "it is well with my soul," but I have yet to meet a person that's ok with any old thing that happens. "Whatever - praise God anyway!" is something I hear a lot from the mouth but I've NEVER seen in practice.
Here's my take on it: I know there's a big picture and this is part of it. I know God is grieved and will comfort the families in whatever way necessary, but I don't know why He let it happen. We aren't going to know that "big picture" this side of Heaven and for that reason I say: It's not alright. No, it isn't. It's evidence of the sin and imperfection of this world. It's tainted creation. I remember reading in one of C.S. Lewis' books that man was not created to die, so the very fact that we do as a result of sin is unnatural. Sin is unnatural. Bad things are unnatural. This world wasn't created for it, and yet everything got screwed up and God decided to let us keep on going anyway - to offer salvation through Christ, but we still have to do our time in this world, that teeters on the balance of the joy of creation and the chaos of sin. It's completely mucked up, and I'm putting that mildly because I try to keep this a PG-13 blog. So no, I don't say it's alright because it isn't. Suffering is NEVER alright. And yes, I know the paradox arguement that we wouldn't appreciate joy if we didn't know suffering but in the case of 20 dead children - yea, shove that arguement. Nobody wants to hear it. There is no justification for it.
You know what I say? If you're confused, admit it. If you're mad, go ahead and say it. Yell and scream at God if you need to. Tell Him where it's at. He can take it. And frankly, He would rather you get mad and just let it rip then lie and say "ok, whatever, you lead the way." I think you come through these shattering trials a lot better if you're honest enough to say "hey God, this sucks! It's Festivus for the Rest of Us. I've got a lot of problems and You're gonna hear about it!"
Go ahead and do it. It's not a dare and I'm not speaking in jest. Because above all the chaos, beyond all the madness, God is love. That's why He let us go on and chose Salvation over abandonment. Because sometimes life sucks, but He still loves us and the creation He made. He still wants us. And nothing you say or do will make Him stop loving you. So go ahead and yell and scream. He can take it. In fact, I believe He'd be glad you trusted enough to tell Him the truth. So let it rip.
I'd also like to say one more thing. This is awful, and it's no secret that people are crazy and lunatics are everywhere. No doubt, our mental health system is in need of drastic reform because things like this just keep happening - but I dealt with that particular issue after the massacare at the movie theater in Colorado last summer, and there's no need to digress. But please try to remember that there is still good out there. I heard the story of the mother that told her child that if she was scared to look for the helpers because the helpers are always there. That's absolutely true. God did allow this to happen, but He also made sure there were people there to help. That there were healers and protectors and leaders around that could be there and guide those that were lost, confused, or hurt. It might be hard to see, but good is out there. There are still people around that want to do what's right and to help others any way they can. Look for their light in this darkness.
Ok, that's my soapbox speech for the day. No doubt, it's been a crazy few days. I pray we can all heal and come to some sort of resolution to this, even if it's a unity in our grief and confusion now and in the days to come.
Pray for those families, folks. They need all the help they can get and while we can't all be there for them, collective prayers could be the most powerful help for them now.
Have a good start of the week, folks. Take care and be careful out there.
I think what I really need is to cut my life back to basics and take stock of what I have and how to best nurture the things most important to me.
Fall is naturally the busiest time of year for me, and coiencidentally it's when people want to "get together" the most too. Football season is usually the excuse for this - "let's get together to watch the game!" And I've been a social butterfly these past couple of months and participated in all sorts of gatherings, visits and get togethers.
But folks, this butterfly needs to retreat to her cocoon. No offence, but the Carolina's bye week didn't come soon enough for me this year. I need to sit out a few. The season is going on, but my "to do" list and my schedule don't get it. There are things I need to tend to around the house and with the technology committee at church. I know I said I was going to take a hiatus from my in-progress writing projects, but I really do want to get back to them with as few distractions as possible, and that means I need to put my nose to the grindstone and get things done now. And if you want me at my best during the busy holiday season, well, I need a break.
I mean no offence, of course. I just need some time to myself every now and then to catch up, rest up, take stock, and move on. I need to recharge my batteries and right now I'm running low. I've come to the conclusion that I must be an anomoly, because this seems to be a need that not many other people have. Other than my family, only Rick and one other person has admitted to needing time to themselves. It seems others actually clamor to fill those empty spaces in their lives to the point where there's no quiet, no hiatus, no opportunities to simply "be" and exist in communion with the Lord and the world. Doing, doing, doing. Well, I admire their energy and their tireless dedication to their social schedule, but I'm not afraid I can't operate like that. My life is very full right now and all the "blessings" keep me quite busy. It can be a challenge to find those moments and days with an empty spot on the calender. And they aren't usually give, so it looks like I'm going to have to take them.
I'm burned out. I need to clear off my plate to I can be true to my priorities and focus on what really matters - not on what the world says should matter.
So I'm starting today. I'm sitting out the USC-Florida game. I know, it's a big one and how could I. It's simple, really. The need for quiet in my soul outweighs "the big game." As I said, I need some time to catch up on some stuff around the house and with church so I'll be free to resume work on Move next month when I end my writing hiatus, and what better time than by focusing on that while the rest of the world (around here) is tuned into the big game. Plus, I still have Feathered Frenzy to finish, and I already have an idea for my next writing project which is a novella I hope to start in 2013. And promotion work on my already published works never ends. So there's lots to do there and I really need to get focused and get back to work on my writing soon, and taking care of the other things on my plate will really help with that.
I know life won't always be like this. I'm quitting volunteer activities in 2013, so I won't have to make decisions based on things like this soon. That was another decision I made this week. I need fewer meetings in my life and the truth is that I need to focus my time away from work on home, family and writing and that doesn't leave time for much else. I wanted to be more involved at church, and I will certainly continue to be a greeter and help with activities as I can, but I can't be bound to a committee anymore. It just doesn't work in my busy life.
As for the rest - well, eventually I'll retire from work, so that won't always be eating up most of my weekdays, but that's far away as I'm not even at the halfway point of my career. Frankly, I do have concerns about being bored if I didn't work, but those aren't concerns I need to ponder now or any time soon. Until then, it's the immovable object in my life and I have to work around it. Those aggrivations and annoyances aren't going to stop and I have to march on and do what must be done because it's my responsibilty and financial support, now and in the future. That's a reality for most people and it's something that should be easy to understand and respect.
Yes, life is busy, and sometimes it won't give you what you need so you have to take it. That's what I'm going to to today. Because if I don't take care of myself and my needs, then I'm not much good to anybody else, now am I?
That's all today. I hope you have a great weekend.
Ok, this entry is a little over a week late but considering that I was in Florida last week, well, better late than never, right?
I think we all know what Lent is - the 40 days prior to Holy Week and Easter that symbolize Christ's 40 days wandering in the desert and being tempted by Satan. The season is observed as a season of penance when we reflect on our sinfulness and mortality, and the sacrifice that Christ made to save us. As part of this, many people give up something during these 40 days. Food and beverage sacrifices are very popular - caffine, alcohol, chocolate, deserts - but anything that you like will do. I've given up reading, perfume and scented lotions, listening to CD's, and polishing my nails to name a few. However, I haven't given anything up for the past couple of years and in fact, I'm not giving anything up this year either. Why? Frankly, it's because the theme of sacrifice has been too regular in my life for a season observation to mean much to me right now.
Let me explain. Most people know that my life has changed drastically over the past couple of years. Sure there were some things that weren't by choice, but the truth is that most of it was based on decisions that Rick and I made: We chose to adopt 2 more birds and to get more involved at church, I chose to publish my writing and to become an independent author, and Rick chose to do website work on the side. These aren't decisions that we made lightly. We did pray about them and talk about them, and in the end we decided that the timing and season in our lives are right for these things. However, the fact remains that there are still only 24 hours in a day, and we can only do so much. That meant that, for us to have time to dedicate to these great new things in our lives, we had to make a decision to let some old things go. For example, I have made the decision to give up:
1. Cross stitching. This was tough because I enjoyed it, but the fact is that it's very time consuming - and so is drumming up publicity for my writing. Since I still have to work full time I had to make a decision: Would I rather see my writing grow or my ability in this craft grow? Being a writer has been a lifelong dream for me so of course, I chose to dedicate extra time to making my writing work. I don't regret it, but I do miss stitching and hope this is a seasonal sacrifice and I'll be able to bring this hobby back into my life someday.
2. Watching TV. I'm down to watching only 1 weekly show regularly (Supernatural). I'll try to catch some things here and there if I have a snippet of time, but it's rare. The truth is that I'm usually so busy with other things that I don't really miss this. Or maybe it's because I've conditioned myself to not pick up the remote so quickly over the past months.
3. Vegetable gardening. One of my favorite things in the summer was making tomato and cucumber salads from what I grew in my own back yard, but when I got contracts to publish Blurry and Anywhere But Here last yea, I know I simply didn't have time to plant and maintain a garden, no matter how small I tried to keep it. Plus, I tried it the first 3 summers we lived here and it was never very successful. Oh well, the local Farmer's Market was glad for my business last summer!
4. Participation in several websites including Authonomy, Writing.com, and Open Salon. As I joined places with a greater outreach like Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, I found myself on these sites less and less - to the point that I made the decision a month ago to be true to myself and back off. My focus just drifted to other areas. While I still want to keep improving as a writer, I must focus on getting in contact with readers too. They are, after all, why I'm writing in the first place.
I won't lie - it was hard to do this. The cross stitching was particularly painful to give up because I really did enjoy it, and I didn't want to admit that perhaps it was something meant for a season and not for life. But the truth is that I only have time for a few things in life, and I made a conscious decision that other things came above it, like church and writing. There's so much to do in life and our time and energy are limited, so we have to set priorities for ourselves.
Every now and then, you have to ask yourself what you want to see bear fruit in your life and dedicate yourself to that. Right now, I want to see my faith, home/family, and writing bear fruit, so that's where I must focus for now. And I am, but it means letting some other things go for a time while these things are at the forefront of my life. Maybe some of these things will come back someday and maybe they won't. Who knows what the future holds.
Yes, it has been a "season of pruning" in my life. I've had to cut many things, and I do believe it will lead to growth in the areas I've determined are important for now. But frankly, I've given up a great deal. I've seen too much go up in flames on the sacrificial altar to have giving up more, like perfume or fried pickles, speak to me now. Sacrifice has been speaking to me in a whole different way of late, and I just don't think I'm spiritually in a place where I can really "get it" now.
That doesn't mean that I don't observe Lent. I believe it's an extremely important season, and in fact I've chosen to observe it in a different way the past couple of years. You might not know it, but giving up something isn't the only way to observe this season. You can also take up a new project to observe it, like joining a Bible study, taking up an exercise program, or starting a new project. Last year, my project was to finish up unfinished projects around my home. This year, it's to make progress on our effort to get our yard fixed up. So there are other ways to do it.
Yes, I believe that accepting something to improve my home and life is the way for me to go this year. Praise God that we have a choice, and many ways to observe this important season of penance.
That's all today. Take care and happy Friday to you tomorrow.
I almost wrote this entry months ago when the sex scandal at Penn State broke but for some reason, I held back. In light of today's news that Joe Paterno passed from lung cancer, I'm breaking loose. And here's why:
The media are a bunch of hypocrites. Plan and simple, and this is the truth. The same people that lambasted the man for "not doing enough" months ago are now posting heartwarming articles like the one at http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=dw-wetzel_joe_paterno_obituary_012212
saying aww - he was a great man with that one bad thing. But now that he died, let's put it aside and remember the great man he was.
Bullcrap. You didn't care to remember his legacy in October. NOW you want to honor him? Take a look in the mirror, you vultures. The man was dying of cancer and you turned on him like a pack of wolves. Have any of you seen someone struggling with lung cancer? I have. A friend of mine at church lost a year long battle with lung cancer on my birthday in August. It was hell to watch. Absolutely awful. I beg my co-worker that smokes to please stop because I've seen how lung cancer literally eats you alive. It's ugly, painful and brutal. And while Paterno was going through that, the media ripped his reputation and legacy to shreds because "he could have done more."
So is that where we're going now? We're going to charge people for not being their brother's keeper? For not acting when we BELIEVE they should have acted? Ok then, when I was 12 my grandmother died. I was devistated. I turned to many adults to find out how to cope. You know what they said? "It's just a grandparent. This is worse for your mother. Get over it. Others are suffering more."
Ok then, at age 36 I still believe that was a rude and completely inappropriate response to a 12 year old reaching out for help. Say "I don't know" if you're stumped, but don't get your attitude on, especially with a kid. Can I haul those people in and charge them with psychological damage?
Or how about this - when my job was transferred a couple of years ago, it came to light that many things that should have been done weren't. In fact, in some aspects of my job I was improperly trained. Corners were cute and some mistakes of huge proportions were made because the programs were not being given the support they were supposed to have. Can I haul my former colleagues in and charge them with sabatoging these programs and my professional integrity for not handling them properly and for making me look like an igit to my new colleagues? Can I bring them and hold them responsible for me and my current colleagues having to go into a second year of cleaning up things that were messed up, lost or forgotten because of their negligence?
In both of these examples, I believe you'd hear more squawking than an avery with a snake in it.
And on the flip side, I'm not sure I'd even want to go there. I can think of times when I could have done better and didn't. Like Paterno, I can think of times when I just didn't know what to do, so I tried to turn it over to those that I believed had more knowledge and power, only to find that they didn't. I've failed to take responsibility. I've let people down. If everybody I failed hauled me in and held me responsible, I believe every person I ever knew would have a case against me.
The point is that we're all human and we make mistakes. We make errors in judgement that have adverse impacts on others. We hurt others with bad decisions. We let other people down by not doing enough or by letting things go when we should act but fear to because we don't know what to do. We fail people by passing off responsibility for things we should act on because we believe others are more competent to handle it. We all fall short. We all fail. If we're going to get into charging people for not doing "good enough," then we're all guilty. So what then? What do you do when every human being on earth is guilty of hurting others? What's the penalty? What's fair? What's right?
I believe that the powers that be in the Paterno case were looking for a big name scapgoat and they found it in Paterno. That was a pretty lame charge to fire him on. He admitted his fault. To tarnish him when he was humble enough to admit what he did wrong makes the accusers more guilty than he was. They played God, and they showed the whole world why they were woefully incompetent in playing the role of the Almighty.
Well, Paterno is with God now. The truth is known and the "big picture" impact of his role in this situation is determined. We on earth can no longer judge him or hold him accountable because he's already answered to the ultimate authority. So now it leaves the rest of us in the awkward situation (of our own making) to determine Paterno's legacy. Will we have the grace to remember him as the great man he was, or will we continue to be hypocrites and judge him guilty for this one error? Whatever happens, it will reflect on those of us left behind throughout the ages.
And as for the rest of it, well, I suppose this forces the media to focus on Sandusky, the real villian in this story, and not a side character.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost here: Christmas, the most magical time of the year. Weeks of planning, coordination, and frantic planning are about to come to their purpose as that blessed date finally arrives.
As we come upon Christmas, I’d like to urge all of you to remember the reason for the season. It’s so easy to get caught up in full schedules, gift buying, parties, family, friends, food and fun that we forget WHY we’re celebrating. It isn’t about gifts, decorations, meals, or Santa. It’s about the most wonderful gift that humanity has been given: Christ, our King who brings our salvation.
We talk about family, friends and church. These are wonderful gifts, but remember that the core of why we celebrate is the personal victory that Christ gave us when he died on the cross and defeated Satan for once and for all. It’s our responsibility to claim that victory and the free Grace of God that is offered with it. Nobody can do it for us. This is a free gift offered to each and every one of us and we alone must claim it. This is a time to give thanks for it. Remember that we join together to give thanks to Christ for coming into this world. We give gifts to one another as symbols of the wonderful gift of Salvation that Christ has given to us. We celebrate because we know that we’re free from the devastating consequences of sin on our soul and know we have eternal life.
I know the days ahead are full, but please take some quiet time to reflect on the reason for all of the activity in the coming days. Otherwise, it becomes another item on the “to do” list. Christ deserves better than that.
It isn’t about putting on the “perfect holiday.” It’s about celebrating the “perfect gift” that we have, now and always, throughout all of eternity. Thanks be to God.
It’s been nearly a year since my “graveyard epiphany” that spurred me to search within myself and bring my authenticity into my “new life.” The journey hasn’t been easy, but I believe it’s been well worth it. I feel more confident today than I ever have in my life. I now trust that I am where the Lord wants me to be, and that I can do whatever He sets before me because He Himself will work in and through me.
God works in each and every one of us. He uses our personalities, gifts and abilities to do His work in the world. If we want to be vessels for the Holy Spirit, then it’s important to know ourselves because that’s how the Spirit will work in and through us. If you don’t know yourself, well, the Spirit can’t work in you because you don’t know what’s going on!
That’s why it’s so important to be authentic. We are each divine creations and everything that God makes is good. Don’t let Satan corrupt your goodness with lies. Don’t let him hold you back with despair, discouragement, and fear. You become your best when you fight these attacks and stand up for your faith and yourself to be the very best creation you can be!
When I went through my life transitions last year the #1 piece of advice I got for coping was to stay rooted in my faith and true to myself. Believe in Christ and don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. Of course the devil attacked through naysayers and I got admonished to “grow up” and“quit being difficult” in my attempts to work things out for a better life. I refused to suppress my independence and insisted on being myself and working things out the right way, and not the quick and easy way. Do you know what’s happened? The naysayers don’t have much to say now that it’s working out! I had to work hard – harder than I ever knew or imagined was possible, but things did improve, and it was because I refused to take a backseat to life. I wouldn’t be a sidekick. I insisted on being a superhero and I’m rising to it, a step at a time. If “growing up” means settling for mediocrity then I’ll never grow up – period.
I hope this blog series has been helpful and inspirational to you. If you have enjoyed it, I encourage you to check out my first book titled Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World
. It’s available for sale through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Battleground-Earth-Living-Faith-Pagan/dp/1413733468/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
and through PublishAmerica at http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping/shopdisplayproducts.asp?catalogid=5696
I’ve read many books on finding yourself, but I won’t bore you with an entire chapter of suggested reading. Instead, I’ll limit my suggestions to the two most powerful books I’ve read on finding yourself:
The first is How to Succeed at Being Yourself – Finding the Confidence to Fulfill Your Destiny
, by Joyce Meyer. This is actually the book that gave me the confidence to start writing and pursuing publication after years of falling away from the craft because I allowed myself to become distracted with things that I didn’t intend to have in my life permanantly. I learned that I needed to be true to myself and my calling if I ever wanted to find happiness. This is what I call a “get up and conquer the world!” read. It motivates you to do something positive. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/How-Succeed-Being-Yourself-Confidence/dp/0446532045/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012510&sr=1-1
The second is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is a daily devotional book that has the single purpose of helping you find your authentic self. Each day has helpful entries to guide you into delving deeper within yourself to find the truth of spirit. It’s not specifically Christian and is meant to appeal to a wide audience, but it’s powerful and motivation. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Abundance-Daybook-Comfort-Joy/dp/0446563595/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012631&sr=1-1
Thanks for joining me in my reflections on this journey, and I hope you will embark on your own path to authenticity. It’s a journey well worth taking and revisiting from time to time as you continue to grow and learn in faith.
I think we all understand that life is a journey. We are continually striving to become better than we are, and as such there will always be bigger goals to reach for and bigger dreams to attain. Every milestone we reach, every dream we achieve, every new discovery we make, will change us. Although the core of who we are remains constant, we should continue to grow and learn with each experience. Our roles and functions many change, but who we are deep in our soul won’t. This is why it’s so important to strive for authenticity and to find your true purpose. The only way to make the journey successfully is to know who you are deep inside, and to know where you’re going.
We’ve often heard it said that Christ should be the foundation of your life, and this is true. Remember, though, what a foundation is for – we’re supposed to build on it! Each of us were created to live in this world for a reason, and our job is to build ourselves up to be the best we can be based on this solid foundation. We’re supposed to construct rising layers and to build up ourselves and our presence in the world. If Christ is the foundation, then I believe it stands to reason that being authentic and honestly knowing ourselves is the ground floor. Everything else builds up from here and depends on the support of the layers beneath it. Christ gives us our spiritual roots, and knowing ourselves helps us to serve the world in the best way possible.
I truly believe that we can’t relate to other people and perform to the best of our ability if we don’t know ourselves. How can we? How can you get along with others if you don’t know yourself? How can you do your best when you don’t know where your talents and abilities lie? How can you form solid relationships with other people if you can’t be honest with yourself? How can you succeed when you can’t accept reality? You may be rooted in Christ, but you can still get stuck in horrible ruts if you don’t take the next step to knowing yourself and to find contentment in what God made you to be.
So what is contentment? It’s accepting the reality of where you are and working to strive for better. Life certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes it can take you to dark places. This is the ugly underside of reality in an imperfect world. Life is going to hurt from time to time, and we may be completely dissatisfied with where we are. I certainly understand. I mentioned that I went through major changes in my personal and work life in 2010 and believe me, that was a special kind of hell. For many months I literally had no peace no matter where I went because battles raged all around me. Change is tough. It was hard enough to face two major transitions, but add to that the fact that change makes people very nervous and irritable and you understand what I mean by facing battles on every front.
How did I make it through? First, I believed in the promises that the Lord knows His plans for me and they are for good (Jeremiah 29:11) and that all things work together for good for those who love Christ and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). These promises, from the foundation of my faith, gave me the courage to stand up and take charge of my life. I claimed my life as my own and acknowledged that, although I couldn’t help the changes or control them, I certainly had a right to work them for the best. I sought advice from others I trusted, took advantage of every opportunity, and kept my eyes on the goal of coming through these transitions to building a life that was better than the one I had before. I wasn’t happy with my life, but I found contentment in knowing that the Lord was leading me through a transition that was taking me to a better life. I can honestly say that my life is better today than it was two years ago, and I’m grateful for that. It wasn’t easy – it fact, it was brutally painful in spirit– but I feel I’ve come out wiser and with knowledge and experience that will guide me through whatever comes next.
I believe this story shows that contentment doesn’t mean that things are perfect. As I said, we live in an imperfect world, and if you reserve your happiness for that magic day when it all comes together then you won’t be happy a day in your life. Contentment means accepting reality. It means resting in the Lord. It means being true to yourself. It means doing the very best you can in everything you do. And I do believe that is the secret to joy. It’s not an elated happiness or a dopamine high, but rather a sense of peace in doing the best you can with what the Lord has given you.
I think we owe it to everybody: God, ourselves and the world, to be authentic. After all, we are all part of the Body of Christ. We do His work in the world now. Isn’t that a job worth offering your absolute best for?
I recently heard a sermon on BBN about how the Book of Nehemiah shows 4 ways the devil trys to stop people from doing God's will. They are derision, discouragement, destruction and division. I think this is pretty accurate. After all, God doesn't attack us. He usually changes our circumstances and/or prompts a change of mind and heart within us if the intervention is Holy and an effort to put us on a right path. I believe my story from yesterday's entry showed this at work. There were no attacks in that situation; simply changing circumstances which eventually lead me to a change of heart. Certainly I could have continued to pursue an advanced degree in a different program, but the experience shifted my desires to other areas. In fact, I felt strongly prompted to pursue writing after this incident and I had an experience last year that showed all 4 of these steps at work to divert me from what I felt prompted to do.
In April 2010 I had an idea for an apocolyptic sci-fi thriller novel. I had just completed the manuscript for Anywhere But Here, and frankly I was surprised to have an idea for another novel so soon after completing one. I'm usually exhausted and novel ideas come, at best, every 2-3 years. I was excited to already have another potential project, so I immediately dug in and began writing the first chapter of this new piece. Frankly, it was the only excitement I had in the area of writing. I hadn't had anything published in over three years, and a contract that I was offered a year earlier fell through when the publisher filed for bankruptcy (see discouragement and destruction at work). This lack of success had caused enthusiasm to wane over my writing, and people that had been so excited when I published Battleground Earth in 2004 had now dismissed my writing as nothing more than a "nice little hobby" (see derision at work). Through this dry period I did pray about whether it was a sign to stop writing and move on, but the ideas kept coming and I continued to feel compelled and prompted to continue writing, even if the stories never made it any further than my hard drive.
My progress didn't make it past the first chapter, though, because I got tendinitis in my right wrist. It took about 8 weeks to heal. During that time I had to keep my typing to a minimum. I prayed and felt that I should use the time to research and further develop this novel. In fact, I decided to use the entire summer for this task and to enter this novel idea in the 2010 National Novel Writing Month challenge for 2010. That gave me 5 months to research, brainstorm, outline, and prepare to write the rough draft of the novel, and it would finally give me a chance to enter this writing challenge that I'd had my eye on and thought about entering for many years.
I tentatively call the tendinitis a destruction attack on me. I say "tentatively" because I am aware that the tendinitis was caused by typing at work all day and then coming home and typing at night to write Anywhere But Here, so the injury was a result of actions that I knowingly and willingly took.It was just the timing of the injury and the fact that my left wrist wasn't hurt at all that made me suspicious.
I proceeded with my plan and come November 1, 2010 I was ready to start on the novel. I was fully healed and had plenty of notes ready to go. I made great progress for the first few days. I was going through a major life transition at the time from major changes in my personal and professional life, but I felt that I was on a right path. In fact, writing Splinter for NaNo felt like a claim of independence; like a way of saying this is my life and I'm taking it and putting it together my way. It was a personal victory for me.
Unfortunately, the devil had his last punch to pack, and he gave me a wallop right when I didn't need it. It was at that time that other people in my life decided that they had a whole lot of problems with all of these changes, and it was time to do something about it. Tempers exploded and I saw sides of people that I had known for years that had never come out. They weren't angry at me, but since the change was centered around me then I was viewed as the linchpin of it all, and they saw me as the one to "make things right." They were mad at circumstances, mad at situations, and yes, mad at one another. I tried to soothe them, but tempers raged on. I even pointed out, as gently as I could, that they were reacting violently to things that usually didn't bother them, or were minor irritations. Occasionally they would stop, look stunned, say "you're right, that's wierd," then proceed to keep screaming about everything wrong with the world. Most of the time, they said I was crazy and needed to do something about things NOW. (See division at work.)
Once again, I prayed about the situation and this time, I had what can only be called a divine inspiration: Don't worry about anything else; just finish that rough draft as quickly as possible. Ignore everything else until it's done and deal with people once you get this story, which has been percolating in your head for months, out of the brain and onto the hard drive. Until then, reality can wait.
That's exactly what I did. I quit socializing, cleared my calendar, only did the bare essentials, and pounded away at that manuscript in every free minute I could squeeze out of my days. I amazed myself by finishing a 51,000 word first draft of Splinter by November 15.
A funny thing happened when I cautiously re-emerged back to reality. World War 3 hadn't broken out, and nobody had killed anybody else. In fact, all those tempers quieted. Most of them slunk away in silence, but a few did express shock and dismay at their behavior. They couldn't believe they had reacted so violently to things that were nothing more than minor irriations and didn't understand. I knew exactly what it was. Satan lit them with some hell fire to stop me, but when I wasn't there to burn then it was useless so he took it from them. I could have easily stayed angry at them and cast blame and judgement, but I realized it as an attack of division and didn't want to allow it to succeed on any level. It was hard, but I made an active decision to forgive and let it go.
I'd like to say that the devil just went away after that, but the truth is that I faced similar attacks every single time I worked on Splinter. Every rewrite, every edit, every proofread it happened. People saying they couldn't believe I was still at it when I clearly wasn't going to get published again. Illness, computer problems and yes, those tempers did flare back up every single time. But you know what? I prayed for protection, I persevered, and with the Lord's grace and help, I finished the manuscript last month. It's in the submittal process now and I pray that protection and help continue to bring it to publication.
Another thing did happen in the wake of all of this. I was offered e-book contracts for Blurry and Anywhere But Here, finally ending a 4 year publication dry spell. I also got several flash fiction pieces and a couple of short stories posted online, and that success gave me the confidence to self publish two more pieces: Quarantine, a suspense novellette, and Resonance, a horror long story. Thanks be to God that the opportunities offered by e-publishing took me from “a nice little hobby” to being an Independent Author!
The point of this story is to show that you will come up against opposition when you try to do God's will by finding your authentic self, but the rewards of perseverence are great. Prayer is absolutely essential - in fact, it's key. I think you see in my tale that prayer is how I channeled the Lord's power into my life. Through it, He provided me with wisdom, healing and protection. I can tell you for a fact that if He will do it for me, He will do it for everybody. God is no respector of persons. If you love and trust Him, He will provide, protect and comfort you.
I know it's discouraging to find you'll have to fight the devil to be who you were made to be, but the fact is that you're going to fight him no matter what you do. Satan will taunt you whether you do what he wants or not, so you might as well claim Christ's victory and piss off the devil every chance you get. Because face it: With Satan you can't win, but with Christ you can't lose. That is the most universal truth there is.
Thanks for sticking with me through 2 life tales. I hope that my experiences have given you insight for your own life and perhaps inspiration for dealing with situations that you face. Take care and keep fighting the good fight.
Next time: Personality Quirks - What's Sin, What's There For a Reason.