While our children were little my husband rarely to never took vacations, and we couldn’t afford to travel anywhere, anyway. I centered my life around the home and gardening… then put lots of time into blogging. All those occupations were in sync with my intensive demands of homelife (raising ten children while homeschooling), allowing for creative expression while not requiring lots of money or absence from overseeing the needs of my family.
Now I find I am always on a trip somewhere.
It changed slowly with rare trips to places I never dreamed of seeing… I went to Hungary and Denmark, then to Brazil to attend my son and daughter in love’s wedding. With the advent of grandchildren, there have been increased trips to Georgia, mainly, but Florida and Phoenix were on the list as well.
In the past year we did something -twice- that had been on my husbands wishlist since I met him: a road trip across the nation, visiting the West. He still has the Badlands on his bucket list, but we checked off the others: Highway 1 and Mendocino, Bryce Canyon in Utah, America’s Loneliest Highway Rte 50 through Nevada.
I know some people blog while they travel, but I am an “in the moment experience” type of person. I don’t even like the distraction of taking photographs. I have moderated that and forced myself to take photos for the sake of memories and just because I want to capture some of the beauty that I see, but mostly I drink in the scenery, and let the atmosphere saturate my mind and heart.
The past few years have seen a great increase in travel for me… which may not be comparable to many others, but it is a huge change for me.
I find I like it.
I come back to loads of laundry to do, a marathon of weeding and neglected gardens, but it has been worth the exchange. Time spent by the ocean, seeing vast redwood forests, immense mountains of the Rocky ranges… these are mind opening, soul nourishing events.
So I don’t apologize that this season of my life leaves less room for the type of blogging I once did. My online life evolves and there is no pattern for the shape it will take. But, like all the rest of my life, I have shifted away from letting demands rule my life, and have created space for the simple act of living. Letting the flow of what creates an organic and vibrant participation of relationship and experience to take the forefront, to become my priority.
People figure more predominately in this way of life, and tasks become secondary. I don’t pretend to imply that it leads to being a successful blogger or to create worldly wealth. I do, however, feel richer, and may I say it? Happier. Or maybe happy is not the right word choice, I think the term “joie de vivre” is a more accurate term. The joy of life infuses this pathway.
My garden takes on a wild look, my blogs are temporarily neglected, but I have more to offer when following this roadtrip of life.
This isn’t just about writing for income, and I will say that right at the beginning so no one is confused. But it is going to touch on that topic.
When I first arrived on the blogging scene, I really didn’t know what it was all about, but many who were beginning to blog at the same time had a much more concrete view of what the purpose of their writing would be. Many of those writers/bloggers were inspired by a man named Hugh Hewitt to begin their blogs with the view to change people’s world views. I should amend that to say “Christian and conservative” writers and bloggers. The people of liberal politics had long seen the value in using media to persuade people’s thinking.
But whether bloggers of that time were convinced by a specific person, or of the many who had chanced upon this new door to influence, many of us were of the mind that our writing could “make a change for good”. I know that was always a powerful motivation for me.
It still is, but blogging and online writing has changed for many like me.
It’s A Slow Train
It was a slow train coming for me to adopt the idea that writing and earning money were linked. Or could be, or should be.
And I still believe that one must be careful with one’s motivations, not just in writing, but in all endeavors of life. I also understand that without some sort of support, no writer can keep at their craft for long. This is perhaps one of the biggest evolutionary changes for me: if you keep on writing, over time you find you become “a writer”.
In the meantime, I took a break from writing to influence people’s thinking. After spending a good deal of time in online forums, and the dialog that was common on blogs is those days (early years of 2000 to 2007 or so), I grew tired of what online “conversation” had become. No longer exploring differing opinions, creating dialog, or even giving a rational argument for one’s view. Like the rest of the world around it, the web sunk into the morass of polarized diatribe, pandering, and propaganda. It wasn’t fun anymore, then, either.
Yet, there is something very attractive in the way a person, of no means really, can engage in discussion and a public presentation of views, and touch the possible thousands. That is heady stuff. So, I kept on writing and started exploring the world of online income… some of the things which are called passive income, but truthfully aren’t passive at all.
This was a natural road for me since I had started my web experience with non-fiction types of writing… my garden website‘s nascence sprung from the pages begun at that time. In retreating from the hotbed of politics and religion I found solace (as a writer and blogger) in the garden. In the need to pay for the nuts and bolts of such a thing, I began monetizing. Not the easiest thing to do in my chosen set of topics.
Another thing happened along the way… aging.
The focus of life has shifted, and the reality of needing to produce some income for retirement has also become part of my intention for developing my writing online. This has created multiple motivations for branching out into other sorts of writing and interacting online. And let’s not forget the online revolution itself… Facebook and Twitter have mightily changed online writing and all sorts of things.
I still have not forgotten that desire to impact people, to influence society for good (or goodness sake!). I am just not sure how it all works together, or even whether it can.
Paying The Rent
Earning even a small amount of income online is a lot of work. In fact, for a person like me who is not business savvy, I could not write, if I were dependent on its income. Still, some of the things I do are paying for website hosting for my other sites (this one is free, and I own only the content – not the domain). I have ventured into the world that others entered long time back…. writing for income. This I do on sites like SquidooThis site was sold and no longer exists as a home to writers as recorded in this post, and just this week a few articles on Hubpages. They are looked down upon by some in the blogging community, and I understand why. The impetus now is for these sites to clean up the junky parts of the neighborhood.
I like that a format like Squidoo creates community. I haven’t found that in the blogging sector for a long time. I also like that it is set up to create online income for those who contribute. And I have stretched my writing wings in the more mundane aspects of writing. Which is not to demean it. Why be elitist about our writing? I have distaste for this kind of thinking that is so prevalent in the art world.
So, here I am starting to write on Hubpages, too.
I also have learned some marketing along the way which is very enlightening. You view things in our society a whole new way when understanding basic marketing techniques. We are immersed in it whether we realize it or not. Just look at the sales ploy of “scarcity”, for example…. but I digress.
What reasons might be for writing on such sites as Squidoo, or Hubpages, or even Blogger, for that matter?
They share their income with the creative
On the web, promotion is as important as creation. No one will just show up at your blog or website, anymore
It is a free way to get instruction on almost anything, not least on how to earn money online; okay, maybe this is done a little too well.
You network without realizing you are networking
It encourages you to widen your horizons, the way surfing webpages used to “in the old days”
For me, the Squidoo site helped open things that I had long had an interest in but had no grasp of what it took to accomplish. One of those was utilizing the Zazzle site to create and to earn income. I am still making baby steps, but without guidance (and clearly the forums attached to such sites help,too) would still have gone nowhere with these avenues.
Community is powerful. It is necessary as well, and the sooner we learn that lesson in family, our neighborhoods and cities, and online, the better. It is just an illustration of “no man is an island” which we will face over and over until we “get it”.
Ah. Now you see I am only one step away from “soapboxing”, or influencing as I like to call it.
Maybe this part of learning what can help me pay the rent is obvious to you. I have an inkling that for individualists who have a high value on personal freedom, it is a hard won realization.
Paying the rent is not just about money. It isn’t about a materialistic society, it is about how we help each other survive and thrive. Work is important and necessary. All sorts of work -and having integrity and honesty in how we go about it- matters.
One more thing, influence is something we do everyday in all our actions, whether we realize it or not.
My disclaimer on this post is that I’m going to use illustrations that come from my experience in the church, but don’t think that people act like typical people just because they belong to a certain socio-economic or religious group. If you do that, you are going to miss the whole point.
Pixie Dust and The Wizard Behind The Curtain
Before I get to that story, let me tell you about an old blogpost I re-read from Kathy Sierra. Called “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity. The gist is that people use marketing techniques to game the system and it’s that “pixie dust” that is promoted to be the magic answer to the branding and promotion of ones product.
It is not unlike the last topic, taking to task the online and marketing Gurus who provide methods, for a fee, to making you and/or your customers (clients..fans….whoever you want to win over) an overnight success. Even if they are well-meaning, plenty of so-called experts aren’t really helping you to be what truly makes you awesome: being the best you can be, living to your potential, inspired to rise to greater heights of what you hope to be or accomplish.
Buzzwords, Buzzword techniques, and the fast path to wealth and awesomeness is something people will pay for, and that means a lot of gamers are going to enter the field to make sure they can take advantage of it. That also means there is going to be an aftermath of broken dreams, and the disillusioned.
Sierra succinctly sums it up:
There is a world of difference between helping someone *appear* more awesome and helping them actually BE more awesome.
And that in some ways reminded me of a small, but rather sorry, experience I had a long time ago that left me with a distinct sense discomfort that helped shape how I like to deal with people to this day.
A Moment of Clarity
I had gone to one of those big Christian conferences that are comprised of all sorts of people from different denominations, cultures, and backgrounds. It was one that had really pumped up my own sickly and struggling grip on walking out my faith. It wasn’t called a Revival, but it was effectively working as one for me.
Maybe because of that, I was a bit more open, hopeful, and vulnerable to what people said to me. Anyway, after one of the services (there are several at this sort of convocation), a well meaning man spoke to me. He said something very positive, something like “I see you are -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’, and you will -positive ‘blah,blah,blah'”. I felt very encouraged, I felt that he had been moved by some inner insight to share that with me.
As the conference moved on I happened to pass by that man speaking to someone else, using the very same words, the very same expression, the very same way. They weren’t special insights meant for me. This well meaning man was gaming the system.
I suppose he felt this was his ministry of encouragement or something, but for me, it was a searing disappointment, because it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel sincerely anything. I felt my sense of trust was breached and trampled. I didn’t ask for his words, and wasn’t even hoping or looking for them. He offered me something artificial, when I truly needed the genuine. He sprinkled around some pixie dust, because it had good effects on people. For him.
And to this day, as convinced as I am of the importance of affirmation and encouragement, if I cannot garner together the individualized and sincere words that are infused with my own sense of care and compassion, or affection or desire to connect… I don’t want to give a substitute. I don’t believe in “placeholder” love, that consists of words or token actions merely meant to make someone feel good for the moment.
That is a terribly selfish thing to do. It is pixie dust spread around to make the giver feel better about themselves. If you tell someone they are awesome with that motivation, spare them.
They are better off without your false words and insincere methods. The world is better off without them.
How To Tell Someone They Are Awesome
First -to outline the negative shape before drawing in the detail- do not tell someone how much they matter or how great they are when showing them is better. Words will often cloud the message, even if you intend to mean them. That too often turns into “meaning well”, and you know what the old saying is about good intentions.
If words are all you have, tell people something that you can follow through on… a generally inclusive way of telling them they matter and are awesome “I look for the beauty and glory in you”… because I look for that in all. And then make that your purpose, your own rule of life.
Do something for them that helps them be the best version of themselves.
Then when you tell them you think they are awesome, or that they matter to you, they will trust it, and it will build something meaningful into their lives.
Give them tools of value, words of value, and actions of value. Take something of yourself, and invest it in those tools, words, and actions. Infuse something of your love and care into what you give to others. That will make them feel awesome. Then you can tell them they are awesome and might even have an opportunity to share something that will make them even more awesome.
The outcome of that is what they do with that thing themselves, what they get to experience from it.
This has its way of spilling over and making us feel pretty awesome as well, but that is not the goal or the point of what we tell others, or what we share with them.
What Am I Really Saying?
What really works is love. Love is never cheap, and has no substitution. Everyone needs and wants it, and when you give words or anything to another person with real love attached, you give the world what it really needs.
January is my number one planning month. I like to plan, but in the past I had more plan than execution which always translates into disappointment and frustration. In more recent years, I moved into an action-oriented way of doing things which then resulted in the type of LaLaland distraction which I have always been prone to. Come to think of it, I wonder if my love of planning had some of its origins in how well it worked to help me cope with the outside world and its demands.
Whatever… that is an example of the rabbit trail kind of thinking that dogs my life 🙂
Back to telling you what I did today that relates to you- my dear readers, or happenstance visitors…
I made plans today that incorporated two activities and goals that are at the top of what I would love to accomplish this year:
You might be disappointed in how cliched, how prosaic, those goals are, aren’t these the goals of 99.9% of the people out there? Maybe not the blogging, but some part of their life like that. Health and fitness always rate right up there for most people. But for me, I linked the two, and outlined them on paper.
There is a part of my brain that is convinced that uniting goals and making connections between dissimilar parts of our lives leads to a better balanced and successful overall life.
‘Blogging’ and ‘Health’ goals have been at opposite poles for me in the past few years. when I spent lots of time blogging, or making websites (the involvement with sitting long periods at the computer), the worse the effect on my physical well being. I became sedentary, I snacked on food I usually don’t even like (always unhealthy processed, fat-laden, sugar-infused foods), sat in awkward positions, just to name a few of the worse side effects of loving to blog.
When I exercised, gardened, took walks and hikes, cooked from scratch… interacted with people, you know, real life activities, I not only did not write or work on computer related website-making or graphics, or any of the many tasks linked with blogging… I lost my place. That’s right, I had no idea of what I wanted to do with the sites or blogs, and had problems with the software. Updating, using plugins for function, fixing things that go awry, became a giant learning curve again.
That also is very much my natural personality default. Long periods of focus sharpen my thinking, as well as create the logic and connections that my mind works well with. If other activities take me far away from the thought and concentration and I sort of forget everything.
So, I have decided to harness the power of blogging to sort through and create accountability in some of my desired improvements, including taking ownership of health. It isn’t enough to know the requisite knowledge of what to eat or how to exercise, etc. I need to incorporate the actions, and in a way that I don’t lose sight of other important goals in my life, like communicating with people.
So, I made my map for a couple goals, and this long dormant blog is going to be a part of this experiment.
My experiment in this years resolutions, which I confessed to my family in our conversation time on January 2nd, that I have not even formulated yet. Until I wrote my plan for the health/blog/outline, I didn’t even have much of an idea that I was going to focus on health this year. At least not in a real, organized type of way.
And do you know what inspired it all? God works in mysterious ways, I tell you: a Sam’s Club Advertisement magazine. Yes.
I think it congealed with the Copyblogger articles I was reading which lead to an INC article and BOOM! There I was making my plan.
I remembered I joined the affiliate programs for these businesses, so in the spirit of integrating goals, plans, and actions I’ll post my affiliate banners here. Perhaps at some point I will know how to sync serving my posts linked with business affiliations etc.that will be of real value to the readers. For now, it is just sort of a non sequitor random banner posting… just because reading Sam;s club’s ads sparked a whole new direction of my thinking in a positive way.
And how knowing that will make a difference for your 2012 resolutions
Everyone hates New Years Resolutions, it seems, or if they don’t outright hate them, they feel discouraged by the prospect of yet another set of resolutions biting the dust around, oh say, March.
I think that comes from confusing the intent behind resolutions, goals, and plans.
How do we turn our dreams into reality without being too cynical or pessimistic to even start. (One sure way to fail, or just get nowhere, is to not even start! And isn’t getting nowhere just another way to set up for failure, anyway?)
Goals are general. We want to achieve something, reach a bar point or acquire something, or get to some life destination point. We set goals with those ideas in mind, and that is usually what we call our resolutions: I want to lose weight, get fit, or be more healthy in 2012. Those are examples of typical goals most of us have.
Or we might say “I want to have a productive business””, or garden, or “I want to make more money”. “I want to spend more time with family”, build my website popularity, change jobs, start school, …those are all goals. We have personal and professional goals and we are really hoping to see a difference in the coming year, or -more likely- make up for how we failed or came short the previous year.
But the reason so many of these goals bite the dust is because they just sit there without plans. Efforts are not plans… we throw efforts at our goals and our enthusiasm lasts for a time dependent on how much will power or focus we have, but rarely does it last throughout an entire year. And that means rarely do we see those goals to completion. Some people give up, others… jump on the hamster wheel for another round of aimless flailing.
Plans are the tools for making goals realities. They take the form of written notes, timetables, deadlines, schedule of actions, etc. They are specific and tied to either a set of accomplishments or a calender date (or both). Those tools are the feet for the goals actually getting somewhere, and this is where most people miss the boat. They don’t like the finality and specifics of plans. Plans make people feel tied to timetables and decisions, and that takes away some of the warm fuzzy feeling of the grandiose visions of how powerful their will is going to be to get their goal: be thin, be successful, be a better person, be smarter, whatever that goal looked like in their mind as they sat in an easy chair at the end of the (dreamstate) year. Envisioning is a powerful thing, but it is only daydreaming when not tied to real plans.
Plans organize and pace efforts. We all know of those well intended efforts that fill the gyms each January, and empty them by May. We get busy, we get lazy, we get distracted, and our efforts dissolve into days, then weeks, then months of little or no progress.
Ready to land on next year’s “hopes and dreams dump”.
But our plan and schedule of efforts, and plan to get back on track, as well as measurable watermarks of nearing the goal throughout the year create real progress.
What a New Year’s resolution really is: the combination of the visionary goal with the plan of action, backed by measurable efforts.
Those are the resolutions that will guide and focus the coming year and end with satisfaction that we moved forward with things that were important to us.
The brainstorming part of a the resolution process is what we start with each January First. What did we like or not like about our lives and purposes in the previous year? what would we like to see changed? What kind of person do we want to be? What relationships do we wish to cultivate? Character qualities? accomplishments??
As we brainstorm all the dreams and ideas, we then sift them into priorities, the into real plans, then into calender events which we perceive will move us forward to the goal point.
Are you ready to turn your wishes and hopes into resolutions? And your resolutions into reality?
I started writing this post in 2008, right about the time our economy took its deepest nosedive and stayed in the increasingly complicated morass we find ourselves in today.
Where do our collective morals come from? and how do we correct a set of morals that make us “entitled, lazy, and proud of it”?
Questions, questions. More questions than answers, nowadays. Morally we have a similar problem to economically (no surprise, there): we do not have the guts to correct our moral equivalence because we don’t want any pain.
People who are afraid of pain, who have no stomach for necessary pain, will never find the solution to their problems. They will chase easy answers and palliative measures, which are actually detrimental when dealing with severe problems. That is a fact. Pain comes from the response to something that is wrong, that is harmful, maybe even life-threateningly so. If we collectively value our ease above our well-being… there is no hope for the short term. As in all such matters, you wait for the eye opening moment when the threat of destruction arises sufficiently to create a will to change, even if it involves painful measures.
The very difficult problem we face in clarity is how much our physical problems of a sick economy is the result of moral decay; and further defining just what constitutes moral decay… because we have no more generally accepted standards. We have only a vague sense of moral relatives that fluctuate constantly.
Can we think ourselves out of this?
Do you find the correlation of the general moral fiber of a country matches up with it’s economic direction? Does it make sense to you that people who feel entitled, lazy, and proud of it should also be increasingly less productive?
Furthermore, is there a cosmic retribution for societies that harbor such behaviors? As Christians we call this “judgment”, but is there an accumulative action and reaction at work in such concepts? If so, then the man standing and shaking his fist at God, daring a strike of lightning just doesn’t get it. If retribution comes as a cumulative aggregation of circumstances and many acts by many people …then the result is not seen as the atmosphere is forming. Like Ezekiel said of Sodom’s sudden destruction, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy”.
Are there aspects of both consequence and judgment when a society declines and falls?
Someone brought an article to my attention which talks about the “natural” decline of a nation, speaking specifically of the USA:
From time immemorial, civilization has required a surplus to be earned from the labor and harvest of a tribe or people. If you consume the entire fruits of your collective labor, you have no surplus to trade with other peoples, no surplus to invest in roads, ships, additional fields, waterworks, armies, permanent structures (religious, communal or private), no “savings” for lean times, and certainly no surplus to pay anyone in the tribe to practice art or music.
An economy which creates no surplus cannot save any surplus to invest (“money” is nothing but a means of exchange and a store of surplus labor/energy). That economy is doomed to eating its seed corn, after which it collapses. Throughout history, ecological/environmental changes (unremitting years of poor rainfall and harvests) and/or regional conflict (unending wars which consume whatever surplus remained) have led to the downfall of great civilizations.
Now an empire has certain advantages over a tribe or city-state or even a nation. Through its power, both “hard” (military) and “soft” (financial, cultural influence, diplomacy, threats, etc.), the empire can coerce vassal states to sell their surplus goods and services at immense discounts to the empire, which then consumes the goods or re-sells them at enormous profits.
The empire can also create and sustain markets in vassal states for its goods and services, which it sells at a premium either directly or via the legerdemain of currency manipulation/control.
:: repost from 8/22/08 ::
I’ve been told a lot of things. Pray for this. Fast for that. Attend this meeting. Give. Serve here.Take care of the nursery there. Be nice. Be strong.Spank your kids. Don’t spank your kids. Clean your house better. Be involved. Be smart. Take care of yourself. But not too much.
I could go on for quite some paragraphs if I really wanted to and put my mind to it… those were just off the top of my head. I have deadlines, I have demands. I have obligations. And so do you. The difference between you and me might be the number of years we have been at this… or it might be that one of us tries harder, certainly some of you are far more successful than I am at all of this, but I’m sitting here thinking: what is really important? What should I have spent my time doing, listening to, and giving myself to? It isn’t that I haven’t tried to do “the right thing”. I have, and I find that that is the case for most people I know: we are trying to do what is best in any given circumstance.
But this Olympics thing has stuck that thought in my mind: we all run the race, but one gets the prize. In life, it is not a singular “one”, it is the qualifying one. The one who has enough focus, wisdom, and sense to know the goal and to strive to attain it. Olympic gold is not won by scattered energies and diversions. It is won through measured effort. You can’t work too hard to gain it, or you might injure yourself, burn out, or otherwise disqualify. You have to utilize your own gifts and focus towards what they are best potentialed to accomplish.
There is this little mentioned portion of scripture in the Song of Solomon:
and then much later in the book:
Many of us have labored for others dreams and goals, supported others plans and met their demands while neglecting what was ours, our responsibilities, gifts, ministries, and potentials. We thought our time would come, and others would then support us, but it isn’t always that way. We have to realize, and take responsibility for our own vineyard. We have to own it. And then we may properly give it… while having something truly worthwhile and cultivated, cared for as something precious, to give away to others.
If we don’t value what we are and what we have to give…. why would we expect others to be capable of that? We must put a value on our giftings, and develop our own callings in life. So many of us, especially women, expect for others to do this for us. And then we wonder why things don’t work out.
A vineyard is an interesting thing.”Wine grapes are an agricultural product and it takes about four years before a newly planted vineyard comes into production” ~Jenny Heinzen, director of winery and vineyard sales for WineryX Real Estate in Napa Valley
We usually think of New Year’s Day as the time for new beginnings, but the year has several entries for a new beginning. Easter week is one of these, as well as the new school year, which coincides closely with the time of Yom Kippur.
Many of the symbols or icons of Eastertime elicit thoughts of new starts, like baby chicks or Easter eggs. Springtime is a natural new beginning as all of nature rises from the dormancy of winter. I seem to have posted it everywhere, but when I found an article from the Harvard Business Review on “How I Became An Optimist” it started a revolutionary beginning of the year for me. I might have had resolutions at the beginning of 2011, but to have a practical set of actions that will create new neural pathways in my brain seems even better. In sum, the article steps to more optimism follows author Tony Schwartz ritual :
“to get out of bed when I awoke, go to my desk, and write down what I was worrying about — just the facts. Next, I wrote down the story I was telling myself about those facts. Finally, I worked to conceive a more realistically optimistic story I could tell myself, based on the same incontrovertible facts.”
Of course, in thinking about Easter, it isn’t the steps we take to improve our brains or lifestyle that most impacts us. It is what Christ has done for us that makes a completely new life, and not just turning over a new leaf. Think of the newness of that! What I love about adding in ideas of creating new thought patterns is the way we have overlooked that in our Christian theology, and how it brings it back into proper perspective. We have a new birth and become new creations through the resurrection of Christ, and nothing can imitate or replace that; but we also have a need to renew our minds. What, in our lives shows us how to renew our minds? It isn’t just a one step process. So much deconstruction goes on in Christian theology that old admonitions to “read and believe the Bible” can be lost under the pile of confusion of a complex modern world.
Some of these simple procedures and scientific trivia facts almost seem tailor made to resurrect them for us.
For Schwartz, it seems to have been almost effortless and surprising,
I did this every morning, dutifully, for several months, and it usually made me feel at least a little better. I also began to notice that the negative outcome I initially imagined rarely came to pass.
Finally one morning I woke up, and as usual, a challenging issue for that day came into my mind. This time, however, before any negative story could take its usual place, a more realistically optimistic one occurred to me, effortlessly.
Something profound had occurred. In the days ahead, it was if my whole center of gravity had shifted. I felt like the sun had finally broken through the clouds and it was there to stay. What happened, I believe, is that through my ritual, I ultimately created new neural paths in my brain.
We languish for years in thought patterns that defeat us, and become convinced that we are somehow “made this way”, when there are ways we can change ourselves and our thinking with taking what seems like “baby steps”. The “just do it” simplicity of placing one foot, or in this case “one thought” in front of the other to create new pathways to follow. I believe that if I retrace some of these steps advised, I will at the very least find some strength that comes from a new way of thinking and the optimism it can build to give a kickstart to change in the year of 2011.
More New Thoughts
And what about that brand new concept in the New Covenant of “resting” in the finished work of Christ? That is spoken of at Easter, and it is an idea that is so foreign to us that it maybe the greatest revelation involved in Martin Luther’s insight of Salvation being a matter of Faith. We start out with the concept of grace which works by faith…. but how often do we devolve back towards trying to work our way into the good graces of God? What steps can we take to form new rituals of thinking about that? And to create an understanding of the paradox that we do the works of God while resting from our own.
This is food for thought while we finish the fasting of Lent and begin the feast of Easter.
I find I am not the only one to find metaphysical material in the occupation of gardening, Melissa Schubert of The Scriptorium writes of her own garden observations, and the paths of thought that has inspired. “When Faces Called Flowers Float Out of the Ground” lightly harrows the topic of growing a personal garden, a subject of width and breadth that yields a lifetime of lessons and experiences. And it is funny how this is both universal and unique at the same time. I suppose there is an essay in itself in that sentence, but Ms. Schubert touches on a few things that brought my experiences to mind.
First, in growing from seed, she discovers the joy of accomplishment, of participating in the nurture of new life. There is something reaffirming and a core of celebration whenever we are able to be a part of that: new babies, new puppies, new plants. Schubert seems to be a fairly new gardener and finds some of the early lessons in the tension that is always present in the natural world. While planting something she desires, she finds that somethings undesired have the stronger presence: weeds. Gardens are the places where we learn that there is balance in creation, that much of life is about achieving and maintaining balance. The futility and travail we perceive is in how fragile that balance may be, how little we understand of it, and how much effort it takes to live properly within it. The creation was never meant to function outside the influence and care of the Creator… the imbalances remind us of that constantly.
She shows a Calvinists struggle in the rationalization of beauty for beauty’s sake:
Gardening has exposed in me a certain singularity of taste as well as an indulgence in the decorative. While I don’t think it represents any moral failing on my part as gardener, I am suspicious that in other areas of my life I behave similarly. My aesthetic is simultaneously underdeveloped and tyrannical. All too often in my life I choose the beautifying over the economic good. I indulge my tastes more often than I seek to expand or mature them.
So I am going to start a vegetable garden this fall.
But as I wrote in my articles on a cutting garden and a kitchen garden, those aspects may be harmoniously pursued. And if my own practice is any example, the individual character qualities are more expressed, and not so much mollified by such mechanisms. No matter how I plant vegetables, my garden always tends more towards the decorative. Hollyhocks, marigolds, and sometimes other flowers, found their way into the sanctum of garden space that was reserved for food production. All with good cause, of course. Maybe our ideas of virtue are not necessarily …. balanced. Perhaps it takes time and a few lessons to accept ourselves and our place in a way that celebrates our own variety of characteristics.
And as she revealed her circumstances, Ms. Schubert also shed light upon her choices, “I rent my home[…]and I garden in ground that I do not own “. I remember when I once did that same thing, the desire to grow something outweighing any practical considerations of how long I would enjoy it; and her same lessons were ones I also faced- the short tenancy meant I was only a steward . Now I know that no matter how long I live at a place, and even if I own it, my ownership is but a short period in the long march of time. Someone else will always come after me, with more or less interest in the garden that I made and gave myself to. Everything I have, I am lent. In the short term we plant short term gardens… annuals, and perhaps some vegetables, rarely shrubs or trees. In the long term we replace our immediate satisfaction with a discipline to put in something that requires our faith and imagination. If we should have sights on the future beyond which we expect to see… Well, then we plant oak trees.
…And we connect.
I garden aware that doing so connects me to this particular space, the very land I’m living on.
So, even though I do not know Melissa Schubert, and am fairly certain that we are worlds apart in many ways, I once again find that there is a sisterhood in gardening, and a deeper one in faith that makes me understand the lessons with an inner resonance.
I love landmarks. They give me a sense of where I am and where I’m going. Seemingly empty spaces of endless desert space that have no remarkable features make me feel a bit uneasy,although the fact is that nothing is truly featureless on earth- you just have to pay attention and know what to look for.
Take the Aborigines of Australia, for instance. But I’m digressing from pinpointing a couple focus points for 2011.
I was listening to a teaching video about a topic I was interested in, by Naomi Dunford and Dave Navarro (who use a lot of bad language in it, but then, that is part of the Ittybiz brand) and one of the things they said triggered a thought that has been surfacing for me recently.
Stop Lying To Yourself
… and that is a focus point for this year. It is time to decidedly throw off the false perceptions, the stultifying barriers that your own mind has erected, and the burdensome excuses that you repeat to yourself. They keep dragging your best efforts and intentions back into the muck. Which isn’t a good place.
Once I stop lying to myself I have more space and time to finding true and helpful things to say to myself… and then to others. AND -most importantly- I will align myself with the intentions of my Creator. I was made a certain way with specific qualities, and I am developing or neglecting those things according to how I understand those basics. That isn’t a whole theological doctrine or philosophy of fatalism, because, especially with the Lord Jesus in your life, there is new creation going on all the time. But it still helps to be aware of the things in your life already.
This focus on “stop lying to myself” is something that is rather theological for me, come to think of it. Basically it is removing a major blockade that stands in the way of believing God, and advancing towards goals with some assurance of success. When we operate according to lies we just spin in senseless circles. Eastern religions have a real concept worked out on this. Several have an explanation for futility, but all I need to understand is this determination to stop lying. It sets the point back to neutral, but it also opens the pathway. That is important.
The positive side of this lesson is one that this past year has had been increasingly revealing. Through experiences, teachings, and during prayer- coming to know who I am. Who I am in God, through His view, as a human ( what were we meant to be, etc).
So, I guess this focus could be expressed as “Start Telling The Truth To Yourself”
For me, this is very specific. It involves the old advice of meditating on certain scriptures, giving myself the right “self-talk” such as the fact that I have received the sound mind of Christ. A terrific antidote for the messages through out my life that something is fundamentally wrong with me and that I will follow the mentally unhealthy destiny of the family predisposition to depression.
I don’t have to and I can do something about it.
Oh, there is so much that could be said right here…. but I think the general direction is clear. That is the one I’m going in, and guess what I’m finding out about this? It makes me a better person to be around. YES! Slow to see the results at first, but there are glimmers. I always wanted to make positive impacts on others, but had to come to grips that it doesn’t mean finding out what is wrong as much as encouraging to go towards what is good, improving, right, lovely, and all that. Allllll that. It is scriptural: Philippians 4:8
Funny, it is in this chapter, Philippians 4, that we find
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”
Related, you think? I’m thinking it is.
OK. My resolutions have turned more into focus points, and there is a reason for this. I’m pretty old, and I’ve been at this self improvement thing for a long time…. I am like a constant self improvement obsessive. And despite poor results, I keep trying. To answer your question, I do have a sound mind, thanks. The point of my reason to shift towards focus points is to have longterm efforts that eventually win the day, accomplish the intent. Like the de-cluttering. This is a lifetime change.
Releasing positive thoughts and saying encouraging things are other long term habits to develop, especially for a realist like me. But positive and good things are MORE real than the negatives. They last longer once instituted. Ok- that is something to argue and discuss sometime in the future, this is just writing some notes on personal internal thinking I have.
I have lots of things I want to do this year, so some of the efforts I am making at the head of the year is prioritizing. I think making priorities is especially important for a woman like me. I need to stay on track and there are many voices who like to say my time is less important than theirs. Because I’m a woman, because I don’t have a “real job”, and because I like to take time for people and be flexible. But what I am finding is that there is a real need for people like me in the world. We are at a premium, and part of what I want to do is value myself along with valuing others more, too. To see holistically, and how we all matter in different ways.
I want to grow into being a nice old lady. Not every young bitch gets to do that ( sorry, but that is the language that applied). But I look forward to being able to be better as I age. It will depend on being serious about my goals, intentions, and convictions.
This year will include prayer,but I think it will be supercharged with certain additives. I want to explore the gifts that operate with prayer, and partner together for prayer in different ways. That has been happening anyway, and I hope to co-operate more fully with that. 2010 was like climbing a long hill. I got stronger, but it wasn’t easy. For 2011, I’d like to grow wings, but I’m not sure that is in the works… maybe just enjoy the journey more and continue giving up the need to control. That is the final focus I leave you all with. If I make an official list of resolutions, they will get posted. Until then, I wish all my readers the best and most inspirational of years. I’m looking forward to 2011 as it unfolds.
Oh, and if you want to listen to the Ittybiz video, here is the link– there are GD and F-bomb words on the topic of making a blogging business. Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com