Monday, October 25, 2010

STRENGTH FROM STRUGGLES

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger



Last spring I must have dropped a cucumber seed in the graveled drive on my way to plant our garden, because a tiny plant made its appearance among the rocks around the same time as my cucumbers sprouted in their rows of rich dirt.

All summer long I passed the little plant thinking it would die. We didn’t water it. Actually, we rode our 4- wheelers over it to and from the garden. Neal even drove his tractor over it several times!  We totally ignored it and yet it survived. It even survived the August drought for heaven’s sake!

My  pampered cucumber vines in the garden did awful. Spoiled little things. Most were bitter and didn’t produce much fruit at all. We may have gotten a dozen pints of pickles from them. Hardly worth the trouble.

The little plant in the road didn’t do much either, that is until last week. I passed it and to my surprise it offered a respectable sized cucumber. I picked it and took it to the house. I didn’t have a lot of hope for its taste, but I sliced it up and took a bite. To my amazement, it had a crisp texture and sweet flavor. This brave plant actually has another miniscule cuke in the making. Take a close look at the photo above. 

This cucumber plant has been Neal’s and my discussion during our evenings on the porch. We looked back over our lives and remembered the “fruit” that came from our struggles. At the time it didn’t seem that anything good could come from our hardships and I can’t say that either of us was particularly gracious in some of our struggles. But I can say that we didn’t give up and now we are stronger and wiser.

I read this once, “Nothing that comes your way can harm you, only your response to it.” For the majority of things in our lives, I believe this is very true.

Struggle requires something from us that is beyond us. It requires faith, determination, vision, and action. If we roll on our backs—like my grandpuppy, Kricket, does when troubles come— we will grow weak in our soul and our lives will show it. Just like my pampered cucumbers, we may put on a lot of showy leaves, but have no fruit. Or what little fruit we do have may be bitter.

Don’t resent the struggles you are having now. Respond to them. Change the way you think about them and make them work for you. Exercise the “soul muscle” of faith, determination, vision, and action.

In doing this, you will be strong.

Monday, October 18, 2010

RULES OF CHANGE


                        
“When the music changes, so does the dance.” ~ African Proverb

I just returned today from Eureka Springs where I attended the Ozark Creative Writer’s Conference. On my way there the trees were green, the weather a little too warm. However, coming home they were turning scarlet, orange, and yellow, the air crisp. My heart sang out, “Change is coming!”

How I love the seasons. Especially fall. It is the time when nature dons colorful clothes and celebrates the fruits of spring and summer. Each season is distinct and has a unique purpose.

In much the same way, life is the same. Think about this, every living thing grows and changes. We all go through changes or “seasons” and each serve a purpose. We grow into adults. We graduate school, get married, start careers, get jobs, maybe have a few children. Our children grow into adults and make us grandparents.

We change our careers, our interests, and the direction of our lives. Our bodies change, our ways of thinking grows and sometimes changes. We watch loved ones die and one day we will too.

This is the natural flow of life. Where we go wrong is when we resist change. No one can enjoy fall if they are filled with longing for the past spring. As the proverb says, dance to the music that is playing. Live your life to the fullest. Embrace the change and make it work for you.

Dance to the music of fall! 


Monday, October 11, 2010

A TIME TO HARVEST



“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.” ~ The Talmud

I started writing around the age of 48. In my naïveté I didn’t think my late start mattered. That is until my first writing convention. The speakers were all ages, but the one thing they had in common was that they were born with a silver pen in their hand. Every one of them said they started writing as children. The message I heard was “all you middle-aged women, just lay down your pen and go home.”

It seemed that editors and agents only wanted experienced writers and didn’t have time to fool with novices. One speaker actually said if we wanted to write, then write letters! Needless to say, I left with my writing spark snuffed. A tiny stream of smoke curled up from my extinguished flame of creativity.

I kept writing, but the “what’s the use” cloud hovered over me like the one over the Peanut’s character, Pigpen. However, that changed when I attended a writing workshop. The speaker asked us to write about an influential person in our lives. I wrote about my mom. She married when she was in 8th grade. Then at the age of 45 she earned her GED and achieved her LPN license at 48. She didn’t let the circumstances in her life make her a victim.

After writing about her, it hit me, I was turning myself into a victim! No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. So what was I doing with my “todays?”
I came to realize that all my life I had been gathering experiences, stories, life-lessons. Then at 48, it was time for me to “harvest” and share my gleanings.

Do you feel it is too late for you? Maybe you want to go back to school. Do it! You want to start a second career or a new one? Do it! You want to follow your dream? Do it! Don’t let your age or how long it may take stop you. My mother went back to school, and it took a little over 3 years. She could have said, “Well, I don’t know, I won’t graduate until I’m 48.” But think about it, she turned 48 anyway—with a degree.

I don’t care if you are 70+. Go back to school, write that novel, start that career, create, love, reach out. It is never too late. Share your life’s harvest with us. By doing this, you are planting seeds for future generations! 

A TIME TO HARVEST




“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.” ~ The Talmud

I started writing around the age of 48. In my naïveté I didn’t think my late start mattered. That is until my first writing convention. The speakers were all ages, but the one thing they had in common was that they were born with a silver pen in their hand. Every one of them said they started writing as children. The message I heard was “all you middle-aged women, just lay down your pen and go home.”

It seemed that editors and agents only wanted experienced writers and didn’t have time to fool with novices. One speaker actually said if we wanted to write, then write letters! Needless to say, I left with my writing spark snuffed. A tiny stream of smoke curled up from my extinguished flame of creativity.

I kept writing, but the “what’s the use” cloud hovered over me like the one over the Peanut’s character, Pigpen. However, that changed when I attended a writing workshop. The speaker asked us to write about an influential person in our lives. I wrote about my mom. She married when she was in 8th grade. Then at the age of 45 she earned her GED and achieved her LPN license at 48. She didn’t let the circumstances in her life make her a victim.

After writing about her, it hit me, I was turning myself into a victim! No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. So what was I doing with my “todays?”
I came to realize that all my life I had been gathering experiences, stories, life-lessons. Then at 48, it was time for me to “harvest” and share my gleanings.

Do you feel it is too late for you? Maybe you want to go back to school. Do it! You want to start a second career or a new one? Do it! You want to follow your dream? Do it! Don’t let your age or how long it may take stop you. My mother went back to school, and it took a little over 3 years. She could have said, “Well, I don’t know, I won’t graduate until I’m 48.” But think about it, she turned 48 anyway—with a degree.

I don’t care if you are 70+. Go back to school, write that novel, start that career, create, love, reach out. It is never too late. Share your life’s harvest with us. By doing this, you are planting seeds for future generations! 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


Eureka!

That was the siren's call luring men and women to the California gold fields from the years 1848-1853. However, the most common phrase spoken was either, “Have you saw the elephant?” (sic) or “I have seen the elephant.”

The elephant was symbolic of the high cost of their endeavor in selling everything they had for the funds to make the trip and also of leaving their families. It represented every thing that could go wrong like horrible weather, broken wagons, Indian raids, small children wandering off in the tall grasses never to be found again, sickness, starvation, and death. But even with the high cost and everything that could go wrong, the result was still considered the most amazing experience of a lifetime.

So, if the elephant represents the high cost of an endeavor, and the innumerable possibilities of what could go wrong, but still is an adventure without equal, then EVERY PARENT has seen the elephant! There are days that darned animal tromps all over the room. Sometimes when I go to bed it sits on my chest making it hard to breathe.

Ever been there?

One morning, before sunrise, I woke up with a problem on my mind that concerned one of my children. Realizing how useless it was to try to sleep, I went outside to pray. On my front porch I stared into the darkness.

Funny how loud problems can scream at you from all directions in inky blackness. There isn’t a place to focus. But then on the horizon I saw a golden razor edge split the earth from the sky. I made that my focal point as gold and pink pushed the darkness away. The cacophony of worry gave way to the song of birds. I watched as the sun rose and burned away what was left of the night. With the dawn came clarity to my problems and my hope renewed. With God nothing is impossible.

Psalm 112:4 says, “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man (and woman)”

That light can be hope, and it can also be revelation. But it only comes when our focus is on God – not the elephant.

Parenting is costly, and many things can and do go wrong. But it is also an amazing experience.

We all see the elephant at one time or another, because the pachyderm beast isn't limited to parenting. It can any relationship. We need people in our lives, but with people there will be complications from time to time. Just remember, our focus is best when on God and loving His way.

How does He love?
That is next weeks post!