Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

A writing conference is a wonderful thing. A place to learn more and improve the craft. A chance to talk with editors and present articles, book proposals, etc. for their consideration. A time to see old friends and make new ones. And maybe even a little time to write…

Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon was the place for my recent writers’ conference– beautiful surroundings and special people. A wonderful time that will inspire me to keep writing, keep saying the things I need to say, keep listening to hear the words God whispers to me for me to share with others.

Writing can be a lonely enterprise, at times. A writing conference takes away the loneliness and replaces it with purpose.

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Oases are places of rest and refreshment in the middle of the desert.Western Oregon lacks deserts, and therefore, also lacks oases—at least in the literal sense. However, two weeks ago I heard a sermon about oases, given by Dr. Lou Foltz, and the ideas have been simmering in my brain ever since.

 The message was, basically, that the church is an oasis of sorts, where we find spiritual refreshment. However, we can’t live in the oasis. We have to go back out into the desert to live, work, and help others, bringing them also to the oasis.

 That made me think about the oases in my life. Certainly, for me at least, the church is an oasis. I feel revived when I leave Sunday services, inspired to be a better person, and encouraged in my sometimes feeble attempts to serve. But church is not my only oasis. Home is another. When my children were small, home could be a chaotic place, but it was still a place where I could be myself. Now the nest has emptied, and home is a relaxing place, where I think and write, or put on loud music and dance, should the mood strike me.

 Natural places are also oases for me. I love getting out in the woods, walking on the beach, watching the sun set over a lake. The singing of birds and the rustling of leaves in the breeze fill me with peace. I learned long ago that I need my woods time to survive emotionally—and perhaps spiritually, as well.

 But then there’s the second part of the sermon. We can’t live in the oasis. I might like to be a hermit at times, but that’s not what I’m here for. I believe I’m here to help others—through encouragement, through practical gestures such as bringing food to a neighbor, through my writing, through the whole way I live my life. And so I must remember that those oases are not my goal, but simply way stations where I can renew my strength to continue the journey—even when that journey leads me through dry and dusty places.

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Blackberries. When you hear the word, what is your first thought? If you are a techie, you may think of one of those portable computer/communicator things that so many now use. If you are older or a non-techie, you may recall the delicious sweetness of blackberry pie or jam. If you live in an area where blackberries actually grow, you may have different thoughts.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would pick blackberries at the edges of our property, and our mom would bake a pie. Homemade blackberry pie is still my favorite, and I make it every summer. I make blackberry jam, too, and cobbler, and sometimes syrup. You see, blackberries grow well on our two acres. In fact, they grow too well.

The Himalayan blackberry is the plant equivalent of the house sparrow—a non-native species that has moved in and taken over. Blackberries are quite good at taking over. The ones on our property grow in masses reaching well over my head and stretching out in all directions. Overall, they must cover at least half an acre. My husband and I wage a perennial war against them. He likes to hack them down with a weed whacker (the non-power kind), pushing them out of the path and back from the garden. I, on the other hand, prefer poison.

Organic gardener that I am, I abandon all such principles when it comes to blackberries. I haul out the sprayer and fill it with Round-up or Crossbow, depending upon the season. Lugging it from front yard to back yard to garden edges, I cover the blackberry leaves with mist. The ones I can reach, that is. Then I watch over the next few days as the plants slowly turn brown and die. It is quite effective. If I had time, I might actually conquer the beast. However, I also must spend time cooking, cleaning, sleeping, and earning a living. And while my back is turned, the plant strikes back.

A few days away, busy with other things, and I return to see blackberry vines snaking out across the lawn and into the garden. New shoots push into the path, ready to trip the unwary. Much to my embarrassment, they have launched an attack on the neighbors’ yards as well, exposing my failure like a naughty child throwing a public tantrum. The realization sinks in: this will not be the year I conquer the blackberries.

However, hope springs eternal, no matter what the season. There is always next year. Next year I will keep the blackberries in line. I will stay ahead of the weeds in the garden. I will keep the house clean and get my office in order. Maybe I will even sell that children’s book I have revised so many times. I don’t know what I would do without the hope that next year provides.

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The Sparrow and the Moth

A movement caught my eye as I stood in my son’s kitchen. A female house sparrow hopped frantically up and down the screen of the sliding glass door, pecking madly. What on earth was she doing? Looking more closely, I saw a moth trapped between the glass and the screen. It fluttered about in the cramped space, managing to evade the sparrow so intent upon capturing it. The sparrow grew increasingly frenetic, her wings beating against the screen as she tried to find footholds and keep up with the elusive insect. After a minute or two, a male house sparrow—the mate, no doubt—joined her. The two of them jumped about crazily on the screen. Still the moth escaped them. Finally, the birds gave up and flew off across the garden in search of an easier meal.

I’ve felt like that little sparrow at times, frantically trying to reach some goal that seemed just beyond my reach, working so hard I barely had time to catch my breath. So close and yet… The sparrows gave up. It was, after all, just a moth. Among the gardens in the neighborhood, there would be plenty of other insects and seeds to feed them; this one moth was not worth the effort. And that should be my question when I find myself caught up in the mad pursuit of some dream or objective: is it worth it? Sometimes I will agree with the sparrows: this objective is not worth the price I have to pay, or perhaps the chance of obtaining it is too remote to bother. Other times, I may disagree. The goal may be so important that I know I must pursue it with everything I have to give, and that, even if I fail, it will have been worth the effort. And how do I answer that question? For me, it can only be through much thought and much more prayer.

As for that trapped moth, we set it free, hoping that it would not go out to feast on anyone’s vegetable garden. Whether it ever met up with those sparrows again is a question I cannot answer.

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