Posts Tagged ‘goals’

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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or If at First You Don’t Succeed

The squirrel came bounding across the yard and hopped up into the dogwood tree. There two choices awaited it. Should it go for the suet feeder, close to the trunk and easy to hold onto? Or would it be sunflower seeds today? That would involve a little more work, some gymnastics, and perhaps, a bit of luck.

The squirrel sat there on the branch, seemingly deep in thought. Then it pattered out on the branch holding the seed feeder. Another stop to think. A junco watched as the squirrel started down the wire to the feeder, then pulled back up. Was it worth it? For a moment, it pondered strategy. Then it tried again, slipping down the wire, back feet tightly grasping the branch above, hanging upside down next to the feeder. It carefully slid down the wire until the back feet held onto the top of the feeder.

Finally it could reach the seeds. Front paws grabbed the feeder, picking out little black nuggets. It ate a couple, reached back for more. Oops! Back feet slipped, and down went the squirrel. It plopped to the ground, dignity injured, but otherwise apparently unhurt. Okay, maybe it would just eat seeds off the ground for a bit, take the safe route.

But keeping a squirrel out of a tree is like keeping politicians off the stage. Not going to happen. Soon, confidence recovered, the furry guy was up there again, plotting its way to dinner.

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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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Indiana April 2009 040I pull on my soft, warm nightgown and slip into bed, snuggling under the covers. A comfortable drowsiness settles over me, as I turn off the light, ready for a good night’s sleep. However, the odds that I will wake in the morning rested and invigorated are slight. The fact is, I don’t generally sleep that well anymore. Something to do with getting older, I think. And yet, as I settle in for the night, I feel good. The anticipation outshines the reality.

I find the same concept applies to other areas of my life. I love looking through the seed catalog, planning my vegetable garden. Should I try a new variety of beans? Perhaps I should take another crack at broccoli. And how about a late pea crop this year? That might be fun to try. Planting brings renewed excitement. The freshly planted garden looks so beautiful with its neat rows and little green sprouts coming up here and there. I imagine it with mulch laid down between all the rows, squash tendrils reaching out across the straw, corn stalks reaching for the sky. The problem is I rarely get all the mulch out before the heat arrives. Then the weeds shoot up, and my energy level plummets. By the end of summer, I am likely to be digging through the weeds to find the vegetables.

Anticipation is a wonderful thing. It’s the vision that keeps us going through hard days of work, through long nights with a screaming baby, through sadness and pain and confusion. Because we anticipate the reward at the end—whether it be vacation or a rewarding career or a child grown into a fine young adult—we can keep going. Even if the reality never quite matches the vision.

Anticipation is hope, and hope is what gives life meaning. And so I plan the garden and put in my work hours, teach my Sunday school class and write these words, because I have a Hope that keeps me going—a Hope that whispers to me that someday the reality will far outshine the anticipation.

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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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