Category Archives: Getting Organized

Hitting the Wall

Recently I had a crisis that almost brought me to my knees, all because I’m a single woman trying to deal with a major lawn project that was totally beyond me.

I bought a Fiskars reel mower this year – you know the kind we used in the 50’s that you just push around your yard – no motor? My idyllic vision of being a suburban farm girl took a serious blow when I realized I would have to mow in four (yeah, 4!) sections, spread out over the week, each week. This seriously crippled my time and energy to work on my first love, gardening.

As I struggled with these conflicting demands, I realized I was fighting a losing battle and something would have to give. Soon, however, a vision popped into my mind: (1) gravel in the front side yard by my drive which would provide extra parking and eventual access to utility yard behind my fence and (2) weed cloth all around the garden in back, both eliminating a lot of grass. Besides, this would reduce my weekly mowing by half – two sessions – and return me to my old Hippie dream of hanging out with herbs, butterflies, and huge squash plants.

Fast forward to the next Saturday. My darling granddaughter came over and we laboriously laid down commercial grade week cloth in the side yard and tacked it down with 100 6″ staples – a true labor of love on her part. I scheduled delivery of 3/4″ round gravel for the afternoon after the August 21 eclipse, and it showed up as promised. The very nice driver tried to honor my request to back his dump truck up to the top of the 45′ stretch of lawn so he could drop his load all along the future drive so we could have a polite volunteer party to rake it into place.

Well, the first thing that happened was one wheel started spinning and sinking about 8-10″ into the ground. I yelled, “STOP,” which he did and returned to the street but not before much of the weed cloth was pulled loose by about 2′ and dislodged many of those 100 clips!

I honestly didn’t know whether to cry or vomit . . . . I think only those women who are alone can understand how vulnerable and overwhelmed I felt. But the driver was nice and helped me re-position the weed cloth, then dumped the gravel in the middle. But now how to spread it out? Yet another crisis. Plus all those loose pins needed fixing.

The next day – Tuesday – I hit the wall. I basically had a spiritual temper tantrum. I told the Lord I was done. I could no longer stand living so close to the edge, that I needed more support, more help, and more blessings. And I needed them NOW.

Ironically, later that day I had to start a cleanse to prepare for a dreaded colonoscopy the next day. So as I purged physically, I continued to purge emotionally and spiritually. I recalled my friend Lindsey advising me once in a crisis that the first thing I needed to do was “thank the Lord for this adversity.”

Are you kidding me? Why would I do that? I could hear her voice saying, “Because that shows our faith that God will always bring about greater good than the size of the adversity.”

This thought was met with extremely wavering faith, but I believe in principle over emotion. So with rather poor grace, told the Lord I at least accepted the situation and would He please, please, please help me solve it? As I progressed forward on Wednesday, my procedure went very smoothly. I got a clean bill of health and was soon eating and feeling good.

My faith and optimism also miraculously returned: Of course great things were coming in my future. Plus insight and solutions kept coming to mind. Here’s what happened:

  • It turned out that the gravel delivery driver also had a small tractor, and he agreed to come the following week and spread  the rock for a very small fee.
  • With sudden inspiration, I asked a large family to send over a couple of teenagers, who wanted some extra money, to help put down weed cloth in the back and weed – they had four!
  • Since they came before Tractor Guy, the five of us quickly finished tacking down weed cloth more securely in front, so we were ready to spread that gravel.
  • Then all four put down 170 feet of weed cloth around the outside perimeter of my back yard, clips and all, both jobs in only 3 hours – oh glorious day!
  • The two older boys refused pay since they had jobs. The two younger girls gladly accepted it with the promise of more work to come.
  • To top this off, the oldest boy volunteered his Sunday School class to come back and spread the gravel by hand, banishing my lingering worries that a tractor would disturb my already traumatized weed cloth in front.
  • Last Wednesday, a crew of six strong guys appeared with rakes, shovels and a wheelbarrow. Within 45 minutes, gravel was nice and smooth, all as Christian service. My contribution: bottled water and cookies from the local grocery.
  • Finally, yesterday, my two young women helpers were back pulling weeds from two neglected beds. Now I can cull strawberry runners and plant them in the newly cleared old bed. I can hand water my herb garden to hit neglected spots, and I’m already planning next year’s beds with great anticipation.

Here’s how it looks:

Side Yard Before
Author’s Photo

Side Yard After
Author’s Photo

Garden Path Conquered!
Author’s Photo

Along with better balance, joy is back in full force. Not only did the Lord help me solve my problem but He used this experience to expand my faith and my spiritual tool kit for battling the darkness of our mortal limitations.

So when you find yourself stuck inside your soul, squeezed tight like a snake needing to shed its skin, remember to thank the Lord for it but also ASK for solutions, comfort, insight, and confirmation of your own plans. They will come.

 

 

The Power of Positive Thinking

I recently attended an amazing conference entitled Whole Person Preparedness. I was especially interested in spiritually preparing for the events of the Last Days and came away so inspired, I’ll be sharing what I learned in the next few posts.

Today, I want to quote Kirk Duncan, the Keynote Speaker. He emphasized positive thinking, faith over fear, and taking our lives to a higher level of vibrationHere’s what I learned.

He described a study about the effects of music on the structure of water molecules and crystals. One container of distilled water was placed in a room where beautiful classical music played all day. In another room, a similar container of water was exposed to heavy metal rock music. Then two identical plants were watered with this water. The one watered with classical music water flourished and grew. The other plant watered with heavy metal water died! Then a sample of each water was frozen and the resulting crystals observed: the classical music created a beautiful snowflake pattern, while the heavy metal created an ugly, chaotic mess! Watch a video about a similar experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto. Here are some of his photos:

LOVE and APPRECIATION, Courtesy highexistence.com

HITLER, Courtesy highexistence.com

YOU MAKE ME SICK, I WILL KILL YOU, Courtesy highexistence.com

#1 is LOVE AND APPRECIATION, #2 is HITLER, #3 is YOU MAKE ME SICK, I WILL KILL YOU
All photos courtesy of highexistence.com.

Since our bodies are 60-80% water, we might want to consider what our thoughts are doing to our health and to others! For further inspiration, read the classic The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

His next point made me squirm as I’m totally guilty of this one: Beware of becoming a “gloom and doom” messenger about the times we live in. Feeling and communicating fear doesn’t inspire action in ourselves and others, but tends to paralyze instead, sending us back to our comfort zone. I’ve been guilty for too long of being another Chicken Little, running around and saying, The sky is falling, the sky is falling! So my apologies to one and all.

I’m changing my message. Malachi 4:5-6 can be read two ways:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

It’s either a GREAT day or a DREADFUL day. Those of us trying to live good lives can anticipate these times as great, not dreadful. The scriptures are full of these promises; go dig them out. Here’s a good place to START.

My message is that, in the words of Dickens, this is the best of times, not just the worst of times. Great light and knowledge, great love and goodness abound. God is pouring out knowledge, comfort, and inspiration to all who seek it. As it says in Jeremiah 16:14-15:

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

In other words, the events of our time will be so amazing, we will no longer talk about the Exodus from Egypt led by Moses, but will celebrate the many miracles of deliverance in our day.

Finally, Mr. Duncan described how to rise to a higher level of challenge without becoming overwhelmed. He quoted scientist Nikola Tesla, If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Raising your own vibration level will help you create new patterns of order in your life and lift you to a higher level of energy and achievement than you imagine possible. Watch this DEMONSTRATION with a vibrating metal plate and simple grains of salt.

So how do we raise our energy level? Here are some ideas – you may well come up with more:

  • Pray and ask for inspiration.
  • Brainstorm new ways to do things.
  • Purge out the old and unnecessary.
  • Think and speak positively.
  • Watch for inspiration and support to show up.
  • Act decisively and with commitment on your new plan.
  • Thank the Lord and the universe for supporting you.
  • Serve and inspire others.

I’d love to hear your comments on any of these ideas and what manifests in your life. New patterns are already showing up in mine – it’s a great day!

 

 

Life’s Whirlpools

Yesterday I had a big, big breakthrough – I finished a month of filing! You’re probably thinking, “I knew she was nuts, but I didn’t know she was this nuts!” Well, think about it, doesn’t everyone hate and actually loathe dealing with paper? Papers seem perfectly innocent but they’re actually like rabbits on crack. They reproduce at terrifying speed and soon every drawer, corner, and flat surface is stuffed full of things to read, bills to pay, ads you want to keep, and forms to fill out.

I’ve been experimenting with different filing systems for years: subject, chronological, a mix. I was stuck in the file folder, file cabinet rut for decades – what a black hole. Nothing ever saw the light of day again. Finally, in the 1990’s when I was teaching and had those lovely summers off, I had a brain storm: empty the file folders into three ring binders by topic. Dividers within would be subtopics: HEALTH could have Prevention, Diseases, Metabolic, Sleep, and for me, Thyroid. These lived on shelves, slid easily into my hand, and I could actually find something again. Over two summers, I emptied two 4-drawer cabinets into a couple dozen notebooks and whole garbage bags for recycling. When I moved, I gave the cabinets to the movers for $50 off my bill – liberation!

Well, 10 years later, I still used and liked my notebooks, but had started up a parallel set of files, telling myself they were quicker and easier than walking across the room to put something in a notebook. Even easier, I also had piles in baskets loosely by topic (Spiritual, To Do, Family History). When I wanted to find a memorable handout on a topic for a class or writing project, I lost my mind find trying to find it. So I decided in December I had to have one system now and forever, and the notebooks won.

It took days, then weeks, and many, many hours but I finally did it, leaving only a few files for Current Financial and immediate writing projects, plus two baskets (Family History and To Do). Yesterday, in the last week, I was in my office by 7:30 a.m. and didn’t leave, except for lunch, until 4:15. Singing along to every Broadway musical I own, I immersed myself in folders to empty, notebook divider tabs, and two kinds of hole punch. Hundreds of papers filled 1″ binders, sometimes progressing to a 2″, and even a 3″ as they grew like teenagers on steroids.

Finally, it was done. My office was clean and quiet. I’d only been out of the house once in five days. I’d lived and slept in two sets of sweats and barely combed my hair. I headed to the Post Office to get a huge stack of mail and then to Albertson’s for whatever gluten free chocolate treats were on offer – mini brownies, as it turned out. I devoured them with my fresh-from-the-farm, ice-cold milk and sat in a daze as every muscle in my body ached from the tsunami of stored ideas bombarding my aging brain.

All this insanity reminded me of an experience during my time teaching high school special ed students at Kearns High in Utah. One spring our principal surprisingly let us take a bus load of students river rafting on the Green River, wide with no rapids to speak of. Each teacher had a raft of 4-6 kids and we started out, being advised to just stick to the main current down the center of the river. Naturally, we didn’t follow that advice being attracted to the sights along the widely spaced banks.

Big mistake. We found ourselves going in circles around a large, almost invisible whirlpool, 30′ across, near one bank. It was pleasant gliding under willows and back out towards the middle of the river until we came around a second, then a third time and we realized what had happened. As we came around the fourth time and headed back out, I screamed, “Row like Hell!” – breaking our class rule about appropriate language. The kids laid into it and we broke out of the circular current just in time to rejoin the other rafts. All’s well that ends well, as they say, and we didn’t need rescuing.

For too long, I’d been shuffling piles of documents too precious to throw away. Waterloo finally came – it was either “Row like Hell” or stay stuck in a giant, almost invisible whirlpool of procrastination, rationalization, and denial, with a black hole looming – threatening to drown me in a sea of paper!

I’ve rowed my way out of other whirlpools before and it had always taken all my faculties to pull out. There were brownies, new books, and rest at the end of this one, and I realized there always is a reward for every tough challenge conquered. It’s comforting to remember that when a new whirlpool threatens to keep us stuck and we cling fearfully to patterns from the past.

Whirlpool Courtesy ByShurtinc.Wikepedia Commons

Whirlpool
Courtesy ByShurtinc.Wikepedia Commons

A Deeper Surrender 2 – Flexibility

This week turned out to be the polar opposite of the last two and appeared to make my conclusions of my last post, A Deeper Surrender, appear at least partially wrong. The high I was on from surrendering my will to God’s will was real, but now I realized it may have been unsustainable, at least with my physical limits.

What I learned this week as my energy crashed was that the answers that were so right yesterday may not be right for today. Inspiration, like ancient Israel’s manna in the wilderness, doesn’t keep and can’t be recycled. Time to regroup and shift gears is also part of an unselfish and productive life. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over. I guess it’s why I start my day with both prayer and a little yoga – to loosen up both my mind and my body – and open up a window to that higher guidance.

So this week, my writing, family history work and real estate prospecting were all pulling on my mind, but I decided to regroup instead. I went to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. I finished preserving the 40 lbs of apples my granddaughter and I picked a couple of weeks ago. My grandson and I had rearranged my bedroom to accommodate a gift bed, but the overflow still clogged my office. It took four days but my office is now free of clutter, and I put up pictures I forgot I had. I feel at peace about what I did accomplish. Next week, I’ll tackle those neglected projects and will probably buzz through them, surrounded by order and serenity.

As I puttered through these tasks I remembered other guidance about similar times:

  • Years ago, I read an article by a busy mom also trying to find time for creative projects. She made a point I’ve never forgotten: within the limits of your schedule, operate from enthusiasm, not a grim list of have-to’s. Her advice: The energy generated by your enjoyment will power you through a long day much better than a whip at your back, and those have-to’s will get done on the coat-tails of your passions.
  • Back when I was teaching high school, I approached the last week of school in a very right-brained, zig zag way. Similar to the above, I just followed my nose in what I tackled – gauging my energy level, which students were around to help, and available time. Many jobs didn’t get done in the time available, but I always got back to them. The very last day, I always had a firm deadline, 10:30 am, when I had to leave for graduation, and I didn’t want to come back. The last half-done jobs somehow all fell into place that morning. The last box went out to my car. The last forms were delivered to the office, the counseling center, and the custodians. The board was cleaned, my desk cleared, and I could go off and enjoy my seniors’ moment of triumph. Somehow I always made that deadline.
  • Finally, I remember a book from my hippie days, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, a charming little allegory about a baby seagull obsessed with flight who’s surrounded by peers happy to live a pedestrian life on the ground. In claiming his own nature and dreams, he had to overcome many preconceptions about his limits and abilities. Each breakthrough transcended some previous truths or habits, to take him higher and higher, until he broke free and truly became a bird of flight. It’s short and a lovely read.

I hope you all find the answers God has for you in your quest to take flight!

 

 

 

A Deeper Surrender

40 years ago I had a profound spiritual experience with God’s spirit and became a Christian. As I studied the promises contained in scripture, I found a totally different way of life: serve God first, work hard, and then we may “stand still and watch the salvation of the Lord” operating to bless us.

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power;
and then may we 
stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God,
and for his arm to be revealed.      
(LDS Doctrine and Covenants 123:17)

I’ve seen this principle work many, many times and expressed in many different ways:

        • What goes around, comes around. 
        • Virtue is its own reward.
  • What you send out comes back multiplied.
  • What you focus on increases (good or bad).

Recently, however, I found myself in a spiritual “log jam” and struggling to muster the faith to break out of it. I hit a wall with my health and energy levels, my prospecting efforts in real estate weren’t bearing fruit so my bank balance was operating on fumes, and I was finding very little time for other writing. After some deep thought and hearing about how people near me were getting great breakthroughs of energy through serving God and other people, I decided I needed to give more, trust more, and ask for more divine help.

Immediately I ran up against human resistance: laziness, procrastination, the “I’m too tired” syndrome, and just plain lack of faith that the Lord would keep His promises. However, I knew I was really stuck at a set level of contribution, happiness and success. I knew there was more to be had, and that I had extra reserves of dedication and effort within. Remembering another scripture, I decided to “experiment upon the word”:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Book of Mormon, Alma 32:27)

Moreover, I knew that experiment needed to include actually stepping out and living my faith before I could see results, and frankly I found this scary. I already felt stretched thin, tired and overwhelmed, so this required a pretty big leap of faith. But I was determined. I pictured the figurehead of a ship and set my face into the wind to forge ahead.

 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (New Testament, John 7:17)

Ship's Figurehead Courtesy Andrea Malz, Wikipedia.org

Ship’s Figurehead
Courtesy Andrea Malz, Wikipedia.org

So how did my experiment turn out?

I actively sought opportunities to serve my friends, neighbors and fellow church members, I dug into some daunting family history challenges, and I worked “harder and smarter” each day. This still seemed like only a token effort – sincere but minimal. However, the results were amazing!

I was thrust into a new level of energy, connection with the universe, and success. I felt currents of love around me and through me. A For Sale By Owner property turned into a listing. Another agent paid me in advance for marketing work. Happy interactions just sprang up seemingly out of nowhere. And a spiritual healer brought welcome release from energy stuck in the past, as well as advising me to increase my salt intake for my adrenals, which worked dramatically. It was a stunning validation of the principles of faith and sacrifice. “The laborer is worthy of his hire” was utterly fulfilled, far beyond my puny efforts. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 106:3)

I hope I can maintain this vision and level of effort – please keep me accountable. Try it, you’ll like it, as the song goes, and let us know what you learn.

Tackling Big Challenges

When I was working full-time, it was easier to structure my time. At work, I had deadlines and many set tasks that carried me through my day. As soon as I walked in my door, I opened mail, put away my shopping, and started dinner without batting an eyelash. The momentum of the day carried me past dinnertime. By the time I could quit, the critical things were done and I could relax.

Now that I’m mostly retired, I find time management to be a bigger challenge. You’d think with more time and fewer tasks, it would be easier! But now I am getting to the projects I’d had to put off previously:  deeper gospel study, gardening, keeping up with friends, bigger projects with grandkids, and finally getting my house really in order.

It helps me to remember a freelance photographer describing how he worked. He categorized work into A, B, and C TASKS:

  • A‘s were the big ones – they take time as well as creative and emotional energy – easy to put off.  Examples: Writing my blog post for the week or cooking a company dinner.
  • B‘s are medium sized – still somewhat time-consuming but less daunting: Editing and typing the final draft of a report or doing an hour’s ironing.
  • C‘s are short and easy – we can string several together and hardly feel it: Emptying the dishwasher, checking email, changing the laundry, etc.

Then he went on to talk about A, B, and C TIME:

  • A‘s are peak energy and a bigger chunk of time – mornings for most of us, long evenings for night owls.
  • B‘s are winding up or winding down time – transitioning out of high energy – and a little shorter.
  • C‘s are low energy times when we need to relax, putter around, and reflect, and may only be a few minutes.

Here’s the kicker:  We need to match A Tasks with A Time and so on, for maximum productivity.  I then remembered a talk on time management with an object lesson (shown below), using tennis balls, ping pong balls and marbles (A, B, and C Tasks) in a bowl (the productive part of your day). The speaker made the point that if you start filling your day with the multitude of easy tasks facing you, then move to the harder ones, and leaving the big tough ones until last, it will look like the bowl on the left. You’ll get to the end of your day facing the biggest tasks when you’re most tired and least motivated.  You’ll feel guilty for not getting to all of them. And you’ll have gaps in your day when you’re bored but don’t have enough time to tackle the big projects, so you can’t really relax and enjoy it.

Now look at the bowl on the right. The same number of tasks are facing you, but you start by tackling A Tasks in A Time, then fill in the remaining time with B Tasks first, and C Tasks second. This way, you can both pace yourself and get it all done before the end of your day.

A B C Tasks By Author

I’ve been holding my feet to the fire this week and tackling the daunting projects early in the day, early in the week, and at the peak of my energy. I still want to procrastinate, but my mantra is NO EXCUSES!  And here’s the payday: There’s more satisfaction – way more – tied to A Tasks relative to the time and energy invested, and far more momentum to carry us into the next big project than if we miss that peak moment.

Tuesday I forced myself to go out in the heat of early afternoon and face my research goal at our local Family History Center. I was rusty and had hit wall after wall this spring while working on my own. This time, with help from two wonderful women, I identified my great grandmother Anderson’s brother Frederick to flesh out his family and do their temple work. He married Arianna Lorton in his late thirties, died five years later, childless, all in Davenport, Iowa. Arianna buried him in Chicago and moved there. Three years later, census records show her working as a hairdresser and as a Boarder with a single woman with a Machine Shop. I imagined them with living quarters above the shop, possibly with other boarders. Arianna’s death record many years later show her name still as Anderson; I assume she never remarried. I found her parents and siblings in the area, so she wasn’t alone. It felt like a little window back into history, and it tugged at my heart. Frederick was my great grandmother’s only sibling. I imagine she greatly missed him and will be thrilled to have them sealed to their family for the next life.

A final memory comes back to me: diving off the board at the City Pool as a teenager. I would walk quickly to the end and jump straight up while pushing the end of the board downward. As I dropped, the board came up, hitting my feet to spring me into the air and give my dive energy and height. If you hit it just right, it’s a little scary but much more exciting than just diving off the end of a stationary board. Using our creative energy synchronized with life’s timing is a lot like that. My second post, The Gems Within, talks about a life force out there that wants to work through us. Now I realize we have to use it at flood tide and not when it’s ebbing away – the ride into shore is thrilling and worth the effort!

Diver Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Diver on Springboard
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

 

A Dog Named Jake

We often comment on how people influence us, but today my memories center on a dog.  His owner Bob was a friend during my days in New Hampshire.  Bob was a great guy and so was his black Labrador, Jake.  He was a powerful, strong-willed animal whose profile jutted into the wind like a ship’s figurehead.  But ironically, he was also calm and very obedient to Bob’s commands.  When we were visiting, Jake would lie quietly and not disrupt our visit.  When it was time to go out and play catch, he was all over it, tail-wagging and eager.  I asked Bob what made Jake such a terrific dog.  His answer: “Because I’m a fascist with him!”  He didn’t mean that he was harsh with Jake, just clear and very firm.

One day when Bob got up to leave, I stayed in my rocking chair with Jake on the floor beside me.  As soon as Bob called for Jake to leave, he immediately followed Bob without looking back. I remembered I hadn’t said goodbye to Jake as I always did.  I called out to him – he immediately turned on a dime and came right over, wagging his tail.  I scratched his ears and shared a nice moment; then they were gone.

I want to be like Jake:  moving forward decisively without hesitation but also able to make a course correction, even an extreme one, quickly and with grace.  My recent home re-organization could easily have created resistance since it came with some real surprises and serious drudgery, as well as shrinking my world. Coming to the end of my “40 years in the wilderness” had left me listless and drained.  After a week of puttering, watching movies in the afternoon, and sleeping in, energy was emerging and well-being was returning. I now had a clear choice:  drag my feet looking back or just go with it, like Jake.

Then I remembered an old Native American custom: When their people were sad or stuck, they would make them walk along a moving river until their emotions and thoughts moved too. So I just started moving more: parking myself at the computer, putting the last books in place, going for walks, calling old friends. I remembered my love of bike riding.  It’s pretty hard to balance when you’re stopped but so easy and free when you’re moving.

Finally, when my thoughts needed rearranging, I often played Free Cell on my laptop. Okay, it’s my guilty secret, so sue me!  But as I rearrange cards, I play with my thoughts, like fingering marbles in my pocket.  A half hour or an hour later, I have a whole new perspective.  Not a bad investment. Capped off with heart-felt prayer and taking direction from my Heavenly Father, I can see clearly once again.

Conclusion:  movement is magic!  Whether, it’s dancing, sports, housework, or simply spiritual and mental pondering, they can break those resistant log-jams so we don’t get bogged down. Try it, you’ll like it!

Wherefore . . . seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.
For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy,
over all his works.
 (Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:10)

 A Dog Named Jake Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 143753

A Dog Named Jake
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 143753

 

The Field Lies Fallow

I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts on paper this week and they hadn’t come together by yesterday when I decided – duh! – to finally pray about it.  Immediately the title “The Field Lies Fallow” sprang to mind. Perhaps there was a reason I suddenly felt blah, creatively.

Looking to the past, I realized that I was completing a personal “40 years in the wilderness” this month.  In May of 1974, I decisively put my foot on the path of a Christian, having received my first answer to prayer and making a real change in lifestyle. Those 40 years were spent reconciling my three identities:  Iowa school girl, New England hippie, and Utah Mormon. It’s been a long trek, punctuated with many blessings, certainly, but also almost constant adversity. Just as the ancient Israelites had to leave Egypt and wander 40 years in the desert of Sinai, to lose its worldly ways, I had to learn to live by Christian principles through the things I experienced.

Looking to the future, I sense new directions on the horizon. I’ve just completed a massive reorganization of my home. I doubled, maybe tripled my energy level by using St. John’s Wort for seasonal fatigue and probiotics for improved digestion. I was excited to expand my writing online, find new real estate clients, and return to family history research.

Coincidentally, my Sunday School lesson last week was about Joshua as Moses’ successor and how he prepared the 12 tribes of Israel for the new challenge of entering, then conquering the Promised Land of Canaan. If they would study and ponder the ancient scriptures, rededicate themselves spiritually, then exercise faith and courage, the Lord promised Joshua and all Israel:

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.(Joshua 1:5)

His first challenge soon appeared. Joshua and the Priesthood of Israel had to hold back the waters of the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then they conquered Jericho, not through human strength but by obeying instructions from the Lord that must have seemed crazy (walk around the city blowing a trumpet for six days, then seven times on the seventh day, finally giving a loud shout), from Joshua 6.  The Israelites had prepared inwardly and then triumphed outwardly as the walls of Jericho all fell down at their shout.

What are the odds that I would be assigned this particular lesson that so closely mirrored my own path? I felt deeply touched and reassured I would have God’s support in whatever lay ahead. How often are we all faced with a new chapter or challenge in our lives, must “gird up our loins” with greater faith, and step into darkness with courage? I think that Joshua’s promise holds true for all people who sincerely seek after what’s good and true.

Finally, I remembered a lovely book, The Faithful Gardener by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. (See my review under Books.) Her opening quote says:

New seed is faithful. It roots deepest in the places that are most empty.

I realized that I wasn’t giving myself time to become empty or “lie fallow” so I could mediate, rededicate, and renew myself. I will slow down in the coming weeks and let the future creep up on me the way plants come back after a forest fire or grass emerges each spring.

Whether your journey changes course through a happy change or through fiery adversity, good can always arise from those ashes.  Ms. Estés concludes with A Prayer:

Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart towards heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
And it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven –
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

Fallow Field Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 140589

The Field Lies Fallow
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 140589

Climbing Out of The Well

On a recent Monday, I saw the sun finally come out full force after a winter with lots of gray. With fresh vision, I saw new life popping out all around:  forsythia, daffodils, pansies, and early blooming trees. It was breath-taking.

I spent this last winter in an emotional gray zone:  inventorying my successes and failures, my joys and sorrows.  I thought I’d already plowed this ground thoroughly but a new round of self-reproach and grief washed over me.  It had been over 40 years since I was divorced and still hadn’t met Mr. Right #2. It seemed like such a waste, for me and for my two children. Wanting to imitate all these spring seeds and bulbs, I saw I needed to break out of the shell of old habits, doubt, and self-pity to enlarge my life and find new adventures, with or without Mr. Right.

The previous weekend when I was at a particularly low point, I prayed fervently for guidance.  A talk from the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday gave me a partial answer.  One of our women leaders spoke about how overwhelmed she had felt as the mother of four young children.  The counsel she received from one of her leaders was to focus on the essential things first and let some less important tasks take a back seat.  Those essentials included daily prayer and scripture study, alone and with her family, plus weekly family home evening.

As I listened, I realized my essentials were daily spiritual practice, launching my writing, and regular exercise, but they often took a back seat to lesser things.  That Monday was The First Day of the Rest of My Life – I switched my routine housework to the afternoon and spent the morning writing. Then off to work out, coming home with muscles singing the Hallelujah Chorus to tackle housework.  My to-do list was completed before my energy faded – hooray! I felt I was back on track and God had rewarded my two A’s:  Asking and Action. 

Up popped a lovely memory this morning:  the well by my “little red house” in New Hampshire.  It wasn’t deep and would go dry every fall.  In spite of leaves in the bottom and a friendly frog swimming in it, the water always tested clean and drinkable plus it tasted of the wild landscape all around – a wonderful, bubbly miracle of nature.  I had the idea that I should climb down a ladder to the bottom during one of those dry spells and dig out those old leaves so it would be even cleaner.  My friend Pam came over with a ladder and she hauled bucket after bucket of leaves and sludge up as I filled them.  After a while I came to realize that I could dig forever and all I’d do was find more dirt – all the way to China!

Lesson learned:  Once you find yourself in a hole, quit digging, and climb out.  Nature takes care of cleaning the water if the well is properly sited and dug in the first place – after that we humans can’t improve on it.

Corollary lesson:  If you filter your sorrows and regrets properly as you go, you don’t need to revisit them.  They’re healed and forgiven with God’s grace.  The result is a return of joy just like my well filled to overflowing again every December.  A favorite scripture comes to mind:

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.  (Isaiah 12:3)

May you sort out your essentials and find joy in the journey this spring!

New Life in the Shadow of the Old

New Life in the Shadow of the Old