Category Archives: Personal Growth

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.

 

 

28 Months

Today marks 28 months since I first conceived the idea of doing a deeper organization of my home and possessions. I started with possibly the most un-fun job – dejunking my files! Who likes paperwork, now I ask you? But I decided that it was time to marry an old system of putting documents in 3-ring binders by topic with the file folders in drawers, which were quicker but less usable. I started in December 2014 and it took me into January, about five weeks of chaining myself to my desk singing along to Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma and Showboat.

Then I tackled my cramped kitchen, finding yet more alternate pantry space, then my linen closet turned household supply cupboard. After an inspirational spiritual preparedness fair in March 2015 and praying earnestly for goal-setting guidance, I had a vision of a large storage unit stocked with bins and books for the future. Three months later, reality matched the vision. Then in quick succession I worked with rural buyers, researched a home to rent for myself in the rural areas west of me, found a home to buy instead, listed my current rental for my landlord, moved, put in a large garden, found renters for my bonus room, settled in, redid my legal paperwork and battled a second bout of Epstein Barr virus (chronic fatigue) all winter. By New Year’s, I felt like I was in “House Jail” and I wanted out!

Elderberry syrup quickly banished the virus, spring banished the blues, and as I emerged from those 27 months, I found I needed to banish lingering personal doubts and fears about my future – I still wasn’t done. Did I deserve prosperity and higher levels of success and creativity? So I’ve spent an additional month working through this last obstacle – the 28th month! I listened to countless Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, Vocal Pointe’s Christmas concert, and meditated on God’s many invitations throughout the scriptures to trust Him and to trust in His promises to bless our efforts, however imperfect. And I’m making headway – I truly feel “a perfect brightness of hope” as many of my insecurities are healed. (1 Nephi 31:20, Book of Mormon)

I may be just like the plant below, emerging out into the sunshine through hardened layers of habit, doubt and fear.

Breaking Through Obstacles
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 1147803

Why was I doing this? To create an expanded future, with more time for family and friends, for inspirational writing, for community and church service, and I now have time and energy for them. I feel like a kid on the last day of school facing a long, wonderful summer – whoopie!

This 28-month trek was like the last room in the fairy tale, Rumpelstitskin, where the miller boasted to the king that his daughter could spin straw into gold, but she was in trouble when the king put her to the test! She was promised she could marry him if she would actually spin a room of straw into gold. You all know what happened:  a funny little man showed up and magically did the work for her in exchange for her ring. The king, seeing a bonanza, delayed fulfilling his promise and gave her a bigger room of straw. Her mysterious friend rescued her once again in exchange for her necklace. A final challenge, however, found her with the biggest room of straw yet and nothing with which to pay this funny little man. He suggested she give him her first born child and, thinking she would never have to actually do it, she agreed. The straw was turned to gold, the king finally kept his promise and, in due time, the miller’s daughter had a beautiful child. When the funny little man showed up demanding payment, she was stuck unless she could guess his name. Numerous failures ensued, but finally one of her huntsmen overheard a funny little man dancing around a fire chanting a rhyme that contained his name. Appearing one last time before the young queen, he was flabbergasted when she pronounced his name, Rumpelstitskin, and he dissolved, screaming, into ash.

I believe this, like all fairy tales, is an allegory about life. When we face “impossible” tasks, something or someone magical shows up to help us but it costs us something (faith, courage, work, time, etc.). When our usual talents and resources aren’t enough, the largest challenges require extra brilliance, inspiration, and help from the unseen spiritual forces around all of us.

Willow Cathedral
Courtesy Pixabay.com Image 90987

But the good news is that, because there is goodness in the universe that ultimately rewards effort and sacrifice, we get to “marry the king” and break through into a newness of life. As I emerge from my latest cocoon of struggle (larger than all past ones), new horizons beckon me like the tunnel above. They’re green, inviting, and exciting – far from the drudgery of the past. And I have hope this truly was the last room before greater support systems show up and allow me a more “normal” pace of life and expanded effectiveness. Stay tuned for updates….

In one of those serendipitous happenings, I just finished reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery where our likable British “Investigator and Psychologist” comes to a major crossroads in Leaving Everything Most Loved, to travel into adventure. Her fears were soothed by a wise Indian woman who reassured her with these words:

I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you – if you allow it to be.

These words reflected my experience leaving my marriage, leaving New Hampshire where I spent the happiest six years of my life, leaving Eagle last year and many well-loved friends. But each move has brought new adventures and new friends, making their own memories. The rewards have been worth the pain of change.

Eternal Life – Part 1 – Grace for This Life

Today is New Year’s Day, a time I and many others refocus our vision forward: a time for fresh beginnings and to be freer from the reach of the past.

One of the greatest blessings of Christianity is the absolute promise of immortality for all mankind and the more conditional promise of eternal progression (shortened to just the phrase Eternal Life), if we live the Christian journey wholeheartedly. This brings an unlimited future of increasingly glorious personal growth, extending into the next life. We will then be rewarded for all sacrifices and trials faithfully endured, and to end up in one of the “many mansions” Christ is preparing for His followers in the hereafter (John 14:2). I don’t know any philosophy or religion whose promises the Holy Spirit will confirm as this was witnessed to me years ago and many times since.

A beloved LDS apostle and scholar, Bruce R. McConkie, named three central Christian doctrines The Three Pillars of Eternity which I described in previous posts. They are the Creation, The Fall, and The Atonement, which are bookended in the Book of Mormon by a preface question, “Do you believe in God?” and a concluding promise of “Eternal Life” as the final state of sincere Christians. Read for yourself: Alma 22:7-15. Here’s the list again with links to the previous posts:

Foundational Concept: There is a God, Part I and There Is a God, Part II
Pillar #1 – The Creation
Pillar #2 – The Fall
Pillar #3 – The Atonement
A Glorious Promise and Reward: Eternal Life – 
today’s and subsequent posts

Furthermore, I believe that those rewards start to appear in this life. Just as there’s a temporal reward for effort in everyday life – think high school graduation, obtaining a fulfilling job after years of training, seeing a child become a happy and productive citizen, or conquering a life-long pattern of dysfunction, I believe there’s divine grace that blesses and enlarges us as we strive to make spiritual and creative growth as well as temporal progress in this life.

As a divorced mother of 44 years, I struggled financially most of that time. I plodded on trying to juggle work with personal growth and service to God and my fellow man. The phrase muddle through most accurately described my progress through life! I even found a picture on a greeting card I adopted as a personal image. The young woman below is walking through a dreary winter landscape (to me, symbolizing adversity), inadequately dressed but resolute with snowflakes of light and affirmation around her, illuminating her path.

Hopeful Woman in Winter
Source Unknown

But now I’ve gotten out of debt, bought a house and rented out my bonus room to my church for the sister missionaries, I have finally arrived at a place of far greater temporal stability than any time since my divorce. As I settle in, establish a garden, and start to sink roots in my new community, I can see the prospect of also being much freer creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ll have time to launch a new phase of real estate work, continue my spiritual writing, give increased community service, and generally have more fun – whoopie!

A massage therapist recently commented that with all these positive changes, I should find another totem image. I immediately thought of the Monet painting my daughter decoupaged on a wooden plaque many years ago. I found it online immediately:

Claude Monet, Woman with Parasol
Musee D’Orsay, Paris
Image in Public Domain

This lovely painting calls to mind a quote by Albert Camus, a French philosopher:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me
lay an invincible summer. 

I see myself in a delayed but prolonged creative summer, and I plan to bask in that warmth as I sail warm updrafts of inspiration and divine encouragement. Furthermore, I think these triumphs and that happiness is available to all – it’s called Grace. Hopefully we’ll all build our own “invincible summer” within, believing in the next breakthrough.

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #2 The Fall

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

We’ve all grew up hearing this classic nursery rhyme and probably didn’t think a thing of it, but I’ve found a deeper personal meaning in it.

I had a nearly idyllic childhood except for one thing – my family didn’t communicate well. We talked about each other but rarely with each other. Differences often weren’t resolved, people were misjudged, then talked about with either concern or condemnation. Even worse, buried feelings smoldered and burned long afterwards, sometimes erupting without warning.

Not only did this damage our family, but it broke the fragile structure of my early self-esteem into many painful pieces that I’ve struggled to put back together most of my life. And don’t we all have broken places inside? Disappointed hopes, things we’re ashamed we did, ways we’ve been wounded, and ways we’ve wounded others?

After my marriage broke up, I had to look at those broken places and ask how they led me to marry someone who was never going to be right for the long haul. What in me brought me to this place?

I revisited family stories and family patterns. I studied psychology. I practiced better communication with my children, my friends, and at work. But I made only limited progress before I discovered God, prayer, and religion. What a great source of guidance, healing, and power beyond my own that’s been!

As stated by playwright Eugene O’Neill in my About This Blog message to the right:

Man is born broken.
He lives by mending,
And the grace of God is the glue.

That grace has led me to insight and ultimate healing, not in a single event but in round after round of growth cycles.

Scholars tell us that fairy tales, legends, and poetry often contain “archetypes” or classic themes common to many cultures throughout history. Cinderella tells a classic tale of adversity and rags to riches. The Three Little Pigs instructs us to not take short cuts to quality. But Rumpelstiltskin is the one that speaks most strongly about my path. It is a veiled tale of challenge and breakthrough as the Miller’s daughter, with magical help, spins ever larger rooms of straw into gold before she gets to marry the King. Go back and read it. Or listen to it HERE.

Each healing crisis in my journey seemed bigger than the last and more daunting, but God’s grace always appeared after I had worked hard and also sacrificed something precious to me: my pride, my laziness, my uncaring about others, etc. Marrying the King beckoned to me as symbolic of the final piece of healing that meant I could truly step out of the shadow of the past and fully turn towards a brighter future, with a healthier relationship with God and my fellow man.

This all dovetails with a symbolic dream I had soon after my divorce. I recalled it last week and shared it with my granddaughter. In this dream, I was instructed to sit in a wood straight-backed chair on the stone edge of a pool of water, with its back to it! I had to flip over backwards, chair and all, and land in the water (without the chair hitting me in the process), and then swim to the bottom of the pool to discover something that was there, waiting for me.

Being the physical coward that I am, I was very hesitant to even try. But finally, I gathered up my courage, hurled my legs up and over my head, and fell into the water well away from the falling chair. With relief, I then faced the dive, being a confident swimmer. But as I looked into the murky water, I again shrank from challenge. I dove, and my worst fears were confirmed as ominous seaweed undulated up towards me, threatening me with its slimy touch. As I swam, though, I found it couldn’t actually touch me. I kept swimming (oddly not needing a breath) until suddenly the seaweed disappeared and I only saw the off-white sandy bottom of the pool. Delicate yellow-green light wafted down. The whole scene lost its menace. It felt familiar and safe. So I swam around looking for what I was sent to find.

Very shortly I came upon a watch lying on the sand all by itself. I looked closer: It was a Mickey Mouse watch with a yellow patent leather band. I laughed at the whimsy of it, picked it up and thought, This is the gift of time!

Then I woke up. I knew it was important and contained a message I needed. I was newly divorced and just starting on my journey of self discovery and healing. A friend suggested the yellow color was important – that it was “the color of overcoming.” I decided I liked that meaning and it would be a symbolic banner to encourage me when times grew dark. But it remained only a mental image until 2004 when I went to Disneyland with my son’s family. I bought a Mickey Mouse watch to honor this dream. My ongoing quest was approaching 30 years, but oddly I didn’t wear it often. It ended up in my jewelry box, forgotten and not running.

Just lately I feel that God has put together the last of my inner child’s broken pieces. I’ve found that warm, white sand foundation in my soul, and I came across that watch. So now I’ll get a new battery and wear it with a laugh while I wait to see what the “Gift of Time” means in my life!

And isn’t Humpty Dumpty really just symbolic of mortality for every single one of us? The process of life breaks all of us in pieces, one way or another. I recently watched a PBS American Masters special celebrating the life of composer and singer Carole King (watch it HERE, only available through March 4, 2016). In it, her early talent is very evident, but she had her own “broken pieces” and attributed her success to persevering – just never giving up. She said, One day that door does open and if you don’t persevere, you won’t be there when it does – meaning the break-through into creative and personal success she achieved after many heartbreaks and setbacks.

So let’s none of us quit. Let’s push through whatever life throws at us until we “can marry the King” – whatever that means to each of us – and we can ultimately return to our heavenly King to be welcomed home forever.

Humpty Dumpty Courtesy Dreamstime.com

Humpty Dumpty
Courtesy Dreamstime.com

Do You Believe in God? Part 1

Coming out of science one day in 7th grade, my friend Sally asked me, Do you believe in God?  It took me by surprise, as we had never discussed religion before, and I answered candidly, I don’t know.

I decided to think about it and see what I really believed. I felt that if there was a God, He would be wise, loving, powerful, and all knowing. I thought that if there wasn’t a God, I would feel an emptiness in the universe, a lack of a larger consciousness than what I experienced within myself, from my family, and from the academic community around me. But I felt there was a consciousness around me that wasn’t human, that was bigger and wiser. It felt paternal. Furthermore, that being reacted to the things I said and did, just as a father would: either with approval when I was unselfish or hardworking, or with disappointment when I said something mean or did wrong. I don’t know if I told Sally, but I knew I believed in God. However, I didn’t stop my thinking there.

I lived across the street from an enormous City Park sloping down to the City Pool, then down another hill to a large area tucked into a bend of the Iowa River. It contained two ponds where we fed the ducks in summer and ice skated in winter. The 4th of July fireworks and carnival were held on the softball field there every year, plus there was a small zoo with rabbits, monkeys, buffalo, and peacocks. Though the park was well attended, it often seemed to be nearly empty. So we relished the playgrounds, leading each other around blindfolded, and sledding on the hills undisturbed. When I slept out on our screened-in front porch in the summer, I could hear the peacocks screaming in the night and owls hooting in the huge oaks across the street. There was a brooding consciousness over all the life that happened there. Since then Nature has always spoken to me of a loving caretaker and eternal, orderly mechanisms by which the universe unfolds and operates.

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

Iowa City Park, Family Photo

In college, I devoured philosophy and psychology looking for more answers. I rejected out of hand the existentialism of Sartre and Camus I found in French Lit. If you’re going to be that depressed, what’s the point of even living? I rejected behavioral determinism in learning theory because I experienced my own power of conscious choice. It was a “duh” moment, just like in the children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have free choice because I exercised it myself and could see the results of both wise and foolish choices. And there was a spirit around “good” people who were self-sacrificing, hard working, intelligent and kind. They had a form of happiness that no amount of self-indulgence could create. I experienced that myself when I resolved to help out more at home and did so, or when I studied hard for a test and did my best. No donut, new outfit, or TV show gave me that!

Then Pete and I moved to New England for a grand adventure in country living. If I thought Nature spoke to me in Iowa, She set up a symphony in rural New Hampshire. I was awakened by thousands of birds at dawn, picked wild blueberries on Pitcher Mountain with its dizzying views, washed my hair under the small dam on Highland Lake, and enjoyed innumerable dinner parties with like-minded friends. Sadly, Pete and I didn’t continue our adventure together, but we each bought little country houses, burned wood, and drank sparkling well water. I was actively pursuing my own spirituality, learning meditation, astrology, visiting communes, and sharing insights with friends. One of them invited me to a Christian prayer group with the older ladies of our small town. There I learned about Christ’s invitation to come to Him in simple, sincere prayer and His promise to answer.

So one day, alone in my house, I knelt down by an upstairs dormer window and said my first official prayer: “God, if you’re there, I need to know it.” I went on to lay out my concerns for my children and the difficulties I faced providing a life for them on my own. I lay down on my bed and, no sooner than I did so, a waterfall of pure love poured all through me. It lasted for at least 2-3 minutes and soon I was crying tears of real joy. My search was over. I was a Christian. Not from belief, but from my own experience and knowledge.

My younger sister and mother had become active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since I’d left home, and they introduced me to the Restored Gospel and the power of a priesthood authorized by God. I learned that all throughout history, those people who lived true to their Christian faith were blessed, prospered, and protected. Here are the words of Moses from the Old Testament:

3 And Moses went up unto God,
and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying,
Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob,
and tell the children of Israel; 

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
and how I bare you on eagles’ wings,
and brought you unto myself.
[In freeing the Israelites from bondage in Egypt]
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed,
and keep my covenant
,
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,
and an holy nation
.
These are the words which thou shalt speak
unto the children of Israel.
(Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added)

You might ask yourself if this nation is still a Christian nation, keeping its original covenant with God and meriting His blessings and protections. See my earlier post on Covenant America, July 4, 2014, and more about my personal journey in About Janet.

More importantly, ask yourself the same question my friend Sally asked me so long ago: Do I believe in God? If you say, Yes, then you might ask yourself how you can participate in a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We are each just one little person, but we can all light our own candle and dispel darkness around us. I wish you Bon Voyage.

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy Pixabay.com

A Candle in the Darkness
Courtesy Pixabay.com

40 Years in the Wilderness

I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 40 years ago as of yesterday. I consider this a huge milestone. Why? Because the ancient Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert after miraculously escaping from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. The number 40 is very symbolic of a wilderness experience in the Hebrew culture.

So did I have a “wilderness experience” these last 40 years. You bet your boots I did! After growing up in a Midwestern university town with little exposure to religion or spirituality, I then detoured through six years as a New England hippie, glorying in the back-to-the-land culture of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Not only did that affect my lifestyle (burning wood for heat, hauling water from a well by hand, and using an outhouse for two of those years) but those lovely, silent woods awakened my soul to a profound spiritual reality. I experimented with astrology, meditation, and night walks along lonely back roads. I sensed unseen beings and a higher power.

After an amazing conversion to Christianity and then to Mormonism, I moved briefly from my little hippie house to Iowa, and then settled in Salt Lake City soon after my baptism. That began my sojourn learning how to be a good Latter-day Saint (saint meaning “follower of Christ,” not holy person). Over the ensuing years, I had to confront a multitude of faults: my unchristian resentment of those I felt had wronged me, my lack of desire to serve those around me, and coveting the blessings of others, to name a few. I needed to think before I spoke, learn the place of faith and grace in my life, how to pray and get answers, and so much more. I found an image on the front of a greeting card years ago that’s provided needed encouragement when the road seemed long. This young woman is resolute in spite of inadequate clothes and winter weather, and she’s surrounded by snowflakes representing spiritual guidance and miracles:

Winter Pilgrim, from Greeting Card

Winter Pilgrim, Publisher Unknown

As I tackled motherhood after my divorce, various jobs and church callings, each one seemed to provide tutoring along the path of discipleship. My children taught me patience and living in the moment. Difficult bosses taught me to either speak up professionally or learn charity and long suffering. Friends encouraged me and provided needed R&R. Prayer was a refuge from the storm and an anchor to my soul. While I have much to learn and master, I feel I’ve finally “caught up with myself.” The little wounded child within has been made whole by the grace of God, and my future challenges seemed designed for creativity rather than healing.

I had a dream very early on that foreshadowed my spiritual odyssey and also gave me hope: I was in the Florence, Italy train station on a balcony overlooking several tracks with trains backed up to a platform, waiting for passengers to climb aboard. I was trying to decide which train to take when I noticed a headlight burning in one of them with its engine idling. All the others were dark and still. I said to myself, “I want to get on that one.” I entered through a door at the back of the caboose and, as soon as I did, the train took off at a terrifying speed. The vibrations were so strong I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled forward with difficulty. I slowly progressed through several seemingly emtpy cars, crawling on a slightly dusty but clean linoleum floor. Finally reaching the engine, I groped my way unto the engineer’s seat and studied the complicated control panel in front of me, trying various switches to learn how to drive the train. Finally, I opened a hatch over my head and put it through a cold, dark, ominous opening. But then, amazingly, my face was struck by warm night air, I could hear the crickets along the track and see down it by the headlight. I was free, exultant, flying along, and driving my own train!

I feel I’m at the end of this journey and about to put my head through the hatch. All the threads of my spiritual and personal growth have come to a healthy place. I have great hope and expect life to open up with new creative and fulfilling opportunities. I encourage all of you to find an image or allegory that helps propel you forward and see where it takes you.