Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On the brink of a breakthrough

The writer keeps trying to break through. Here I sit again, the result of listening to myself think as I was driving home and in a couple of other "waiting" moments today -- and concluding I had something I wanted or needed to write.

I close my eyes. I can sense the mental wheels spinning, grinding, churning, grating. It's a laborious sound and feel. Certainly this much effort should produce something good. Shouldn't it?

As I get ready to spring into April, am I on the brink of a breakthrough?
Do I just need patience?
Do I need more discipline? More acceptance? More spontaneity? More faith? More of the same?

Am I the way I am because that's how God made me and wants me to be, or is it because I'm lazy and undisciplined and don't make the effort to be all He could have me be?

As Holy Week turns to Maundy Thursday (with a worship service I will be able to attend) and Good Friday (an observance I won't be able to share at church), maybe these are thoughts I need to ponder.

I think I am on the brink of a breakthrough. I look forward to seeing what's on the other side.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Marching on

Psalmcat 51:3.28.10

Ideally, March would be my favorite month. It's my birth month. It brings the start of spring -- and the promise that another winter soon will be history. It's a time of new life, creation and creativity -- and hope.

Unfortunately, for me, the promise and possibilities of March have traditionally been accompanied by expectations. And what seems to follow expectations is disappointment. I'm still trying to rewrite that part of my life script.

All weekend, I've felt the urge to write. But now for the second time, I'm sitting at the computer and cannot figure out what it was I wanted to write. I know the topics: Point of Grace's new CD (No Changing Us) and cookbook (Cooking with Grace); a comment I heard yesterday at my 12-stop meeting that resonated (fear isn't in the driver's seat anymore); a comment from today's sermon (for God so loved the world that He gave); how I'm grateful to feel blessed beyond measure, to name a few. The comments or observations I want to make on those topics elude me. I guess they're just not ready to be expressed yet.

I keep marching on, trying to find myself and trying to quiet the voices inside me that say I wish I looked like that, I wish I could play the piano like that, I wish I could write like that, I wish I was organized like that, I wish I could sing like that, I wish ... I wish ... I wish ....

I know I need to stop wishing and start (or keep) focusing on doing what I do and being who I am to the best of my ability, without fear or doubt or intimidation.

I see and hear friends finding their voice, their style, their avenues of expression. For some, many years have passed before they seemed to become truly comfortable with such expression. That gives me hope.

I will keep marching on, in March and beyond.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Deadline" -- with nothing to write

How can I have nothing to write? It's March. It's been an unspringlike start to spring. Snow on the first day of spring, beautiful sunny day on March 23 and another dreary day today. Plus all those other things -- mostly good stuff at work; uncertain stuff in the economy and government; an answer to prayer, one moment at a time, involving a loved one; practicing an Easter classic to sing at church; rich blessings of friendship, family and spirit.

Maybe it's the bifocals. I'm in my sixth day with these glasses, and I think having two choices for viewing has somehow affected my brain. Can bifocals bring on Attention Deficit Disorder? It seems as if they have. I will return to the eye doctor's office Friday to try to get this fixed. Being willing to do that is progress for me!

Anyway, tonight there is little clarity. The written words are for one purpose only: to meet a self-imposed deadline. So far, the practice seems worthwhile, helping me remember there are at least two times for me to write: (1) when I feel the spirit or muse move me, and (2) when the deadline day arrives. And so, one week after my last post, I write and "publish." I am grateful to recognize another step of progress.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Never give up

Psalmcat 51:3.17.10

I wondered whether the dozen cut yellow roses, which were just barely opening when they arrived at my office last Thursday morning, would make it to full bloom. I know they usually do, but at least one such bouquet did not. Throughout the day, I gazed at them and tried to assess whether more of the vibrant yellow petals were visible. By time I left the office for the day, I had my doubts. The next morning, little had changed. But by the end of Friday, when I dumped out most of the water so I could drive the bouquet home without making a mess in my car, the blossoming was obvious, and it continued Saturday and Sunday. I wish I had taken a picture when they arrived, and another Friday morning, to compare with the full blooms that brought sunshine to my home on the weekend.

Since the start of Lent on Feb. 17, I've written a fair amount about giving up and not giving up. The blooming of the roses was another reminder not to give up. Instead, I could enjoy the beauty of the rosebuds and the greenery surrounding them and then delight in the ever-increasing bursts of silky sunshine color and delicate sweet scent.

Things I've read have made similar impressions. Among them was this from a dear young relative. She said it made quite an impression on her, and it did on me, too: If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. ... Justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.

And there was this, on a beautiful card, a Scripture quoted from the Message: "But let me run loose and free, celebrating God's great work, Every bone in my body laughing, singing, 'God, there's no one like you.'" Psalm 35:9-10

There were many other treasured words, including conversations and e-mail chats.

And I may need them as the week continues. Situations loom that could easily cause me to lose my focus, to become jealous or resentful. I want to be humble, but I don't want to be taken advantage of. It's hard to find balance sometimes, and one of those times may be near. It may sound like I'm worrying about something that may not even happen, but I see it is just paying attention and being prepared, trying to avoid being caught off guard.

Just in case, I'll continue to stock up on treasured words and moments, and never give up on God's love.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No longer 50

Psalmcat 51:3.11.10

I often find myself thinking or feeling that I should write about key dates, moments, etc., such as New Year's, a birthday, a life-changing experience or notable happenings in the world. But the reality continues to be that words often fail me at those times. I never know how long it will take for an experience to be absorbed into my soul and spirit in a way that it can be transformed into words. I seem unable to force this to happen. Not only does this keep me from being a professional writer, it sometimes brings disappointment when I would like to write newsletter articles -- or even just letters -- or commemorative tributes. I won't commit to do it because I don't know whether the words will come.

But all is not lost. I am reminded that even though I want to write and feel called to write, perhaps it's not for any specific finished written product but more for the process. Maybe writing, for me, is meant to be a journey of discovery, a tool for learning about myself and, sometimes, to nudge myself toward positive changes in the ACTIONS I take in life. As for placing such writings where others can read them, maybe the point of that is to somehow hold myself accountable and, on occasion, to inspire or provoke others. And as for touching on some topics again and again, in similar or different ways, well, maybe that's what it takes for me or someone else to get the message.

As the days of my life welcome the year of 51, I'm grateful to move forward with hope and joy. I thank God for blessings beyond measure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ideas of March

Psalmcat 50:3.10.10

I think I dare to dream and explore ideas/ideals more in March because it's my birth month, and I'm a Pisces. It's also sometimes been a period of depression for me, perhaps because I didn't dare to dream and explore ideas/ideals more.

So, the following are some ideas from the early days of March. If some topics don't interest you, keep scanning, because the list is wide-ranging:

-- You don't have to be a star to be a success, but you probably need some kind of success to be a star. This thought was prompted by the announcement of the newest slate of inductees to the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, plus the results of several competitions of various stature, ranging from the Oscars to monthly newsroom honors to basketball conference races and tournaments.

-- You can be your best and not be the winner. It may sometimes seem that if you do your best and it's not enough to win, then somehow it must not have been your best or that your best wasn't enough. But if it was your best, how could it not be enough?

-- Shouldn't the same apply to sports teams? Why do fans get so down on their teams if they don't win every game and every championship? The madness that is basketball during March especially brings this to mind.

-- My mom is one neat lady! She knew exactly what to say when I talked to her about a situation that has baffled me. Her response was an affirmation to me, my siblings and my mom! I suppose I'll never be a parent, but there's no reason I can't strive to bring that kind of sensitivity and wisdom to my relationships.

-- My dad is one neat guy! (He's a Pisces, too.) I'm so glad I took the extra time when I made a quick trip to Texas for a nephew's fiancee's shower to go on out to Mom and Dad's farm to see him. He's a good and grateful man -- a living treasure of my life.

-- Lost treasures and missed opportunities continue to haunt me. While walking last weekend after watching my sports team win, I realized I should have been at a funeral. Had I forgotten about it, or did I make a subconscious choice? And thinking of that made me think of other opportunities -- including many funerals -- that I regretted missing after it was too late to change my choice. The reason I didn't go was almost always that I didn't think I had time. Sigh.

-- As for lost treasures, Gene and I have two houses that include rooms filled with unsorted stuff. Dominant among my "stuff" is lots of paper -- newspapers with articles I have written or that I was inspired by; old greeting cards and correspondence; magazines; programs from graduations, church services, weddings, ballgames and more; photographs; sheet music; books. Among these pieces are treasures, but I'd be hard-pressed to find them among the mess. Part of my hope that springs eternal is that someday I will figure out what to do with this stuff and just do it. (Some of my dearest friends have suggested I just get rid of it all, and that could possibly be the answer. More than once after I've read of people losing everything in tornadoes or fires, I've been reminded that it's just stuff. But I still can't let go. And when I try to sort it, I start reading, and I recall why so many of the pieces are precious to me in their own ways. I just don't know how to organize them!)

-- Also regarding lost treasures: I don't have much of true material value, and one reason is that I've learned along the way that no matter how hard I try not to lose things, I do lose things. And I'm just as likely to lose (or break) things of value as things of little value. This seems to especially apply to jewelry and accessories. When I realized I left my cashmere scarf at the theater recently, I felt ashamed and frustrated. Not again! I remembered trying to justify even mentioning that I'd like a cashmere scarf for Christmas, because I know you can get a scarf for much less money, and I know how easy it is for me to lose accessories. Fortunately, I called the theater, they found the scarf and I retrieved it. Maybe I can learn to take care of nice things.

-- I still feel called to be a journalist, someone who documents things in writing. But there remains a wide gulf between the calling and the ability to get it done. I suppose as long as I feel the calling -- the yearning -- I will continue to pursue it.

-- I also feel called to sing, although I don't feel called to take voice lessons. I worked with a vocal coach for a few months many years ago, and it helped greatly. (Hmmmmm. Maybe it's too early to close that door.) In the meantime, I'm reminded of the importance of having a song in my heart daily and the value of letting that song soar when possible (usually while driving, at home when Gene's not here, or at church). For me, singing comes first from the heart. But if I want to have any chance of getting the message from my heart to a listener, I need to practice some discipline to keep my vocal cords and breathing systems healthy.

-- There were times I thought I felt called to be a leader, but experience has taught me that was something I needed to try so I could better relate to the challenges leaders face, even as I attempt to be a good follower. It helped me learn the value of providing encouragement to leaders.

-- The year of 50 was harder than I expected. I remember looking forward to the years of 30 and 40, and they were good years. I don't recall my approach to 50. (OK, I do recall that when I was 49, I often found myself thinking "I'm almost 50." SO, I guess I was obsessed.) I do know that, much to my surprise, I seemed to be aware of every wrinkle, ache, sag, bump, bulge, gray hair, memory lapse and distressing thought in the past year. There were many good moments and days, but many things seemed to require much more effort than should have been needed. That includes the effort of not getting frustrated or losing hope. I have no idea what that was about. But I do know that in the past week, I've felt renewed hope. Maybe the year of 50 was a test. If so, dare I say I think I may have passed? Smile.

-- Action is the antidote to depression. Just do it! I finally went to the eye doctor. I've filed some insurance claims. Every small step helps, although sometimes it seems as if that step just leads to an unexpected, extra step. Keep moving. It will get done. And the cloud will lift. (This doesn't mean a person might not also need an anti-depressant. But even with such a prescription, action also should be part of the therapy, Dr. Patricia says!)

-- Another revelation from the ideas of March: I have trouble with boundaries. I don't know when, where or how to stop, and I'm proving it again. I could just go on and on writing, but I have many tasks that need to be taken care of on this day off from work. This issue is what often keeps me from making a call, starting a conversation, helping with a service project. It's intertwined with priorities and decision-making. I can't decide what to do, so I do nothing. Or I do what's familiar. But I often end up second-guessing myself, and then I feel ashamed. And I still have no idea whether there's any value to the words I'm taking the time to write. But writing seemed to be a priority this morning. And now it seems as if it's time to be done.

So, these are just a few ideas that have come to my mind these early days of March, before I leave the year of 50. I'm grateful to God to express them, for whatever they are worth. I pray that the expression is somehow to God's glory.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'ds of March

About this time of year, I often find myself wondering, what the heck are the Ides of March? Of course, rather than being inspired to research the topic, I was inspired to offer my own interpretation:

I'd like mid-70s to mid-80s days with light breezes to come and stay awhile. Occasional rainshowers would be OK, but no tornadoes or hail.

I'd like everyone who is sick to be healed, and those without jobs to find them, and those who feel unloved to know that they are loved.

I'd like to get a clue at work.

I'd like my actions to match my intentions.

I'd like a flat-screen HDTV for the living room and an iPhone just for me.

I'd like to find an inexpensive, effective method for reversing or somehow beautifying facial wrinkles, especially around the smiling eyes!

I'd like for Congress and the president to put aside their differences and come up with a health care reform plan that is good for all. It could be done if people weren't so selfish, greedy and proud.

I'd like people in general to put aside their differences, selfishness, greed and pride to work together for the good of all.

I'd like to be aware and change as needed in those situations where I let selfishness, greed and pride get in the way of the greater good.

I'd like my favorite sports teams to keep on winning!

I'd like to procrastinate less and produce more.

I'd like to grow old gracefully and beautifully.

I'd like to get everything cleaned up and caught up at home, in my car and at work.

I'd like to add more to this list, but if I wait, I might second-guess myself and not post it.

I'd like you to feel free to add your own I'ds.

(I did finally look up ides of March, and I wasn't too impressed. I think I associated it with Ireland and St. Patrick's Day rather than Rome and tragedy and the mid-month settling of accounts, although that might be a concept to explore further. Overall, I like mine better!)

Up next, perhaps, the ideas of March .....