Tag Archives: Purpose

The Great Buts of Human Limitation

24 Apr

Who are you, deep down? What is it you really desire to do? What is it you’ve been putting off for years, despite the constant yearning? We all have dreams, hopes, a purpose . . .  but some of us are sitting on our buts and may never see them realized.

It seems the more I write, the more I hear from people who want to write. The more I write about peace and positive outlook, the more I hear from people craving peace and positive outlook. The more I write about jumping off the ledge to follow your dreams, the more I hear the word “but.”

But I’m too old. But I’m too young. But I’m too sick. But I’m too far in debt. But I don’t know where to start. But the kids…

I understand completely, because I’ve been there. I pined to write for 35 years, yet never stuck my head out past the margin of societal expectations. Despite having an active imagination and dreams of writing for a living, I believed the voices that said to leave my current job would be irresponsible, that making lots of money is more important than pretending to be a writer, that I might not be good enough to make it in the writing world.

But perhaps when I’m old enough to retire; but maybe if I could secure a solid offer for something first; but perhaps when the youngest graduates college…

Then, quite out of the blue, I do believe I heard the Lord tell me to get off my but(t) and start scribbling. I did, and although I wouldn’t call myself a financially successful author yet, I’m on my way and having a ball. I’m happier than I ever was when money was assured (although, depending on your spiritual foundation, one could argue that sufficient money has been assured and IS being provided, as we are not in need.)

As I walked through my neighborhood recently, I took specific notice of some trees that clearly do not conform to nature’s expectations, and it occurs to me that sometimes, despite our greatest yearnings, we make decisions based on the world’s expectations and let fears and past hurts keep us from what may be the true happiness we’re seeking, a happiness that comes from doing what we were meant to do with our lives.

So, the photos on this blog post will be larger than usual, because I want you to study them and search for your face amid the leaves.

stubborn treeThis first I call the Tree of Determination. You might say it’s a young tree with an old soul. This is a rebellious Eastern Redbud, which sports radiant purple (go figure) flowers every spring. This tree has clearly experienced a recent tragedy, yet refuses to go quietly into that good night. Notice how tall and full its new growth is. There’s nothing meek or hesitant going on here. This is how we were meant to be, alive and vibrant, pushing forward despite the negative buffeting of the world around us, and despite the passing of those who went before us. It’s okay, and quite healthy, to mourn those who are no longer with us, but we can also honor them by taking what they left behind and letting it nourish our growth.

The second is this Tree of Hope, quite possibly a Red Maple, but I’m not a tree expert so don’t write that down. When a fire stripped this pitiful thing bare last summer, I was sure someone was sharpening the axe. But the owners, who are clearly wiser than I am, burned treepruned back the branches and let it rest over the winter. This spring there is evidence of hope. It put up a small patch of growth this year, perhaps all it can muster, as if timidly testing the environment. I will track this tree’s progress over the next few years, and reblog someday with hopefully a fantastic fall display. The lesson I take from this tree is, sometimes we know where we want to go, but we’ve been burned too many times to stick our neck out there. In that case, it’s okay to go slow. Do only as much as you can right now, but move forward. Fires can and may happen, but the likelihood that they will keep happening and in the same place is not great. That picture in your mind of where you’re going? That’s your dream. Do something every day that brings you closer. Don’t give it up, even if the world mocks you or knocks you down (see picture #1). It’s YOUR dream and they can’t have it.

 

 

Finally, we have the No-longer Imprisoned Tree. I have no idea of its species, because I boxed treewas too focused on the roots of this tree to examine the leaves. Here’s a fully functioning, helpful tree. It’s tall, and straight, and even supports a swing. A giver. At one time, though, its roots were apparently boxed and tightly constrained. Sadly, the message here is one I see all too often. Many of us were once boxed and tightly constrained, but although we’ve been set free, we haven’t moved a muscle. We function, day after day, provide care and nurturing for others, but we keep our own selves confined. What’s keeping us from stretching those limbs and experiencing the freedom we’ve yearned for? Other voices? Reminders? For me it was fear of failure. Or more precisely, fear of success. I worried that if I succeeded with my first book, I’d have nothing else to say, and I’d be found out a fraud. The voice I listened to said anyone can write one book, but only a “real author” can keep the words coming. I still worry sometimes, but I know the dream is still in my heart so I’m striving to be a purple Redbud tree.

My inspiration to keep moving forward, however, comes not from trees but from three women I greatly admire. My Tree of Determination friend is Erin Elizabeth Austin a writer friend who suffers from an often debilitating disease called Lupus. She refuses to let negative events of the world dictate how she will behave, and chooses to make every healthy minute of her life count by helping others and by blooming wildly. She has just released the 11th issue of “Broken but Priceless” magazine, an uplifting and encouraging magazine for people who have, or care for loved ones with, chronic illness. And in all this, she’s so danged funny, just like a purple Redbud tree.

Aimee Gross is my Tree of Hope. She’s a fellow blogger who suffers from mental illness and chronic depression, but she’s sticking her neck out there in hopes of reaching that one person who might be looking for help in this vast internet. Aimee has a physically demaanding day job, yet she writes to inspire others in her free time. Her main message is, you’re not alone. you can overcome, we can do this together.

And my Tree of No-longer Imprisoned? That would be Michele, a strong-willed, smart, big-hearted woman whose dreams are repeatedly squelched by buffeting storms. Some of the waves have even knocked her down at times, but she resolutely stands each time and braces for the next. What she can’t see, but her friends can, is that the waves are getting weaker, further apart, and the sea is ebbing. I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens when she realizes she can stretch out her limbs and take a step forward. Michele is not a writer (yet), but boy, does she have a story. I’ll keep you posted there as well.

So, a lot of words blogged today to ask, again, who are you deep-down, and what’s the next step in fulfilling your dream? I would love to hear your answers, unless there’s a “but” attached, because on this blog, we don’t sit on our buts.

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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

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Book Signing Poster2Oh, two announcements! First, for those who live in the area, I will be co-sponsoring a book signing with Bea Fishback this Sunday (April 30), at Brew Republic Bierwerks in Woodbridge (near Wegman’s). If you can make it, please stop by between 1 and 3. Even if the idea of good books and fellowship doesn’t grab you, at least try the beer cheese pretzels or the crab dip—such a treat!

Breaking the Chains Cover_300 dpiAND, I’ve recently contributed two stories to the Lighthouse Bible Studies anthology “Breaking the Chains,” an uplifting place to start if anything in the blog above strikes a chord. This book addresses the spiritual attacks that keep us bound and believing things about ourselves that just ain’t true. If you want to take that first step forward, I’ll have books at the signing on Sunday, or you can order them here.

Hustle Along, Little Crab. Don’t Fear the Sea Gull.

3 Feb

Today we’re going to talk again about Brian the Hermit Crab, because some people misunderstood his role as Exhibit A in last week’s message about worrying.

brian_no_worriesI received the following comments:

“All I see is a cat.”

“He may be happy, but the reality is still a dangerous situation. Maybe he should be worried.”

And my favorite, “So, we should ignore the big picture?”

Sigh, no, no, no. Besides, the Big Picture is not the cat (whose name is Aslan, by the way). And the small picture is not even the crab . . . it’s what the crab is doing. In that particular photo, Brian is sleeping. I have other pictures of him zipping around the top of the cage at what he likely believes is lightning speed, taunting Aslan by sticking his tiny claws through the wires. I wonder sometimes if he sees Aslan as a giant sea gull.

The point is, Brian is doing what hermit crabs do. Going about accomplishing the inclinations of his heart: Sleeping, eating, digging, climbing, and nothing else. He’s not trying to take on the giant sea gull, or hiding in the corner in fear. I’m not sure about the brain capacity of a hermit crab, but I do believe he knows about the danger that lurks outside his wire sanctuary, yet he keeps doing what a crab does.

Which brings me to a few side points: A cage isn’t always a prison. Constraints aren’t always road blocks. And sometimes, what we view as freedom might actually lead to a trap. A wise man knows how to discern the difference. (We’ll talk about the wise man in next week’s post).

Brian has outlived the 6-months-to-a-year predicted life-span of a hermit crab in captivity (and for those of you who were wondering, he’s a gift. We didn’t plan this adoption). We’ve had him nearly two years now. I imagine he’s lived so long because he’s not surrounded by stick-fingered, frightening children (Aslan excepted), and also because I’m a nag about such things so he gets regular food and water. Additionally, I believe he has lived so long because he’s NOT trying to take on the dark whiskered beast. We know who would win that battle.

News flash: We all have a dark whiskered beast looming over us, whether we can see it or not. It strikes at different times, and in different ways. For some, through depression, for others, financial woes or an abusive relationship. The beast may use something as simple as a flat tire or missed appointment to get to us, or something as serious as cancer. And it doesn’t give up until we do. If it can’t snatch your claws while you’re happily swinging from wire to wire, it will wait until the door is opened for feeding time and stick its giant paws inside. It waits patiently for an opportunity, and gleefully approves your living in constant fear about the “what if.”

But that dark whiskered beast is NOT the big picture.

So, what is?

brian

Watermelon…the nectar of the ocean arachnids.

In this scenario, it’s us, his humans. Unseen, but very present. He has no idea we’re out here, yet here we are. We know the threats he’s facing, but we also know how to control them. We won’t let Aslan into the cage. At feeding time, we can force him out of the way, or divert him with a treat, or wait until he’s elsewhere before opening the door. Aslan may think he’s going to get in there and shake Brian up one day. He might even dream about it. But he doesn’t have the final say in that. We also do little things to bring excitement (if you can call it that) into the little guy’s life, like putting the occasional bits of fruit and nuts into his cage. He seems to like watermelon a lot. We are, to Brian (or would be if his brain could make the leap) his god.

In many ways, you and I might find it easy to compare our situations to Brian’s, but this analogy only works to a point, because hermit crabs are not humans, and we humans are not God. As humans, we can err. We might forget to feed Brian, leave the cage open, or, heaven forbid, drop the poor creature when we’re holding him. And there are potential woes outside our control, such as the heat going out or the air around him becoming too dry. He could die despite our best efforts to protect him.

However, the most significant misalignment in this analogy is that we did not create Brian or put passions and inclinations into his heart.

In OUR big picture, yours and mine, the caretaker is much, much more capable, sees much more of the big picture, and loves us SO much more than anyone could ever love a hermit crab. Also, God doesn’t err, and there’s nothing outside his control.

For instance, when God made you, he gave you passions and inclinations, and he fashioned your life events in such a way that you are now uniquely suited to do something specific, something nobody else is suited for, and something a lot more meaningful than sitting in the sand, sucking watermelon. What is it? I cannot tell you. I can only tell you that the dark whiskered beast is doing all he can to stop you and to make you doubt that it’s your purpose.

You don’t need to fear the whiskered beast, because you know the bigger picture. You may run into road blocks and wire fences, but trust that they’re designed constraints, put there for a reason. You may get a glimpse of the beast occasionally, but trust that God won’t let him touch you. Just keep doing what it is you’re supposed to do. To the beast, it will be like poking your claws through the wire. He absolutely hates it when you’re freely you.

Stop trying to figure out what God is up to and find your own purpose. Jump in with all six legs, let out your inner crab, and believe in yourself.

God does.

p.s. Is it weird that I’m fixing crab for dinner?

 

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You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. – Psalm  139:1-6