Your Certain Future

 

It's interesting how you feel strongly about different things at different points of life. When I was a kid, it was all about fairness with my brothers and sisters. In high school I felt strongly about my independence and how I was right about everything. In college I realized that I didn't know anything in high school. I also felt strongly about wanting friends, relationships, a certain future.

When I graduated, I felt accomplished, and at the same time worthless as I interviewed for multiple jobs and didn't get any of them. When I started my first full-time job, I felt 1 percent secure and 99 percent panicked, afraid of failure and ridicule.

It's easy to forget feeling strongly for those things, because I'm not in any of those stages right now.

I look around and see people who I love and care about in all different stages—waiting for a job, waiting to work their passion, waiting for children, waiting for love, waiting for reconciliation—and I'm reminded that every stage of life has strong feelings. Many of them are marked by waiting for an uncertain future, and many of them are extremely painful.

Part of mourning with those who mourn (and wait, and hope) is understanding that I can't say anything to fix your current situation. I don't know your future.

But God does. And He is good.

He Gives and Takes Away

The hardest things to understand are the hardest to write about.

As a kid, I learned about the sovereignty of God. I didn't comprehend that the sovereignty of God means sometimes I don't want or understand what He does. God doesn't ask me when He should give or take away.

Trust aside, it's really hard.

Today, I'm thinking about Caedmon's Call, and the last verse of their song "Mother India":

There's a land where our shackles turn to diamonds
Where we trade in our rags for a royal crown
In that place, our oppressors hold no power
And the doors of the King are thrown wide

Sometimes, the doors of the King are thrown wide for someone before we want to say goodbye. On this day in 1962, God blessed the world with Curtis' mom. Earlier this year, He took her away from us. We know that Belinda was ushered into the kingdom of heaven with a rousing celebration and a royal welcome:

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

And we believe that above all God is sovereign and good. 

But we miss her.

Smaller Bites, Dash. Yikes.

At the beginning of The Incredibles, the family sits down for dinner. Dash, a 4th grader, tries unsuccessfully to cut his slab of steak (which is at about eye level). He shoves a corner of the steak in his mouth and growls as he tries to bite a chunk off the slab. At this point, his mother's maternal instinct kicks in, and she says,

"Smaller bites, Dash. Yikes!" Without missing a beat, she continues, "Bob, could you help the carnivore cut his meat?" Mr. Incredible cuts through the plate and goes to get a new one (but really to read the newspaper), and chaos ensues in the dining room, and it's wonderful comic pandemonium that any parent immediately understands.

Sometimes you have to give up doing everything so you can do something.

William Zinsser wrote On Writing Well. In the first chapter, he writes about a writing panel he was on at a school.

"What do you do on days when it isn't going well?" Dr. Brock was asked. He said he just stopped writing and put the work aside for a day when it would go better. I then said that the professional writer must establish a daily schedule and stick to it. I said that writing is a craft, not an art, and that the man who runs away from his craft because he lacks inspiration is fooling himself. He is also going broke."

It's not a good reason to not do something because you don't feel like it, you're tired, or you can't think of anything to say. Those are fancy ways to say you're neglecting a gift.

You have to do something, though.

this post is a struggle

For three weeks I've written almost nothing, because of cleaning and work and, well, life. Mostly the second two—my house is evidence that the first one has (how shall we say it graciously...) clearly hasn't been taking too much of my attention.

Sometimes writing feels like a sport, only instead of one season on and one season off a year there are six or eight of each. Sometimes it's an on season, and I'm not awake for long enough to write everything down that I have to say. Other times it's an off season, and no matter how desperately I want to write, I have nothing to say and no way to say it. The biggest difference is that sports is supposed to have an off season, but writing is like a savings account; the more time you put into it, the better it gets (AKA, no off season).

I can continue the analogies if you want, but it might become (assuming it isn't already) far fetched. I'll stop to save us both, the only problem is the less I can think of to write about, the more analogies I think of . . .

Writing is like a car—sometimes it starts alone, and sometimes it needs a jumpstart.
Writing is like a Christmas tree—it's better when it has a point.
Writing is like exercise—if you don't do it, you get out of shape.
Writing is like leftovers—sometimes it's better the second time around, and sometimes it's way worse.
Writing is like sports—you win some, you lose some, and sometimes you break a bone and have to sit on the bench for three months.

I guess my point is that sometimes writer's block is selective. It blocks all the substantive ideas and sits like a two-ton gorilla on the part of the brain that understands logic and writes it down. The past month, several gorillas have been hibernating on that part of my brain.

I'm poking them with a stick, though, because they're getting obnoxious. And like the famous lady from the internet says, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

How to Finish Your To-Do List

After a summer of nights at the beach, camping in the mountains, and half-price milkshakes from Sonic, I have work to do. I have a pile of blog drafts to sort through, edit, and post, a long story to finish writing, and a half-dozen books to read before fall seeps through the cracks of summer.

I loved every ounce of my summer, because it was lazy and (dare i incriminate myself) somewhat irresponsible. It was rest after a wild sprinting spring. But now my to-do list is long and unforgiving, and I'm hounded by my own goals. You know how it feels.

Here's the best way to tackle your to-do list when it's long enough to measure furniture with:

Step One: Arrange your tasks (in any order that you want) Arrange them by priority, by ease or time of completion, by which ones might pay money—but put them in an order that won't throw you into a stall every time you see the first item.

Step Two: Do bite-sized chunks. If you've ever gardened (or know someone who has), you know that planting a carrot seed doesn't produce a carrot the next day. It takes an entire season of watering, weeding, and getting sunshine. It takes time to finish big projects, too.

Step Three: List the little things—List the big things. Sometimes even the small things that you accomplish can help you feel successful. If you need to put folding towels and walking the dog on the list so you can pat yourself on the back, go for it. If those tiny tasks weigh you down, don't list them.

Step Four: Be accountable. If someone else knows what your goals are, they can hound you. If you're trying to accomplish things in isolation, no one will bug you when hit snooze too many times and don't wake up to exercise before work.

Step Five: Set goals (and rewards). If you're just aiming for completion someday in the great blue beyond, it'll be hard to stay motivated. Make goals you can attain (I will clean out the garage before the end of the month) and set rewards that excite you (I will get a banana split when I do).

Step Six: Practice. I know I whale on it constantly, but the only way to get better at almost everything in life is by practicing—do it over and over again, until you could do it in your sleep. If you practice getting stuff done, it'll be a habit. Then you can practice relaxing when it's over.

Sometimes finishing your list of chores doesn't get you anything besides the satisfaction of a job well done, but even then—it's worth it.

keeping on

I memorized this poem as a child—not for a project, but because a poster of it hung on the wall of my schoolroom, and poetry is more interesting than math (every student is entitled to her own opinion).

The author (and we're not quite sure who it is) understands trying, wanting, fighting, striving. And most poignant to the human experience, the desire to give up in the face of overwhelming odds.

He grants that this is valid.

Then he turns the desire to give up into the reason to keep fighting.

don't you quit

when things go wrong as they sometimes will
when the road you're trudging seems all uphill
when the funds are low and the debts are high
and you want to smile, but you have to sigh
when care is pressing you down a bit

rest if you must, but don't you quit

life is queer with its twists and turns
as every one of us sometimes learns
and many a fellow turns about
when he might have won had he stuck it out
don't give up when the pace seems slow
you might succeed with another blow

often the goal is nearer than

it seems to a faint and faltering man
often the struggler has given up
when he might have earned the victor's cup
and he learned to late when the night came down
how close he was to the golden crown

success is failure turned inside out

the silver tint in the clouds of doubt
and you can never tell how close you are
it might be near when it seems afar
so stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
it's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

—either edgar a. guest or john green leaf whittier or maybe someone else