My frustration level was high and I wanted to quit. “It’s no use,” I thought. “I’ve never been artistic and just can’t do this.”
The class I found myself in was not what I expected. Self-criticism was at an all-time high as I muttered inwardly. My work looked nothing like that of the instructor and I wondered if I should attempt to quietly slip out the door so as not to embarrass myself further.
Then the instructor said something that changed my entire outlook. Her words, “Give yourself permission to be a beginner,” were not directed to me but still hit me hard.
Why did I expect to be an expert at a craft I’d never tried before? This was totally unrealistic. Yet, I grew impatient with myself for needing time and practice to accomplish this new skill.
One thing I knew for sure; I would never learn it if I quit trying. It was time to change my mindset.
I thought back to my first attempts at writing. Only by persevering, studying my craft and learning from my mistakes did I start to improve. There is still much to learn but the more I work at it, the better the chance of continued improvement. If I hadn’t given myself permission to be a beginner I would not have discovered the passion I now have for writing.
This year my writing was accepted for publication in three anthologies. Each of these stories was written, refined, edited and rewritten many times before they were ready to be submitted for consideration. My first draft was not good enough. Nor, was the second or third.
Any new skill takes practice and by exploring new things and putting time and effort into them, there’s no telling what new abilities and passions I will discover.
My husband and I have just returned from a mini-vacation. We travelled a little over an hour from home and spent three nights in the mountains.
In such a short distance and time frame we enjoyed a complete change of pace. No goals or expectations were set ahead of time. This proved to be key to our experience.
Jagged mountain peaks were visible from our room. We appreciated some time outdoors in the crisp mountain air, but had no desire to fill every moment with activity. Instead, we spent quiet hours relaxing in the spacious lobby area where a large rustic fireplace dominated one wall.
Any other time we would have felt guilty for not being outside exploring. On these days we relished the time to rest and recharge. This is something we would not have been able to accomplish at home where many tasks constantly call out for our attention.
There are always things we can be doing, but how often do we give ourselves permission to just be still?
Rest is a biblical concept. Jesus took time from his hectic life to withdraw to a quiet place for prayer. This was a necessity for him. After spending quiet time with God, he was better prepared to face the busy and trying days to come.
When I do the same, I am allowing the Lord to breathe new energy and focus into my life, preparing me for what lies ahead.
The news about Jesus spread even more. Large crowds gathered to hear him and have their diseases cured. But he would go away to places where he could be alone for prayer. (Luke 5:15-16 GST)
Canadian Thanksgiving has its origins in Europe, where festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest took place in the month of October.
Today, Thanksgiving is a celebration of being thankful for what one has and the bounty of the previous year. For some, the main focus is a turkey dinner followed by pumpkin pie.
I do appreciate gathering together with my family and turkey is one of my favourite meals. However, I don’t feel one day is enough to express gratitude for the abundance in my life.
I like to start my mornings by giving thanks for a new day. God has given me a fresh page on which to write the next chapter of the story of my life. I want to express my gratitude for this gift and use it to make a positive difference. I say I want to, because it doesn’t always happen. I do know my day will be off to a much better start when it begins with this kind of communion with The Lord.
In the past, I thought I’d have to do something huge and life changing in order to make a difference in the world. Now, I know it may be as simple as having a positive attitude. I may never know the effect a smile and friendly hello has on a stranger I pass on the street. The same goes for holding the door open for one following behind or allowing someone to merge in traffic in front of me. It is possible my words and actions will have a ripple effect much larger than I could possible know.
I will never be in control of every event in my day, but my attitude is totally within my control. I have learned that I can choose how I act, despite how I feel. After all, God gave me the gift of free choice. In that case, why wouldn’t I choose to be positive and thankful?
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)
I was a participant in a project that had its unveiling at a recent community event. Twelve artists and twelve writers were paired up several months ago. Each pairing was given a sample of their partner’s work. We then created a piece inspired by that of our partner.
During the event, the work was displayed and the public was invited to mingle and talk to us about our creative process. The participants were each given a name tag identifying who we were and what our role was. Mine said, “Tandy Balson, Writer.”
Anyone approaching me knew immediately what my part was. I told my husband, “I must be a writer because my label says so.”
I took a picture of the tag and wondered what other labels I also wear. Although they may not be on a printed tag, I’m sure I have others that are every bit as visible to those who see me.
If I am smiling and happy, you will know I’m approachable. When you see a scowl or overhear harsh words, my attitude will label me as someone you don’t want to be near.
My actions can also give me the labels of trustworthy, helpful and compassionate rather than dishonest, uncooperative and judgmental.
Not all labels others give me are accurate. Some can limit my belief in myself. I read a quote from Act Accordingly by Colin Wright that said, “Labels help define you, but they are not you.” To that I say, AMEN!
My husband and I were enjoying the last night of the season in our trailer. The cooler weather and falling leaves signaled the need to prepare for the approaching winter.
As the sun started to set, a fire was lit. Soon we had gathered the roasting sticks and ingredients for smores. Under a dark autumn sky, we watched the flames spark and dance while beneath them the embers glowed. Enough heat was generated to warm us against the impending chill of the night.
When the flames started to recede we roasted our marshmallows over the hot coals. It was a fitting farewell to summer.
The time came to extinguish the fire and the burning coals were separated, allowing them to cool more quickly. If we stirred them up, a new flame appeared.
I thought of how these embers were a fitting metaphor for my spiritual life.
Like the embers, when I am alone my spark or flame of passion dies down. My ability to bring warmth into the world diminishes.
When I surround myself with other believers, my faith is warmed by theirs. Together, we fan the flames of potential each carry. The passion for Christ and the mission he has given us burns brightly.
I have been recently been blessed to have a team of friends support me with their prayers. As one season ends and another begins they ensure the light of the Lord will not grow dim.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20 NIV)
I had every intention of dealing with them last week, and the week before. At the very least, they should have been sorted and counted.
Although I knew it should be done, I didn’t want to, which is why I was still tripping over bags of bottles and cans in my garage. They were taking up valuable space and were also an eyesore I faced every time I entered or exited the garage. It was getting harder to ignore this visible reminder of clutter to be removed.
Only a little dedicated time was needed to deal with these recyclables before they were traded for cash. A reward that turned clutter into something of value should be all the incentive needed to do the necessary work.
I wondered if my procrastination was representative of something deeper. Do I have items of potential value hidden inside that are not being utilized? What would I discover if I sort through the clutter in my mind?
Am I afraid to explore the dreams buried deep within? Are excuses taking the place of action?
As I answer these questions I realize I am the only one responsible for my experience. It’s up to me to take the necessary steps to find the treasure of possibility buried inside and bring it to the surface.
“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.” Bill Phillips
The old dressing table had been languishing in our garage for quite some time. I can still picture it in its original state in my mother’s bedroom. Before it came into my possession, the surface had been painted a bright yellow. This furniture held too many memories to allow me to part with it and my husband decided to restore the finish.
First, he stripped away the layers of paint and then sanded it down to the bare wood. As the layers were stripped away, marks and stains became exposed. They may have been caused by a drink or??? being set directly on the wooden surface. The paint had done an effective job of hiding the damage, but under its cover, the stains remained.
The marks were sanded out but nothing could remove traces of yellow paint that had seeped into the wood, leaving a permanent stain.
In a way, I’m like this old piece of furniture. Many stains have appeared over the course of my life. I want to cover them up so you won’t see my imperfections. The longer I keep them hidden, the more they will become embedded into my life, causing permanent damage.
Sooner or later the bright surface I show the world will become stripped away. My stains and imperfections will be exposed.
A better choice is to confess my sins and leave them at the feet of Jesus. He is the only one with the power to completely remove them and renew me.
By making a habit of coming to Jesus, I need not fear what will be exposed when the layers are stripped away.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. (Psalm 51:1 NIV)
There is nothing like the taste of fresh from the garden produce. I am a carrot lover, so that is one crop I look forward to with great anticipation.
A few days ago we harvested the remaining carrots. It was interesting to see the variety of sizes. The seeds were all sown on the same day, into the same mix of garden soil. They were cared for in exactly the same way. So why were some large and others small?
At first, I wondered if the ones gathered closely together didn’t have enough space to grow as large as the ones with more room. That may be part of it, but then how do I explain a large carrot growing beside a small one? What makes one thrive while another grows slowly?
I wondered if this is true for seeds, is it also true for people? Deep within each of us lies many seeds. We have seeds of potential, of love and kindness; seeds of confidence and self-worth. We also have seeds of disappointment, of anger, of discouragement and low self-esteem.
Some of these seeds grow larger and stronger than others, depending which ones we focus on. Every seed needs proper nourishment to grow and flourish. I can feed the negative ones by focusing on them, or I can make the choice to nourish the positive ones to encourage their growth.
I look at the carrots just in from the garden and wonder, which of the seeds in my life I’m putting my focus on.
Do you hear that sound? The Canadian Geese are doing practice runs and we seem to be in their flight path. Maybe you are, too.
They spend weeks practicing before they actually attempt their long distance flight. On occasion, we have witnessed a gaggle of geese on a nearby pond start to honk as two or three were landing. It was like they were cheering the others on.
Did you know that the reason geese honk from behind is to encourage the ones in front of them? Also, when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back and another takes its place as the lead.
I could learn from their teamwork. It makes sense to take turns doing the hard jobs and to encourage those who are taking the lead.
The V formation geese fly in allows the whole flock to have a much longer flying range than if one bird flew alone.
Again, this can apply to us. When we share a common direction, we can get there faster and easier if we travel with others. Not only can we learn from those we travel with, I find it more pleasant than travelling alone.
A flock of geese is like a family. They look out for each other. As part of the family of God, I am instructed to do the same. What a wonderful world it would be if we took our cue from the geese and everyone worked together and encouraged each other.
“Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.” (Romans 12:10 GWT)
Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.” (Galatians 6:2 GWT)