Limits to Find Growth

Limits to Find Growth

This is post number twelve in the Online Discussion Group hosted by Kate Motaung based on the book, On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

“I wish that I had unlimited time and energy.” “I could make this just like you want if I had an unlimited budget.” ” If I had fewer limits on my power I could do more good.” I have read comments like those above more than a few times. We all want more. We want cars that go faster, but we want other drivers to avoid crashing into us. We want other people to be on time though we want to get more done before the next meeting.

As humans we are constantly in a state of tension between our desire for more and the need to live in community with one another.

We want to be unlimited. God has designed us with limits. Personal freedom is a rallying cry. The problem lies in the fact that the freedom of others can directly limit our own.

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Why would God create us with so much creativity, desire and drive if we were not designed to live fully free to do whatever we want? Six year olds could explain the answer. Many sixteen year olds and sixty year olds might have a problem with the simple answer. When we were young we understood that we were not perfect. We all make mistakes. Children have no problem with this concept. They have limits placed upon them at every turn. Although they say, “No” with great alacrity, children grasp that they cannot do it all. As we grow and master more skills our natural tendency is to want the limits removed. An enormous sense of accomplishment is rightly felt when we first ride a bike without training wheels. The joy of a drivers’ license is the elixir of freedom!

All our lives we push at the edges, reaching for more freedom. We grow and expand the limits. This can be very healthy. We develop more creativity as we overcome obstacles. Unbridled freedom can lead to self-destruction, or worse.

This post may seem like a philosophical stretch, but I think it reaches to one of the core problem that we all face. We often view “more” as our birth-right. We don’t like the idea of limitations. We would rather write, take care of family, pay the bills, please ourselves and everyone else simultaneously.

Too often we only accept limits when life lived without them fails.

I think that it is good that we face the unpleasant reality of limitations to our writing head-on. By recognizing early that we are probably not going to be spending a year alone in a cabin in the woods writing is good. I am not sure that a year alone in the woods would be good for most of us anyway.

Personally, I push at the edges of physical limits ceaselessly. Physical illness, caregiving and the restraint of a mere twenty-four hours in ever day are always leaving me with a desire for more.

Faith has slowly taught me that self-sacrifice is the path to true greatness.

If I need to forgo Facebook in order to write, then it will be done. Watching television was disappointing at best. I gave that up and became all the happier for the sacrifice. Some of what we fill our time with is not fulfilling any longer. It is easy to fall into patterns of behavior that don’t really satisfy us.

God who is unlimited, demonstrated the importance of Sabbath rest, by resting on the seventh day. He didn’t need to rest. He limited Himself in order to teach us. More is not always better. The tenet holds true in many areas of life. It can be true in the writing life. We can become better writers by sacrificing other areas of interest to pursue writing and we can become better writers by writing less in some periods. The natural limits may actually be like speed-limits to prevent crashes.

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Rest

Rest

This is post number eleven On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.

One of the discussion questions for this chapter is, “Do you have trouble with rest?” I have perhaps misquoted this slightly in my perennial flurry. I would go back and double-check to ensure that I have the quote verbatim, but I am deliberately leaving it as is since I think it speaks to my underlying difficulty with the concept of rest. If this is not the precise wording of the question, this is the question that I need to find the answer for.

Yes, I have a problem with rest.

I am not referring to my insomnia. I have trouble taking restorative rest because I become sick and am unable to work so often. The truth is supposed to release you, but it looks ugly to me. All my life I have battled chronic illness, so I am always playing catch up. In theory I take breaks. I take plenty of breaks. Being too weak to hold your head up or in extreme pain is not restful, however. As I studied this chapter and read the other posts I was convicted in the strongest possible way. I rarely┬áhave time for restorative rest. Honestly, I don’t imagine that any significant change can be made to this scenario. The demands of family alone leave me depleted. I imagine that many moms of young children experience the same challenges no matter how robust their health. Doubtless many others find the same difficulties for a variety of reasons.

  • What comes between you and restorative breaks?
  • What techniques do you employ to keep your creative energy flowing?

What I can change is my attitude and my planning. I had not thought of allowing restorative respite of non-verbal periods in the writing schedule. This I shall attempt in the future. Even brief stops may be useful, and brief stops I can allow myself.

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I love to knit. I find it very relaxing and I can knit when I am too sick to do anything else. Unless I am knitting a complex pattern I find plenty of parts in knitting that I can do while lying down, with my eyes closed. I frequently reserve it for when I am unable to accomplish something more productive. Knitting sometimes contains parts where I do need to check a pattern periodically. My knitting basket happens to hang just beside the chaise where I do my writing. Inspiration is leading me to think that 15 minutes of knitting scheduled every 2 hours of writing might be a good idea. Tiny knitting breaks might give my brain useful reflect periods.

  • Does this sound silly?
  • Would it be wasteful to use precious fully functioning writing time on something as frivolous as knitting?
Planning

Planning

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I have a complex relationship with planning. I have always been a list maker who loves her planners and creates outlines in copious detail. I confess to being one of those who will add something to the list and check it off if I accomplish something that I did not have on the list to begin with. The sense of self-worth that comes with the check mark warrants the extra seconds it takes to add the new activity. I always plan. It seems hard-wired into my personality. My sister and I are regularly at odds over the topic because she is positivity list-averse. I was really lucky today. When I handed her a copy of the grocery list she put it in her purse. She never looked at it, but she accepted the proffered paper and she has refused in the past.

The complication in the planning exists in the fact that life often refuses to cooperate with my plans. If I have an important event planed I have backup plans for my backup plans. No matter how much I plan, something will always occur that I had not expected. This past week has been a case in point. A series of health problems occurred that have left a string of cancelled appointments and missed due dates. This post was supposed to be on Wednesday but it is now Sunday night. I have lived my life buffeted by endless health problems by always believing that tomorrow will be a good day. Today may be miserable but tomorrow holds the promise of greater strength. Sometimes my hope is fulfilled, sometimes it is not.

I often think that planning is just another way we humans seek to be in control. I have a valid reason for writing everything down. I often become very faint, have blurry vision and short-term memory difficulty. After I lie down long enough to get the blood back in my brain I remember everything. However, sometimes I need to be reminded of something while I am “hazy.” The help of written notes and computer generated alert tone reminders is tremendous.  In all candor, that is not the only reason I make so many plans. I also plan to have a sense of what to expect. I plan for today, tomorrow, next week, next year hoping to achieve a certain outcome.  It would also be true to say that no matter how successful the event I plan turns out I am never fully satisfied. Nothing is ever entirely what I had envisioned.

I have trouble getting everything on my To Do list done. I found that I average seventeen tasks every day on my list. Some days I expect still more. No, I do not list things like feed the dog or make my bed, the list is based on the assumption I will do the basics. There may be some wunderkind who can accomplish seventeen tasks on average every day.  I envy them. I have recently come to the realization that I may be expecting too much from myself.

I have decided to rename the list the Opportunities list as opposed to the To Do list.

Since I have plenty of vision and ample imagination it truly is a list of opportunities for what I may be able to accomplish. I may not be able to fully realize all of these goals in one day, but they are recorded so that I may accomplish them sooner as opposed to later. I will likely add new opportunities to the list in an hour. That is just fine. I will always see room for improvement and keep trying to perfect myself. Caught inside my own human limitations I aim for that which cannot be had. There is no need to despair. Tomorrow will be a better day!

I am not in control. Ultimately, God is the only one who knows exactly what tomorrow holds. I find comfort in this thought. He who holds the future in His hand, loves us unconditionally. I release my need to be all that I dream. I allow God to be in charge. Everything actually will work out according to His divine plan in the end. That does not mean that I will stop planning. On the contrary, my lists and agendas are one of the ways that I make my best effort to live my life fully for God. Migraines may come, but I know that the agenda will help me to do everything possible given the resources I have to work with that day. Things probably won’t turn out exactly as I expected every times, but sometimes they may exceed my expectations. There are times when things appear very bleak. That does not lead to despair. God sends His children on course-corrections. These are the very times I must let go of my fear over my loss, pause and like a wondering child ask with anticipation of my Abba*, “What’s next?”

This is the tenth installment On the Writing Life: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. The online discussion group is hosted by Kate Motaung. See what everyone else is saying by clicking here.
*”Abba” is the Aramaic name that Jesus used for God our Heavenly Father in the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually the name little children use for father, probably better translated into modern English as “Daddy.”

Finding Myself

Finding Myself

This is a post On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts ,by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig; Online Discussion Group sponsored by Kate Motaung, Session 8.
Who will I find in the words? When I read the Word, the Bible, I discover God. I learn who and what love actually is about and why we are all here on this blue ball caught in the sun’s orbit. We are here to learn to live in the Son’s orbit by learning how to love. Just like babies learning to speak and walk we copy the one we love.

I am at the point in life where I look in the mirror and find my mother looking back. When did I start to look so much like her? People tell me my actions remind them of her. I am flattered when that happens. She was my role model growing up.

Who am I imitating? Who do I copy at this stage? Keeping Jesus at the center of my life, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes should lead me further into His orbit. I want to learn true love. Agape love is an action not a feeling. Real love is a choice to put others ahead of myself. It does not depend upon how I feel.

How do I find myself in writing? The truth is, I learn more about myself in my study of Christ. As I process His perfect example of what being a human is all about I see myself more clearly than ever before. St. Paul directed the Corinthians in his first extant letter that now “we know only in part”. We “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As I study the Word I catch glimpses of what the world is supposed to be. I see what I am called to become. I need less of myself and more of Jesus. John the Baptist told his disciples of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. The more I learn to outgrow my self-absorption the more I can grow into who I am meant to be.

It is astounding that the more I learn about how things ought to be the more I learn about who I really am. I grew up unconsciously learning to copy the world. I was never good at conformity. Friends were conversing about followers and leaders. I admitted that somehow I instinctively end up “out of step” with my peers. My mother always quoted Thoreau to me and told me I was, “Marching to the beat of [my] own drummer.” Eventually, I gave up worrying about others loosing step with me. I just try to follow Jesus and keep moving. The wonderful thing I discovered is that there are many others marching along to the same rhythm. The better I learn to keep in step with the Lord, the more I discover that this is who I am supposed to be.

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To see more clearly and recognize the upside-down world for what it really is, I keep reading the Bible, contemplating the Word and for me that means writing about the Word. I process through the method of writing. Isaiah prophesied that the “…Word …shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isaiah 55:11). At times the world appears to be a hopeless mess. Staying in the Bible reminds me that love is stronger than hate and good ultimately triumphs over evil. Self-sacrificing love is the road to true success and self-preservation leads to suffering. The meek are actually the strong and the world will be made new. In loosing myself I most truly find myself and in Christ everything broken will be made whole.

S.D.G.

S.D.G.

Promoting my own material runs completely counter to my natural inclination and seems to fly in the face of Christians sensibilities. This is one area that I wish I could forget about.

Nevertheless, I occurs to me that there ought to be a difference between me and my work. As a Christian I believe that I am saved by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is true despite the fact that everything I do is not good. Even when I do accomplish a good work it is not by my wisdom, strength or power but by the grace of God. I am capable of no good thing apart from Christ. So, if any bit of my work is good it is because of the blessing of God. It did not come from me. The glory does not belong to me. My work, be it good or bad, is not my possession, like a lamp, but a living thing, like a dog. I can train it. I can send it in a particular direction. I will receive the blame if it digs or defaces my neighbor’s property. But if it should chance to save someone it will not be me that everyone will talk about. Rather, it will be that something so unexpected managed to do a great good.

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Once the words are sent out into the world. They have a life of their own. If I modestly promote the words it is not myself that I draw attention to. The words are about what God has done. They are words that He has given. They are tools to share His love. I love the way Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated his music. He wrote, “Soli Deo Gloria/S.D.G.” or “To the glory of God alone.” I can invite others to come and see what God has done. Stop and reflect on His amazing grace. See His hand print in beauty everywhere. Marvel with me at His incredible love. Share with me the wonder and awe at God, our Creator, Redeemer and the Giver of all good gifts!
This post is part of a series On Being a Writer, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.