Tag Archives: goals

Flower garden in bloom

The Beautiful Blob that Swallowed Barbara

I’m back again. The past six months have been exciting, frustrating, life-giving, challenging, depressing, affirming, and anxious. It was six months of short-term projects, learnings, accomplishments, and frustrating health problems.  I want to share what I’ve been doing.  I am going to try it again, with a few tweaks.

In my most recent experiment of how to live well in this part of my life with its health limitations, I invested myself in a cluster of short-term projects.  I chose each one to express a different part of myself, use different skills, and nourish me in different ways.  I tried to stagger the times when each project would place the greatest demands.

Ah, “the best laid plans of mice and [women] oft go astray.”  Yes, it was fantastic to bring my skills, experience, and personality to the Greater Good in ways that made a positive difference.  I felt more alive and engaged than I have in ages.  I wouldn’t trade that stretch of time for anything.

However … I was like a gardener who wants her flowers to bloom sequentially across the seasons, but instead, they all bloom at once.  Or, I was like a cook who puts too much yeast in her dough, the loaf expands beyond all expectations, and then falls.  Or, my activities became like that B movie from the 1960’s, The Blob that Swallowed New York, spreading out to encompass every cranny of my life.  Truly mixing metaphors, I think my life became an extravagantly colorful, yeasty-smelling blob of goodness that eventually needed to be calmed down and cleaned up.

Every project grew faster and bigger than I had planned.  After three months of a full calendar and rest breaks when possible, I went into hibernation with (in sequence) a pulled muscle in my back, a powerful cold, the flu, a sinus infection, and laryngitis.  I recovered from those in time for a wonderful Christmas with four generations of family filling our home.

Puzzles[1]The pieces of my life in the last few months:

  • I organized a 60th wedding anniversary party for my husband’s parents in Twin Falls, Idaho, while living in Pasadena, California.  A small catered party for fifty people grew to 200+, gathering in late October to celebrate Jo and Al’s love and let them know how many lives they have touched for good with their love.
  • No longer a pastor, I can now get involved in electoral politics, so I jumped into the Obama campaign with both feet and became the organizer for phone banks in Pasadena.  My teams made over 25,000 calls into swing states.  My youngest volunteer was 16, the eldest was 102.  Our eclectic mix of rocket scientists, veterans, teachers and nurses, small business owners, college deans, laborers and contractors, consultants, unemployed folk, retirees, students, and at-home parents formed a short-term community as we worked for a common goal.  I ended each phone bank proud of our country and the citizens who make our democracy work.
  • When my pastor took a three-month sabbatical,  helped with pastoral care.  Being with people in their times of need and being a presence through whom the love of God is experienced is an essential part of my being.  We brought the presence of God to each other.
  • I agreed to chair the adult education ministry at my church.  I figured the load would be light until after the party, election, and sabbatical were finished.  Silly me.  The Education Minister resigned in June and I learned my team is responsible for the entire Christian education program–cradle to grave.  We needed renovations in the nursery, new teachers, and curriculum.  As Team Leader, I was also automatically part of the Search Committee for a new Education Minister.  That project hit high gear in August and continued after the others were finished.

These are the major items, each chosen in advance for its meaning and limited scope. With each one, its meaning and scope became greater than I could have imagined.  I met new people, learned skills, and made a lasting difference.  What more could I want?  More time and energy, I suppose, but that would be greedy.  I’m grateful for what I could do. Whenever my health crashed or I needed to rest, others picked up the task and kept it going.  It was fantastic.

Now I am coming out of hibernation and poking my head into the world again.  After six months of not having the energy to keep up with friends, family, personal email, and blogging, I think I’m back in action.

That’s it, folks, more or less.  The anniversary party and election are long past, my pastor is back from sabbatical, a new Education Minister was hired, and my health is on track.  It is time to start the next group of short-term projects.

Although it might have been a blob that swallowed my life, or yeast that expanded the loaf until it fell, what I like most is to think of these months as a garden that went into extravagant bloom all at once, and when spent, entered its dormant phase.  Get ready.  Dormancy is over and the seeds are stirring in the ground.  I’m eager to see what sprouts this spring.  More later……….

Furniture, Factories, and Me: Repurposing Comes to Life

I’ve always repurposed objects, but this week I’m celebrating repurposing from a new perspective.  As I repurposed sod in our backyard this week to cover hole my dog had dug, I realized I’m also in the process of repurposing the interests, skills and gifts from my years as a pastor, parent, writer and organizer into new outlets in my current circumstances.  We not only re-use or re-purpose objects, we repurpose our life skills.

Over the years, I’ve repurposed

  • Furniture from one room to another, and given some items a completely new home with other people who will found a good purpose for them;
  • Used old envelopes as paper for grocery lists;
  • Turned pitchers and jars into vases and lace table runners into framed art;
  • Used old tires as boat bumpers and sleds;
  • Changed trees that blew down in our yard during a recent windstorm into firewood;
  • Moved sod from one part of the yard to another both to make room for a vegetable garden and to cover a hole where our dog was digging to the center of the earth.

When I re-use objects this ways, I feel thrifty and creative.  But it wasn’t until I was covering up the dog’s project with sod on Monday, that I realized this same creativity is involved in repurposing ourselves and that this repurposing is part of the wisdom that comprises a good life.

Repurposing doesn’t move something forward without changing it in some way.  It’s the process of building on what now exists to create something new.  Now I use my writing skills in blogging and editing instead of preaching.  Instead of preparing sermons, attending meetings, and helping churches and organizations change, I use the same mental skills to learn about computers and clouds, gardening and cooking, and to brush up on the rules of English grammar.

An article in the Wall Street Journal on January 13, 2012 featured a traditional old textile company in South Carolina that didn’t of go out-of-business like most of its U.S. competitors when textile production moved overseas.  After trying unsuccessfully to fight the flight of production, its management realized the best way forward was to develop new products that built upon the company’s knowledge of fabrics and chemicals.  Today, Milliken & Co. makes “the fabric that reinforces duct tape, the additives that make refrigerator food containers clear and children’s art markers washable, the products that make mattresses fire resistant, countertops antimicrobial, windmills lighter, and combat gear protective….Milliken boasts that we come in contact with its many products almost 50 times a day” (John Bussey, “The Anti-Kodak: How a U.S. Firm Innovates”).  Their willingness to change made them different and is producing the best economic performance the company has ever had.  They repurposed their depth of knowledge in textiles and chemicals to innovate and creat new products.

A friend who is a retired educator, active church member and committed to teaching children the Christian faith was diagnosed with cancer.  Her treatments kept her at home, just when she had arranged to begin a youth program for teen girls in her church.  Instead of giving up on her plans, she reorganized them, and had the girls come to her house.  She taught them to pick raspberries and to make apple pie, how to set a table properly and how to make tea.  They made pies, cakes, jam and macaroons to give to church members who were lonely.  As they worked, they talked about life, faith, boys, and parents. They read some scripture and prayed.  The girls delivered the goodies as promised, and my friend went back to bed to rest.  She repurposed her gifts and skills such that even in the throes of cancer treatment, she brought new life to a group of girls and is having a longterm impact.

If I can change a dilemma or difficulty in my life into an adventure and an opportunity for creativity, I feel energized and challenged by the circumstances.  Changing an old object into something usable or beautiful is energizing.  Repurposing my skills and gifts for this new chapter of life might be even more so.

I’m glad for the insight that came while trimming sod this week, but I’m still not happy with Troy’s digging in the yard.  Now if I could repurpose her digging into something helpful……

Exercises for Energy and Peace

Lily Bud

I used to stay in bed on my birthday until 9:20 a.m, which is the hour of my birth many years ago.   My mother indulged my ritual when I was a child, appearing at my bedroom door at exactly 9:20 each birthday and proclaiming,  “Happy birthday!  Welcome to another year!”  Then I’d jumped out of bed, totally energized for a fresh start in the world.

Since I woke up at 6:30 a.m., no matter what, I had lots of time to think on the morning of my annual birth.   I’d meander through memories of vacations, roller skating, and books from the past year.  I’d mull over what I liked and didn’t like about the year. I’d dream dreams and make plans for the coming year.  I’d think about where I wanted to go, what I wanted to change and do, and what I could learn from the past.  By 9:20 a.m., life reviewed and plans made, I was ready to begin again.  I still go through this process of life review on my birthday, even if it’s over a cup of coffee later in the day (I also do this on vacation–really!).

At a recent seminar, the Reverend Tino Ballesteros suggested questions for a more complex life review process.  They’re good questions to ask ourselves not only on birthdays, but on vacations, evenings under a twilight sky, afternoons on the bank of a stream, lazy mornings with a cup of coffee, conversations over a glass of wine, or while sitting in traffic.  Think of them as mental exercises that makes you stronger inside and able to engage the world with energy.

  1. When have I experienced scarcity and when have I experienced abundance?
  2. When have I experienced fragmentation and when have I experienced wholeness?
  3. When have I experienced God’s absence and when have I experienced God’s presence?
  4. When have I felt disconnected and when have I felt connected?  

As I pondered these questions last weekend, I ended up feeling energized and peaceful all at the same time.  It was a great exercise! 

Learning:  Carry life review questions with you and reflect on them when you have quiet time.  It’ll set your life in a new context and change both your attitude and approach to life.