Long Spoons Living

I once received an e-mail forward telling the story of a fictional tourist who wandered through heaven and hell. I typically don’t much care for forwarded e-mails, often finding them shallow and sappy. This one might be both, but for some reason it stuck with me and came around to mean something deeper.

So the story goes, our tourist arrives in hell and is surprised to see a large table around which is seated a group of people. A  large pot in the middle of the table contains plenty of food for all of them. But the only utensils the people have are spoons, as long as yardsticks, strapped to their arms. As the diners try to bring food back to their mouths, it slips off their long, clumsy utensils, leaving the people starving and emaciated.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and salsachica

To the tourist’s further surprise, heaven contains almost the same scenario: table, pot of stew, long spoons. But the people there are well-fed and happy, laughing and talking as they share the meal. Why? Because they are using their long spoons to feed each other, reaching across the table to supply one another’s needs, and in turn having other people meet theirs.

Giving is a two-way street. Growing up in a community-oriented family environment, I guess I never really questioned having my needs met by them or my responsibility to contribute to the family. The needs at stake weren’t only food, shelter, and clothing, but also love, community, and affirmation. When I went to college, I took this mentality with me: your roommates, friends, classmates, even professors, are human beings who deserve your respect and need your care. It works excellently when people in community with each other share this perspective.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and alexkalina

However, not all people do. In college especially, I met some people who were intent on using their spoons to feed only themselves, no matter how clumsy and inefficient the effort. Many were single, reasonably affluent, living on their own for the first time, and absorbed in their own education experiences. Their resources of time, money, energy, were completely consumed by activities they found fun, their own personal goals, or relationships that got them ahead. There was nothing left over to give to others. I, too, tried feeding only myself with my spoon for a while, and it left me feeling tough, yes, self-sufficient, yes, but still gnawingly hungry.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and mzacha

But constantly feeding other people with your spoon while they continue to feed only themselves is a recipe for straight-up starvation. Long-term, one-sided sacrifice and service lead to burnout and loneliness. Giving to your community is a good thing. In fact, in the short term, sometimes the best and most needed giving is to people who can’t give back. But if you’re constantly feeding others and no one reaches out to feed you back, you’ll end up malnourished, not to mention exhausted and probably disillusioned.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and LoganCale

Successful, mutual relationships are about people using their long spoons to feed each other–parents and children, husbands and wives, church communities, friends. When you look at your resources and, instead of using them all up on yourself, sacrifice some for someone else, you risk not having enough. But the most satisfying feeling in the world is when the math doesn’t add up. You give away something you want or need (affection, time, money, energy, etc.). But instead of being left hungry, someone else comes in and provides for your deficit, making up the difference.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and juliaf

It’s called love, I think. It’s looking at this enormous, awkward spoon you’ve been given to eat with and, instead of seeing it as an ill-formed impediment because the goal is feeding yourself, seeing it as the perfect tool because the point is to feed someone else.

Zucchini Cake

I don’t know what’s up with the baking analogies. I don’t even like to bake. But I have this thought that people are like cake.

So, this is a hard admission: as you may have deduced by now, I’m a people-pleaser. I’ve always wanted to be a chocolate cake.

Free image courtesy of stock.xchng and nosheep

Since childhood, I’ve tried to be the “good kid”–pleasing parents, Sunday school teachers, kids I wanted to be friends with, kids I didn’t want to be friends with, college professors, people at church, random strangers at Starbucks. My code of conduct went something like, “Fly under the radar, don’t irritate people, do what you’re told, appease.” Because people only want chocolate cakes, right? Chocolate cake people make the best friends, students, children, right?

Chocolate cake people: plural noun. Punctual, humble, not only faithful in but excited about prayer, churchgoing, service activities. Don’t talk too much, don’t talk too much about themselves, modest, demure, good grades, walk the straight and narrow. Also hospitable, good conversationalists, and don’t go outside looking frumpy. Ever.

So if people only want chocolate cakes, I have to be one, right? To get approval (and what else could be worth getting?) I’ve aimed for perfection, or as close to it as possible. Other people’s displeasure was my fault, my failure.

Here’s the trouble. I’m not a chocolate cake. I think I might not even count as cake. I get this frequent, sneaking suspicion that I’m made of something else entirely–something green and lumpy that won’t stick together and certainly won’t fluff in the oven. Something like…zucchini.

Free image courtesy of stock.xchng and soultga

Zucchini person: singular noun. Lags just a few minutes late for every activity. Talks too much about self and sometimes snorts at own jokes. Sometimes doesn’t feel like praying. Wakes up without makeup and sometimes on the wrong side of the bed. Worries about job, friends, future.

Well, zucchini is obviously an unacceptable basis for the making of cakes, especially when all cakes are supposed to be chocolate. So my solution has been to slap some nice, thick frosting on top and smear it around. See? Picture-perfect cake.

Free image courtesy of stock.xchng and coachen

Then there’s the broiler.

A little summer heat is one thing; if your inch-thick coat of frosting starts to melt, you just patch the thin spots. You can still hide what’s underneath. But sitting under a 500-degree hot wire for long enough is more than any coat of frosting can bear. A hot wire like eleven months of caregiving, for instance.

Hard times have a way of stripping away your layers of fakeness. Insincerity soon melts under the flame. And what’s left for people to see is…zucchini. Embarrassing, un-chocolate, imperfect, vulnerable.

This is the point, in my imagination, where people scream and go, “Ew, gross! Someone get that unacceptable vegetable out of here!”

But, to my dumbfounded astonishment, that’s not what I’ve seen happen. The more I can’t hide my true substance, the more I show people that my cake is far from chocolate, the more I’m let in on a secret.

Other people’s cakes aren’t, either.

Vulnerability is like an amoeba. It multiplies itself. Numerous times in the last few months, I’ve had the shocking experience of hearing people–even people I regard as the gold standard of chocolate cake–reveal their failings, their doubts, their awkwardnesses, their fears. Almost no one sails through life in complete confidence (and those who do are ignoring some things). No one marches into battle without sweaty palms. No one looks in the mirror every morning, smiles a toothpaste-commercial smile, and whispers, “go get ’em, chocolate.”

Vulnerability also brings people together. I used to think, not very long ago, that I really had to be perfect for people to like me. What absolutely stuns me is the slow discovery that perfection intimidates–and honesty is true beauty. People don’t like you less when you show them your hurt, your awkwardness, your doubt. Honesty levels the playing field. It expresses trust, need, connection. The ugly green truth is what allows deep, real connection to bloom.

Free image courtesy of stock.xchng and kyra

So, here’s my confession. I’m not made of chocolate. Sometimes, with all my zucchini-greenness going on, I think I make a miserable excuse for cake at all. You don’t have to like it. But that’s what I’m made of. And now that that’s out in the open, I’m glad I no longer have to spend my life patching the frosting.

Ever felt like a zucchini cake in a chocolate-cake world? What have you discovered about revealing that to other people? 


Confessions from a Home Office

After almost 9 months of chugging away as a freelance writer, editor, and English tutor, I feel that it’s time to share my perspective on working from a home/office…er, home office. It’s often glorified as the ultimate work situation, but it’s certainly not free from challenges. 
After college, I moved back into the room of my childhood. The challenge was converting it into an office as well. Organizing the same amount of space to serve two purposes was a challenge. At first I just kind of put my work in a blender and watched it explode all over the floor. 
I eventually got a bit more organized, at least space-wise. But organizing time can be harder. I am my own boss, which leaves me accountable only to myself for time management. Sometimes I’m distractable and not productive enough. More often, though, I’m doing five things so efficiently that I multitask myself clean out of productivity. Trying to do too many things can actually keep my thinking so shallow that I’m not productive at anything, especially writing. 
Working from home can be hard to explain to others. Sometimes people think that because I stay at home, I don’t actually work. I promise–I do. But getting respect for that isn’t always easy. It can also be tough to guard my work time. Because I’m within earshot of the phone, the dishwasher, the oven timer, the front door, it’s the easiest thing in the world to get interrupted and distracted. Or to use home chores as procrastination stations. 
My job can be lonely. Sometimes I get to the end of the day overflowing with words because I simply haven’t opened my mouth to talk to a human being all day. My brain gets tired from juggling e-mails, flashback scenes, and semicolon placement, but there are no co-workers to socialize with around the water cooler. I’m learning I have to be proactive and intentional about spending time with people.   

But there are also some undeniable perks to the job. I love that my mornings aren’t dictated by a rush to beat traffic or catch a train. I really enjoy the quiet and calm of my own home atmosphere. It’s pretty nice to be able to grade papers while watching blue jays perch in the backyard birches or redline a manuscript while wearing my fuzzy slippers. And it’s been a special blessing to be available to help care for my grandma these past five months. 

A few days ago I wrote an e-mail to a friend who asked me what it was like to be a freelancer. My response was long. It’s a lot of work, and trust is a constant challenge as I have to keep surrendering my question-mark future into God’s hands. But I also realized that I love my work. I sure don’t feel like that every single morning. But overall, I’m so grateful to have this chance to pursue my God-given passions from a base of nurture and support.  I look back over the last nine months and realize that this time has not been wasted. In spite of the logistical snags, the isolation, the multitasking, the procrastination–I’m moving in the direction of what I was made to do. And that is a great feeling.


One of my goals this summer is getting my children’s novel ready to start the publication process! In the interest of productivity on that, I’m going to be cutting back to blogging once a week for the summer. Don’t let me slack off! The race is on! 

Island-Building

When I was twelve, my family and I watched an island being formed.

The lava field on Hawaii’s Big Island looked like the surface of the moon. The black rock, brittle as glass, clawed at our shoes in a landscape where nothing lived. We stopped where the rock turned to a river: a slow ooze of hot lava, glowing dull red beneath its dark crust, hot enough to catch the tips of our walking sticks on fire. We watched it wriggle past our feet to the edge of a cliff, where it plunged into the sea in a waterfall of fire. There, beneath the waves, it was hardening, invisibly adding to the foundations of the Big Island.

Seven months into this freelancing adventure, I’m beginning to think about the cumulative effects of choices. The choices I make today don’t stand alone: they’re built on the choices I made yesterday and last month and last year. To move home after graduation. To pass up jumping for an immediate 9-to-5 job. To take seriously the gift of writing God has given me. All together, these choices start to form something: the new piece of land I am becoming.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” It is our cumulative, grace-guided choices that determine the people we will become. Making the right choices is easier when you have a precedent on which to build. It’s less difficult to see where you’re going next time you take a leap of faith.

But building a new island is difficult when you don’t know what you’re aiming for. When setting out in a new direction, the first choice (do I trust? Do I risk? Do I sacrifice?) is the scariest. Even the best of role models can’t project what results our choices will have. So when we decide to follow God’s call, to writing, knitting, homeschooling, ministry, or something else off the beaten path, it can feel like shooting off a cliff in a stream of hot lava, wondering if we’re actually going to build something new or just get swept away in the tide.

But, once again, when the first layer is laid, the next is easier–you’ve set yourself a standard to live up to.

A friend of mine demonstrated this a few weeks ago. She interviewed for two positions, the first less desirable than the second. After the first interview went well, she accepted a job offer there. Then, suddenly, she was offered a job at the second company. Instead of bailing out on her commitment to  #1, she turned down a desirable position in order to stick to her word.

Career-builders might scoff at her brave choice. But success is more than a ladder. In choosing to demonstrate integrity, my friend sacrificed immediate gain–but set a precedent for future choices and added another layer onto her island of character. When jobs vaporize and companies fail, that rock still stands.

Of course, there’s also a second way. It’s so natural that many people, especially those in my age group, opt for this one. It’s the easy way out. When faced with a tough choice to land a great job or keep your word, to indulge yourself or honor your family, to beat the established path or trust God to lead you in His way–many people just “go with their gut” and push the long-term implications out of mind. Like Scarlett O’Hara in the wonderful Gone with the Wind, we say “I’ll think about that later.”

But Rhett (always wise) comes back to her and says, “It’s hard to salvage jettisoned cargo and, if it is retrieved, it’s usually irreparably damaged. And I fear that when you can afford to fish up the honor and virtue and kindness you’ve thrown overboard, you’ll find they have suffered.” (ch. 43). It’s hard to go back once you’ve set a precedent of taking the easy way.

So what kind of an island are you building? If the choices we make today set a precedent, do you dare to take the leap, making choices based on vision, hope, faith? Will you start building from a blueprint you can’t see?

Looking v. Seeing

A few weeks ago, I went hiking at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve with several members of my church’s college/young adult group. We made a 6-mile loop that took us along several prominent ridgelines and, most spectacularly, gave us a sweeping hilltop vista of the San Francisco Bay.
As one of my fellow hikers pointed out the numerous cities grouped around the Bay, I was awestruck. I recognized so few of them, knew so little about the geography of the area where I was born and raised. I keep good track of the places I go on a regular basis: friends’ houses, my church building, doctors’ offices, grocery stores. But the San Francisco Bay Area has so many mini-locales and sub-cultures, all packed into a relatively small space of land, and many of them I’ve never experienced. There’s so much to learn and do right here where I live.

 I was also taken aback by the beauty of this place I live in. I stood on the hilltop noticing, as if for the first time, the blue mist over the bay, the red-roofed towns clustered around the water, the chaparral sprawling over hills and valleys. After returning from 4 years of college in Seattle, I thought I’d never take the beauty of “my own, my native land” for granted. But even with the best of intentions, when you look at a place every day, sometimes you stop seeing it. The beauty of the places and people around you becomes pure routine, a sleepwalk through life.

When I stop seeing what’s around me, taking it for granted, I start focusing instead on what I don’t have: a car, a home of my own, a perfect plan for my future. I’ve heard that contentment, though, is not necessarily having everything you want, but rather wanting what you do have. And to want what you have, you first have to recognize and appreciate it.

On the hilltop I was freshly struck by the diversity and beauty of the landscape I live in. I saw my home as if for the first time. And I think that’s what gratitude really means: living life with eyes wide open for beauty, even the beauty of the everyday.

What do you see around you that you’re grateful for today? 

    Life According to Road Signs

    While on vacation the week after Christmas, my family and I drove the infamous Road to Hana. It’s a highway that follows the beautiful, rainforested north shore of Maui. However, “winding” would be the understatement of the century about this road. It is famous for its more than 600 curves (most of which are blind hairpins) and its 59 bridges, 46 of which are one-laners according to Wikipedia. According to me, that’s a generous estimate.

    While my mom was dodging tourist convertibles and avoiding sheer cliff edges, I was taking pictures of the road signs. Road signs are something I always find interesting, because they can be read to have double meanings about life, guidance, and following God. But on the tortuous, sometimes terrifying, incredibly beautiful Road to Hana, their messages seemed heightened, especially when I thought about lessons I’ve learned during my last 4 1/2 months of freelancing. 
    The road to the future can be winding (and sometimes the curves are blind).  




    Sometimes you defer to the ideas of others with more experience, especially when you’re young. 

    You don’t always get there as fast as you want to. 
    Sometimes you run into roadblocks.  
    But eventually you get going again.



    And the journey can be beautiful.


    Sometimes it’s just plain funny, too. Part of the adventure is learning to laugh, to find the humor in the midst of 600 hairpin curves. Sunshine sometimes comes in weird and wacky forms. Like these bizarre signs!   
    “Why did the baby pigs cross the road?”  
    “The sky coconuts are falling!” 

     

    “A place named Haiku–maybe only 17 people live there…”

    What weird, wise, or wacky signs have you spotted by the roadside?

    Setting a Course

    Hello again! 


    2 weeks away from my blog feels more like a month and a half. So strange! I feel like everything I re-start after the holiday break is individually packaged in a fresh layer of brain fog. It doesn’t help that I am returning to my computer from one of the most beautiful, relaxing places imaginable: 

    Ah, well. 
    It is good to be starting a new year, though. I like the chance to break schedule during the holidays. Sometimes I’m so busy putting out the day-to-day fires that come up that I lose sight of my big-picture vision. It feels like a chance to pause, pick up the scattered pieces, regroup, and re-strategize about where you’re going in life. Then New Year’s Day arrives, and with it, a chance to turn a new page and do some things differently in life. 

    As a rule, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. The jokes are true. Talk is cheap, and they’re made of talk. They’re flimsy; made to be broken. Besides, until this year, I was living on the school calendar and made whatever resolutions I was going to make in September. School offers a certain structure to the resolutions you make, too–study more (or maybe less). Invest in friendships. Get an internship. Graduate.

    With the rigid frame of academia removed, though, I find that I am the only one responsible for setting goals for myself–for not letting life make my decisions for me. As you can tell by the size of the word “trust” in the sidebar, my process of direction-setting is one that involves a great deal of prayer and wrestling.

    So this year I’ve made some New Year’s goals. The word resolution, in my mind, says self-reliance. That’s why New Year’s resolutions don’t last. I myself am weak. When I run out of energy to stay resolved, I give up, out of exhaustion if not lack of will. I think goals, however, are visions we lay before God for partnership. If my life direction has been submitted to Him for approval and guidance, goal-setting is an act of faith: setting a course and trusting Him for strength and courage to hold to it.

    I’ll tell you what my goals are in a minute, but first I want to clarify that this is not just my personal mind vomit. I read a great blog post by Kathy Lipp this week that talks about goal-setting for writers. In her words, “public humiliation goes a long way to getting your book written.” Accountability goes a long way toward other things too: when other people are aware of your goals, the pressure to meet them rises–and you accomplish more than if they sit secretly moldering in your journal.

    I also like a tradition my knitter friend Audry has instituted on her long-running blog, Bear Ears. At the end of each year, she sets goals, ranging from “knit a sweater” to “build a terrarium.” But she also reviews the results of her previous year’s goals. It becomes a neat cycle of tracking growth and watching how God’s plans sometimes completely diverge from ours. I hope that next December/January, I will be able to track those long-term patterns, too.

    OK, so here are my top 5 New Year’s goals. I hope you will hold me accountable and share yours as well!

    1. Get to know God better. To do this, my goal is to read through the Bible in chronological order in one year.

    2. Have the second draft of my children’s novel completed and be ready to start looking at literary agents by June.

    3. Take a 2-month class to learn more about blogging and social media for authors. I hope you’ll be seeing regular improvements on this blog from now through the end of February!

    4. Buy a car (wings optional).

    5. Read Gone With The Wind, Othello, and The Kite Runner.

    What are your goals for this new year? 



    Remembering

    The Old Testament is full of stories of forgetting. It was a cycle: the Israelites, God’s people, would witness a miracle and worship Him. Then, after a while, they’d forget and go chase after other gods. Then they’d suffer for it and cry out to the true God for help. And then He’d display His power to rescue them yet again.
    His continual command to them is to remember. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done…Remember the wonders he has done.” (Ps. 105:1,5)

    The word “remember” appears 166 times in the NIV. It’s the antidote to many ills: dissatisfaction, self-satisfaction, discouragement, arrogance, pride. It keeps us close to God by reminding us of His goodness and the times He’s been faithful in the past.
    As 2011 draws to a close, I want to remember the times that remind me of God’s goodness—the successes, the mountaintops, the glimpses of assurance. Some highlights: 
    • In June, I graduated from college, probably the happiest person to go through that three-hour ceremony in the baseball stadium.
    • In September, I sat down at my computer to start a blog and launch a career as a freelance writer and editor. It was a leap of faith: I didn’t really knowing where I was going, but was trying to obey God’s call and guidance. Today this blog has almost 1,200 hits (thanks to all of you)!  
    • In October, I started tutoring (now have 9 students) and had an article and a poem published on Associated Content (now Yahoo! Voices).
    • In November, I quit my babysitting job and started writing the second draft of my children’s novel (now up to 12,000 words!)
    • Two weeks ago, I received and completed my first professional proofreading project (I flinched at dangling modifiers for days). Now there’s another one coming my way!
    These milestones remind me of God’s mighty power and tender love. Four months ago, I had no job and no confidence that I could make it as a writer. Now the elements of a writing career are sprouting up around me like crocuses. It is amazing to watch, because although I planted the seeds and watered them, God has worked (and continues to work) the miracle of growth.
    I also want to remember the tough times of this past year, though. In between the milestones, there have been many dry days when I was too tired to write, had no income, wondered if I was doing the right thing at all, or if I should go out and get a “real” job. When I’ve felt sad and alone and sorry for myself, though, is when I have most desperately turned to God (just like the Israelites). When all other support crumbles, when the music dies and you’re alone in the quiet, it’s then that you really understand that God is the Solid Rock, all-sufficient and very present in trouble. Deserts are testing times: for growing and learning to depend, to rely, to trust. It’s in the book of Deuteronomy:
    “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

    It’s in the times of dryness that we learn if we’re really walking by faith, not sight. Sometimes you can’t tell until you experience blindness.
    The main thing is, I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the lessons learned in the desert. And I don’t want to get deluded and think that I worked the successes for myself. God gave me the gift of words and has called me to use it for His glory and others’ blessing. He has opened doors of opportunity and given me fortitude to face the giants. And through it all, He has been incredibly faithful.
    So I close the year with a prayer from the Psalms:
    “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1).

    What do you remember as you look back on this year? 


    A few quick notes:
    • No blog post next week: I’m going out of town. See you the first week of January!

    • I’ve signed up for an online blog class that goes through January and February. I’m excited to learn more about blogging, so keep an eye out for updates and improvements throughout the next couple of months! 

    Though the Earth Should Change

    Hospitals shake my trust.

    I wasn’t planning on my grandmother, age 89, going to the emergency room on Thanksgiving evening.

    I wasn’t planning on her making a return visit that Monday in the wee hours of the morning. Or on her being admitted to the hospital. Or on her remaining on the cardiac floor for a week. She’s still there. Some days she’s better, others worse. My mom, who has been driving back and forth every day to be with her, never knows what she’s going to find when she gets there, or what medical developments the next day will bring.

    But do we ever really know what tomorrow holds?

    For the last few months, I’ve been working on getting my career off the ground. I’ve had a plan, set goals, and worked hard. This is good. But, as you’ll notice if you’ve been reading my posts, I have a chronic trust problem. Sometimes my manic planning interrupts me relying on the One who knows my future and already has a plan for it. When I think I’ve got tomorrow under control, I forget that tomorrow belongs to Him. Like the person in James 4:


    You who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.


    Ain’t that the truth.

    “Normal” life gives me the illusion of control, predictability, security. But when hospital entered the equation early this week, I was reminded of just how hollow that illusion rings. It’s a hologram, a mirage. Even on “routine” days when the alarm rings on time and there’s no traffic on the highway, we never know what will happen. Our PDAs and planners lie to us. We make our plans, but sometimes things happen that blow those plans completely out of the water. And sometimes it’s in that still, scared place when all the plans are gone that I see God without distraction. Sometimes my “normal” has to be shattered for me to remember that God is God, and to pay attention to what really matters: Him. Just Himself.

    In the midst of worry and wondering what will happen next, He is a strong and safe refuge. These words from Psalm 46 bring me peace in a time of storm.


    God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
    and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea…


    “Cease striving, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
    The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our fortress.

    Right now I know less about tomorrow than ever. I’m praying earnestly for my grandma (and entreat your prayers as well). But strangely, when the illusion of “normal” is gone, something better is left. God. He is a secure fortress worthy of my trust; a very present help in trouble.

    Measuring Progress

    In the academic world, progress metrics are plentiful. I think that’s why many people never leave school. You go to class, you put in the work, you get the grades, the grades become GPA. Boom, you can translate your effort into a percent, a couple of honor cords, a piece of paper on the wall. And you get some self-esteem out of it, too.

    In post-academic life, however, progress can be harder to get your hands around. You can count the hours you spend working, but how do you measure the fruit of those hours? For smaller endeavors, it’s not as difficult. Summer working retail = money for study abroad. But when you’re working towards a more distant goal, one that requires immediate investment for a very delayed payoff, how do you tell if you’re moving forward?

    For example, let’s talk about writing a book (how funny! something I’ve spent quite a lot of time doing this week). What do you have to show for 8 hours of completely internal concept work that doesn’t translate into a paycheck or even a page count? Not instant gratification, that’s for sure. But if I’m ever going to finish the novel, I have to have faith that it will matter, and that it’s worth the present sacrifices.

    In fact, I think some of the most important things can’t be quantified at all in the short term. Think about growing a prayer life or spending time with friends and family. You can’t measure your investment until you enjoy the final result: a sweet relationship with God or other people. Even though it can feel like wasted time in the right now, it’s much more valuable to do things that matter in the big picture than to be able to instantly prove yourself by the numbers.

    Now, with all that said, this week God has given me some progress signposts that give me hope. My big-picture goals may still be far in the distance, but these are good reminders that I’m at least on the way.

    1. Adding some great resources to my collection at the library sale

    2. Applications from 2 new tutoring students (hopefully this isn’t what my hair looks like!)

    Free Student Clipart
    Source: Clipart Pal

    3. Having lunch with my mom in mid-November rather than taking midterms

    Source: Aqui

    4. Writing “owner” after my name on an application for a tutoring business license


    5. And last but not least, finding a perfectly-sized coffeepot to fuel my continued endeavors!