Sometimes I wonder if parts of the Bible don’t speak to me because I’m just not in the right season.  Other times, I think it’s just that I go into it with the wrong expectations… or both.  Take, for example, today’s section in James 1:9-11:

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

This seems pretty straightforward and like it isn’t going to have a lot to say to me.  I mean, yes, I do tend toward the “humble circumstances” side of the scale… and apparently I’m supposed to be proud of that instead of occasionally indulging in the purchase of a lottery ticket with lofty dreams of becoming one of the “rich”.  But is there really more here?

When I was a kid, my parents were often so generous with their finances (or circumstances just happened) that we ended up down on the “humble circumstances” end of life.  My mom always asserted, though, that this was the time would God had the opportunity to bless us most.  At the end of our resources and the bottom of the food chain, people would come out of the woodwork to help our family.  Sometimes, we didn’t ever find out who they were.

As a grown adult (ha!), I tend to forget this fact.  For a long time, actually, I was very proud of my ability to budget so well that not only had I never been in any serious debt, but I had money in the bank in spite of [being a student: being a stay-at-home mom: just having bought a new house].  When emergencies arose, I was able to take care of them myself… and I was pretty proud of that.

Ah, what a fool I was.

When my divorce started, I had largely been a stay-at-home mom for nine years.  I didn’t really have a job history to offer to employers– and most of them had plenty of candidates to choose from.  I suddenly went from “able to take care of myself” to “looking into living at a women’s shelter”.  I was forced to rely on the generosity of my family and friends.  I briefly went on food stamps.  I slept in my car for a while… then had to voluntarily have my car repossessed because I couldn’t keep up on the payments.  I’m still not on firm financial footing– I dread calls from unknown numbers– but I am at least finally making steps forward.

Yet, in all this, it was the time when I was at my lowest, financially, that people most blessed me.  Whether it was free bread at church (thank you, Panera, for your generosity) or unexpected gifts at Christmas, I was blessed and reminded of God’s goodness.  If someone helped me fix a flat because I no longer had AAA on speed-dial, I was blessed and reminded that God’s human angels can come in unexpected places.  When I finally got a good, steady job, I was truly grateful… and still am. 

If I had been able to take care of all these things myself, I would have missed out on seeing God’s hand at work in my life… and I would have prevented someone else from being blessed by being able to help me.

So, maybe even those verses I don’t think can speak to me still can… if I’m willing to listen and be blessed.

Have you ever had a great idea… but didn’t do anything with it?  Or maybe you started a project with lots of steam, but never quite got to the end?  I’ve been there many times myself.  I’ve noticed, most often, that I fail if I don’t follow five easy steps toward success.

1.  Take a step.  You’ll never finish what you don’t start, so do something right now.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I have a treasure chest of things that were great ideas that I just never did.  Songs I never composed, letters I never wrote, words I never said.  In each instance, I just never got started at all.

Sometimes I let fear hold me back.  Failure is an awfully scary prospect, after all.  Sometimes I procrastinated until the moment passed.  Sometimes I just wasn’t sure where to start.

Here’s the key: start anyway.  Do something about your idea.  Write it down.  Do research.  Get a plan.  Just do something and do it now.

2.  Make a map.  Every undertaking, even the small ones, fares better with a plan.

“You can do anything, but not everything.”  David Allen

Far too often, we try to do everything at once.  I do it all the time.  I get so caught up in the excitement of getting started that I think I can do it all in one day.  Then I burn out four days later and the idea goes away completely.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a plan.

Start with the big picture.  Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?  Write it down, because you’ll need this information again and again.

Outline the very biggest steps to get to your goal.  Say you want to become a published author.  The big steps are brainstorm ideas, research the market or idea, write the book, and market the book.  Huge steps, but a clear roadmap.

See if you need to go back and break down the big steps into even smaller steps.  This isn’t always necessary, but if you’re writing a book, you may break your book down into pre-writing, outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Finally, make a to do list every single day.  Use a piece of paper.  Get a calendar or planner.  Put it in your Outlook calendar online or on your phone.  Make it as detailed (hour by hour) or simple (a checklist) as you want.

Now you have a map of where to go.

3.  Start walking.  Work on your idea or project every single day.

“Many people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply didn’t know how to quit.”  Robert Schuller

Go run a marathon.  Go on, right now.  No?  Okay, maybe you can’t run a marathon today.  But you can probably do a marathon distance, little by little, if you work at it everyday.  You might even be able to do a real marathon by the end of it… if you work on it every day.

Remember the to-do list?  Here is where it’s essential.  Every single day, make yourself a to-do list of at least three items.  Do not go to bed until those three items are finished.

“One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.”  Jean de la Fontaine

4.  Always have a destination.  Remember why you’re doing this.

“Remember that your own resolution to succeed is far more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln

Remember when I said do write down WHY you’re doing this?  It’s important.

You don’t usually take a trip without knowing where you’re going.  Don’t start a project or goal without knowing why you need to get there, either.  This motivation will carry you past slumps, rocky moments, and plain old laziness.

Ever started a diet just because you felt you should lose a few pounds?  Those diets are generally not successful.  Go on a diet because your health is at stake and you suddenly have motivation.

Keep it at the forefront of your mind.  Use a photo, a key phrase, or just a single word, but always know WHY you’re doing this.

5.  Reach your destination.  Never quit until you’re finished.

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

You can eat an elephant if you just keep taking bites.  You can run a marathon if you just keep taking steps.  You can reach your goal if you just don’t stop.

That doesn’t mean not to take breaks.  If it’s a long-term goal, schedule some rest breaks.  But then start right back up again.  The important thing is to never, ever quit.

Use these five steps, throw in your own willpower, talent, and life experience, and you’ll finish what you started, with flying colors.

“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there will never be an end.” (Jo March)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I am what you might call a Renaissance woman, a jill-of-all-trades, a gypsy of life… I like knowing and trying everything, even the things I end up not liking so very much at all.  This tendency of mine to wander from attraction to attraction has resulted in being moderately well-informed on a wealth of subjects– and an expert on none.

I was in drama in high school and college, plus a few church plays when I grew up.  I follow theatre in a casual way and enjoyed productions such as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera on the big stage.  I’m no true theatre maven; I haven’t been to a live show in years.  But if I went to a show tomorrow, I’d enjoy it immensely, have a clue about “stage right” and “sotto voce”, and likely be able to give a review that, if not sounding like a true theatre critic, would at least not sound like a first-time goer.

I grew up playing Zork and other text-based games.  I was on a local BBS (bulletin board system) with a 300 baud modem when it was a truly geeky thing to do.  I’ve played Street Fighter, Everquest, MUDs, MUSHes, MOOs and MMORPGs all with equal enjoyment.  I enjoy games, but I’m not a gamer.

Other areas where I have some experience include music (almost finished a minor), literature (my true major), lifeguarding, truck driving, and organic gardening.  And more.  There’s always more down the road.

All that said, I can write intelligently on quite a few topics (which will likely never include crafts but is slowly expanding to include more and more sports).  So how do I limit myself do just one?

I don’t.  Why should I?

Instead, my goal is to write about what I know (or think I know) at a level that anyone can read.  Hopefully, this will introduce some people to utterly new areas or educate some neophytes in others.  I write everything from the standpoint of a woman who is not girly (but not a feminist, either), who has children, who is part dreamer and part realist, and who bases all her worldviews firmly on the foundation of the Christian Bible.

I’d love to have you around for the ride.