Growth opportunities, 2020

Hi All,

I know that I already did a post on resolutions this year, but I wanted a chance to explore some recent areas for growth that I’ve been discovering/pursuing.

History

So, I have never been good at history. And like most people who were bad at history in school, I assumed that it was just because I didn’t like history.

Man, was I wrong.

The spark for this little gem of growth is actually, in no small part from my mom. We were talking about reading, and she was encouraging me to read some more things outside of my genre, suggesting that by reading more non-fiction or even just books outside my usual reading genres, I might find new and different ways of thinking that might spark inspiration in my writing, primarily in regards to characterization and emotion.

Simultaneously, I was working on some research, trying to pin down some cultural aspects of a certain race of creatures in my current novel (giant dog people, for those of you keeping track). So in a rather perfect storm moment, I started studying history.

Specifically, to start, Roman history, slavery, tribal history, and, most recently WW1.

Man, has it been life changing.

The primary way that I’ve been pursuing this has been through a podcast called Hardcore History, hosted by Dan Carlin. Man, is that guy smart. Basically what it is is hours long shows where he walks through certain historical events. For example, I listened to one that was a six hour history on Julius Caesar’s conquering of the Gauls in ancient France. The WW1 one that I’m listening to now is probably close to twenty hours of much the same kind of content.

And it’s been amazing. What I like about it is: a. learning about things that I really should know more about, b. seeing broad strokes that point to the very human things that lead to such events, and c. seeing them unfold over hours rather than the few pages you might spend in a book on similar topics. Carlin pulls from many sources–many primary when possible, for these, and by getting both high level overviews and first hand accounts, it really makes a difference. I know in some ways it’s already helped my writing, and look forward to the great leaps it might bring forth for me as a person as well.

Gardening

So obviously now is not a good time of year to start in on this one, but this one has actually grown out of working at my job. At said job, I work a lot with people closely tied to agronomy, crops, and soils. I’ve learned a ton as a result of this, but it’s also made it clear to me just how much I still don’t know. Like most people in my same demographic, I really don’t know that much about the food I eat, where it comes from, how it’s made, etc.

This is an area I would like to grow in, pun not necessarily intended, but fine whatever.

Now, since I know that gardening takes a ton of work and that I have neither the time, space, or flexibility to take something that big on, I think what this would look like for me at this point would really be just growing one thing. I haven’t decided what this one thing will be (mini-peppers? cucumbers? herbs?), but I think, come spring, I would like to try it.

Given how well my last attempt at growing any kind of plant went, with my poor African Violet still recovering in the tender care of my mom, I’m a little worried for whichever poor seed gets stuck with me, but I’m optimistic that with help, I might be able to get something to grow and get to reap something from my efforts!

Getting back to shore

So, this one is a little tricky.

Because what it is, is that recently, I was in a bit of a rough patch spiritually and emotionally, and was just really struggling with a lot.

Worse, I was having a really hard time getting back to and talking to God about it. Now, this isn’t to say that I was doing nothing. And even since the first draft of this post, I’ve actually taken some big strides. But as I was telling my mom, sometimes when you get off course, it just takes you a little bit of time to get back to shore. Or, depending on your metaphor, out of the boat onto the sea towards Jesus or back on track or, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, point is, I was struggling, but now I’m doing better, with great enthusiasm towards getting farther still soon.

Special thanks to my email friend and loyal reader who has been encouraging me through all of this. Your emails and prayers have meant a lot. You know who you are (I hope).

Anyway, sorry for the short post, but that’s what I’ve got this time around. I’ll talk to you all soon.


So, how about you? Any areas of growth you’re looking at lately? Advice for me on any of the above? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break from that) using the links below or in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Horses, carts, and the love gap

Hi everyone! Happy New Year!

Now, I don’t typically think of myself as much of a resolutions person despite my last post, but I do find that the new year, and the holidays in general, make for a good time to reflect, partly because holidays are full of traditions and expectations, which often lead to reflection by comparison, and partly because all the extra time with friends and family usually makes you think about what matters most.

I’ve got to admit, this year was a bit of a bumpy ride. Don’t get me wrong, it was the first Christmas that my brother has been able to be here in five years, having moved across the country about that same number of years ago, and I got the extremely generous surprise of additional days off from work from an extremely generous boss, so I was nothing short of blessed this season, but I was also extremely challenged sometimes by my own heart, both in the face of my own difficulties earlier in the year, days of extremely poor sleeping habits, and my surprising ingratitude in the face of some of those blessings.

In the face of this strange emotional roller coaster, I’ve been rediscovering a few things, lessons that, as I’ve long since realized, I need to be reminded of again and again and again and again (and probably so on and so forth until I die).

Mainly:

  1. To stop putting the cart before the horse.
  2. To learn to lean and rely on those around me.
  3. To remember the love gap.

So, in order.

Stop putting the cart before the horse

So, true confessions here, a little while ago, I got myself into a rough little funk. My sleep schedule had been really bad, I’d had several things building, I wasn’t feeling super well, and I finally just reached, well, a tipping point. It was not fun.

But, in the midst of it, it did remind me of the importance of lesson one, which is: Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.

The crux of this lesson is this. I’m a Christ follower. I want to love people like He did. But if I don’t spend the one on one time with Him, if I don’t understand how truly loved I am first, let Him love me first, I’m never going to get there.

So, so, so, so, so so so so so so so many times, I get mad at myself for not being better at loving people, but then when God tries to love me, I don’t let him.

What the actual frick.

Like, seriously. If I won’t even let God, who is love, do what He does best (and, as a reminder, is) for me, how on earth do I expect lil’ ole dust to dust human me over here to do any better? If I don’t let Him show me what love is, who He is, and how to do it myself, how can I ever expect to learn?

Bottom line? I can’t.

More importantly, I don’t want to. If I don’t have Him, what’s the point?

On to lesson two.

Learning to rely on those around me

As someone who seems determined to take the universal crown of Miss Perfectionism, it can be really, really hard for me to admit when things are going hard for me (not that you’d know from everything I throw up on this blog, haha, but hey, perk of being a reader? Maybe? Hm. Anyway.). There are a few reasons for this, about which I’m sure I could write several more blogs, but the point is, when I’m struggling with things, I tend not to let too many other people know.

Because of this, I often don’t realize the support networks that I actually have in place.

And as anyone who has ever spent an extended period alone or in their head knows, that can put you in a bad space.

But when I actually break down and ask for help, what do you know, it’s there. Always.

A goal for this year that I didn’t mention in my last post (mostly because I hadn’t thought of it yet) is to deepen my relationships. I think because I’m afraid of the risk that relationships entail, the vulnerability, time, effort, conflict, or even heartbreak that can be involved, I tend to keep people a little farther away than I should.

This is not a good thing. Not only does it leave me vulnerable when I’m going through things, it also just means I’m not being a good friend.

And I want to be a good friend.

Lesson three.

The love gap

The more global lesson of all this, I guess you could say, is a lovely little thing I like to call the love gap.

It’s a term I’ve started using when dealing with difficult people or situations.

“Well, they’ve got a big love gap.”

What it means, is this: Most of the crappy things humans do is because they don’t know how loved they are.

I’ll use myself as an example.

Because I don’t fully realize just how much God loves me and that I don’t have to earn it, I can be a perfectionist.

Because of that, I sometimes carry burdens God doesn’t have for me, and rag on someone he dearly loves (myself) when I fail to reach those standards.

It’s also why I so harshly judge others, why I often care more about myself and how I’m feeling than others and how they feel, why I can lack compassion, act selfishly, or be greedy, prideful, and resentful.

Now, of course I’m not all of those things all of the time, but I can be all of them at least some of the time.

I’ve got a love gap.

And so do you, and your neighbor, and coworker, local policeman, and everyone else.

It’s a useful thing to know about.

Not only because it’s helpful in dealing with others (how can you help close their love gap, how can you be more compassionate or understanding because you know it’s just their gap, etc.), but also because it’s extremely useful in self-reflection.

I get so down on myself sometimes for not being a better or more loving person.

But the problem isn’t that I’m some terrible, irredeemable person or some unsalvageable soul. It’s that I’ve got a love gap.

And I’ll never fill it if I keep putting the cart before the horse.

Or if I don’t rely on the people around me–the ones that love me and see what I can’t–to hold me up, help me, love me, and fill that gap.

What do you know. Three days into the new year and I’m (re-)learning already.

Thanks for reading.


So, how about you? Have you learned anything new this year already? Had anything you’ve been ruminating on as we head into it? Goals or resolutions? What about times when you’ve struggled to put the cart in its proper place, had grace for yourself and your gap, or had grace for others and theirs? Tell me in the comments below, and if you want more content about me, my faith, writing, or all the nerdy things I love, feel free to follow me here or on social media (on a break from those) using the links in the sidebar or below.