It Was Awesome

Last week my wife and I spent an evening at Crater Lake National Park.  While the deep blue water of the lake is reason enough to visit, I was there primarily for the clear, dark, moonless sky that would prove ideal for stargazing.  (The sunset and following sunrise were a delightful bonus!)  Seeing the Milky Way over Crater Lake was an Oregon bucket list item I was looking forward to checking off.

Wile we were at an overlook on the east side of the lake, with our picnic dinner watching the sunset, we met a guy named Aaron from Columbus Ohio that was traveling through Oregon after a recent business trip.  He was telling us that he and his wife were eager to move out to Oregon after some family obligations that wee keeping them in Ohio.

We continued taking as the sun set, until finally the darkened sky revealed the Milky Way that stretched overhead from north to south.  It was absolutely beautiful.

The three of us took turns pointing out satellites, and shooting starts and unanimously agreeing that this was awesome.

It was awesome, and not just the starts.  I think it was awesome that even during this season of so much division and turmoil in our country and world, my wife and I could share such a cool experience with someone who, hours before was a stranger, but someone who left as a friend.

May we all be on the lookout for opportunities to share a kind word, friendly conversation, or cool experience with those around us.

Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin […]”   ~Zechariah 4:10

The first stages of a new venture always seem small.  Whether it’s getting in shape, building and growing a business, pursuing an educational goal, building a new house, learning a new skill, or any number of big worthy pursuits, the initial steps are small and feel insignificant when compared to the overall goal.  However, it’s important not to poo-poo this stage in the process, because from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are where great things start.

Very rarely (actually never, in my experience!) does a big goal start out as a great success in the early stages.  Significant results come slow initially, and require consistent effort over time… lots of time!  This is where people can feel like they aren’t making progress, become frustrated, and give up on their goal during the small beginnings. 

For this reason, it’s important to be aware that our big goals will grow from small beginnings, so we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed by them.  Small beginnings should be an expected, and even welcomed, part of the pursuit of our goals.

Is there a goal you’ve recently started that you’re feeling frustrated by?  Does the lack of perceived progress leave you considering giving up on your goal?  If so, I encourage you to look at this time as the small beginnings of your larger goal; much like the progress of the growth of a large oak tree.  Would you be frustrated with an oak that was only a few inches tall after a year?  Out of frustration, would you pull that young oak out of the ground and throw it away because it wasn’t a full-grown mature oak after such a short time?  Of course not!

Then why would we do that with our goals?

You Learn As You Go

I did it!  I potted and started pruning my first Bonsai tree.  Last week I wrote about how I finally caused something to happen to get me int Bonsai.  Now I’m learning that although I’ve discovered much about potting, pruning and shaping, there’s still a lot I don’t know, but that’s not keeping me from getting started.

After I got my juniper start, I was reading how to pot it and discovered that there is a lot written about the soil you should use.  Apparently, there are certain soil mixtures that work best for certain trees.  I found myself getting overwhelmed with what specific kinds of soil to use, where to get it, and whether I was making the right choice.  Ultimately, all these questions were keeping me getting the juniper potted.

Finally, after much reading, and little success finding the perfect soil mixture, I bought a plain old bag of Bonsai soil and got it potted.  Maybe the exact soil would have been a better choice, but for me, the more important point is to just get started and learn as I go.

My plan with learning Bonsai is to gather enough knowledge to take the next step… and then to take it.  I can always check my results and adjust my actions as I gain experience. 

I’m grateful we don’t have to have all the answers before we get started on a new endeavor.  For me, a lot of the fun comes from learning as I go.

Causing Something To Happen

For about 2.5 decades I’ve had this recurring interest in Bonsai trees.  I’m intrigued by their shape and diminutive size and how you can shape them and train them to get the look you’re after.  I’ve always thought, “that would be fun to get into”, but I never have… until now.

A few weeks ago, I began thinking about Bonsais again, only this time I caused something to happen.  I watched a video of Bonsai expert Peter Chang pruning an Alberta Spruce from a nursery.  That caused me to go to the library and checkout (and read!) some books on Bonsai.  That caused me to run down to a local nursery and pick up a small juniper that I will shape and train into a beautiful Bonsai tree.  I’m finally getting into Bonsai!

This week I was reminded that, if we are interested in a desired result, how important it is to cause something to happen toward that end.  The video lead to the books, which lead to purchasing a small plant I will shape and pot.  It isn’t until we take action that will cause something to happen that things actually start happening.

So, what do you need to cause to happen?

A Lesson From A Blueberry Bush

This summer the blueberry bushes at my house have been going crazy! We have 3 young bushes and for the past several years they’ve been somewhat light in the production department.  This year, however, they seemed to have turned a corner and re producing more berries that we can keep up with.  It’s quite a change from years past when they produced only a couple of handfuls per season.

Fortunately, my wife and I were aware that it takes a time for the bushes to mature before they start yielding a large quantity. Therefore, we weren’t mad at the bushes in the early years.  We didn’t put the plants in the ground one day and expect a bumper crop the next.  We realize that it takes time

These bushes remind me that learning something new also involves a process that takes time.  We all know this.  Yet we often become frustrated with ourselves when we expect to be further along in the process after only a short time.  The best thing we can do when learning a new skill is to realize that it will take time… and to be ok with that.  We simply have to put in the effort over time and the results are sure to follow.

Here’s a fun thing you can do to observe the impacts of time on something you’re actively trying to learn.  Write yourself an email that will be sent to you one year from today.  In that email describe what you’re attempting to lean and the level of skill you currently possess.  When you read the email next year, you’ll likely be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Building Valuable Experience

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We often think that learning takes place in a controlled environment like a classroom or an online course.  Here, lessons are orderly, information is dispersed, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained is provided.  While this is certainly one way to gain knowledge, the best learning and experience is usually gained when the wheels are coming off.

Don’t get me wrong, the base knowledge we gain on a topic from classroom instruction, or in other ideal conditions, is crucial in helping us develop an understanding of our topic of choice.  However, when we find ourselves having to apply this knowledge to solve a problem in an uncontrolled setting where conditions are far from ideal, that’s where experience is forged.  And that experience is valuable!

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Parenting a child through a challenging time or situation
  • Restoring a computer network outage that is keeping scores of people from working
  • Leading a family or team through an unexpected tragedy
  • Running a business during a global pandemic

Problems like these can easily cause us to feel like we’re in over our heads, which may be accurate. What we can do, is take the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to this point and focus it toward solving the problem we’re facing.  No, it’s never fun to be in “rough seas”, but if we can see past the storm and be confident in our abilities to apply what we have, we’ll likely come through with a greater depth of experience, and even wisdom, than we possessed before.

Be confident and apply what you’ve learned.

Enjoying It While You Can

It’s summer in the Pacific Northwest and that means it’s sunny when I wake up!  I usually get out of bed around 5:30 AM, and most of the year it’s dark at that time, and depending on the time of year, it can also be rainy as well.  Knowing this makes sunny summer morning that much more enjoyable. 

Since I’ve started working from home, I’ve been making sure to get out and walk around the neighborhood before work begins.  These sun-filled walks get me feeling good and charged up for the day ahead.   I’m doing my best to take advantage of these beautiful mornings, knowing that they will soon be replaced by darker and even rainier ones.

My walks are a reminder for me to enjoy what I have while I have it.  Before long, the warm sunny mornings will be memories, leaving me eagerly looking forward to the following summer, when they make their splendid return.  For now, I’m doing my best to enjoy them while they’re here.

Do you have something in your life that will be, or could potentially be, gone soon?  If so, be sure to enjoy it now, while you still have the opportunity.  Because once it’s gone, you’ll be glad you did.

Do You Need To Make A Point

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about recent events. At several times during the conversation, I felt like there was a point I could make about what they were saying.  Fortunately, I decided not to, and just listened to where they were coming from.  In that circumstance, I think I made the right choice.

Speaking from my own observations and experienced, it seems like people are all over the spectrum with regard to what they think, how they’re dealing with the current myriad issues and how they’re being impacted by those issues.  There are so many opinions, world-views and stressors on people, and so many different ways people are handling them, that it’s unlikely you’ll find someone on the exact same place on the spectrum as you are.  I certainly haven’t.  As such, in our effort to make a point, we could easy turn a conversation into a divisive exchange without even meaning to.

I think it would serve us well to know when the time to make a point is, and when it would be more appropriate to compassionately listen to someone in order to better understand where they are coming from.

May we continually be able to discern which response is appropriate for the conversations we find ourselves in.

Informed Vs.Over Saturated

There’s so much going on in world and the US lately!  Compared to what was happening just 6 months ago, it feels like we’ve been transported and dropped off in a whole new world.  As a result, there is so much news coming at us every hour (or very often in real time) in an attempt to keep us informed.  While it’s good to be informed, it’s not good to be over saturated.

When I watch too much negative news, it starts to impact my attitude and my thinking.  It leaves me feeling weighted down.  I’m grateful that I know this about myself, so that I can monitor my news intake and stop watching once I’ve been informed, instead of continuing to watching to the point of over saturation.  It’s good to know my limit!

Do you know your oversaturation limit for negative news?  If not, pay attention to your attitude and outlook based on the amount of news your consuming.  If you too find yourself being weighted down by current events, perhaps throttle back on the consumption.  Who knows, you might be able to improve your outlook, and free up some time, by watching less news.

Thoughts On Worry And Anxiety

I laugh when I look back at things that seemed like such a big deal in the moment, but are soon forgotten.  Like the time I tried to put in a sprinkler system in my yard.  It seemed so simple and made perfect sense on paper, until I actually set about the task.  After renting a ditch witch (that I didn’t even know how to operate) I proceeded to tear up my lawn in a failed attempt to dig trenches for the sprinkler lines.  I addition, I also broke off my main water line to the house at the meter while attempting to connect the sprinklers to water.  What a mess!

Needless to say, I was pretty anxious and discouraged in that moment, and for several moments beyond.  I had a hard time seeing past the big expensive-looking mistake I had just made and was worrying about I would get it corrected.

Fortunately, I was able to get things rectified.  The plumber came out and fixed the main water line, and a local landscaper came out and took over where I left off.  Never before have I been happier to pay for someone’s services!  Everything worked out, and before long, my discouragement and frustration were a distant memory.

I think back to my sprinkler event whenever I find myself experiencing a similar “adventure”.  This memory is important in that it helps me not to become anxious or fall into needless worry.  When I think back now about how much worrying I did over the sprinkler situation, it seems like such a waste of time.  I don’t want to waste time like that because it doesn’t achieve anything.  Mathew 6:27 sums it up well for me, “Can anyone of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?”  I know I can’t.

Dale Carnegie also has several good thoughts on worrying.  One of my favorites is, “Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.”  I like the premise in this statement that we decide how much anxiety or worry we give something, and we can choose to give it less.

I hope you’ve got some “adventures” of your own, where in the moment they seemed like such a big deal, but after you worked through them, you now wonder why you worried so much.  If you do, use those memories to help regulate your anxiety when the next adventure occurs.  We’ve got better things to do with our lives besides parking in worry’s driveway.