Category Archives: Imagination

The Trail Mix

Trail Mix

I like to have something to munch on when I write, so I got ambitious and made my own trail mix. I thought it would be cheaper than buying the ready-made stuff at Trader Joe’s, but it isn’t, so I might as well save myself the effort from now on. Lesson learned.

But this bag of trail mix got me thinking. It’s kind of like the church. Really. Take a look at the individual ingredients.

Peanuts: the average, regular ones who always come out, get involved in everything, work hard, and mind their own business.

Cashews: a little bit uppity, selective in where they appear, sometimes hard to locate.

Chocolate chips: the life of the party, you always know when they’re around, but they can be prone to meltdowns when things get hot.

Sunflower seeds: usually good for you, but can be so irritating when they’re stuck in the wrong place.

Raisins: so sweet and encouraging – they build you up.

Almonds: they like to be toasted and coaxed along, made to feel like they’re really wanted.

White chocolate chips: these are the ones who say one thing and do something else – they act like chocolate, but they’re not.

Craisins: they sometimes pretend to be raisins, but their sour nature comes through eventually.

Peanut butter chips: the comfortable ones who sincerely just want to be your friend.

When you put all of these ingredients into a bag and shake them up, the result is a very tasty treat. The flavors and textures compliment each other.

Just like the church.

We’re individuals. We all have different characteristics and talents and gifts. But when we come together as one church body, the power of God through Jesus Christ shakes us together and creates a family that can do mighty things for His kingdom.

Delicious!

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What’s in a Name?

There is a lot of name calling in my family. The good kind. But if  you don’t pay attention, you could easily become confused.

For instance, I am a grandmother. One set of grandkids call me Grandma. Another set call me Namma. And the third set call me Mama. Then there is my dear husband who is known as Grandpa or Papa, depending on which kid is calling him. Try keeping all of that straight when you are signing birthday cards.

I guess it runs in the family because I called my Mom’s parents Mother and Gramps. Don’t ask. My Dad’s parents were the traditional Grandma and Grandpa. But our own kids called my parents Mama and Papa.

Are you confused yet?

Then there are the nicknames. Our oldest daughter’s name is Julie, but she has been Auntie Jewy, Dewy, or Dulie to various nieces and nephews. Our son Michael gets shortened to UncaMike, all one word. Don’t call him Mikey or he may beat you up. Our daughter Jordan tried to teach the kids to call her Auntie Jordie, but they couldn’t say it, so it became Auntie Dodie (or Didi, for one in particular). Now everyone in the family refers to her as Dodie. Or The Dode. I stress the word family where this name is concerned. Our youngest daughter, Kelsey, thought up her own nickname at the age of two when she couldn’t pronounce her own name. She has been known as Tessie ever since. Incidentally, the name Tess actually means “fourth child”. Who knew?

Some of the grandchildren got nicknamed too. Emily became Emmy Lou, Caleb became Caleb-Doodle, Reece became Reecie-Peecie, Nikolas became Nikky-Noodle, and Jairus became Jai-Jai. Joshua and Elijah will be thankful one day that their names didn’t become distorted.

I suppose every family has their quirks and I’ve just shared one of ours.

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Do Things

The difference between people who lead full lives and people who live empty lives is pretty simple. Look around you. Look at your friends, your family, your acquaintances, your co-workers. Who are the ones who seem to be the happiest? The most content?People who act and do things are busy and happy and fulfilled. People who don’t are not.

I believe it was Albert Einstein who thought people should not be too conscious of why and how they want to accomplish something. They should just do it.

I tend to be that kind of person.

Think about this story: An elementary school teacher believed that our brains get turned on by action. The teacher asked her students to make up a story each day and recite it before the class. There was a painfully shy boy in the class who insisted on waiting until he was inspired to make up the perfect story. After many refusals the exasperated teacher finally asked him to stand in front of the classroom’s piano and make up a story about a dog. In a trembling voice, the boy told a story about a dog who jumped on a piano keyboard and stepped on the keys up and down making music and learned how to play the piano. The class loved his story.

Each time he was asked, he would tell the same story using different animals over and over: the cat who learned to play the piano; the rabbit; the mouse; the squirrel; the pony and so on. One day there was a subtle change. The boy told the story about the dog who taught her puppy how to play. Then it was back to same old routine: the cat who taught her kitten how to play the piano; the bird who taught her hatchling, etc.

Finally, at the end of the year, the teacher announced a story-telling contest. Everyone would tell a story and the class would vote. When it was the boy’s  turn, everyone expected one of the same old animal variations of his story. Instead, he told a story of how a grand piano taught a baby piano how to play. The children clapped and cheered. Unanimously, they voted his story the best of the year.

The bottom line is this: When you go through the motions of being creative you are energizing your brain. The more times you act, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become.

What a person thinks or believes is of little consequence until they act.

Do things.

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Serious Business

I was a people manager for many years and had the opportunity to work with all kinds of unusual and interesting individuals. For the most part, I loved my job. Never a dull moment and different every day.

At one point during my corporate career, I managed a group of six or seven supervisors and administration staff. They, in turn, were responsible for approximately 150 employees between them. I would meet with the supervisors once a week to plan strategies, resolve issues, and to discuss management techniques. I began to notice a common denominator with these people. While each one of them took their work very seriously and did their jobs well, almost none gave any thought to the direction of their lives outside the workplace.

So, over the course of several months, I introduced another element to our weekly meetings. I would briefly present a life principle and then ask questions pertaining to that principle, encouraging each person to think about how this could be applied in their own lives. At first, it didn’t go over well at all. The supervisors, unaccustomed to having to actually consider the serious questions of life, simply refused to answer. Some told me quite bluntly that it was a stupid idea. But I obtained agreement from the entire group to continue. I won’t say that all participated with enthusiasm and embraced new ways of viewing their lives, but some certainly did and I have seen the fruit of their efforts over the years since then. Some of the senior managers in the company heard about what we were doing and asked to be included via regular emails that eventually earned the label, “Sermon of the Day”.

The result was a team that really worked as a team, because they knew each other’s hearts. Productivity and morale increased because those supervisors encouraged the employees to do the same – to work together instead of individually. Our department took the number one spot in the country for overall productivity, and stayed their for over five years.

This wasn’t about me. It was about a God idea to help people take their lives seriously. And to take the lives of others seriously. To think about their words and their actions.

Life is a gift. And it’s serious business.

Don’t waste it.

 

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The Danger of Habits

The danger of habits is that a person can become a prisoner of familiarity.” Roger Von Oech

I’ve probably blogged about this topic in the past, but this particular quote got me thinking about it again. New year and all that, I guess.

Habits. There are good ones and there are bad ones, but all of them have the potential to keep us from moving ahead.

It can be difficult to see situations in a new and objective way because we are clouded by past experiences and assumptions that can actually hinder a creative perspective. I’m talking about those rigid mental habits all of us have. The way we think. The way we view the world around us. And these are bolted into the deep recesses of our brains. Hard to dislodge. But it can be done.

How, you ask?

  • Be curious. Talk to people. Learn from them.
  • Find a new hobby. A new interest.
  • Change your routine. On purpose.
  • If you don’t know, ask. Even if you think it’s a “dumb” question.
  • Hang around with weird people.
  • Focus on a problem and then let it go. Do something totally different.
  • Spend some time with people who are outside your usual circle of friends and family.
  • Have fun. Do something you’ve never done before. Go somewhere you’ve never been.

Now, this is me writing the terrific advice. Me, the ultimate creature of habit.

I have some work to do.

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The New Year’s Resolution Hoax

Welcome 2013!

Have you got that sheet of paper in front of you, ready to make your annual list of New Year’s resolutions? I’ll bet you’ve got some good ones. Just like last year. And the year before.

Before you start writing, I’d like to take this opportunity to burst your bubble. It’s a hoax. All of it. The whole New Year’s resolution thing was something somebody made up ages ago so you could, for a few minutes on January 1st, feel good about yourself. Anyone with half a brain knows that nothing ever really comes of making those resolutions.

Unless . . .

. . . you have a plan.

Let’s say you’re a fiction writer and you want to get that novel finished in 2013. You can write the goal down on your resolution list, but unless you have a plan to make sure that happens, it will still be on your list at the end of the year. I know this. You need a regular writing schedule. A goal with the number of words you must compose.

Or maybe you want to lose weight or spend more time with your family or get a great new job. You’ve got them written down on your list and you’re smiling. But how will you take that weight off, or be with your family, or find that new job?

Along with every New Year’s resolution you identify, you have to have a plan. A good plan. One that is reasonable and will work for you. Writing down that plan is just as important as coming up with the resolution in the first place. Maybe more.

Then do a checkup on your plan once a month or so to keep yourself on track. Do some tweaking if you have to.

Above all, don’t fall for the New Year’s Resolution Hoax. The goals on your list don’t just happen. There is thought and prayer involved. Planning. And hard work.

At the end of 2013, you want to look at your list and smile in satisfaction.

Happy New Year!

 

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Take the Step

There are things I want to do in 2013. Some of them are things I wanted to do in 2012. Or in 2011, even. So now it’s time.

I have a list. The easy part was making that list. The hard part is taking action.

I know this: unless you act nothing is created or discovered or accomplished.

You’ve got a list too. Maybe not on paper, but there is one in your head. You might not have realized it. Or even called it a list. But it’s there nonetheless.

So, without a lengthy blog post about the whats and whys and hows, just take the step. Do something that brings you closer to your goal. Your dream. Your destiny.

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The Churning Brain

I’m not writing much these days except to take notes in church and post the odd blog entry. I’m not happy about it, but that’s the way it is for the time being. I didn’t even attempt NaNo this year because I knew it was nuts to consider writing 50K words in a month when I was working two jobs, having out of town guests for a week, and dealing with all the other things that daily life throws at you.

But . . .

The brain never stops churning.

I have jotted down several ideas for my current writing projects and come up with a few brilliant concepts for new stories. So technically, I have been writing. Right? Or at least I’ve been thinking about writing. Come on, a little encouragement here would help!

I long for the day when I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time to do inventory or talk to the disgruntled customer or to change the shift schedule yet again. While I do enjoy both jobs I currently have, and they are paying the bills, I am usually too exhausted at the end of every day to do anything more than get my kitchen cleaned up after dinner and watch a little TV before I crash for the night. Writing doesn’t even cross my mind.

But soon, folks. Very soon.

The churning brain is still popping out ideas.

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Finding Creativity

Creativity is not an elusive thing, even though it might feel like it sometimes. That next big idea might be right under your nose. You just have to find it.

Looking in places you don’t normally look is where you’ll find fresh creative ideas – the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected. I love the word serendipity, which means the ability to make desirable discoveries by accident. Like a chance event that becomes beneficial.

I used to ask my kids the “what if” question. What if you took the escalator instead of the stairs at the mall? Would your life take a different path as a result? What if you stopped and spoke to that stranger instead of walking by? How would that change you? What if you were ten minutes early for an appointment? Who would you meet – or not meet – as a result? The purpose for asking those questions was not to drive my children nuts, although they would have disagreed, but rather to encourage them to think about their actions. Even the ones that didn’t seem to have any importance at all. I wanted them to see things differently. To shake up those stiff mental habits that tend to keep all of us locked in the status quo.

Be curious about new ideas and interesting people. Seek out and learn from others. Develop lots of interests and hobbies. Consciously shake up old routines. Ask the “dumb questions”.  Hang around with weird people who are outside your usual circle of friends. There is so much value in maintaining a beginner’s mind.

Of course, you’re welcome to continue on the way you are. Same old, same old.

But why would you want to?

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The Survivor

I’m a winning Survivor. And you’ll have to read right to the end to find out what in the world that has to do with anything.

When I was little, I wanted to be a boy. I would pray every night and ask God to please turn me into a boy while I was sleeping. Boys got to do all the fun things. Climb trees. Catch frogs. Pull the legs off grasshoppers. Throw rocks at stuff. Girls had to wear dresses and sit still and have their mothers yank their hair out by the roots with the stiffest brush they could find and then put those pink sponge curlers in every Saturday night so you would be pretty for church on Sunday. Yuck. It didn’t help that no one on the face of the earth had hair straighter than mine and by the time noon came on Sunday, there was nothing left of the curls. Then I started school and I decided I didn’t want to be a boy anymore because I had fallen in love with the older man who lived down the street (I was 6 and he was 8) and for a while I think we had a good thing going there.

Then I wanted to be a writer. I think it was a second or third grade revelation. I figured I could always be a writer while I was being something else at the same time. After that, I wanted to be a scientist. That lasted until I reached junior high and had to put this aspiration far behind me. I managed to fail every single science class I ever took until halfway through high school when they let me take something else instead. German, I think it was. Or maybe shorthand. Which I never used. Then I wanted to be a flight attendant or a lawyer (I was very good at arguing with my parents and sisters) or a horse trainer. That one didn’t even make sense because I was totally afraid of horses. I still wanted to be a writer.

Funny how some of the things you wanted to be when you were little are so opposite of what you actually become. I always wanted to get married, but I never gave a thought to being a mother. And now I have four awesome children who have even provided add-ons. I was completely lousy at math and yet I worked in the banking industry for over 30 years. They let me use a calculator there. I wanted to travel the world, but I’ve never been off the North American continent except one trip to Hawaii and lots of trips to Vancouver Island, but I don’t think that counts. And I am a writer.

I got to the point a few years ago where all I really wanted to be was a Survivor. I want to survive this time I have on earth being exactly what God always intended for me to be. I know I’ve taken a lot of detours along the way but in my heart of hearts, I know that I am living the life that was always mine to live. I don’t really care if there are people who look at me weird and think I’m nuts – sometimes they would be right – or that I should be doing something else. They are not me. They don’t know that what goes on between God and me is really, really good.

I am here to Outwit, Outlast and Outplay whatever plans that old puss-head devil might have to destroy me. He was voted off the island a long time ago.

And we already know who wins.

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