Waiting for this moment to arise

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.  ~  Mark Twain

I grew up a very creative only kid on a very limited budget, so I had to improvise to have fun.

I lived to play softball, league team, community team, tournament team, etc.  I played on multiple teams at one time. We didn’t have fast-pitch “back in the day,” and we didn’t have hitting facilities. I was one of the smallest kids both in my class and on my team, so I had to find something I could do to make up for my inability to hit homeruns like my superstar teammates.

I learned how to place hit.

Because I wasn’t strong enough or quick enough to hit the ball over the outfielders’ heads, I learned to do the next best thing—place the ball where the players weren’t.

The key to place hitting is having a good eye, good timing, and good position. All of those details require focus.

“Back in the day” my mom had a clothes line to dry our laundry. I rigged up my own hitting helper. I put a softball in an old tube sock and tied a shoe string around the end and then tied the shoestring to the clothes line so that the ball in the sock was about chest level.

I took my bat and practiced standing in different positions, envisioning the different angles where the ball might cross homeplate. I tapped the ball and watched the direction it went. If I put my right foot to the back of the box and turned my body so that my left foot was in front, I could make the ball go toward first base. If pulled my left foot to the edge of the box, I could make it go in the opposite direction.

I spent hours focusing on the ball. When I tried out my new skills at practice, I discovered I could put the ball pretty much wherever I wanted. My ideal placement was down the chalk of the right field line. This type of hit makes it extra hard for the fielders to throw out runners headed for second or third base. Even if they threw me out, I would at least advance the lead runners.

If I happened to hit several right field fouls, I then switched my feet and dropped the ball over the third baseman’s head. Surprise! I always got a kick out of the look on the faces of the opposing coaches after they adjusted their players to the right.

I was a pretty decent pitcher, much better than a hitter. But when you’re an only kid, it’s hard to practice pitching all by yourself.

Again, I came up with a way to practice alone. My little house had a concrete front porch with two posts. If I stood next to the road in my front yard, I could pitch my softball so that it would hit the post on my front porch and then bounce back to me. I had to be accurate. Otherwise, I might break my mom’s window.

After spending sometimes hours a day doing this, I developed a pretty accurate pitch. I could almost always throw the ball over the plate. I also learned a special backspin release that made the ball pop up when batters hit it.

My downfall was that I put such a high arch on the ball that sometimes I threw it too deep behind the plate. I had to find a way to remedy the situation. The only thing I knew to do was to put a glove on the ground and practice pitching the ball over and over so that I could drop it into the glove every time.

It worked.

I didn’t realize back then that I was fine tuning more than my softball skills. I was developing focus.

Focus is everything in life.

Without focus, we risk roaming and never reaching our goals. It’s great to have a goal, but no matter bad badly people want something, they may never achieve it unless that find out how they’re going to get there and what’s holding them back.

I came to this little epiphany when I was practicing my guitar the last week. It took a Beatles song to help me learn where I wanted to go and what’s holding me back. I realized that I could practice for hours and learn nothing unless I was focused on finding my own way to master a technique.

Over the past few months I’ve dealt with a lot of stress and sorrow, and if it weren’t for the music I’d probably be a basket case. As much as I live to write, I became so discouraged that I lost my focus on writing. Sure, I write every day. But I found myself writing in circles, going nowhere.

I finally asked myself again EXACTLY what I wanted from my writing, what I wanted from life. It sounds simplistic, but if I really I need to pinpoint my destination, figure out how I’m going to get there, and figure out what’s holding me back so that I can remedy the situation.

How about you? What is it you want? Where are you going? How are you supposed to get there? What’s holding you back? How can you fix the problem?

Ultimately, we can do all the right things and still find obstacles that are too difficult to overcome. That’s where our faith in and dependence upon God come along. I believe He wants us to grow, to be the best we can be, but I also believe He wants us to rely on Him and to give credit where credit is due.

In less than two weeks I will leave my classroom for a summer break. I have dreams that I want to come true. If there is anything in this world that irks me, it is to hear a person say, “I wish I could do that”—and then do NOTHING to make it happen, be it practicing or pushing beyond the comfort zone or praying.

Doing nothing leads to regret. I’ve already traveled that road one too many times.

It’s time to arise and go…in focus.

Close enough for rock ‘n’ roll

 “If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”  ~ Billy Joel

Many, many years ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a very shy and timid little thing who worked really, really hard at holding back an extremely adventurous spirit.  I was the princess of self discipline. I mastered the art of being nondescript, boring and bland.  It’s easy being unnoticed if you put a little effort into it. (If you’re unnoticed, you’ll never have to experience rejection.) I will admit there were times when my corpus collosum had difficulty mediating the arguments between my practical left brain Miss Logic and my creative right brain Miss Impetuous, but it wasn’t always like that.

There was a time when I was a little kid when I was free to be whatever I wanted to be, a writer, a musician, an artist, a photographer. If it had anything to do with creativity, I was into it. I had an unbelievable passion for music. The one thing I wanted most of all was a guitar, and when I discovered my first cheap acoustic under the tree one Christmas morn, I thought my life was complete. My parents found me a guitar teacher, and I learned the fundamentals of…bluegrass. Nope, it wasn’t the rock music I preferred, but it was music. And even today I enjoy bluegrass.

As I became a teenager, I knew very little about God, and I tried to do everything myself. It didn’t take me long to figure out I wasn’t perfect. That’s bad news for a perfectionist. I became very self conscious, and I avoided taking a risk. I wanted to take band and play drums in junior high, but an acquaintance talked me out of it. Miss Logic chimed in. “Why, do you want to do that? Girls can’t be drummers. Act like a lady.” Miss Logic also told me girls don’t play guitar.

By the time I entered high school, I was a closet guitar player and a great admirer of drummers. Miss Logic kept my passion hidden until my senior year until my friends talked me into trying out for the color guard. How the shyest girl in the senior class ever made the flag corps, I’ll never know. But it was serendipitous event because through band I re-discovered music. I also discovered a group of people in a real band (rock and roll….shh, don’t tell Miss Logic), and they let me tag along. One of these rock and rollers even taught me a little bit on guitar and another was so kind to lend me his sticks, and I was forever hooked even though Miss Logic has tried to hold me back ever since.

But the best thing that ever happened was the encouragement of our band director, who could see through my fear to my love of music. During this time we had perhaps the best drummers in all of the world—I still believe that. And every now and then, I would sneak their sticks and mallets and play some of the easier pieces while they were sneaking away into some sort of trouble, which they were prone to do. (Drummers, you gotta love ‘em.) Eventually, however, our director caught on and encouraged me to play. He must have hog-tied Miss Logic so that Miss Impetuous could experience the joy that music brings.

 What is the point of his left brain-right brain rambling, you might ask?

My point is simple. We all have left brain and right brain traits. Far too often, however, we allow our logic and practicality to lord over our creative instincts, and we miss out on of the most wonderful aspects of our human nature. Our Creator made us in His image. There is a creative part within us, and we shouldn’t let fear keep us from enjoying that gift. Fear is NOT from God.

I will forever be grateful to our band director and to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Drum Section for their encouragement. I have never forgotten that feeling, and it has been my mission as a teacher to encourage all my students to explore their talents, to conquer their fears. The best reward a teacher can experience is  to see a student realize his or her own potential.

Though many years have passed since high school, I still hang on to my love of music—and Miss Impetuous still battles with Miss Logic. But I have decided it’s time I walk boldly into the creative unknown and taste what the Lord has in store. In the last month God has placed wonderful people in my life, encouraging me in my love of music and my love of writing. I have tasted, and I can tell you, yes, the Lord is good. So good I can barely comprehend it.

But I also want to say that the key word here is encouragement. I could take this gift of encouragement and just hold on to it. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I have to share what has been given to me. My dreams may not come true, at least in the way I imagine, but I know I will always find joy in encouraging others as they purse their dreams.

How about you?