Stuck in the Middle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass

You know that excitement you get when you begin a new project? What about the sense of satisfaction when you finish one? Do you ever hear anyone say, “I’m so excited about working fifty rows of  K1 P1 ribbing?

For the non-knitters, K1 P1ribbing is knitter-speak for knit one stitch and pearl one stitch until you lose your mind. The stitch pattern makes a lovely edge for sweaters and hats, but it can be a little boring. It also takes a little attention to detail because you constantly switch the yarn from the back to the front to the back again. If you are just knitting a row, you don’t really have to think about it as your hands use muscle memory to just do it. The ribbing takes a little work.

Writing books is very similar. You are excited about the idea in your mind and start creating the character and their world. You look forward to finishing it and getting it published. In between the two lies the ribbing, aka figuring out how to get your protagonist from point A to point Z without losing your reader or your mind. It takes a little work.

Our spiritual lives are not really that different. When we first come to know Christ, we are excited and eager to dive into the Word and live the Christian life. It’s a great time. Then, we are also thinking about what it will be like when we get to Heaven and everything is complete and whole in Christ’s presence. In the meantime, life happens and we get distracted by daily tasks and demands on our time. Keeping our enthusiasm during the daily grind is difficult sometimes. It takes a little work.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Christians are a work in progress. We have been saved, but God is still working on us. The key word is work. It requires a struggle, but nothing good ever comes easy. The good news is that it’s not all up to us. God is working on us, and God will finish what he starts.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

There is no greater example of this than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It takes time for the transformation to occur, and when the butterfly is ready to emerge from the cocoon, it has to struggle. The thing about the struggle is that it makes the butterflies wings strong so that when it is finally free, it can fly.

When you find yourself struggling in your daily walk, remember that God is not finished with you yet. Struggle means you are growing spiritual wings so that you can fly. Meanwhile, you can’t speed through the process like Adam Sandler’s character in Click. His remote control allowed him to fast forward through the parts of life he didn’t like, but in the end he realized that he’d fast forwarded through his life and missed a lot of great little moments. So, learn to slow down so that you can enjoy the little moments because that’s where life is really lived: in the middle.

Just Start

Part 1 of a Work in Progress (WIP)

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

My to-do list has lists at the moment. Sitting on my desk are ideas for four non-fiction pieces, an idea for a short work of fiction to use as a giveaway, and my blog post idea turned into a blog post series idea. Not to mention, today I began work on a website for my writing which has a to-do list of its ow,n along with sub-lists of lists. My head is spinning like the little blue circle on my computer that show up when I’ve asked it to compute more than it can compute. What’s a writer to do?

Just start!

That was the command Anne Lamott gave to her writing students in the book Bird by Bird. They wanted to know how to be published authors, and she said you have to start writing first. The thought of writing a novel, the thought of having my own website, the thought of spiritual growth and revival all sound great in theory. It is the working it out that slows us down. My first question is where do I start?

Just start!

The king in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had it right when he said start at the beginning. You have to start where you are. No matter what path lies in front of you, start from where you are and take a step forward. One of the things I learned about anxiety is that action is one of the greatest weapons against it. If you sit and think about something, you will begin to imagine all the worst case scenarios and begin a negative spiral downward until you are frozen in place. However, if you just take action, you are literally and figuratively one step ahead. It frees you to keep moving.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

If you are moving, then you are making progress, which fuels you to keep moving. Our spiritual walk is just that, a daily walk. We have to get out of bed every morning and decide to walk. We have to start from where we are: sinners saved by grace. Then, we move forward a step at a time through whatever the day holds, whatever life’s journey holds. But, we don’t walk alone.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Isaiah 43:2

We have a guide and a companion who goes alongside us. So, there is no need to fear what might lie ahead. Our job is to take it one step at a time. With Christ as our Shepherd and Leader, we can’t get lost, although we might go down a rabbit hole or two. Just like Alice we get to the same place at the journey’s end, home sweet home. In the meantime… what is it you need to do?

Just start! Take it one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. It’s all a work in progress, including me.

Coming next week: Part 2 of Work in Progress… Stuck in the Middle

A Spot of Trouble

Yesterday I was knitting a sock and came to a thin piece of yarn. The yarn has been in storage for years and had gotten damaged. I thought we had pulled off all the damaged section before I got started, so I thought I could work this one little strip in and continue on. After several rows, there was one area so thin that it looked like the sock has already been worn…a lot. I either needed to unwind the yarn until I had removed the rest of the damage and start the sock over, or I needed to TINK back before the worn area and cut the yarn and add the skein back where the yarn is stronger. Neither option appealed to me, so I decided to put the project aside.

Next I picked up an afghan square from a project I have been working on a long time. I read the instructions again to refresh my memory and started working. The first few rows went well, and then I got to the tricky part of the pattern. I misread the instructions and by the time I realized it, I was unsure how to TINK back to redo it. I put that project back in the bag.

I decided to quit for the day and get help before the issue required more work to repair. I’m not sure why I kept working on the first project. Maybe it was because I knew if I asked for help, I probably wouldn’t like the answer, so I tried to plow ahead and pretend there wasn’t a problem. Hiding my head in the sand couldn’t keep me from seeing the issue a few rows down the road. I learned my lesson on the second project, stopping before I made the issue worse.

Sometimes we just need to stop and reevaluate the situation before we plow ahead. We may need to ask for assistance and then be prepared to do the work necessary to make something right before we move ahead, whether it is a knitting project, a relationship, or our spiritual health. Otherwise, we will find ourselves backtracking to the point in the road where it all went wrong in the first place, wasting a lot of time and energy in the process.

 

UFOs and the Power of Finishing

In knitting there are a lot of technical knitting terms, but there is also universally recognized jargon.  One such term that falls under jargon is UFO, which stands for Un-Finished Object. A UFO is when you start something and later discard it for any number of reasons, including it was too hard, confusing or boring. It then ends up under the bed, in the back of the closet or in the bottom of one of multiple knitting bags. If someone were to pick it up, it would most likely be unrecognizable to anyone else and possibly yourself. In contrast, a WIP (Work In Progress) is a project that you are actively working on or at least contemplating. You know what it is and have a good idea where you are even if you have laid it aside for the moment.

In a previous blog I wrote about having a few UFOs lying around. They had been lying around long enough to cease being a WIP. As a task-oriented person, UFOs bother me. Most of my goals for the New Year include finishing some things I started. For instance, a shelf of books that I’ve been meaning to read and some knitting UFOs that I found when I cleaned up the house for the holidays. I have read 6 of the books and finished 3 of the UFOs. Finishing those things makes me feel lighter and productive. It makes me want to finish other things.

One of the principles of physics is that an object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon. I had become an object at rest, but the word rest is misleading. I was sitting still, but I was not resting. The goals I set for the New Year and the cleaning fit I get when it is time to put away the Christmas decorations set me in motion. The more I finish, the more I want to finish. Then, I can move on to new things.

So, do yourself a favor. Look around for a UFO and turn it into a finished project. It will make you feel better. If you totally are not interested in the UFO anymore, get rid of it. Frog the project (undo the stitches and roll the yarn into a ball) and do something else with it, or just give it to someone else. Lighten your self-imposed load and free yourself to do something else, just don’t become an object at rest or worse yet…a UFO.