“God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character.”
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life
When I was in my twenties, my birthday was a great reason to go out and party. In my thirties, I spent birthdays thinking, “I thought I’d be somewhere bigger doing something better by now.” Now that I am in my early forties, I see in hindsight every poor decision and mistake that kept me from bigger, better things — and I’m not sure that’s what I want any more anyway.
I’ve spent much of my life at a desk. Other than my early years as a waitress or barkeep, my mind has been occupied by some assignment or project at a desk. These work tasks kept my mind occupied, even after work hours. For all my life, it seems that my brain was focused on something external.
This two-lane farm and garden lifestyle, as busy as it is, involves more manual tasks. Tasks that hands can learn to do themselves, without the direct attention of the mind. The brain is allowed to roam according to its own will, skipping and wandering through a lifetime of memories, situations and plans that haven’t followed through.
Such time with your own mind, facing yourself, can be rather disconcerting. Things easily overlooked when you are in a hurry through life appear with sharp clarity. When you focus solely on a goal ahead, there are so many details we don’t or won’t see.
The Rick Warren quote above was part of a recent email forward I received from my mom. I found it to be an affirmation and a challenge.
It seems my life has been spent on the road less traveled. I don’t see that it was ever a conscious choice though. It feels more like I was never able to merge into the traffic flying along the four-lane beaten path. Every time I tried, even if I made it, I was quickly bumped off at the next nearest exit.
In fact, so many decisions in my life were fueled by a desire to get on the beaten path, or prove I was road-worthy enough to travel the beaten path. Who wouldn’t prefer a smooth paved path without pot holes and road blocks and clear signage?
It would be more comfortable than this two-lane life I have come to live, I’m sure.
But God is more interested in my character than my comfort. In my life, this has surely been apparent.
I feel I have an abundance of character. Those who travel the beaten path of the interstate only see a blurred vision of the world they travel through. I, on the other hand, have traveled winding paths, traversed through deep dark hollows, and on occasion, have been moved by the sight of a heart-stopping majestic view. I have often said my life has been a roller coaster. Sometimes you feel breath taking joy, sometimes you hold on for dear life, and sometimes, you just want to throw up.
I think it’s time to give up my attempts to merge onto the beaten path. As a car, I’m now a classic, and I feel like I’m stuck in 4-wheel drive anyway. I’ve spent all my life thinking if I could just merge onto the beaten path, I’d be happy.
But now I see, I have too great a taste for off-road travel to speed along a straight line any more. I have denied myself happiness because I have never given up my attempts to merge and be accepted on that well-beaten path.
These past few years of increased manual labor has left my mind to wander through the memories that built my character. To be honest – I’ve had enough character building — thank you very much.
But these past three years of increased manual labor have allowed my mind to wander through those character-developing memories, and I see that in my search for happiness, I have not developed holiness.
Holiness comes from sacrifice. From service to others. From selflessness, generosity, empathy, love. And while I have experienced all these things in life, they were not a main focus of it. They were not priorities. My priority was to merge onto the beaten path so I could be comfortable and happy.
And yet, as a result of our decision to change to a two-lane life style, we’ve had greater opportunity for sacrifice and service. We’ve had more options for selflessness, empathy, friendship, and more time to realize that these things, though not exactly comfortable, are the paths to joy and happiness.
This lifestyle of self-reliance isn’t always comfortable, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But, this year, I find myself no longer regretting the time I’ve wasted in the past. I’ve nearly lost the urge to merge. I’ve found my own place and purpose, and there is so much to do.
I do a lot of planning in the winter. It’s my routine. I spend that cold indoors season planning out projects for the spring and summer. Usually, come spring, I’m off and running.
But this year, when time came to put all those plans into action, I got sidetracked by – The 2010 Census. I applied (who couldn’t use a federal paycheck) and besides, I needed a break from my life — a life I should have been appreciating more, a life that should have had some kind of direction.
But, I was tap dancing. Garden plans were easy to work through – manual labor, in many cases, requiring little mental focus. But my writing, publishing, business goals — I just wasn’t focused.
I love being a publisher — but I’m still new at it. Meanwhile, the venues and outlets for publishers grows and grows every day: facebook, twitter, blogging, video, ebooks, photo stories, the options seem endless.
Meanwhile, I have discovered that my goals as a publisher — whatever they be — do not align with my needs as a writer. I write three regular pieces each month for Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, and I feel that is more than enough for each issue, for sure. But, there are other things I want to write about that aren’t columns, aren’t “articles.”
I started Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine so I could learn with our readers. After three years of learning and educating myself though — I’m feeling that need to do some teaching with my words. I’ve been studying culinary and healing herbs — from seed to skillet or herbal tea or tincture — and have never found many books or resources that organizes the information the way I would. I hope to soon be publishing some eFiles (white papers, special reports, ebooks – whatever you want to call them) that shares the information in a more practical way.
Frank and I have also sacrificed our travels and travel writing for our garden and our magazine. Our camping gear is dusty and disorganized, but I feel a trip coming in the next 30 days. It’s been too long, and I have my new little Olympus camera to play with. I’m sure we’re going to Audra State Park (which we’ve covered several times before because it is our ultimate favorite place) but we’ve never taken video, we’ve never blogged about it, and we’ve been away for far too long.
None of this did I realize though, until I put it on the backburner, behind the 2010 Census. I worked exactly 53 days for the census before I resigned. I was trained, trained others, and coordinated CLD 105 until all the Assignment Binders were complete. I started with 18 active crew members, and the day I left, there were four left to wrap up the details. They didn’t need me any more — and the garden did.
The moment I turned in my notice of resignation, all my other plans and projects and ideas came into focus. Just as I was beginning to think my plans for a local community market would have to wait another year — our site location was approved. Research and development I was struggling to understand jumped out at me from the pages of a new book – clear as day. Herb seeds, tossed out in the early spring and since forgotten, appear and remind me of my hopes for them, and I caught the potato bugs arrival in the garden — just in time to win the first battle.
Before the census, I had drafts and plans and projects too many to process. But upon my mental return, they are simply waiting to be brought to life.
I’m still not organized. Things have come together in my brain and not yet in my life. Paperwork, dishes, laundry, dog walking — all these things also have to be done. But the direction is so clear now. Whatever was keeping my mind in a tangle has simply — disappeared.
I can’t wait to go camping now. Four or five days away from the phone, computer, farm and garden will be a retreat that allows everything in my head to fall completely into place, and provides the rest and rejuvenation needed to tackle it all gleefully upon our return.
But, before we can go, we have to get the garden ready, sort and wash the camping gear, publish and distribute the July issue, launch the community market, and find a sitter for the chickens.
In the meantime, I have started some new projects. I’ve been beating my brain about eBooks since January, and have accomplished two of my 2010 goals: offering eSubscriptions, and offering past issues of Two-Lane Livin’ as eFiles. Seems like two fairly simple things, right? Well, I’ve been trying to figure the right way to go about it for six months. Right now, I’m putting up past issues beginning with Volume 1, Issue 1 – September 2007 issue, and I’m going to work my way to the present. So far, two issues are available, both of them no longer available in print. The eSubscriptions right now are handled through paypal and links provided by e-mail, but I’m hoping to automate this service soon.
But not until AFTER everything else.