There and Back Again

 “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”  – Confucius
 
There have been many roads that I have taken in my life. Some have been dead ends, some have been wrong turns, and some few might have been in the right direction but my ignorance and/or wrong-headedness led me astray. However, as I look back on the roads I have traveled, I do not so much regret that I strayed from the “straight and narrow” as much as I am grateful for what I have learned.
 
In my youth, I made decisions that led me on a difficulty journey. It was a rocky path that led to the desert where I wandered for many years. However, this desert helped to create my character and mold me in ways my early training could not do.  I often felt lost and alone, and wanted to escape the desert that I had created. Yet, it was not my time.
 
J.R.R. Tolkien said,  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  In one of the great paradoxes of  my life, I was indeed lost, wandering, searching after goals that I had set for myself. I was supremely confident and convinced that my path  was clear, straight and narrow. Like the Hebrew children who wandered the desert for forty years, they had a destination but they simply did not know how to get there. I also wandered for many years, and  like the followers of Moses,  I was certain I knew how to get to where I wanted to go. If I only worked hard enough, studied enough, learned enough, prayed enough, worshiped enough, always urging myself to do more and work  harder, then I would get to where I wanted to go. However, after many years of struggling down the wrong path, I finally realized that not only was I on the wrong path but I also had the wrong destination in mind. My goals were not only inaccurate and misguided, they were flat-out wrong. 
 
I have been blessed with family, friends, talents and other gifts, which I have not always appreciated and/or put to good use.  I cannot say that I am doing so now, but I am trying to do better by setting better goals, exercising self-discipline and trying to control the OCD part of me that seems to take over at times.  Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14 KJV  He always seemed to talk in paradoxes or teach in parables which lend themselves to various interpretations and frequently more questions than answers. Like what is this gate and narrow path and how am I to find it? How do I avoid making wrong turns and choosing the wrong road?
 
For me, what I have discovered, is that there is one simple commandment, one road to take that will lead you in the right direction without fail, and that is to, ” ….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matt 22:37-39 KJV If this is my goal and my destination then there is no stress, no striving after more, no confusion, no wrong turns. However, even good intentions can become twisted, and if in serving others and in loving God, I place more emphasis on results and programs and progress and less on love, then I am once again striving after things instead of serving and loving others. I am once again headed down the wrong path, and now that I am writing again, I pray that I can enter by the right gate and stay on the narrow path.
 
So, it seems, I have come full circle, down many wrong paths and then back to one that I knew in my heart was right all along.  I focused my thoughts and actions on the destination and missed the joys of the journey set before me. I have learned from this wilderness experience, learned from my mistakes. I have learned to pace myself, to have fun, to put people first and these are the lessons that I am taking with me. I want to do it right this time, and am packing my bags for a joyful experience.
 
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
– Ralph Waldon Emerson
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There and Back Again

 “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”  – Confucius
 
There have been many roads that I have taken in my life. Some have been dead ends, some have been wrong turns, and some few might have been in the right direction but my ignorance and/or wrong-headedness led me astray. However, as I look back on the roads I have traveled, I do not so much regret that I strayed from the “straight and narrow” as much as I am grateful for what I have learned.
 
In my youth, I made decisions that led me on a difficulty journey. It was a rocky path that led to the desert where I wandered for many years. However, this desert helped to create my character and mold me in ways my early training could not do.  I often felt lost and alone, and wanted to escape the desert that I had created. Yet, it was not my time.
 
J.R.R. Tolkien said,  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  In one of the great paradoxes of  my life, I was indeed lost, wandering, searching after goals that I had set for myself. I was supremely confident and convinced that my path  was clear, straight and narrow. Like the Hebrew children who wandered the desert for forty years, they had a destination but they simply did not know how to get there. I also wandered for many years, and  like the followers of Moses,  I was certain I knew how to get to where I wanted to go. If I only worked hard enough, studied enough, learned enough, prayed enough, worshiped enough, always urging myself to do more and work  harder, then I would get to where I wanted to go. However, after many years of struggling down the wrong path, I finally realized that not only was I on the wrong path but I also had the wrong destination in mind. My goals were not only inaccurate and misguided, they were flat-out wrong. 
 
I have been blessed with family, friends, talents and other gifts, which I have not always appreciated and/or put to good use.  I cannot say that I am doing so now, but I am trying to do better by setting better goals, exercising self-discipline and trying to control the OCD part of me that seems to take over at times.  Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14 KJV  He always seemed to talk in paradoxes or teach in parables which lend themselves to various interpretations and frequently more questions than answers. Like what is this gate and narrow path and how am I to find it? How do I avoid making wrong turns and choosing the wrong road?
 
For me, what I have discovered, is that there is one simple commandment, one road to take that will lead you in the right direction without fail, and that is to, ” ….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matt 22:37-39 KJV If this is my goal and my destination then there is no stress, no striving after more, no confusion, no wrong turns. However, even good intentions can become twisted, and if in serving others and in loving God, I place more emphasis on results and programs and progress and less on love, then I am once again striving after things instead of serving and loving others. I am once again headed down the wrong path, and now that I am writing again, I pray that I can enter by the right gate and stay on the narrow path.
 
So, it seems, I have come full circle, down many wrong paths and then back to one that I knew in my heart was right all along.  I focused my thoughts and actions on the destination and missed the joys of the journey set before me. I have learned from this wilderness experience, learned from my mistakes. I have learned to pace myself, to have fun, to put people first and these are the lessons that I am taking with me. I want to do it right this time, and am packing my bags for a joyful experience.
 
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
– Ralph Waldon Emerson

Why In The World Am I Doing This?

My Girls

Many years ago, at the age of 15, I found myself pregnant in a culture where “good girls” didn’t do things like that. I became a social pariah, and which was worse, an outcast from the faith that for so long been my only emotional support. I married the baby’s father on my 16th birthday, an abusive, alcoholic drug addict, and thus began a long slide into several divorces and other abusive relationships. However, it also led me into a lifelong pursuit of truth and knowledge as my emotional and spiritual needs were just not being fulfilled in either my relationships or my current worldviews. As much as I was able, I attempted to address this need by reading everything I could in this area, but the hunger for advanced education persisted. Unfortunately, this desire for learning took a back seat to the responsibilities of raising five daughters, but eventually I was able to start pursuing my dreams; dreams which culminated in two Master’s Degrees and three published books, two novels and one non-fiction book on spiritual direction.

 My journey has not been easy. I have had to overcome the trauma of divorce, the ramifications of being an abused child and spouse, and the inherited tendency toward depressive episodes. In addition, as a pregnant teenager I was, for most of my life, in the lower social-economic strata. Thus I was continually faced with financial challenges while trying to ensure that my children had more than just the basic necessities so that they might grow into fully confident and accomplished adults. I did succeed in this area and am proud of them; proud that they have well-balanced lives, proud that they have not succumbed to the pressures of substance abuse, and proud that all of them have had enough confidence and motivation to pursue and succeed in the areas of advanced education.

 However, I want to do more. I want to reach more people. I want to help others through the type of trials that I went through. I believe that the way to do this is to learn more about religion, education, counseling and writing in order to bring to the faith-based denominations an ecumenical outlook toward the various doctrines which currently only serve to divide and discredit Christian Spirituality.  I want to be able to provide comfort and solace to others that experience the underbelly of life whether it be addictions, poverty, mental disorders, or lack of educational opportunities, and I believe that a united faith, one devoid of doctrinal issues, is the key to reaching those that are in the most need.

 In addition, I have had a lifelong love affair with the written word. It was my passion, my dream and, next to raising my children, my greatest accomplishment. It manifested itself in many ways including the publication of two novels, numerous articles and newspaper stories, children’s literature, poetry as well as adult literary fiction. I pursued advanced education in this field and achieved a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. This love for the written word extends itself into my teaching philosophy as I seek to instill in all my students not only a passion for writing but the ability to write clearly, concisely and effectively. I know that not every student will fall in love with the written word like I did, but I strive to at least give them a taste of what is possible when one communicates successfully in writing.

 It is my goal to combine these three passions, faith, writing and teaching, in such a way that I may help others learn, grow and prosper in their academic, professional, creative and spirituals lives and, I am humbled by the trust my students, my friends and my family have in me and my small attempts to help others. I honestly don’t know if I am worthy to do this, if I have the talent, the skills and/or the brains to even try this, but if I don’t try, I will never know.  So, I thank you all in advance for your patience, love and support.

God’s Peace,  Nancy