Monday, August 25, 2014

My journey is like campfire.....slow and steady

Good morning my friends. It’s a new day; a new week; a new opportunity to “get it right” this time. It’s also the first day of the new semester at the college so there will be a lot of excitement….and likely some apprehension…on campus today. I’m working extended hours this week so I will be busy and maybe a bit scarce on group.

I grew up with the warning that playing with matches was dangerous, but I still am fascinated by ¬¬a roaring fire; not the destructive kind that quickly destroys property (like the arson that burned down my family cabin) and natural resources; but, rather, the warm and inviting flames of a campfire or fireplace. In the rural area where I live, almost everyone has a fire pit in the yard and the smell of smoke lingers in the air most of the summer. I have made countless of campfires throughout the years, and although I have had my share of “duds”, I have learned by trial-and-error some lessons on making a long-lasting, beautiful one.
My friend cut down a couple of trees a few weeks ago and last week he dug up the stumps and drug them to his fire pit. On Saturday morning, I decided I would build a fire to try to burn up the stump and remaining brush. I’ve cleaned up the brush of many trees over the years and learned that branches and leaves will quickly catch fire, but unless the fire is built properly, the fire will fizzle out quickly once the leaves are gone and all that is left is fresh, green wood that is hard to burn up. Dozens and dozens of times over the years I have had to pull half-burned branches off one-by-one and start from ‘scratch” because I failed to build a proper foundation. Fortunately, I have now learned that I need to start with kindling, get that burning well, and slowly keep adding small twigs and branches until the fire starts to build; slow and steady as it gains heat and momentum. Too many times I tried to burn too much, too fast, and ended up with a mess….all because I was impatient and wanted the fire “right now.” On Saturday morning I built a very nice fire that was still burning last night when I went to bed.

As you know, it has become easy for me to make connections between my personal journey and most of the day-to-day activities that occupy my time. This is partially because my journey is now a way of life and encompasses everything I do, think, and feel, and partially because “I look for it.” I pray each day that God will make His presence known to me and will speak to me, encourage and inspire me, and teach me lessons throughout the day. The campfire provided me with a lot of “food for the journey” because building the perfect fire, one that will last and continue to burn and gain momentum, requires the same principles as being successful on my journey.

First, I needed to build a strong foundation and start slowly. So many times in our attempt to change our life, we try to do “too much-too fast” and although we may see great results very quickly; maybe even losing 10 pounds in two or three weeks, we quickly tire of the “fad” or “crazy, unbalanced diet plan” and we burn out. Our determination and resolve dies out leaving us with disappointed. I’ve been there-done that, and likely, you have too at some point. After all, we want to see results right away. We want to have a big roaring fire right away. Certainly we don’t want to take the time to build a foundation that consists of small changes, and slow, steady activity that we can sustain over a long period of time. We’re impatient and we want results…RIGHT NOW. We forget that our journey is FOR LIFE. We get discouraged and just abandon the plan because it’s easier to throw more branches on the fire and HOPE they burn than to build a fire from the bottom up that takes TIME and PATIENCE to grow hot enough to sustain itself. Ironically, however, if you build a fire with a strong, hot foundation, it is able to withstand and survive the elements….even a light rain shower or a strong wind that typically would douse it and cause it to burn itself out.

Hmmm…..kind of like our journey… if we make the changes that we can LIVE WITH and build our life around the mentality that this is now our permanent way of living/eating/thinking, we will find that our new lifestyle is able to survive the temptations that come with events like birthdays, holidays, or vacations as well as the struggles of disappointment, grief, or illness. Fads and restrictive diet plans often fizzle out when one encounters real life situations and/or the initial very quick weight loss tapers off. If you want to be successful, you have to make sustainable, slow and steady changes that you will be able to live with for the rest of your life. And yes, even the best fires burn out when the heavy rains come and they are not kept stoked, so don’t be discouraged if you have to start over AGAIN…and again…and again. Even the seasoned “veterans” who have lost weight or kicked a bad habit sometimes loses their focus and needs to start again on occasion. However, once you learn “HOW” it becomes easier to build another fire….to do the right thing and make the right choices.

After I built my initial fire on Saturday, I had to keep it stoked all weekend, lest it would burn out. I needed to periodically stir it up to rouse the embers and add more wood to keep it roaring. Sometimes I did this; other times my friend did. So much like my journey. It takes continually attention to keep the momentum and motivation, lest I lose heart and just give up. Sometimes I have to “shake things up” by altering my activity or changing my menu. Sometimes I need to drink more water or get more exercise if I feel my pants getting tight. Sometimes I am too weary to “keep inspired and motivated” by myself and I depend on someone else to “keep me stoked.” Many times it is YOU that does that for me….stirring me up, encouraging me to keep writing, and motivating me with your kind words. Oftentimes, it is “remembering” what life used to be like; looking at those “before” pictures; or reminding myself of my “IT” (see prior posts) that adds fuel to my burning desire to maintain this lifestyle. Mostly….it’s making the time to reflect, pray, and think…..and drawing strength from my God that stirs up that rouses that desire and motivation to keep trying to be better each day than I was the prior one.

Once you get that fire burning….once you begin to enjoy the light and warmth….don’t be surprised when it draws others in. There is nothing like a campfire to gather a crowd to share in the beauty and inspire conversation and friendship. I continue to be amazed at the way my story has circulated the globe and has gained such interest, and yet, I am so grateful, not for any personal gain, but because God is glorified and my story has helped bring “light” in other’s darkness; hope where there is despair; encouragement where there is doubt; and warmth and love where there is hurt and pain.
So, my friends….I encourage you to reflect on your own personal journey and see if you can make any connections to the lessons I learned this weekend….from a pile of wood and a match!

1. Slow and steady; build a firm foundation with a plan that is SUSTAINABLE and long lasting.
2. A permanent lifestyle change requires constant attention and maintenance to keep motivated and progressing.
3. Sometimes you need to “stir the pot” or “shake things up” when you feel yourself starting to fizzle or lose focus.
4. Finally, you have to share your journey, invite others in to enjoy it with you, and let your “light shine” for the Glory of God!
Stay focused today….and Make choices this day that will improve your life and the lives of those around you!