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Turning the Land

March 28, 2012

When we made the decision that I would transition to a life of full time writing, I decided to work with business coach, Janet Wallace to help get me started. I told her that I would be blogging about my transition. Her first question was if I would be transparent. I know the meaning of the word but asked what she meant in this context.

“Transparent,” she said. “Will you tell the whole story, the good and the bad?”

“Yes,” I said immediately. And although I meant it, I didn’t understand the significance at the time.

So, you ask. What’s it like to leave a career and to follow your calling, to follow your bliss?

In a nutshell, it’s everything you’ve dreamed and completely different from what you expected.

Day before yesterday we turned our garden for this year. This morning, after feeding the goats, I looked at the rows of jagged mounds of earth that had been ripped away by a tractor and a blade and I thought how much I was like those mounds.

I have been writing in some form or fashion my entire life but until the last few years, I didn’t think about making it my life’s work. But that’s the funny thing about your life’s work. It chooses you and if you’re lucky, you get to choose it back. That’s the part that’s everything you’ve dreamed of. You wake up excited because you’re doing what you love; you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.

But you also wake up knowing that you’re just at the beginning, that while there is the promise of the harvest, it is still a promise. And that is where faith comes into play. I have always been a person of faith, or at least I thought I was. I’ve discovered over the past few weeks and months that I was a person of easy faith. What I mean is I’ve learned my life circumstances have made it easy for me to have a life of faith.

Like the earth of my garden, I had found my place. I had been there so long I was “grounded” and useful. This area is full of beautiful grass. The dirt was packed and rich and dense. It had been faithfully absorbing the sun and the rain; it had endured the storms, the snows and the winters. It was firm and held up no matter what or who came across it. Solid. Dependable.

But if it’s going to serve a much higher purpose, if it’s going to produce fruits and vegetables and flowers and herbs, it has to be ripped from its settled place. The blade must cut deep and pull it up and over exposing dirt to the sun for the first time or the first time in a long time. It must be disked and tilled again and again and prepared for the plantings.

And that’s what I’ve been going through. I could picture the harvest but I didn’t see the tractor coming. And that’s how my faith is changing. Daily.

These past weeks, I’m learning how to control what I can and how to let go of what is out of my control. Although by my own choice, I’ve been ripped out of my comfortable lifestyle, a very serviceable life filled with worthy work. And there are parts of this journey that are stressful and parts that are painful. I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to just remain solidly in the ground. But I’ve been turned and am dreaming of the harvest. And that dreaming is the stuff my new faith is being made of. It’s a belief in moving forward toward something rather than a faith in what is. And for me, belief in what I already have in my hands, in what I can see and hold on to, is not really faith at all.

I realize this all seems so simplistic. Something we talk about during spiritual conversations, something we all accept intellectually.

But it’s different when it transcends an academic exercise and becomes your life. It transitions from a comfortable, solid as sidewalk, faith to one that is shaken and pulverized, crushed and exposed to the light and the heat and the cold. It requires a daily examination and affirmation of what you are doing. Every time the blade returns or something painful happens, you look at it again and you ask, “is this right, did I understand the calling?” I worry over things that it’s normal to worry over. Often. And then I ask the questions again and struggle to learn to be quiet. And patient.

And then I receive some sort of affirmation. A new client. A story published. Sometimes it’s as simple as the magic of the song of a returning cardinal when I go to write in the mornings. But eventually it comes. And, so far, I’ve been able to smile and let go and enjoy the bliss I was called to find.

I have discovered it is the waiting you examine and question your faith. Just like those mounds of dirt right now. There is nothing today but the promise of the harvest for that garden. No seeds or plants or stems or roots. But there is the promise.

And although I am as old as dirt, in ways I feel young again. I am excited again. It is the promise that awakens me each morning and fuels my new relationships. I have been turned and plowed. I am at the beginning and there is a long way until the fruit appears, a long way during which my faith will be tested again and again. But today is enough for me. The warm sunshine and the promise are enough for me.

Writing Tip of the Week – Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa said, “To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.” Find your story. Your story. Dig deep. Turn over the rocks in your life, your past, your heart. What is the story you’re called to tell. Do not avert your eyes. Fiction writers can make up facts but we are called to never betray the truth. Do you want to write meaningful poetry or prose? Then this tip is for you. Don’t write what you think will please others or what is popular. Take time to be quiet and find your story. Then tell it with all the truth you can muster.

Quote of the Week – “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  ― Maya Angelou

Coming up in March and April –
March 30th – Finding your Story and Writing It, a three hour event with Terry
Willow Oak Center for Arts in Education
Springfield, Tennessee

For more information, click on Willow Oak Center for Arts and Learning

Need an artistic or life retreat?
April 19th through 22nd – MagicTime, A WriterSpace Retreat with Terry and Carolyn Flynn (
Penuel Ridge Retreat Center
Ashland City, Tennessee

For more information, click on Magic Time Writers Retreat

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 6:39 pm

    Breathtakingly beautiful Terry.

    • March 28, 2012 6:41 pm

      I value you and your thoughts and am so grateful to find kindred spirits such as you Lynn. Heartfelt thanks…

  2. Beverly Sanford permalink
    March 30, 2012 9:50 am

    Very beautiful and honest… Thank you.

    Scott and I celebrate and cheer you on as you “recreate your garden..” Truly, we wish you the best and are excited for you new venture into full time writing.

    I relate to your latest blog entry in a big way.

    Five years ago I left a career that I enjoyed. My career was a big part of my identity. I also had spent many years in graduate work enhancing my career and was planning to continue on toward a terminal degree.
    Then in a “360” sort of way, I felt “called” to change direction. (this calling was multi layered…) I am now five years into this, I can say with certainty that I believe in what I GET to do daily and weekly, but that it has certainly turned my life into “mounds of dirt” on a regular basis.

    However, I am thankful that I have this opportunity to invest and grow in who I am and who my family is. Like you it is my dream, but this dream looks completely different than my “vision.” With being a stay at home mom, the “accolades” are few… That is where the belief comes in. We (Scott and I) have to be solid in believing this is what is best for our family. Perhaps our greatest earthly investment is in the now.

    I continue to find ways to keep myself intellectually stimulated while spending my day doing what some may consider mundane-car pools, laundry, providing a hot breakfast daily for two thriving girls, feeding animals, laundry, grocery, dental appointments, dinner, managing schedules, volunteering at schools, networking with other moms, being available to listen and process, etc.

    So like a garden I am planting… the harvest will come in later. Until then, I continue to dig, plant, water, provide “sunshine” and keep moving forward.
    All the while putting “love” into the doing. (I once heard a father at his son’s wedding quote this Mother Teresa quote that has stuck with me…:)

    With all honesty, this has been one of the hardest yet most gratifying transitions for me thus far in my life. I continue to find myself in places I thought I would never be. (ex. next year our eldest who is in high school will be home schooling-I had not imagined we would ever see this coming) But I remain open to change and opportunities to stretch my family and myself.

    Although the “turning of the dirt” in our lives may seem very different, following our life’s calling takes guts and lots of faith. It is not easy, but I continue on. I know you will continue on.

    I am completely committed and appreciate the now, but must admit I get excited thinking about my next adventure… my next “360.” Until I meet my maker, I wish to remain open to the adventures in life-both big and small. Each one is a gift.

    Blessed and very thankful.
    Beverly Sanford

    *May I add-that in no way, do I assume that being a stay at home mom is the “one size fits all” for every family. I was a working mom for many years and I have great respect for women in that role. Being a working mom certainly had it positives and negatives as does being in a stay at home position. I am thankful to have been on both sides of the fence in this arena. Appreciate the beauties and complexities that each role has.

  3. Beverly Sanford permalink
    March 30, 2012 9:53 am

    May I also add that I loved the ending of your blog-the Maya part. Good stuff.
    Rich. Thick in a good way!

    Keep it coming. Authentic, inspirational and refreshing.

    Have a wonderful weekend!


  4. April 3, 2012 7:44 am

    Many thanks Beverly for the kind words and also for the sharing! Continue to let me know how I can support and encourage you in your life!

  5. April 5, 2012 12:15 am

    One of the beauties of the Internet is being able to discover, quite by chance – or is it? – fellow travellers. Loved this post, and will now read more.

    • April 5, 2012 9:09 am

      Many kind thanks, Chris. I do appreciate it and it’s wonderful to make your acquaintance at least here online! Here’s to fellow travelers! Cheers!

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