Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Post for the Graduates . . . and Anyone, Really.

Today is my birthday! So I'm taking the day off. :o) But I sincerely wanted to post an encouraging word for all of the graduates out there. Recently, one of my dear writer friends, Teresa Lockhart, wrote a blog entry on SerendipiTee, her blog, that reminded me of the graduates in our school but also about my life personally. My daily goals - things I have to get done and things I want to get done - all require my FOCUS! Teresa said she'd be happy to share her blog post on focusing with us so I'm happy to had the reins over to Teresa Lockhart for today!

Quick bio: Teresa Lockhart's been a freelance writer for several years, interviewing celebrities about the way God is working in their lives. Her work has appeared in several Lifeway and Vox publications in addition to many others. She's a frequent writer for the Living Light News out of Edmonton (Canada). 

When she's not writing, she spends her time teaching high school journalism. She says, "I get my greatest inspiration and laughter from my students." She's been named an Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities, a Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year, a Middle Tennessee Scholastic Press Association Media Adviser of the Year, and a Tennessee High School Press Association Media Adviser of the Year. She's just recently been named a Certified Journalism Instructor by the Journalism Education Association. 

For the last year Teresa's been writing, revising, and polishing her first YA novel. She says, "I have a strong passion to help my readers see how wonderfully and serendipitously God works in their lives." I think you will agree with me that Teresa is incredibly talented and as she shares her heart with us, you'll see just how amazing she really is. Now, without further ado . . .  

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.  ~  Mark Twain
I grew up a very creative only kid on a very limited budget, so I had to improvise to have fun.
I lived to play softball, league team, community team, tournament team, etc.  I played on multiple teams at one time. We didn’t have fast-pitch “back in the day,” and we didn’t have hitting facilities. I was one of the smallest kids both in my class and on my team, so I had to find something I could do to make up for my inability to hit homeruns like my superstar teammates.
I learned how to place hit.
Because I wasn’t strong enough or quick enough to hit the ball over the outfielders’ heads, I learned to do the next best thing—place the ball where the players weren’t.
The key to place hitting is having a good eye, good timing, and good position. All of those details require focus.
“Back in the day” my mom had a clothes line to dry our laundry. I rigged up my own hitting helper. I put a softball in an old tube sock and tied a shoe string around the end and then tied the shoestring to the clothes line so that the ball in the sock was about chest level.
I took my bat and practiced standing in different positions, envisioning the different angles where the ball might cross homeplate. I tapped the ball and watched the direction it went. If I put my right foot to the back of the box and turned my body so that my left foot was in front, I could make the ball go toward first base. If pulled my left foot to the edge of the box, I could make it go in the opposite direction.
I spent hours focusing on the ball. When I tried out my new skills at practice, I discovered I could put the ball pretty much wherever I wanted. My ideal placement was down the chalk of the right field line. This type of hit makes it extra hard for the fielders to throw out runners headed for second or third base. Even if they threw me out, I would at least advance the lead runners.
If I happened to hit several right field fouls, I then switched my feet and dropped the ball over the third baseman’s head. Surprise! I always got a kick out of the look on the faces of the opposing coaches after they adjusted their players to the right.
I was a pretty decent pitcher, much better than a hitter. But when you’re an only kid, it’s hard to practice pitching all by yourself.
Again, I came up with a way to practice alone. My little house had a concrete front porch with two posts. If I stood next to the road in my front yard, I could pitch my softball so that it would hit the post on my front porch and then bounce back to me. I had to be accurate. Otherwise, I might break my mom’s window.
After spending sometimes hours a day doing this, I developed a pretty accurate pitch. I could almost always throw the ball over the plate. I also learned a special backspin release that made the ball pop up when batters hit it.
My downfall was that I put such a high arch on the ball that sometimes I threw it too deep behind the plate. I had to find a way to remedy the situation. The only thing I knew to do was to put a glove on the ground and practice pitching the ball over and over so that I could drop it into the glove every time.
It worked.
I didn’t realize back then that I was fine tuning more than my softball skills. I was developing focus.
Focus is everything in life.
Without focus, we risk roaming and never reaching our goals. It’s great to have a goal, but no matter bad badly people want something, they may never achieve it unless that find out how they’re going to get there and what’s holding them back.
I came to this little epiphany when I was practicing my guitar the last week. It took a Beatles song to help me learn where I wanted to go and what’s holding me back. I realized that I could practice for hours and learn nothing unless I was focused on finding my own way to master a technique.
Over the past few months I’ve dealt with a lot of stress and sorrow, and if it weren’t for the music I’d probably be a basket case. As much as I live to write, I became so discouraged that I lost my focus on writing. Sure, I write every day. But I found myself writing in circles, going nowhere.
I finally asked myself again EXACTLY what I wanted from my writing, what I wanted from life. It sounds simplistic, but if I really I need to pinpoint my destination, figure out how I’m going to get there, and figure out what’s holding me back so that I can remedy the situation.
How about you? What is it you want? Where are you going? How are you supposed to get there? What’s holding you back? How can you fix the problem?
Ultimately, we can do all the right things and still find obstacles that are too difficult to overcome. That’s where our faith in and dependence upon God come along. I believe He wants us to grow, to be the best we can be, but I also believe He wants us to rely on Him and to give credit where credit is due.
In less than two weeks I will leave my classroom for a summer break. I have dreams that I want to come true. If there is anything in this world that irks me, it is to hear a person say, “I wish I could do that”—and then do NOTHING to make it happen, be it practicing or pushing beyond the comfort zone or praying.
Doing nothing leads to regret. I’ve already traveled that road one too many times.
It’s time to arise and go…in focus.

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