I learned how to make them in Girl Scouts.  It was the late 70’s and “arts and crafts” were H.O.T. My first one was cobalt blue, red heart. I carefully divided and braided and wrapped the yarn lengths over a styrofoam ball. I wrapped and tied each leg.  I added googly eyes and a tiny, yarny smile.

I fell in love with my little creation. I took it to school.

Everyone at school fell in love, too. With my little, braided, beribboned- octopi.

“Can you make me one?” “Me first!” Suddenly, I was popular(ish). At least, I had something everyone wanted.  Which is pretty much the same in fourth grade.

“Sure, if you pay me.” I replied.

Shocked, that they said they would pay me….I started taking orders.

The excitement ignited an entrepreneurial spirit, I didn’t know I had.

Ca-Ching! I could barely count the quarters because of the dollar signs in my eyes. I had a hit on my hands. Kids wanted them.  Teachers wanted them.  Suddenly, I wasn’t just a 4th grader.. I was a business woman!

It never crossed my mind to figure out how much it cost me to make them. Or, how long it took to make each one.  I did not ask my parents if it was ok to start a little business.  Oops.

The first few were fun. I made them instead of doing homework. (Who needs to study when you’ve got you’re own business?)

The 4th and 5th were white acrylic and boring.  After that? It was beyond boring.  It was punishment. I completely lost interest.  Every couple of days I’d fill an order.  Everyday a customer would complain about the wait.  I started to think about taking the cash and running off to Cuba. I feared being called down to the principal’s office to be busted by the FBI, for my ponzi scheme. (I was using money from orders to buy the supplies for the next one.. I was in the red. Math?  Not my strong suit.)

The truth is, some people never did receive their octopi. Including a teacher, MR B. (Who happened to called me: Spacey Tracey, from 4th through 6th grade. Related? possibly. I don’t remember refunding any of the money.

It’s been 30+ years and those octopi still haunt me.

They dance through my dreams, beribboned tentacles, taunting me.  Their tiny mouths mocking: “You can’t come through with the goods… don’t start what you can’t finish. Remember us?  You still haven’t finished….think of all the people you let down..”

I hear their voices each time I sit down to write. Especially the formal book proposal. It’s not just octopi that I hear-  it’s every failure to deliver, that I’ve ever experienced.  Their voices are cacophony of insecurity. A choir of accusation.

“You can’t. You didn’t. You won’t. Don’t try.”

This week, I read Seth Godin’s new book: Linchpin.  In it, he asks: “What keeps you from shipping?” (Shipping: Delivering the goods, moving forward toward a goal.) For me, delivering  means completing or hitting send on a proposal or submission. The first thing I thought of was those googly-eyed, acrylic octopi. They keep me from shipping.

Those un-fulfilled orders hold me captive, 20,000 leagues under the sea of failure and fear. Not in their itchy, scratchy braided tentacles.. but in the fear of failure that they’ve come to represent. They’ve held me back from trying.

But not anymore. I will not be kept from what God has planned for me by acrylic octopi. I am moving forward. I am letting go of the past.

I am shipping.  Because I can.  I will make a difference.

Do you have Braided Octopi taunting you?  Are your past failures mocking you and entangling you in their tentacles?

It’s time to cut yourself loose. With forgiveness and with faith. Not in your own abilities… but in the God who has a plan for you.  A plan to make a difference. A plan to ship something special from his heart to yours. Something for you to share with the world.

It’s time to deliver. It’s time to make a difference.

We can do this. If we stop looking behind, learn from the past and try.

Go ahead- cut yourself loose. it’s just yarn.

Questions for you:

  1. What is your Braided octopus?
  2. What can you learn from it?
  3. What is it keeping you from “shipping?”
  4. What will you do today, to move past those tentacles of fear and failure?

I’m writing.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

PS aren’t you surprised I drew no parallel between braided octopi and leg hair?  (Until now) Let’s just say: If  summer never comes… and I keep wearing pants… I could start a new business.. by fall. just sayin…:P