Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Change is in the air

Change is in the winter air, on a personal front and at work. I've been determined to face it courageously and graciously, trusting God and being patient. 

It's not easy for me, though, and today I was ready to give up on the personal part of the adventure into the new. 

One of my daily devotionals called me to look at how I measure success. Is it in human terms or God's terms? That drew me back to my reason for being willing to explore a change in my personal life. It's an area where I sense God wants me to subordinate my own preferences and to trust that He has a perfect plan. I still believe that.

 My only reason for wanting to give up was personal discomfort and weariness. Yes, change makes me tired. Being out of a routine is exhausting for me, as everything seems to involve more thinking and planning -- which for me usually also means procrastination and avoidance activity. 

I'm grateful that, for today, I have decided to continue to trust God. I finally quieted myself and really prayed, and some peace came. This moment, I feel that peace. And now I will rest.  

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 
-- Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spilled water and brain drops

Apparently something I wrote in jest today was taken seriously by some readers. 

What happened was that, during a good day at work, as I was getting up from my desk for a water and bathroom break, I grabbed my water bottle and dumped much of its contents into my purse and onto my computer keyboard. 

The first thought that came to me, I heard myself say aloud: Why even have a brain if you're not going to use it. 

I thought it was funny, so after drying up the mess as well as I could, I posted my quip on Facebook. 

It didn't get a lot of response, but it became apparent to me some people thought I was beating myself up over an innocent accident. 

I really was not being critical.  I was laughing at myself. But like I said, it apparently did not come across that way. 

Maybe the reason people thought I was serious is because people really do say and hear things like that about others and themselves. In fact, they may have heard me be that hard on myself. 

But not today. It was meant lightly. I was smiling then and I'm smiling now. 

It was a good day, and a little bit of spilled water didn't change that. 

In fact, it gave me a chance to use my brain to try to understand what happened in the communication. 

But I'm still going to try to use  my brain better and pay closer attention to what I'm doing in the future. 

It would be a terrible thing to waste!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Waiting for the words

It is deadline, and I cannot even come up with a clever placeholder. I tried hard to just let it go and not post anything. But I could not. 

So, instead of a clever placeholder, this time it is just a string of words. 

But they serve the same purpose: buying time. They are evidence that my hope springs eternal. I do think the words will come. I need them to come. Until they do, I will wait. But I hope it won't be too long. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Here's to a Healthy365, one day at a time!

The #healthy65 Holiday Challenge has been a very good experience for me. I don't typically sign on to such projects, especially when it includes a potential public component. But something about colleague Juliana Keeping's original post and invitation captured my spirit, and I could not resist joining. Tuesday marked day 56 of 65 for me.

It helped tremendously that she made it so simple. There really was no way to fail. Certainly even the most unhealthy person can categorize at least one action each day as healthy. The low threshold helped me accept the challenge.

I'm still surprised I not only met my goal (to reduce my gum consumption by half, which would be about 50 -- there, I wrote it -- of the small Dentyne Fire pieces a day, at least twice each week) but also expanded it to include seven days a week. And now I want to use it going forward in 2015, one day at a time. Benefits have included saving at least $2 each day (some of which I have donated to charity); and a more relaxed and possibly smaller stomach.

A couple of observations in the past month make me know it's not automatic that I will succeed at keeping this up. My husband wondered along the way why, if I can set this goal and achieve it, I can't achieve some of my other self-improvement ideals. I do not know the answer to that. All I know to do is keep trying. These results reinforce that. Who knew it would work this time?

Then, on Jan. 1, as I was looking at past personal blog postings during  transitions from one year to the next, I was surprised to see these words posted Dec. 31, 2011:

I'm not going to take time to rehash the year's precious memories. ... But I felt the need to write a few words before I do some last-minute work to wrap up a few 2011 details that will help give the new year a fresher start. One of the things I had jotted down but not yet shared is a year-end accomplishment that gives me hope for the future. After wanting to do so for several months if not years, on Dec. 21, I committed to cut my gum consumption by half -- which is probably still more than anyone else in the world chews. And surprisingly, I've chewed less than my allotted maximum several days. And there have been some very positive health aspects. For anyone who has never had a habit get out of hand, this probably seems like no big deal. But I was hooked. It was on a prayer list of things I wanted to change, most of which still seem impossible. The thing that pushed me to action on this was noticing again just how much I was spending on gum. Why all of a sudden I was able to make the change, I do not know. But I credit God. I began by trying to get through just one day, then one work day, and then one shopping day. Each new situation seemed impossible. But I just kept praying and recommitting and focusing on the positive results. I don't know that it's getting easier, but my awareness of the benefits stays strong.

Also strong is my sense of hope that if I can finally, with God's help, do this seemingly minor thing but impossible thing, maybe the next goal for self-improvement will be possible.

Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously???? Does that mean I at one time chewed four times as much -- or is it the more likely possibility that I successfully cut back and gradually returned to the old way? All I know is that, five years later, I was at that exact same place again, and it seemed completely new.

Normally, that would be enough to make me give up. What, truly, is the use? But this time, I choose to take a positive view.

So, I plan to shift my #healthy65 Holiday Challenge to a #healthy365 challenge, one day at a time. I want to keep the gum in its place, not as the prize, but as a foundation on which to build other healthier habits.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

In the moment: New Year's Day

Starting the new year with a cold wasn't my plan, nor was the possibility of icy roads as I return to work on Jan. 2. 

And I'm not complaining. 

Just for today, I don't have to have some grandiose plan of hopes and dreams to start this year. I'm not adding anything to my daily readings and rituals. I'm not even recommitting to the ones I'm behind on (The Upper Room, Denison Forum and the Bible Gateway reading plan; and keeping my email inbox clear of unread items). 

I'm grateful for a day I could rest. I'm as prepared as I can be for whatever the weather and roads present tomorrow. 

I am trying so hard to just be positive. 

I just reread First 15 and then read the Upper Room. I needed this reminder:

"That reminded me of the many ways that God takes our small efforts and uses them to feed people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So when I feel that I should be doing bigger things with my life, I remind myself of the loaves and fishes. My job is to do the tasks in front of me. God’s job — God’s delight — is to use them to feed the world." (Sara Matson, Minnesota)

And the thought for the day: What small task can I offer to God today?

Whatever I've offered to God today (gratitude, humility, praise) seems not just small but minuscule. Can He use even this? My faith tells me yes. 

I'd be lying if I said this is all I had hoped for today. 

Is it time to let go the blog??? God, what do you have in mind for me? Please help me know and do, to Your glory. 

Should I have called my brother? Mom? Anyone else? 

Did I use the cold -- and now the weather -- as an excuse?

And Lord, I am starting this year as selfish and I-focused as ever. Forgive me and help me. I trust You. Please help me know and do Your will, to Your glory. (And no, it doesn't have to feel great for me. I need to remember that. I seek YOUR GLORY AND WILL, AND BLESSINGS FOR OTHERS, not my own pleasure or glory.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In the moment: New Year's Eve

I am so tempted to end the year by looking back at what I wrote a year ago on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (if anything). I am trying to resist that urge. 

My goal is to stay in the moment. I can look back tomorrow. Or some other day. Or never. 

For the first time I can remember as an adult, I have no inclination to stay up to greet the new year. Maybe it's because I'm battling a cold. Or maybe because I'm tired
(exacerbated by the cold). Or maybe it comes with being 55. 
(It's most likely the cold; I certainly hope my future includes some fun New Years Eves!)

I feel amazingly peaceful this moment. Some habits of the past year are likely key. 

I continued daily reading from the Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young. She has written at least two other devotional books, but for me it seems best to keep it simple by reading the same one again and again -- at least until I feel led to try something new. That's how my mind works. The message I get from her writing and the Scriptures she includes is to trust God, to feel His love, peace and presence, and to thank Him. She reminds me of my great need: the peace of Christ's presence. 

I added daily use of the First 15 guide by Craig Denison. The goal is to spend the first 15 minutes of each day in focused prayer, worship, praise and meditation. I didn't always get it done first thing, and sometimes it ended up being pretty unfocused. The guide has been good for me because it repeats Scriptures for reinforcement. 

And there's that crazy recent addition of the #healthy65 Holiday Challenge, which for me meant reducing my gum consumption by half at least two days a week. I quickly committed to do it every day, and that discipline has influenced other positive decisions through this 51st of 65 days. 

This year has given new meaning to a slogan that has been part of my life for close to 30 years: one day at a time. I think I had viewed it as a negative (is that the best I can do?), but tonight I see it more positively, an opportunity to look for and be grateful for the blessings of each day. 

I'm sure I've quoted this before in a year-end blog, from My Urmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers: "Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. ... Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him."

I pray to build upon this foundation, to God's glory. 

Wrapping up Christmas

Christmas with family was blessed, fun, peaceful, heartwarming and humbling. 

I had dreaded the logistics of working into the evening on Christmas Eve, going to an 11 p.m. worship service then getting up fairly early Christmas Day to head to McKinney for an overnight visit  with my husband's family. After the Friday return to Norman was a Saturday trip to Stillwater, and, likely, a swing by Greenwood, Ark., before returning home again to Norman on Sunday. (I really didn't even give much thought to what looked like a small chance of snow.)

If it were up to me to make all that take place smoothly, I'm pretty sure it would not happen. But by the grace of God and with amazing support from my husband, the moments unfolded calmly and gracefully. 

Gifts of presence included talking and listening; patience; smiles and laughter; and advice only when asked. 

My new iPhone with a better camera and extra memory let me take pictures with abandon -- and many of them captured fun moments with siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews and "grands." 

Gift-giving and receiving often stress me out, and the preparation certainly did this year as well. But the new and appreciated conclusion this year was satisfaction with gifts given, instead of the usual

Meanwhile, I was humbled to receive way too much. All I could do was say thank you. (I also made a mental pledge to start getting rid of some of my accumulated possessions, and I have made early efforts toward that.)

One of my gifts was the trip to Greenwood. It was as if God put it on my heart to carry some of the Stillwater festivities to those unable to attend. 

A thought that comes to mind is that a person cannot outgive a God. I was trying to be less selfish, but it seems even my smallest efforts toward others returned blessings to me. That was not my intent. But how can I not be grateful?

Throughout the Christmas festivities, starting with the choir cantata on Dec. 14 and continuing with the Christmas Eve worship service and several of my daily devotionals, a prominent Scripture was John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  It's not a traditional Scripture associated with Christmas, but it really gets to the heart of the reason for the season. 

How does one respond to such a gift? Share it. But how? I continue to pray to know how and to do it.