Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seasons of change

The season has officially changed from summer to fall, and now the month is changing from September to October.

Sometimes I think I wish life's transitions were as simple as turning a calendar page.

But few are, and maybe that's for the best.

I've been aware this week that I've still not really adjusted to my husband being retired from his longtime office job and now working from home in a part-time job that involves a lot of travel.

By the time I get accustomed to him being gone for a week or 10 days, he's back for a couple of weeks. And then I'm again trying to adjust to me going to an office job and him not doing that.

Add to that a new perplexity, my awareness that several people I know have changed or are changing jobs and many seem to be ending up in better situations.

Should I? Is there something better out there for me? Sometimes I get so frustrated where I am.

And that's when the realizations about my great fears -- of writing, of failure, of change, of not knowing -- overwhelm me.

But ultimately, I think even though it may seem like fear, the central part of my instinct says it's God that keeps me where I am, which means it's not time for me to make a change. I sense His purpose for me where I am. Deep within my soul, it still seems the message is: Wait. Be patient. Have faith.

I keep thinking I need to figure out my life, but the answer to my prayers keeps being that God must not want me to get it all figured out.

And so I will wait. Trust. Have faith and seek morning by morning God's new mercies. And thank Him.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Psalmcat stirrings

It's been a week since I again became catless after sharing my home with a kitten for about five days. I didn't think that's what would be on my mind when I sat down to write, but seeing last week's post has stirred the Psalmcat.

It became clear in the Jazzy experience that the time was not right for me to have a cat. But since then, many other things seem to have become less clear.

I feel a longing for something, but I have no idea what it is. And fear keeps me from digging to find out what I'm longing for.

The presence of that fear surprises me, because I know my faith is growing, too.

And I continue to see evidence of God blessing me and using me, even as I fall far short of what I think He would want me to be doing.

On Friday, the day after letting go of that kitty I wanted so badly to be able to keep, my First 15 reading's theme was "Encounter God Through Thanksgiving." The worship song was "Bless the Lord O My Soul (10,000 Reasons)." The Scripture was Deuteronomy 8. All affirmed that the sense of gratitude I had over my time with the kitty and being able to let her go was a gift.

The day after that, the Jesus Calling devotional provided just the right Scriptures and words:

-- "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

-- From the devotional: When little things don’t go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, “Oh, well.” This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations. If you practice this diligently, you will make a life-changing discovery: You realize that most of the things that worry you are not important. If you shrug them off immediately and return your focus to Me, you will walk through your days with lighter steps and a joyful heart.

-- My response: Once again, the Jesus Calling devotional has a timely message for me. I'm not sure how God does that day after day and year after year. Oh, right, maybe that's because God is God!! He knows my needs (and yours and yours and yours) and is faithful to provide. I love Him and trust Him and thank Him. May I forever worship, adore and praise Him. (And one of my needs seems to be devotional guides that help me focus on Scripture.)

Other helpful Scriptures as I've continued on my way:

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)

"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him." (Exodus 15:2)

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Still acting on faith -- and no more Jazz (:

Less than a week after I was so surprised and giddy to unexpectedly have a kitty, I am once again a cat lady without a cat.

I'm still trying to make sense of it all.

I am praying and trusting God.

Some of the issues involved are too personal or hard to understand -- much less describe -- to write about on a blog.

But there are some things I want to chronicle, for my record.

Having a kitty makes me happy. There is a void in my life and house when I don't have a kitty.

Having a kitty stirs complicated emotions within me and also some areas of tension with my spouse.

This may have been a catalyst -- to remind us to face some things we had not dealt with in more than a year and a half without a cat. In less than a week, and without Gene even being here, it was clear those issues still exist.

I've been kidded about overthinking things. But this seems to confirm what I fear will happen when I am spontaneous.

As I said, I'm still trying to make sense of it all. Yes, I was impulsive last Saturday in saying I would take her. But I've seen in the past year or so where planning gets my husband and me (too often, that's nowhere!), so I guess I decided it was time to try something spontaneous. Prayerfully, yes, but ultimately, trusting what seemed to be a nudge from God.

I cannot express how much I wanted this to work out. But some troublesome realities of the situation began to emerge quickly, and new challenges arose each day.

Eventually, just as clearly as I had felt I was supposed to welcome the kitty, I knew I needed to be willing to let her go. The major factor was that I was having to leave a less than 4-month-old kitty alone too many hours of the day in a house she was unfamiliar with. She was developing some bad habits, and I wasn't with her enough to channel her energy more positively. My attempts to teach her in our limited time together seemed to be making her afraid of me.

My friend had mentioned in passing that someone else had said they wanted the kitty (after I had her), so Wednesday, I called to find out more about that. This is how my mind works: I want the kitty, but now I'm aware that taking her may have been a mistake -- and what if someone else is supposed to have her? And how will I know? Unfortunately, this wasn't any clearer after our conversation. But I think my friend was now concerned about whether my home and I were a good fit for the kitten she called Minnie and I had renamed Jasmine/Jazz/Jazzy. She said she would find out if the other person was still interested on Friday.

But on Thursday, I received a text saying she might have a home for the kitty. And by 3, she just needed to know when I would be home so she could come get her. And by 7:30, that adorable, playful precious Jasmine, the Jazzy Jazz cat, was gone from my home.

Among the things I've learned or relearned:

--It doesn't matter if I have a cat six days or 13 years, and whether the kitty is dying or going to a new home, letting go is hard.

--I would not sacrifice the time with her to avoid the pain of letting go and renewed loneliness of again having a catless home.

--I can have faith without understanding. I believe God is at work in all things -- and that He is working for good.

At least I feel certain she is going to a loving home. All of my other experiences of letting go of a kitty have involved death.

Sometimes I can get my mind around it: There's no reason to be so dramatic and emotional. I realized I'm gone too much; I hadn't planned this out with my husband -- and now someone else had expressed a desire to have the kitty. I should be and am grateful.

But then the sadness returns.

After five days of sharing pictures and upbeat posts on Facebook about this wonderful kitty, today I offered this: Sadly, my latest kitty update is not very Jazzy. I gave the kitty -- now Miss Minnie again -- back to my friend who brought her. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I do view the few days I had her as a precious gift from God. I pray her new home will be a better fit. ... I'm sad, disappointed -- and still grateful. Sigh.

And I'm still trying to make sense of it all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Acting on faith and all that Jazz!

I woke up Saturday thinking it's about time for me to seriously consider getting a kitty. I know Gene and I have said we wouldn't have another cat until we retire to the farm, but I had started trying to think of ways that it might work for us to again have a kitty here.

Then my sister posted on Facebook about how, with the colder weather, her kitties are enjoying lap time more. It made me think of how this house, too, seems colder without a cat. I was starting to form a plan in my mind ...

After a meeting I attend on Saturdays, several of us were talking, and I mentioned that the colder weather makes me think it's time for me to have a kitty again. I was not even considering the possibility of getting a kitty that day ....

But a friend mentioned a kitten had found its way to her house -- and she already has four cats, and one was intolerant of adding a new guy. I know what that is like, because my most recent cat had been totally unwilling to accept a new feline arrival.

As my friend described the kitty, I had the feeling that God was orchestrating this. I had said a prayer earlier about a different situation, just lifting it up to God and pledging my trust and faith in Him to show me what to do and how. I sensed I also should be prayerful and trusting with this.

Even though I had not planned to get a kitty, everything seemed right about it -- except that my husband was traveling and we had not even talked about this; and the house wasn't kitty ready; and few if any of those many those things I needed to do to get my act (and house) together before taking in a kitty again had been taken care of.

But in my mind, the only question was: How will I tell my husband? Maybe I could say she just showed up? I actually considered waiting until I had the kitty before I called him, but decided I needed to call first. But he didn't answer. So I left voice mail, and a text. And then I called the friend with the kitty.

"Does this mean you'll take her?" she asked.

"Yes -- but you need to bring her here. I can't come get her. I might need to be able to say she showed up here."

So this kitty, which I only knew was a female who was sweet and playful and good with the litter box, was on her way to my house. I didn't even know what color she was. I braced myself to love her regardless.

Quite soon, my friend and her husband arrived with the carrier. When I looked inside, I saw this beautiful, silky cinnamon-color sweetheart. I opened the door, and she came out exploring.

Part of not having the house ready was that, despite our best efforts to clean our carpet, we hadn't replaced it, so I know she could smell Bridget. Her little nose was so busy, checking everything out. And before I knew it, she was exploring the cubbies and platforms of the cat condo that had been used by our three previous cats. She checked out the inside of both recliners, the plants -- she managed to let me know quite quickly just how unprepared I was to bring a kitten into this house.

But my gut feeling is that this is meant to be. We can do this. I set her up a home in the guest bathroom -- which already had become the cat's bathroom with Samantha, Teddy and Bridget, if not also Cinnamon.

She spent her first night there, and also the three hours or so Sunday while I was at church and buying groceries. Right now, I'm thinking that's where she will be tomorrow while I'm at work. Eventually she will have the run of the house, but she has some learning to do first.

Am I ready for a cat? I doubt it. I would still be making excuses. But I think this is an act of faith. I pray it is. And signs continue to affirm that.

I talked to my husband later Saturday. He wasn't thrilled with the news, but he wasn't upset. He said what I knew: This is not how he would have gone about it.

So Jasmine aka Jaz aka Jazzy (and formerly Miss Minnie) and I have a lot of work to do to show Gene that this was not a mistake. I think, hope and pray we are off to a good start.

Having a kitty is an act of faith for me. But so was not having a kitty. I guess none of that should surprise me, because life at its best for me is just that: one act of faith after another.

I trust God to lead me and guide me. And for this moment, this crazy cat lady thanks God for the silky cinnamon furry, purry sweetheart that has made her way into my heart and home.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seasons of change

Here I go again. I'll start by mentioning what I hoped to write about, and then I'll see what I end up with. What I had in mind: something about the ALS ice bucket challenge and spending time on Labor Day working on a treasured homestead in Texas; quiet time with close family members; a simple anniversary celebration with my husband; weather that seems unseasonal to me; too many things to do at once; and so much tempting food. Will I choose one or go in some other direction?

I am a creature of habit and am most comfortable when life is routine.

Life hasn't seemed routine lately.

And it's all good.

That doesn't seem like a routine reaction for me. But it is a good reaction, and the more common it becomes, the better off I am.

For instance: I think summer should be hot, winter can be a little cold, and spring and autumn are best experienced quite mildly. In the South Central U.S., spring is green and includes rainy days, and the end of summer starts to be dry, brown and yellow.

This afternoon when I walked, everything was so beautifully green and growing, even though the neighborhood lake is still low.

Yesterday, when I needed to be two places at once and another place not long after that, meaning lots of coming and going, the skies opened to pour out about eight-tenths inch of rain. Which was wonderful, until on one of those comings, as I was headed into the church, late (after spending a few moments at the other event that started at the same time), I dropped my iPhone and a bunch of brand-new choir music in a puddle! This was after I noticed, before leaving the house, that the belt on the exercise bike I ride faithfully every day had broken.

The me I know best would get all frustrated and be thinking at that point that nothing is going right. But that's not what I thought yesterday. I knew it really all was good. Seriously? Thank You, God, because that reaction is not my own.

Perhaps that attitude adjustment is a fruit of pretty much daily trying to spend time in prayerful focus on God, using Craig Denison's First 15 guide, among others. After reading Friday's devotional, I wrote: I want that!

Sept. 5, First 15: "James 1:2-4 says, 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.' If we will allow the Lord to redeem the trials and testing we endure in this life, we will begin to bear the fruit of joy in the midst of any circumstance. Unshakable joy is our portion."

Today, I thank God for the taste of that Joy I received this weekend.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Surprise! It's been a year!

Wow! What a year it has been. This time in 2013, I was doing last-minute shopping and crazy packing/planning before leaving early the next day for flights to London and the start of that amazing 10-day cruise along the Western  European coast aboard the Crystal Serenity. Usually I'm very aware of such "anniversaries," but this one had slipped my mind until someone at church this morning wished me a happy anniversary. Sure enough, the wedding anniversary had slipped my mind, too. That's when I thought back to last year, when I was aboard the ship somewhere in the area of Bordeaux, France, and Gene was home in Norman, Oklahoma. 

That's how the past 12 months have been -- filled with surprises, blessings, frustrations, challenges, memories and forgetfulness. 

Three factors seemed to play big roles. 

One was the cruise. I had to decide quickly whether to go on this promotional trip available through work -- and to this day I'm not sure I made the best choice. Some of my personal chaos since then I clearly link to that decision and its aftermath. 

Another was my husband's transition with his early retirement from a state job to a part-time, work-from-home role as a contractor for a national organization. For a 20-hour-a-week job, it has keep him very busy, including a lot of travel. I've enjoyed getting to go along on some trips and will do so more in the future. We knew the transition would be significant. I think we both are looking forward to next year and a better sense of how to plan and balance work and some retirement opportunities not tied to his job. 

And the third is the cancer diagnosis of my sister-in-law. When I was in Arkansas for the birthday of their youngest  daughter -- my goddaughter -- a year ago in August, things were so normal, as far as I knew. But by Thanksgiving, everything had changed with a cancer diagnosis. I've been blessed to be one of many family members and friends sharing this precious journey. I've wanted to be there so much more, but I'm grateful for every visit I have been able to make. So often, the timing has been amazing in ways than can only be divine. Through a very difficult year, the family's faith has remained strong. Their determination to pull together through this and fight for healing and strength continues to inspire me. And again today, I pray in faith that she soon will have some pain-free, quality time with her family. But until then, we praise God for His blessings that allow them to see the good in every day and situation. I believe with all my heart that a positive breakthrough is just around the corner. Our job is to remain faithful. 

And that is what I try to do every day, in every situation. Sometimes I fall far short, and God in His great mercy loves and accepts and blesses me anyway. 

I was tempted to write that I hope the coming year will be less chaotic and stressful for me, for my husband and for my brother's family. But I'm not going to do that. I just pray to stay close to God, come what may.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Causes and effects

I had hoped to write a light piece tonight about causes, effects and unintended consequences, but one thing leads to another, and the result is that I am out of time before I even get started!

I will say that the Texas Aggies start their new football season playing on the new SEC Network on Thursday, and we prepared by upgrading our cable to digital so we could get that channel and some others (outdoors and fishing!) of interest to my husband. I was eager to get the network and excited to have it. But almost immediately, I became aware that it's even harder to decide what to watch now. So far, I've been forced to keep it simple, because I haven't had time to explore all the new programming available.

Meanwhile, the game starts at 5, so it's good that this system has a recorder. But when will I even watch it? Now Gene tells me we can record six shows at once? Really? Last Saturday, I was flipping between three games (Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys and Johnny Football's team), and I could have been recording all three! Tomorrow, I can record the Aggies and the Dallas Cowboys. But again ... really? Do I even want to spend time on this? The good thing about such recordings is that, like an iPhone picture or Facebook post, there's nothing wrong with capturing it in the moment. I can always delete it later.

Of course, lurking in the back of my mind is the thought that none of the teams I follow have been doing too well lately. How will I feel if my beloved Aggies follow that pattern? I just want it to be enjoyable to watch, and it really is more fun when they win.

As with so many things, it's up to me to decide how I will spend my time and what effect I will let sports outcomes or anything else have on my thoughts and moods.

Achieving a healthy balance would be a cause for celebration!