Thursday, December 13, 2018

The more things change, the more they change

My theme for this month, particularly this week, is that the more things change, the more they change!

A week ago, I thought I would be headed toward Arkansas and Alabama with my husband on Monday, a weeklong trip I was looking forward to, even though it would require me to miss several opportunities in Oklahoma and Texas.

By Friday, the logistics of some of my plans for going with my husband were falling apart, so I decided to stay home. I looked forward to being able to go to the choir practice I would have missed in Texas. Today, I was eager to attend a luncheon, a caroling event at a nursing home and the Christmas party of the women's group I'm part of at my church in Norman.

Getting back to Norman about 10 last night after a long choir rehearsal in Gainesville, I knew it would be a quick turnaround for me to be ready for the 11:30 a.m. luncheon, then the caroling at 4:30 and the party at 6. I had done little to no prep for any of these.

I slept well, but when I woke up to the sound of my alarm, I let distractions keep me in bed surfing on my phone for an hour. That was certainly not how I needed to start the day, or so it seemed.

I had committed to do the best I could in preparing for each event. I knew I didn't have to be on time for the first one. My ideas were coming together better than usual for a hostess gift as well as a food to take to share.

Meanwhile, I noticed someone had left a message on my home phone. When I checked it, I learned the evening party had been postponed because of the weather. Although I was sad about this -- because the new time is Sunday, when I will be in Texas singing with the church choir there -- I knew it was out of my control. And I knew I had plenty of other things I could spend my afternoon and evening doing.

By this time, I was especially grateful I had not decided to forgo the luncheon because of the earlier distractions and busy schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships shared at the luncheon.

The afternoon caroling also was postponed, although the new time for it should work out for me.

My afternoon and evening ended up being filled with needed chores including clothes washing, vacuuming and other housework.

It's not how I expected my day to go. I can see many reasons why it was a good way for it to turn out.

One of the best reasons to be grateful today is that neither the change that kept me from traveling with my husband nor the changes that kept me from attending the church events today made me feel angry or resentful. I hope I'm FINALLY growing out of that childish response to changes that seem to keep me from doing what I thought I wanted to do. It's so much better to be able to roll with changes.

In all things, seek and trust God

Another day is not going how I thought it would need to. I’m grateful to be able to pray and read and meditate and trust in God. I was praying before it started to go what seemed awry to me, so I will continue to trust God is in charge. Either this is the best way, or He’s willing to let me learn from my detour. Right now, to my great surprise, it’s looking more like the former. 

I stayed in bed from 8 to 9 am, reading Upper Room and P31 online devotional and then on a search for info about United Methodists and predestination, sidetracked by a Wikipedia donation and survey, and followed by a text response to my sister. 

That wasn’t how I expected the morning to unfold on a day when I have so much I want to do, including three social engagements. I had earlier prayed the Lord’s prayer. I slept well and feel better this morning that I did last night, when I feared I might have a cold coming on. I continue to seek God’s guidance and trust that He is leading and equipping me this day. I am grateful and hopeful. 

Then I got on the treadmill, which is where I started writing and turned to 12-step reading. 

OA and AA books were excellent, as always. 
For Today: I am grateful for the amazing grace that brings about “profound inner change; dissolving the opinions and attitudes that kept (me) chained to compulsion.”
Voices Of Recovery: Timely reminders as I may go to 2 gatherings where food is a big deal today. “I know I can recoil from it and rest in the arms of God.”
24 Hours A Day: “We can believe that many details of our lives are planned by God and planned with a wealth of forgiving love for mistakes we have made.”
“I pray that I may be shown the right way to live today.”

Thinking more about how the morning went, and what seemed like untimely distractions about predestination and then the Wikipedia donation and survey: God seems to be showing me this week that I can trust Him even when it seems like I’m straying from the plan I thought I had lifted up to him. But had I? Looking back, I see my plan/goal for the day:
Dec. 13
>> Goal (to do, lifting up to God, seek, trust, obey, thank, praise): in all things, seek and trust God  

And even if I lifted specific details up to Him, doesn’t that mean He can do with it as He sees fit, just as I say I want Him to do with me? Why, yes, that would seem to be true.

I’m smiling now. Thank You, God, for a way of living that leads me to You and Your best for me, which I trust is my best for me as well, even if it may not seem that way at any given moment. 

I’m praying that I continue to accept God’s love and presence and trust Him with my life today.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Divine plan? Or just absent-minded me?

Maybe it wasn’t God’s overruling that caused me to wash my hair yesterday. Maybe it was just my crazy mind doing its thing. 

Either way, I see another glimpse of how things work for good in my life when I look for and trust God for blessings in however life unfolds. 

Maybe the unplanned shampoo was needed to trigger an impromptu blog post. Or perhaps still to be revealed is a more significant reason why it wasn’t a waste of time and shampoo on a day where it would have been fine not to have freshly washed hair. 

Of course, that brings to mind today’s Upper Room devotional reading, about how God looked at all parts of the tabernacle’s construction and quality — not just the ark and focus pieces but even the tent pegs. 

Might even a blog post that seemed insignificant to me have value to God?

Plus, the extra time it took to wash my hair and write a blog post yesterday forced me to turn to God in prayer more often during the day as I tried to keep up with an unrealistic (for me) to-do list. 

As usual, time will probably tell. And as usual, I can be grateful anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Crazy and blessed

My crazy trend continued this morning in a new and unexpected way. I've been praying and trying to discern and do what God would have me do. I'm endeavoring to find joy and blessings in all things as I trust that God can work things for good; that in God's economy, nothing is wasted.

Today, I was struggling to make some basic decisions. A couple of my daily readings reminded me to pray even when I thought I knew the answer, but certainly to pray when the answer was unclear. My immediate choice that probably no one else can even fathom being a problem was whether to wash my hair. Even after I started running the water to let the shower heat up, I was unsure, because today's decision could have a noticeable effect on my morning time management the next two days. My thought was that I would not wash my hair today. I stepped into the shower, turning my thoughts to people for whom I have been praying. And the next thing I realized, I had soaked my hair as if I was preparing to shampoo it. So I went ahead and shampooed and conditioned. I'm not sure how that will affect my next two mornings of decisionmaking and actions. I trust it will all work fine.

Lynn Cowell, writing for Proverbs 31 ministries, wrote about having an opportunity to do two things she had been longing to do -- but they both came at the same time. She thought it would be impossible to do both and was preparing to decline one opportunity when she was reminded to pray specifically about it. After praying (and I'm guessing she also checked with some trusted friends or family members), she believed that, trusting in God for guidance and strength beyond her own, she could do both. So that's what she did.

She was glad she didn't stick with her initial thought: But why pray if I already knew the answer?

She referenced the accounts of Joseph in the story of Christ's birth:

I wonder if Joseph thought the same thing when he found out Mary, the one he was pledged to marry, was pregnant. Matthew 1:19 tells us, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (NIV). Joseph thought it over, and according to their law, this was the best way to handle the sticky situation.
Then … his plans were interrupted. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew 1:20). Apparently, Joseph had not acted immediately upon his impulse, but had created time and space in his life to hear from God.
Through the angel’s message, Joseph discovered things were not really as they appeared! Though others would not understand the why behind his decision, Joseph would keep moving forward and make Mary his wife.

I'm grateful I don't have to know the answers, even when I pray. I can act based on my best understanding of what God would have me do, and when that's not clear, I can trust that whatever action I take will fit into God's plan. Just do it. Trust God. And thank Him.

Lessons among the lost and found

Yesterday, I really wanted to blog before I went to bed. I like the string of consecutive days I had accumulated posting on the blog this month. But I reached a point in the evening where I knew it was time to go to bed, and nothing quick and easy came to mind to write about.
Almost as soon as I awoke today, I realized what I could have written about. Yesterday afternoon and evening, I experienced again one of those all-too-familiar, why-am-I-like-this, please-help-me-God! situations.

About 10 p.m., as I was starting to wrap up my day by putting things away, I couldn't find some of what I had bought at Mardel a few hours earlier. I went to the garage to see whether I had left a bag in the car. No, not there. I looked in the bedroom and the bathroom, in case I had it in hand when I went about my business upon arriving home after 6. Nope, neither of those places, either. I checked in the car again, just in case; it still wasn't there.

It was too late to reach anyone at the store, so I made a note to call right after they opened today, which I thought would be 9 a.m. I called, and sure enough, they had the shopping bag with the things I had left at the counter. Thank you, God, I said aloud, reminding myself to be grateful to God even when the outcome isn't as positive. I will pick it up later today.

I didn't even panic this time. I'm sure the biggest part of that is because it was just about $30 worth of things. It wasn't like those times I've left a purse or credit card somewhere. That's when the panic and sense of urgency hits. Yet, even if one of those had been missing this time, all I would have been able to do is pray for calmness and awareness that it's not the end of my world, then wait until the store opened to call. I probably would not have slept as well, however.

I know I'm not alone in leaving, losing or misplacing things. Earlier in the day, I had listened as two friends shared their recent experiences. One was getting ready to check out with a purchase of less than $2, and all she had was a $100 bill. She thought she might have enough change to cover the purchase, so she started counting. She found the needed amount and made the purchase. Much later, she realized the $100 was missing. She called the store, and no one had reported finding it. How disheartening. And what a sense of loss. I expected her to tell us she eventually found it. That wasn't the case this time. However, she told us she was able to believe that if someone found the money and kept it, they must have needed it more than she did. She turned it over to God in faith that her loss in some way met another person's spiritual need. I like that idea.

The other woman had lost her cellphone. I didn't hear all of the details, but she was asking for forgiveness for how she acted while she was without her phone. At the least, I could tell she must have been irritable and perhaps said some unkind things. It's possible she was accusatory. When she found the phone, it was where she had put it, although not where she intended to leave it.

I definitely know that feeling of embarrassment and shame when I get bent out of shape and perhaps blame others or at least feel self-pity, then find out I alone was responsible for my perceived malady. My friend's sharing and apologies and asking for forgiveness for her behavior reminded me of the grace I always receive when I do similar things.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joy of giving?

Everything I'm reading and learning about what's keeping me from experiencing true joy points to deep-seated self-centeredness, likely based in fear.

I want to be loving, caring, generous. But my fear and insecurity cries out: What about me?

Today provided a choice that gives me another chance to see how this plays out.

A worthy cause was presented to which I wanted to donate cash. I was torn between $20 and $50. Twenty didn't seem like enough.  Fifty seemed too much -- and parting with that $50 bill seemed impossible. I found myself rationalizing I could give $20 to this opportunity and contribute the additional $30 to other causes I knew awaited later in the month. Wouldn't that be more responsible? How do I know I'll have cash for the later opportunities, several of which came to mind as I was trying to think this through.

I must admit I was thinking about this during church. As I listened to the sermon titled "Illusions of Love," I heard the pastor say a guiding principle on how we can make decisions as Christians is to consider what God would have us do. And she said we can be sure what God would have us do would be based in love.

Regardless of the amount I chose to give, it would be an act of love.

Deciding to put the $50 bill in the envelope was an act of faith as well.

To claim God's promises, I need to become willing to follow His leading and trust Him with the results.

Right this minute, I doubt I feel any more joy than I would have had I put $20 in the envelope instead.

I do feel I made the correct decision for that moment. And I do trust God with the results.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

If not joy, at least gratitude

Joy is my desire. Joy in the Lord.

If I'm not feeling it tonight, is that a pretty good indication I let other things distract me from my primary relationship with God? I'd say that's the case.

Even when I fall short of whatever it takes for me to feel joy, I can still feel grateful. I can count my blessings.

I heard a friend say today that when she's feeling sorry for herself or struggling with character weaknesses, she makes a gratitude list. She lists 150 things for which she's grateful. I cannot even imagine doing that.

I'm grateful for everything. How can I single out individual things? Where would I start? Which things would I include?

For tonight, I'm grateful I can be grateful without making a list.