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!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Holding on to promises

This is another catch-all post. I'm convinced that I will only ever write anything that pleases me if I keep up the discipline of writing something on a regular basis even if I have nothing to say. As it turns out, I sometimes don't know whether I have anything to say until I start writing. More often, I think I have something to say, but cannot figure out how to express it and can't justify spending too much time trying. That's the case tonight, and I feel the desire to go to bed prevailing over the desire to write about my weekend.

In the meantime, I continue to be grateful for the promises of Scripture, including:

-- "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter)

That was related to the Aug. 15 meditation from Craig Denison's First 15: "He heals past wounds and forgives present scars."

It prompted me to write out this prayer: "Lord, I need Your forgiveness. And I have it. Thank You. I love You. I want to live for You, in joy, obedience, love and service. Humility. Lord, I need You to help me forgive myself for how I am about how I am. Or help me to live with it. I pray all things will glorify You. Amen."

-- "And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More joy

I continue to get daily reminders to not let anything rob me of the joy and strength that come from the Lord. 

This week's spiritual theme turned to forgiveness, and still joy crept in. It wasn't in the words of the devotional, but is one of the clear, continuing outcomes.  

Wednesday's 12-step meeting referenced our journey on the road of Happy Destiny.

That was followed by  Thursday's reading from an OA devotional book: "Here we experience the great truth that when we let go of our need to control people and simply allow our Higher Power to serve others through us, we receive an abundance of strength and joy." ("Voices of Recovery," p. 227, quoting "The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous," p. 106)

And I'll close with my thoughts about a quote from the video played for Sunday school, attributed to John Wesley, which I am probably just paraphrasing: "Preach  salvation until you have it, then preach salvation because you have it."

I apply this to my effort to continue to focus on the joy that comes from my relationship with the Lord. I will preach it until I experience it, and then I will share it because I have it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The joy of the Lord is my strength

Happiness and joy have been key themes in my meditations and Scriptures this week.

Today, the messages included a commentary on Pope Francis' top 10 tips for bring joy to one's life. Among the guidelines were some that I already had been striving toward, with varying degrees of success: Live and let live; give of yourself to others; move calmly; maintain a sense of leisure; avoid being negative; set Sunday apart; and work for peace.

Although as I write this on Friday night, I am tired and have a headache that is related either to a toothache or sinuses, overall I have felt energized this week as my mind has settled often on this verse: "The joy of the Lord is my strength" (Nehemiah 8:10.)

Often, my mood lightened as I found myself thinking: "How awesome is that? Returning my focus to the Lord brings joy, and in that joy is strength."

It also came in handy when I found myself starting to moan about tedious extra tasks that seemed to interrupt my routine this week. The Lord. Joy in the Lord. Strength in joy in the Lord. And eventually, I was grateful for the ability and opportunity to do the task, even if it seemed tedious.

Now, the Scriptures and meditations don't solve another dilemma I continue to battle: that I always seem to run out of time. So far, I've gotten no clear answers to my prayers to either help me not be so easily distracted, or to be quicker and more efficient at each thing I do. Instead, I still get stuck making even minor decisions, and then fretting as time fritters away. And one unexpected occurrence -- a phone call, rain when I expect sunshine, someone missing a day of work -- threatens to derail every bit of progress.

But even then, before I go to bed and when I wake up, I return to the guiding theme: The joy of the Lord is my strength.

These are some of the Scriptures I encountered this week that helped me stay focused on the joy God offers:

"And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy." (Colossians 1:11)

"There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy." (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

"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)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The worst ever

 No clear thoughts have emerged for a blog post tonight. I don't know whether it's because I watched "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2," or if perhaps that's why I watched the silly movies. I made a conscious choice to allow myself to have them on, even as I continued to do some tasks at hand. Maybe I thought watching would inspire a blog post. As it turns out, there's no inspiration. And it's time (past time) to turn out the light. So that's all I have tonight -- or at least that's all I'm going to write, even though it feels very disappointing  not to push on through. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clearly not an answer I would have chosen

All I have to post this week is some insight from today's My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers)  reading:

"If a person  ... desires knowledge and insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ, he can only obtain it through obedience. If spiritual things seem dark and hidden to me, then I can be sure that there is a point of disobedience somewhere in my life.   ... (S)piritual darkness is the result of something that I do not intend to obey."

This convicts me. It hits me right where I am stuck. I've had some pretty clear insights into what God would have me do in some key areas -- and I am flat-out resisting. 

As I wrote Thursday morning:
I say I trust God, but I don't act like it.
I resist: 
-- Letting go of something very important to me, trusting God to redeem it;
-- helping with Bible school or other service:
-- visiting people (shut-ins, neighbors, the sick, etc.);
-- focusing more on Gene and less on me, including phone/Facebook, food and exercise. 

So far, I guess I don't trust God enough to just do these things. But I hope and pray that He can and will move me to that greater level of trust that leads to joyous obedience. I believe He is.