Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Iconic

One of the things I looked forward to on a leisurely trip to  San Antonio was shopping for artsy Aggie clothing and accessories. To my surprise and confusion, about all I could find was the burnt orange of Texas Longhorns. 

I finally figured out why. (And my deduction was confirmed in my mind when I found lots of Texas Aggie gear in suburban north Dallas on the trip back to Oklahoma.)

Longhorns are iconic Texan. Longhorns go beyond the University of Texas the same way Sooners transcend OU. So, in touristy areas, of course people are selling and buying - banking on -- the icon. 

Texas A&M and Okie State are more specific to universities. I get that. And it also helps me understand, as someone who still considers myself 100 percent Texan despite having spent 32 of my 55 years in Oklahoma, why I relate more to longhorns than Sooners. 

It's just the way it is. 

Fortunately, sports team gear in North  Texas (except for Gainesville, which seems to market more toward the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and tu) is fan-driven, so I was finally able to add the desired couple of pieces to my Aggie gear. 

Meanwhile, I'm especially glad that  bluebonnets also are iconic in Texas. I supported a few local artists by picking up aome small pieces of work. 

What I didn't find  but would have had to buy was artwork that beautifully showed  bluebonnets, a windmill, a cat and maybe a mailbox and-or a barn. Oh, and toss in the Lone Star flag for good measure. 

Maybe next time. Even with all that burnt orange, I'll be glad to make a return trip to San Antonio, hopefully to again spend time on the River Walk, not far from the iconic Alamo. If does my heart good. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If not for fear ....

If not for fear:

-- I would pledge $40 a month to K-Love, the listener-supported Christian music radio station I tune into every day in my car. (But maybe it's wisdom: How do I know someone isn't getting rich off of the donations? Or maybe it's love: I'm not sure my husband would want me to give that, and I don't want to rock the boat by asking.)

If not for fear:

-- I would express to more than my husband and a few very close friends and family members how troubled I am about certain cultural/spiritual issues ....' But I am fearful, and I am now deleting the heart of what I had written about what I honestly wanted to express ... editing it in vague terms, to say, in my heart and soul, I am so FEARFUL for our nation. To me, it looks as if Americans -- including lots of Christians -- are defying the word of God that supposedly is our blueprint for life and relationships.  I know I do and have done some things that I think God clearly disapproves of, based on my understanding of God and the Bible. I can get myself to think God understands why I do what I do, but I can't get myself to think he approves. And so I strive for something better. I think the message is clear on selfishness, gluttony, greed, laziness, caring for those in need and other issues I struggle with, including fear. I can't fathom deciding that what I perceive as my weaknesses in those areas are just who or how I am and that I should accept them. I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ ... (Philippians 3:14)

On that note, if not for fear:

-- I would put people first (visit and help the homebound, grieving, sick and those in need -- my list is so long). Instead, I keep thinking I have to get my own house in order first. That's wise, really, isn't it? And it's showing commitment to my husband, who would love for my house to be orderly! But when I see how little progress I am making toward getting my house in order, I have to wonder.

-- I would eat more healthily.

-- I would take on freelance writing projects.

-- I would pursue more music.

-- I would have cats.

-- I would trust health care providers. What's with my skepticism of doctors? The latest has to do with blood work that shows a deficiency for which my doctor sells the supplement. Sigh. Is the skepticism based on fear, wisdom or something else?

That was 9 a.m. Oct. 9. At 11 pm or so, I pledged $40 a month to K-Love. I am totally trusting that God will make this OK. I listen to K-Love every time I am in my car, which includes a 25-mile commute to and from work and five miles to church. The music and messages help me stay focused on God. And it does sound like the ministry helps carry the gospel and hope to others. I want to be part of that. This seems like a positive step.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." 1 John 4:18

I want to be perfected in God's love.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12:1–2)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The way it is

The following excerpt and the Scriptures are from the Oct. 5 Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young. This morning I thought they would inspire a blog post to help me meet with my self-imposed weekly deadline, but nine hours later, I'm not so sure.

"Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. Rejoice in this day that I have made, trusting that I am abundantly present in it. Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don’t be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty."

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6–7)

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Actually, the excerpt and Scriptures did shape my day and help me refocus on God as needed rather than just keep trying to figure things out in my head.

Some aspects of fear, resentment and regret have been sidetracking me recently, but today I had a greater sense of acceptance and peace, for which I am grateful.

Other themes for the day involved simplicity and truth.

Craig Denison's First 15 devotional series finished up a week on the simplicity of love. I think this may be one of those times where the cumulative effect of the week of focus on those Scriptures was more powerful than any given day.

Among the takeaways: 

 -- may you discover today a wonderful life rooted in love-based simplicity;

-- love-based obedience to God;

-- the joy of a love-based life ("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; "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13);

-- all God asks of us is love;

-- His love has set us free. (Romans 7:4, "Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God." Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.";

-- God's love has redeemed me;

-- God's love pursues us.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seasons of change 2

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.