Friday, December 31, 2010

Through it all: Sweet music of life

As 2010 winds down, I feel compelled to write again about two events from this past year. They stand out above the rest as evidence that even in the toughest times, the sweet music of life can be heard and shared.

The first is so bitter I hate to even write about it. On Jan. 5, as I was preparing to meet my brother in Weatherford to watch his daughter play basketball with her college team from Arkansas, I got a call from my mom saying Mike wouldn't be coming to Oklahoma. When I asked why, the news was stunning: My uncle Joe, who lived near Mike and his family in Arkansas, had been found dead that morning. Circumstances were tragic and unsettling and to this day seem incomprehensible. But as has happened every time my Mom or my Dad or anyone in their families have faced dire situations, close and extended family and friends rallied together in faith and fellowship to get through it. Some relationships seemed to grow stronger and become more treasured with the stark reminder of just how precious and fragile life is. In no way, shape or form did any of the positive outcomes make up for the loss and heartache. But I think a powerful lesson of life and faith is that even in the worst of times, we have choices. Even in the face of my uncle's irreversible choice that seemed to be born of hopelessness, survivors chose to find hope and forgiveness and precious memories and the faithfulness of God.

The second development began in mid-August. When my Dad, a longtime (but by then ex-) smoker who also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, decided it was time for a chest x-ray, a small spot was found on a lung. Thus began a series of doctor's visits and tests and evaluations; a cancer diagnosis; indecision and decisions -- and eventually surgery on Oct. 5. After initially amazing results and recovery and then some setbacks and discouragement, he left the final hospital Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving.

I've written many words about this as Dad and Mom and the family went through the decisions and the results of those decisions. Many of those words are in past blog posts. Tonight, I'm just trying to feel and put into words some of my love and joy and gratitude for God and my parents and my family and friends. And words still come up woefully short. How do you convey through written words a smile, a hug and the warm pulse of a beating heart? Close your eyes, and maybe you'll see and feel it.

At least on the surface, many things continue to look bleak as I prepare to turn the calendar page. There are loved ones in poor health or without jobs. Some aspects of our culture, the economy and world are frightening. We're all getting older ....

But the year that's ending teaches me not to be afraid -- or at least to not stay afraid. It's OK to feel moments of sadness, discouragement, grief, frustration, anger and fear. But I need not let them paralyze me. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. ... He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. ... Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Psalm 23).

Even when I recite the 23rd Psalm in my head, I hear music -- the sweet music of life that flows from faith, family, friendship and spirit. May I never cease to seek it and share it -- and give the glory to God.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Like coal in my stocking

Well, the good news is I still have a job. The not-so-thrilling news is that starting Jan. 3, I'll be working until midnight most days. I learned this the week of Christmas, and it seemed kinda like getting a lump of coal rather than a desirable gift in my stocking.

I typically don't deal with change very well, and that's the case again. I try to keep planning and hoping for the best. I see opportunities to make a fresh start on sleep patterns, exercise, eating and use of my nonwork time. But then my stomach weighs in, and I know I'm very, very unsettled. More than my hours are changing, but I don't yet know what the other aspects will involve.

Several times I've convinced myself I see more positives than negatives -- helped largely by amazing support from my husband, who has expressed willingness to make adjustments, too. The fact that, at least for the first month, I'm scheduled so that I can take off in time to attend choir practice on Wednesdays is another plus. But I don't see me getting up at 6 a.m. Wednesdays for the Seeking Hour that has become such an important part of my weekly routine.

For now, the uncertainty is the worst part. Even as I hope and plan for the best, I'm also trying to be prepared for the worst. What if I don't adjust? What if I can't sleep? What if I start overeating again? What if I don't like the changes in what I actually do at work? What if ...? What if ...?

So far, for every negative "what if ...," I've been able to eventually shift my mind -- at least temporarily -- to a positive thought. (I still haven't convinced my stomach.) Scripture reminds me it's a waste of time to worry about tomorrow. I cling to that and the message of Christmas, that God is with me. I also can't shake the thought that even a lump of coal can be put to productive use.

I hope that by dispatching this bit of possibly negative reality, I'll be able to sit down tomorrow or Friday and write a more upbeat assessment of the year that's ending and what may await in the coming year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve, and I must share ....

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm finally finished buying and wrapping Christmas presents. (This is funny, because I started writing this before midnight the day before Christmas Eve, and the finishing hasn't actually happened. But by time I post this, it will!

This has been a difficult December in many ways, and I've sometimes found myself just wanting it to be over. But even as I've gone through some of those difficult days, I've been able to quickly see blessings and learn lessons. Even when circumstances have changed in ways I didn't like, I've been able to rebound fairly quickly and regain a positive outlook.

And now it's Christmas Eve (really; I'm back the the computer, finishing what I started). The presents are bought and wrapped. It's about time to start spending time with family and loved ones. A Christmas Eve candlelight service is in the plan, as well as prayer and reflection; meditation and gratitude; maybe some opportunities to serve and offer hope, laughter, encouragement, compassion, love, maybe a song or two and other gifts from the heart.

Partly because of the difficulty of this December, I feel more aware than ever of the true meaning of God's gift at Christmas: the presence of the indwelling Christ, God with us, the Child Who was born to bring us hope and save us from our sins. I need that, and I need to share that. At Christmas and always.

The words from another song on Point of Grace's "Home for the Holidays" CD captures some of what's in my heart this Christmas Eve:

Do you hear what I hear
On this Christmas Day
Word of God now bundled in a manger lined with hay.
Baby with a message, born to grow

Hear the sound of chains now broken
Love came down -- God has spoken.
Songs of hope ringing through the sky
On this not so silent night .....

Oh to be an angel on a midnight clear
Joining in a chorus of unending joy
Tell it on the mountain -- Heaven has drawn near
Hand of God with fingers of a baby boy ...

Hear the bells resound with glory
Hear them tell the age-old story
Songs of hope ringing through the sky
On this not so silent night .....

You can hear this (which really comes alive with the music and harmonies) and the other songs (including the delightfully joyous "Joy to the World") on their website,

May the songs and joy and love and all that God offers be yours at Christmas and always!

Christ is born! Hallelujah! Joy the world! The Lord is here!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great gifts of the season

I'm glad I listened past the almost too country and too cute Christmasy songs at the start of Point of Grace's new Christmas CD, "Home for the Holidays," to get to some with messages and/or arrangements that gave my spirit a lift.

One of my favorites, both for the words and the way they are delivered, is "Immanuel." I couldn't find a transcript of the lyrics, but this is the first verse and chorus:

No decorations, no tree with tinsel, no lights this year at home
The rooms are silent, no carols play.
It's the first time she is all alone.
ut what a wonder; she says there's comfort ...
Immanuel: Our God is with us.
Yes, He is with us still.
Immanuel. He has not left us, and He never will.

It's about people facing the festive season with emptiness, loss and heartache; the broken and lost. It seems I'm aware of more people than ever in those kinds of situations. Some, as in the first verse, remind themselves, and others need to be reminded that even in those circumstances, God is with them. And His people, including me, can help be that reminder.

Is it that simple? Does understanding and remembering that God is with us, whatever comes our way, really make a difference? Does sharing that message with someone else by taking time to call, visit or help, really make a difference? Well, it did today. It did last Sunday. In fact, it has daily. Just thinking of the reality that God is with me really does make a difference.

Joy to the world. The Lord has come. And He is still here!

What a gift! And, as the final song on that CD reminds me, what a Gift-giver. For indeed, God is the Giver and the Gift. Not only on one holy night, but always. May I always be grateful. May I rejoice and sing. And may I share that gift!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent --- Not Quite What I Was Expecting

I feel as if the joy and gratitude I know are in my heart are being buried beneath waves of weariness. And as much as I would like to write more, this is the best I can do tonight. There are just too many things I need to do other than writing for me to justify taking the time to sort through all the words to make sense of what I want or need to express. Maybe if I tend to some of the necessary busywork now, the words will come by the weekend. That is my hope and prayer.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Decision Points?

It's early December, and part of me has skipped right past Christmas and is thinking about new year's resolutions. Since one of those resolutions might be to live more fully in each moment, it's obvious the need is real.

A few things recently got me to thinking about resolutions.

One is my continuing annoyance and shame over a few of my habits. Anyone who has paid attention knows I chew way too much gum and have a disgusting habit of picking at bumps and rough skin. These may or may not be a big deal, but the thing I'm keenly aware of is that I won't be able to let go of them -- or even just cut back -- without a very determined effort. I'm aware that just thinking about it and the reasons I want to stop or cut back actually make me more compulsive about the habit. I can tell it's going to take not only a physical plan of action but also a plan that involves mental and spiritual resolve. And I'm not ready yet. Maybe if I start praying for willingness now, it will come sooner rather than later.

Another was a Facebook post from one of my nieces. She wrote on Dec. 1: "... is thinking that if I start practicing my New Years Resolutions now by the time 2011 rolls around I might have them down!!" Good luck with that, I thought, assessing my own reality.

The third thing that has me thinking about resolutions stems from having started to read former President George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points." Rather than being presented as a life story as such, the book's structure is based on looking back at key decisions, mostly in his presidency but also at other times in his life. It starts with his decision to quit drinking. What it made me realize is that I never know whether I've actually made a decision until I can look back and see whether I followed through. Maybe this is related to my compulsive tendencies (mine don't involve alcohol) and need for a 12-step program that includes Step 3: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him." I've done that and continue to reaffirm that decision daily. One day at a time, it keeps me from turning to food as my God. So, what's the deal with this gum? It's not my God, but it seems like more than a nervous habit. Even though it wastes a bunch of money, I'm not sure it causes any ill effects to my health or the well-being of others. In fact, it only seems like an obsession when I try to let it go. (But isn't that the definition of an obsession or addiction -- when you can't or won't give it up even when you think you want to?) I just know that on some level I would like to be free of the excess. But I don't guess I'd like to enough yet to make what seems like a sacrifice.

I know I've made many important decisions in my life that have been transformative in positive ways. This is happening more often as I grow older. But it's also as I grow older that I'm more aware of the decisions I want to make but keep avoiding. I'm aware that I can't get back wasted moments, squandered opportunities, misspoken words or misspent money. I think there is value in looking back to learn from experience, but I want to move forward, to grow and develop. But I guess I'm still not ready to make a decision. I'm just wishing. Or so it seems. Maybe by the start of the new year I'll be ready. Or maybe tomorrow. Or maybe tonight. I guess I'll know when I look back.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More than a month of thanksgiving

Much about the month of Thanksgiving has seemed difficult for me. It seems as if ever since we changed back from daylight saving time, I've been more tired, and day-to-day life has been a struggle. Does winter get harder as we age? That's seeming to be the case, but maybe (I hope) I'm just going through a phase.

Even as much about November has seemed difficult, and I'm still more tired than I think I should be, I cannot contain the joy and gratitude I do feel. It's readily expressed in smiles and excited conversation when people at work or church or elsewhere ask me how my Dad is doing after his lung surgery. I can go on and on talking about those precious moments that make my heart sing and my soul rejoice. Writing about them isn't as easy. (And the pictures I took didn't adequately capture the moments, either.) But I want to write about them, to help me never forget.

Highlights, as simply as possible:
-- Knowing Daddy was back on the farm Nov. 24, the afternoon before Thanksgiving. How I wish I could have been there to see him. But it was enough just to know. Daddy was born on that farm and has lived there most of his life. I like that Mom picked him up at the rehab hospital and drove him home and didn't call to tell any of the kids until they were there. But from what she said, after that, the house had a steady stream of family members until Sunday afternoon.
-- Hearing Daddy tell the stories of my only brother and my youngest of four sisters working together to rearrange furniture to make things a little more convenient for Mom and Dad. Mike and Amy also did projects around the farm and went to a ballgame together. To hear Daddy tell it, neither one was in charge; they just worked as a team. I don't know how often they've done that through their 40- and 50-plus years. Daddy knows they got a lot done, but he seemed to think that even if the results hadn't been great, just watching them work was worth something.
-- Daddy saying grace for the roast dinner Mom fixed for Gene and me and Daddy on Saturday. I wondered if we'd say grace and who might be asked to do it. There was no question; Daddy just did it, humbly and from the heart.
-- Daddy's determination that he would go to church Sunday. The weather seemed cold and windy, and his immune system is probably still not up to par and he would need to take the portable oxygen container and he hadn't had a bath since Wednesday morning, but none of that seemed to deter his desire. I was grateful for that desire, and I prayed he would be able to follow through. But I was prepared for it not to work out. I told him that if he tried but ended up getting too tired or it was too much trouble, he could wait until next week. But when I got to church in Gainesville Sunday morning, Mom drove up with Amy and Daddy right behind me. Again, I cannot express how much that meant to me. The people of that church are like extended family to me, and to see how joyful people of all ages seemed to see Charles back -- again, it just makes me smile. (There's so much more that I want to write here, but again, I'm trying to keep it simple.)
-- And then there's the gratitude for Mom and the lessons I learn from her. This is probably the hardest to put into words, so I won't get it done tonight. I just know that I learn so many valuable lessons of faith and action and support and love and endurance and so much more from her. She's definitely the glue that holds our family together. She is an amazing woman. (I had a bad experience at the dentist today, and one of my thoughts was that my Mom certainly did not raise me to be such a whiny, easily frustrated person! I'm still learning!)

One of my recurring awarenesses in November and probably even before we learned of the possibility Daddy might have cancer in mid-August is that I don't understand why God keeps being so good to me and my family and why, even when it looks like things could get bad, we keep receiving blessings. I know God is that good, but I also know that the reality of life is that His goodness often will be manifest in times of pain and suffering and grief and sorrow, not just during the celebrations and healing and recovery. I do know that, as a family, we have managed to stay focused on the blessings even in what mostly seem like relatively minor or routine sufferings in the scheme of life (and yes, there have been some major ones, and we've kept a faithful focus in those, too). I pray that I will never fail to praise God for His blessings -- including the blessing of seeing His goodness when the good isn't obvious. But when the good is obvious, I just want to shout and sing and praise God.

And so it is as the month of Thanksgiving draws to a chose. Thank you, God!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Simple Thanksgiving

I don't want to let Thanksgiving Day end without writing some words of gratitude. I'm going through a phase where I'm so tired I can hardly think, but I still need/want to write. Last night, I went to bed without reading my Bible, brushing my teeth or washing my face for the the first time in longer than I can remember. And I still woke up tired for an untraditional Thanksgiving. I didn't watch any parades or fix or eat turkey, dressing or any of the familiar foods. Gene and I just had grilled fish and veggies. Yummy! No visits or company. Just us and the cat. And morning to bedtime sports on television. It's not my preferred way for spending Thanksgiving, but this year I think it may have been perfect.

One thing that made it right is that I know my Daddy is back on the farm, just short of two months from when he went to the hospital for surgery for lung cancer. I think it actually took him longer to get back home than we expected, but I cannot express how grateful I am that he had the surgery and that it was successful and that he and Mom persevered through all of the hospital and rehab stays to make this possible. I would have loved to have been there to share those moments as he arrived back at the home place, but my heart rejoices just to know. Knowing other siblings were there for Thanksgiving made it easier for me to wait until the weekend to visit. I can hardly wait!

But I'm also reminded that this is the first Thanksgiving without a dear loved one for many people. Several who are dear to me lost parents or spouses or other close loved ones this year. I know of at least one instance in which my excitement about my father ended up being painful for one of these people. And there was nothing I could do to make it OK after the pain was realized. I'm still praying to know the proper balance.

As I often write on this blog and was reminded when I reviewed some things for my blog "anniversary," I'm grateful to have the freedom to write down my thoughts and publish them even when they're not very well developed. Posts such as this seem to plant seeds or cultivate thoughts or habits that lead to the few posts that I really feel good about.

So, I still haven't said what I mean to say about thanks and gratitude. This year, I've tried to keep in mind to Whom my thanks and praise are due. It is God. I thank God for the good, and I thank God as I face challenges. I praise Him for Who He is. I try not to just thank God for what He's done for me. I'm learning and really taking to heart that God is worthy of worship, praise and thanksgiving no matter what is going on in my life. God loves me unconditionally. That alone should be enough for unending praise and gratitude. But in addition to that, because He loves me, He just keeps blessing me. On Thanksgiving and always, I pray that my life will be one that reflects my gratitude and praise, to God's glory.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The journey continues

I realized last Saturday that I missed my blog anniversary. And I'm just now writing about it! Amazing.

I started Nov. 5, 2009. My goals were pretty meager.
-- Post at least one thing each week.
-- Feel free to go back in and edit.
-- See where it leads.
-- Give the glory to God.

The good news is that I can say I've achieved them. The bad news is that the goals were pretty meager, so I'm not sure I accomplished much.

It's been much more me-focused than I had hoped. I would like to be writing more descriptive narrative expressing appreciation for things I see outside myself, rather than so much about what's going on in my own life and mind. But maybe that's like wishing I could sing with a more resonant voice, or wishing I could swim and dive. I've made attempts to learn those things, and what I was being taught just didn't seem to work for me. It's like trying to write right-handed. Some people can do it well, myself included, others not so much. Maybe my distinct writing voice, like my singing voice, is destined to be fairly simple. To the casual observer, it probably seems immature and undeveloped. And maybe that's OK. Simple things deserve appreciation, too, perhaps.

One of my recent spiritual lessons has included a look at why some churches are good at raising money and doing whatever it takes to accomplish great things, while it seems as if the ones I am most closely connected to struggle even to meet operating expenses and adequately pay the pastor and staff. Yes, we get a lot done in ministry and fellowship and caring for people within and outside the congregation, but when it comes to doing GREAT things for God, it seems I'm not the only one who's holding back mightily. A thought I had about this during last Sunday's sermon (drawn from verses in Nehemiah 6) was that maybe I'd get lost in one of those churches filled with supergenerous saints. Maybe God also needs the witness of churches filled with people who struggle to respond to His call. And maybe I need the struggle to stay real.

I was pondering some of this as I drove to work one day this week, and I had to ask myself (again): Who am I to say this isn't exactly how God wants me to be? As I told a friend, the way I am seems pretty lame to me, but God keeps finding ways to use me. But how do I know for sure whether this is God's perfect will for me, or whether He's just continuing to work all things, even my failure to achieve my best for Him, to His greater good. (Did I say I have a simple voice? Maybe I should have said simplistic -- underdeveloped and confused. Fortunately, it's also a probing voice that keeps seeking to know more.)

So, I'll keep on keeping on, with the blog and with life and with seeking to know and do God's will. Sometimes an anniversary or birthday or new year prompts me to set new goals. I think I'll just keep the ones I have for the blog. But I am praying to become willing to be willing to set some goals for specific aspects of my life, especially regarding specific uses of time and money where I know my excesses don't really hurt anyone, and maybe not even me, but I also know that adjustments would surely enrich my life and my ability to help others.

As I wrote in the first blog post: The urge to write never leaves. ... When I joined FaceBook recently to help stay in touch with family members, something about the power of written expression was rekindled within me. Framing thoughts into phrases or sentences and then posting them -- publishing them -- invigorated me. And when FaceBook friends commented .... wow! I've had to ask myself: Is this a blessing or a curse? I've asked the question prayerfully, and so far, the answer is that it's a blessing. And so I've started what is a new adventure for me. It's possible nothing will show up on this blog that will be of interest to anyone other than the writer. But it's also possible something will emerge that is worth the time and thought of a reader. I look forward to finding out.

The journey continues!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bearing fruit?

The two topics I brought up last week have continued to be on my mind.

-- "Bear Fruit or Else."
-- "Am I praying or just wishing?"

When I think of the fruit I think I should be bearing, I don't think I'm being very productive. My to-do list gets longer and longer, not helped by the fact that I'm getting more and more behind on even routine things. The parable of a garden owner, the garden keeper and a fig tree within it in Luke 13:6-9 could really discourage me. If God gave me a deadline for getting my act together in terms of physical and material things, organization, getting stuff done, being efficient, etc., I'd be doomed. But fortunately Scripture also draws me to Galatians 5:22, where the fruits of the spirit are listed: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Do those fruits really matter more than a clean house, efficient use of money and time, getting things done or producing results? That thought gives me hope, because I do see evidence of those fruits in my life as I continue to read the Bible and pray to know and do God's will.

The other thing I've been very aware of recently is the idea of whether sometimes my prayers are really just wishes. In the same way the concept of bearing fruit forces me to consider what kind of fruit matters, the idea of prayers versus wishes makes me contemplate the meaning of each. I realize that, for me, wishing is magical. I want things to be different automatically, just because I want it. I don't want to have to work for it. Or I just want to be magically transformed into having the willingness and ability to do what it takes. On the other hand, I realize that my concept of praying is communicating with God and seeking to surrender my will to Him. This isn't magical. It usually involves action on my part, although it doesn't have to. God does perform miracles and lavishes me with love and mercy and grace and blessings that sometimes seem magical. But such things can always be traced to the hand of a faithful, loving, merciful, sovereign, holy God.

It's worthwhile for me to make sure my prayers are really prayers and not just wishes. That also helps keep me attuned to the source of all my blessings and to praise God in all things.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This fruit's far from ready.....

I hope to be writing soon, offering more meditations on sermon titles and related Scriptures and sayings. Among them:

-- "Bear Fruit or Else."
-- "Am I praying or just wishing?"

But for now, if I want to bear fruit, I've got to get out of this chair. Maybe there will be wireless internet where I'm headed, and I'll have a chance to write then. But writing is not the most important thing today, even though I do think I'll find benefit in posting even these few words.

I'm grateful for a gracious gardener who nurtures the fruit with patience and loving care, even as "or else" looms as a spiritual and physical reality.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Never Give Up and other words to live by

Some of the words I've lived by in the past week (and for quite a while before that, actually) seem worth sharing:

"Never give up." I remember the sermon title more than I remember the sermon, based on 2 Timothy 4:6-8, which includes: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." The spiritual reminder, which also was the focus of the midweek "Seeking Hour" Bible study, was especially timely as my Dad's recovery from lung cancer has hit some plateaus and a setback or two. It seems the Scripture called out to me right as I was starting to get frustrated and have doubts (and fears) about his health. It bouyed me as I prepared to go to visit my Dad, while I was there and since then as he has returned to the hospital from rehab care. In less serious matters, the words of the sermon title have come to mind as I've watched the Texas Rangers struggle and come back in their playoff run and now slow start (down 2-0) in the World Series; dealt with a sick cat; dealt with continuing work difficulties; and as I've gotten more and more tired. (I have to confess, as well, that the most familiar Scripture that comes to mind when I think of "never give up" is Philippians 3:12-14, including: "I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Obviously, there are many, many good words of faith and assurance available in the Bible. I'm grateful for growing faith in those words of God.)

"Ask for wisdom." This was the heading for the Oct. 18 reading of my "Truth for Today" daily devotional book by John MacArthur. "For the Lord gives wisdom" (Proverbs 9:6) was the Scriptural reference. "If you lack wisdom, you're commanded to ask God for it," MacArthur wrote. For some reason, these words unlocked something I'd been missing spiritually. I typically pray for help, I pray for healing, I pray for courage, I pray for strength, and yes, I pray to know and do God's will, which could be a blanket request for wisdom, I suppose. But something about this passage and the devotional, as well as the ones MacArthur offered in days to follow, really helped me a few days later when my kitty got sick. It's so hard for me to deal with that, and I really just wanted to ignore it or put off doing anything about it. Taking her to the vet doesn't seem to work; the vet's answer is to prescribe medicine that neither the vet nor my husband or I can get her to take. But again, I knew I had to do something. So, I prayed for wisdom. And an answer that came was to call the vet -- sooner not later, especially since I knew my husband would be headed out of town pretty soon after that. I realized I could take Bridget to the vet and leave her there if I needed to. But instead, they prescribed pills. And somehow, since my husband and I were both here this time, he was able to give her almost all of the pills and she seems to be doing much better. That may seem like a small deal, but considering how that's gone in the past, it was huge for me. I've had similar answers come in other cases where I've prayed for wisdom since that time.

"What am I going to do about it?" The text studied at my 12-step meeting last Saturday was from a story called "Acceptance Was the Answer." The story of experience, strength and hope of someone who recovered from alcoholism is packed with words to live by. "What am I going to do about it?" was part of the paragraph in which the author accepted that, as much as he didn't like it, he was an alcoholic and that he had decided he was OK with that. "When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away." Sure, that's an oversimplification, at least in most short terms. But in the big pictures of life, I've found it to be true. I need to acknowledge the reality of a situation, and then pray for wisdom to know what I can do about it. It usually involves action, but sometimes it involves sitting back; letting go and letting God.

These aren't the only words I've lived by, but it's been interesting how they've come into play several times. I'm grateful to keep learning. May I never give up on God!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Let's Hear It for the Team

For the first time in their team's history, the Texas Rangers will play in the World Series! I watched the pennant-clinching Game 6 win over the New York Yankees on television last night, and then tried to catch all the post-game interviews on three different stations airing from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. I've read much of what I could find online today about the American League Championship Series and the players', fans', management's and various others' reactions. I love watching and reading that stuff.

I've never been to a Rangers game. I've watched many on TV, listened to quite a few on the radio and sometimes even followed online using the GameDay or whatever that tracker is. I probably could have gone to a game or two this year, but I didn't want to jinx a season that seemed to have so much promise. (I know my going or not going doesn't really affect how a team performs, but I also know that more than one sports team has had a negative turnaround after I got my hopes up and climbed on the bandwagon. I realize that negative turnaround might have happened even if I hadn't boarded the bandwagon, but I didn't want to take a chance at the jinx. I haven't even bought any Rangers gear, although I'm grateful to a friend who brought me a plastic cup from RBiA after he went to a game. When the season is over, I WILL by a shirt.)

I enjoy watching the sports action, whether it be baseball, football or basketball, but what I can really get caught up in are the backstories. (Sometime maybe I'll write about how I first really started following the Rangers; it had to do with pitcher Kenny Rogers, but it was long after his perfect game.) Anyway, this year there were so many stories. But what comes through loud and clear, including in the post-game comments, was how much this team is about teamwork and not individual stars. The media keeps putting the spotlight on Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee, Michael Young or various others at various times, but throughout the season, the one being focused on would not allow the attention to just be on him. And it happened again last night.

Hamilton was sheepishly humble in accepting the ALCS MVP award, which even Mrs. Gene Autry, who had some honorary position that allowed her to do the honors, said could have gone to any number of valuable Rangers. Asked to say what it meant to him, Josh -- a baseball phenom turned drug addict whose well-documented story shows he might not be alive much less playing baseball at a high level if not for the saving grace of God and some faithful Christians who helped Josh find that salvation -- first quietly but firmly insisted that the glory go to God. And then he said he had to talk about his teammates. When he did finally talk about himself, it sounded like a humility that could not be faked. At the end of that or another interview, he said softly as he looked at the plaque that he was still trying to figure out why he had it. I'm pretty sure God knows the answer to that. (An interesting aside is that if you didn't watch some of Josh's interviews live, you might wonder whether he still is giving the glory to God. That part often gets left out of the write-ups and video compilations.)

I know from experience as well as from observation that it's hard to hang on to humility. (I've even heard of situations recently in which it seems possible that even respected spiritual leaders -- yes, pastors -- might be struggling with that.) It can be hard individually and as a team, especially when you're winning or losing. (That's kinda meant as a joke!) In everything said by the Rangers team members during the pennant race run through the playoffs and now entering the World Series, the focus has remained on teamwork and, in the words they've learned so well from manager Ron Washington, in playing the game of baseball as it's presented to them each day. These guys seem to have genuine love (brotherly/good friendship love) and respect for each other. And that's so much fun to watch. And it's fun to see it be rewarded with wins.

So, let's hear it for the team: Congratulations, Texas Rangers!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Was that an earthquake?

What a strange and amazing week. Probably the best I can do is record some highlights and maybe offer a reflection or two.

The strangest: At 9:06 a.m. Wednesday, while standing in the bathroom using the curling iron on my hair, I heard what sounded like just a loud truck rumbling on the busy street behind the house. But then I realized that not only were the windows rattling, but the walls were moving -- rocking. Could this be an earthquake? It turned out that, yes, it was an earthquake. I think they finally decided it was a 4.7, with its epicenter east of Norman. In the news, there was a discussion of which is scarier, an earthquake or a tornado. Are you kidding me? If we're talking about Oklahoma, a tornado is scarier, hands-down. I'd say earthquakes aren't as scary when you don't have so many multistory buildings and complex transportation systems. Now, if they're talking about tornadoes in Oklahoma vs. earthquakes in California, that might be different. Then I'd probably take my chances with an Oklahoma tornado.

The best: Continued progress of my 84-year-old dad after surgery to remove part of his lung. I'm still amazed beyond expression when I think of how this has gone so far. Yes, it was painful, and healing and rehab are slow processes. But the starting point was so far ahead of anything I could have imagined, and really things seem to continue to go more smoothly than I could have hoped each step of the way. I just praise God continually for this and seek to know how to respond to His glory.

Some of the rest:
-- While I watched with Dad at the hospital, the Texas Rangers baseball team could not get a win in front of their home fans, blowing what looked like a sure-fire, feel-good win last Saturday and barely even showing up Sunday, forcing a Game 5 on the road in the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay. Sure, the Rangers had Cliff Lee pitching. But no team had ever won a series without winning at home. (I think that's the stat.) And the Rangers had never won a postseason series. Well, the Rangers managed to do it. And now this weekend, after blowing a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning at home last night and surely dooming themselves to futility against their postseason nemesis, the New York Yankees, today they did hold on to a similar lead, ending the Yankees streak and getting their first-ever home win in the postseason. It's a best of seven, and I have to believe that anything is possible. And today's win proves they belong in the postseason, no matter what happens the rest of the way. What fun!
-- On another hand, I can't even think of what to write about the Texas Aggies and Dallas Cowboys football teams. I'll say I'm still a fan, but whatever happens the rest of the way this season (short of a Super Bowl for the Cowboys), the teams are disappointing. It's one thing to lose some games, but it's really frustrating when teams are so mistake prone playing on college and professional levels. (Watching the Aggies this season and also following the Kansas Jayhawks reminds me again how glad I am that the four years my nephew played for Kansas included a magical 11-1 season. So many things have to go right for that to happen. It seemed magical at the time, and seeing how things have played out since then make it continue to seem so.)
--Aware that spending extra time visiting my parents in Texas while Dad was in the hospital and now rehab and trying to help Mom out some has kept me from doing much with my husband or around our house, I tried to give more attention to these areas this week. I didn't have much success, but I'll keep trying. (I hope it doesn't take the Rangers bowing out of the playoffs for me to free up some time; I'm trying not to let games distract me. I'm trying ......)
--When he asked me to help him paint the house trim this weekend, I knew I wanted to (even though I knew it would mean not giving full attention to some ball games today!). I'm constantly amazed at just how clueless I am when it comes to knowing what to do on such projects. I have to be guided in every task, and most things seem harder or more awkward than I think they should. But I tried to persevere. And Gene did seem to appreciate the effort and whatever small help it amounted to. Unfortunately, I also caused a great deal more work, because of my blunder that involved driving into the garage when I came home after taking a break to go to a meeting. As I drove into the garage, I was deep in thought -- possibly even prayer -- about how I could be a good worker and how Gene and I could be a good team this afternoon. And the next thing I knew, I heard something my front bumper pushing something. What was that? I backed up and saw through my sunglasses that I had run into paint buckets, knocking over one and dumping paint on the garage floor! What a mess! I screamed for Gene, and he came running. Poor man. He was already tired from working all morning, including while I was gone, and then he had to guide in cleaning up this mess. But you know, he did it, telling me how he needed me to do things to be helpful. We got it cleaned up and then returned to the trim. Without a doubt, Gene does most of the work on such projects. I mainly held the ladder, rolled some of the paint and cleaned up trash. We still have a little to finish. But it's looking great. And I'm strangely grateful that Gene didn't just tell me to go into the house and quit trying to help after my big mess. I guess hope springs eternal for him, too, that someday I will be an efficient and effective helper.

There's more that I could write, but this has gotten longer than I wanted it to be, so I'm going to stop. This is clearly one of those times that the only reason I'm writing right now is to meet that self-imposed deadline of posting something to my blog at least once each week. Somehow it still seems better for me to do it than not to do it. And it was fun to record those thoughts. Maybe someday I'll know why.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Christmas in October

I planned my Saturday through Monday visit to Mom and Dad on the farm based on their decision that Daddy would not have surgery to remove a cancerous spot on his lung. I knew I would miss the final scheduled meeting with a surgeon, but I supported their decision and just wanted to spend time with them to add presence to that support. I was surprised when, after I had made those plans, I learned that in the meeting with the surgeon, the decision was made to go ahead and have surgery. It was scheduled for the Monday I planned to visit. So I made arrangements at work to stay in Texas at least through Wednesday. Before I left work, the surgery had been rescheduled for Tuesday, but that still fit with my plans.

I still cannot even organize my thoughts and words about how blessed this past week has been.
Among the highlights:
-- Going with my parents to their church (the church I went to as I was growing up and that I still consider home) on Sunday and feeling the outpouring of love and care for my Dad and Mom.
-- Washing dishes. (You'd have to ask my Daddy the significance of that.)
-- Spending Monday visiting with my parents, his surviving sister, the widower of his oldest sister and his niece (my cousin), and then more of my family as they arrived. That's when I realized it seemed like Christmas in October.
-- The surreal experience of telephone calls on Monday from the surgeon's office and then the surgeon that informed Daddy that his surgery had been postponed a few hours, but that a less-invasive procedure was possible. Talk about good news/confusing news. The less-invasive procedure to accomplish the original goal was certainly desirable, but why hadn't they planned this earlier? Somehow, I decided in those moments, apparently following the lead of my parents, to just to continue to have faith in Mom and Dad, the medical experts -- and, ultimately, God, who I became more and more certain had to be in control of all this.
-- Even Tuesday at the hospital was amazingly upbeat. I don't know about anyone else, but I was terrified, and even though I tried not to dwell on it in my speech or thoughts, I was prepared to say good-bye to my Daddy. After all, he is 84, has trouble breathing and is slow to get around. I've seen medical situations, that were supposed to help a situation, go awry, and the person is never the same. And it seemed like with an older person such as my dad, even "routine" surgical procedures could carry greater risks of complications that might include infections, pneumonia, breathing difficulties, heart strain, blood clots .... In the weeks since the cancerous spot was found, Daddy had shown renewed zest for life, which made it even harder to let him go into what seemed to be risky surgery. But I also I knew that I and many other people were praying and had faith in God in this and all matters. And the thoughts also occurred to me of so many people who don't find out they have cancer until it's too late to do much about it. Based on the tests and medical analysis, all Daddy needed was surgery to remove the spot and some surrounding lung. And based on all the tests and the medical analysis, Daddy was a good candidate for the procedure.

The whole family -- Mom and the six kids -- were at the hospital when they took Daddy in about 12:15 p.m., and we were all there when the reports of a successful surgery began coming: 3:30 -- surgery done, closing him up; 4 p.m. -- Doctor says he's wide awake but probably won't remember anything, and when he's off the respirator, we'll be able to see him. By 5:30, the first two were able to go in. By 6, I got to see my Daddy, and shortly thereafter, all of the kids had visited.

And I was truly amazed. He was as strong and alert and had as much color as when he went in -- and all of those were very good when he went in. I really don't think I thought that was possible. Yes, there' is pain. Yes, there is risk. But there is a great spirit and will that inspire and delight and make me proud.

As I wrote to a colleague who inquired about my Dad (a colleague whose Mom recently died of complications from inoperable lung cancer, if I recall correctly), I cannot believe how well he did. To me, it is a miracle. He seemed as strong and alert and had as much color after surgery as he did when he went in. They ended up doing it laparoscopically but were able to get the same amount of lung and nodes as they would have with the seven-inch incision. The doctors and nurses all seemed amazed at how well he did and was continuing to do in recovery, with his deep breathing, coughing or whatever they tried to get him to do. By the second day, he was starting to feel more discomfort, as they reduced the amount of morphine he could take for pain, but he seemed to be adjusting to that OK, too. All of the family -- including Mom and Dad -- know that we are very, very fortunate. I do give the praise to God. I know many, many people were praying. And I know that sometimes even when that many people are praying, things don't turn out the way we want them to. But I truly think we did everything we could to be prepared for the best OR the worst -- and we're just so grateful the result was the best.

In many ways, this week has been better than Christmas, at least better than Christmas as it often gets observed. This week's (and the past few weeks') experiences have been about faith and family and relearning to focus on what's important. One of the things I want to take away from this week's experiences is that every day of life contains many gifts, including the life and love of our family members, friends and even people we don't know. And the greatest gift of all: A loving God, Savior and Spirit Who is with us through it all, if we will just call upon Him and receive His love.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September reprise

I don't really have time, but I have desire, and so I will take a few moments to write about some of the things last Saturday that helped me get out of a rut.

It started with writing about it, and praying as I wrote. But after taking time to write, I was running late on getting to a meeting, and I knew I had to buy gas on the way. A fairly long-lost thought of just not going revisited, but fortunately I was able to put it aside, get dressed and head on my way, grateful to remember that for the meeting I was headed to, "better later than never" is more than a cliche. In my car, I saw my cell phone, which I had left there overnight. I noticed I had a voice message and was delighted to hear it was from my goddaughter Angela, who had just gotten a new white bunny. She'd called on their way home, and when I called her back, she'd just gotten home. So after sharing a few words of excitement, I promised to call back Sunday and find out more about her new pet. The day was clearly getting better.

The meeting was well under way when I got there. It's a meeting that studies what is known as the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. We read a woman's account of what she was like, what happened, and what it's like now; basically, it was about how she got out of the rut. It mentioned that the book doesn't include chapters on "Into Thinking" or "Into Feeling," but it does have one on "Into Action." I needed to read that. It really spoke to me since I'd already realized from my writing that, eventually, the way out a rut is to take new action. It's OK to rest a while, but eventually you have to act. Not only trust and have faith, but put faith into action with obedience.

After the meeting, I went to the Wildlife Expo, mainly because my mom suggested that, "Of course you should go, to support Gene," who is heavily involved in the three-day event put on by his employer. It turned out that it was helpful for him that I got there when I did. I think he was surprised to see me, but glad. About the time my help was no longer needed and I was faced with wandering around the Expo by myself, wondering why I never find someone to come with me (it's clearly an event to enjoy with kids, grandkids or at least friends), a kindred spirit arrived who also would have ended up just wandering around by herself while her son worked at Gene's booth. So, Patty, whom I know from when her family attended our church, as well as from their continued involvement with Gene and his bass club, walked around together, observing the people and catching up on each other's lives, families and friends. It was very, very good.

When I got into my car to leave, I turned on the radio and the Texas Rangers game was on (of course I knew I was missing it while I was at the Expo). This was a day they could clinch the American League West pennant with a win. I think they were ahead when I turned it on, then they got behind, then they got ahead again, many of the lead changes coming on the most unlikely of plays. They finally won the game right as I arrived home. So, all I could watch was the celebration and highlights. It seems that happens a lot: Teams I like play better (or at least have better results) when I don't take the time to watch them. But I enjoy watching. I do think there's a lesson for me if I'd just learn it. (It's tied to something shared at the recovery meeting earlier in the day, about priorities and what's important and doing the right thing. I KNOW that watching ballgames on TV is not the priority or right thing when other things beckon, but it sure seems to be my first choice a lot of times, especially at the end of a long workday or a Saturday when I just want to hang out at the house.)

For some reason, after that, I cooked supper, something I'm doing more often but still not a lot. Gene appreciated that when he got home.

I think the bottom line of all this is something I realized at the meeting and also wrote about previously: The unfolding of the day confirmed that eventually, the way out a rut is to take new action. It's OK to rest a while, but eventually you have to act. Not only trust and have faith, but put faith into action with obedience.

(I started this Wednesday or Thursday night, when it was still September and I really didn't have time but I had desire. Before I finished, though, the desire left, too. This morning, when I read over what I had started, I decided I needed to finish it and post it, even if it's rough and rambling.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pennant races and MVPs, Part 2

The Texas Rangers won the American League West pennant Saturday in Oakland. Josh Hamilton, the sidelined MVP candidate who likely will come in second or third now, didn't join in the champagne- and beer-fueled celebration in the locker room. I applaud his decision.

There's no way it was easy for a baseball player to bypass the locker room and instead head to a church to share his faith. And had Hamilton not become an addict, he probably could have handled a celebration like that as well as any of his teammates. But he is in addict. A few days, months or years of sobriety don't change that.

Based on quotes he gave before and after the game, part of his motivation was perception. The pictures from his one-night relapse in early 2009 are still easy to find on the Internet. Unlike the pictures of Josh's jubilant teammates in the clubhouse celebration, the pictures of Josh in relapse aren't pretty. And for an addict to be amidst free-flowing booze and euphoria, that's likely where he would be headed.

It's dangerous enough for a recovering addict to be doing whatever he can, including some medication, if I understand correctly, to relieve the pain from his broken ribs and trying to rush his rehab. But bring in the exhilaration of a booze-filled celebration, coupled with what has to be frustration at not being a part of the stretch run, and you're just asking for big-time relapse.

As much as I like sports and I like "my team" to win, it means more to me to see the stories of perseverance and doing the right thing. I know all of the players and coaches and ownership are just people, not to be put on pedestals or anything. They're all human. But I like it when they make wise, healthy, uplifting decisions. I like it when their stories include winning in the game of life on and off the field. It's probably easier for some than others. And for whatever reason, at least one took some turns along the way that make it perhaps more of a challenge and at the same time more crucial to stay on the straight and narrow.

It's awesome from a sports perspective when the storybook season actually ends with the championship, but this one's already a winner. Even though the Rangers will end with a loss unless they win it all, they are winners. And Josh is a winner, even if he doesn't receive the MVP or make any spectacular plays in the post-season, as long as he keeps his focus on the One Whom he credits for his recovery, and that is his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trying to write my way out of a rut

I've fallen into a rut, and I do not like it, but I'm having a hard time getting out. I'm not sure I'm even trying. I tell myself I want out of the rut -- that I want things to change -- but I'm not really doing anything to make that happen. In fact, that's the essence of the rut: too much thinking and not enough action. So here I go again, writing about my thoughts instead of taking action!

Where to begin?
My dad has cancer. The tumor was found in a routine X-ray Aug. 11. After many tests, the cancer diagnosis came Sept. 9. So far, this experience seems amazingly positive: the family pulling together, witnessing the indomitable spirit of my dad and my mom, taking time to express our love and count our blessings. And truth be told, Daddy's not any closer to dying than he was before we knew he had cancer. That first X-ray wasn't a result of a cancer symptom; it was just a routine check. And aren't we all dying anyway? BUT -- the thing that seems to be true is that even though I know all of this and see so many blessings and so much to be grateful for, there is a deep inner part of me that is grieving, protesting, fighting the realities of aging and eventual loss. And the exhaustion makes its way to the surface.

My job. Circumstances seem to make it impossible to do good work with good results, and many people seem to have accepted that and just do what they can. I've not reached that point yet. For now, the process of trying to do the best I can and not worry about the results is exhausting. And, unfortunately, I carry it with me when I leave the office.

Personal life. What a mess I am. Messy purse. Messy house. Messy car. Messy desk. Disarray. Dust. Cat hair. And now ants! Missed opportunities. Lost treasures. Wasted moments. Lack of attention to important relationships. Easily distracted by football, baseball, television, the computer and even the newspaper.

My spirit is weary.

The positives outweigh the negatives by so much that I feel somewhat ashamed or embarrassed to even write about the negatives. But a constant that stays with me as I continue reading the Bible and praying to know and do God's will is that He seems to be calling me to write about this stuff. It may seem pointless and ineffective. But I think of the guy in the Bible who was told to wash himself seven times, and the ones who were told to march around Jericho a certain number of times, and even Noah building that ark. They probably thought those instructions seemed pretty pointless, too. But God rewarded their faith. And how did God know their faith? Through their obedience. And so I speak and express and write and "publish." I sing and sometimes upload songs on YouTube. I don't shy away from negative realities at work and in other areas of life, but I try to address them in search of solutions. And even as I do that, I try to let go and let God.

At the end of another day, I'm reminded that life is good. I hope to find words soon to share some of the specific things that happened today that reminded me of the goodness of life and the greatness of God. Until then, I'll leave it with a Scripture verse.

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pennant races and MVPs

It's been fun to follow the Texas Rangers baseball team this season. I try not to get too wrapped up in following sports teams and players, because I know it is just a game and it really shouldn't affect my life one way or another whether my favorite teams win or lose. But I'd be lying if I said I don't like it a lot more when the Rangers, the Texas Aggies (all sports), the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Mavericks and now the Oklahoma City Thunder win than when they lose.

Along the way, I tend to latch onto favorite players, and right now my favorite player on the Rangers is Josh Hamilton. I became familiar with his story (great promise, a plunge into drug addiction, saved by the grace of God and somehow playing baseball at a high level again) shortly after he was acquired by the Rangers in early 2008. I've continued to follow it through highs (2008), not-so-highs (2009) and back to high form (this year). He was on pace for an MVP season until he injured his ribs making a spectacular catch to get an out on Sept. 4.

I guess baseball pennant races and Most Valuable Player awards have to come down to numbers, and if a player misses the last month of the season because he's injured (even if it was from a spectacular, all-out play), that has to diminish his value. Josh will probably win the American League batting title with his .361 average (plus he still has a .414 on-base percentage and .635 slugging percentage). but since his home runs, RBIs and hits are stuck on 31, 97 and 183, other players are pulling away.

But as much as I hate not getting to watch Josh play, his absence seems to have had some value for the Rangers in that some of the other players have finally stepped back up. Maybe they would have anyway, but they sure didn't seem to be. Before Josh's most recent injury, the team's record was much better with him playing than without. Since then, I doubt that's the case. But without the cushion he had helped them build, it's possible these recent games wouldn't have even had much meaning.

Anyway, the thing I see happening right now is that sports writers and fans commenting on articles and blogs are clamoring for Josh to hurry back, even though the Rangers are winning without him. The sentiment seems to be that if he wants to be MVP, he should muscle up and play through pain. But at what cost? Rush to come back to try to regain MVP numbers (an effort that will be more difficult if he's not ready to return) and risk further injury that could keep him out of postseason play?

And after all, it IS a team sport, isn't it?

Perhaps Josh's value to the Rangers is greater if he puts his health and full recovery above his chase for the award.

Regardless, whether the "I Am Second" (a Christ-focused evangelism program) man wins the MVP is in the hands of the true MVP: God.

Josh was second in the Home Run Derby in 2008, and God seemed to use that to God's glory. I think the same thing could happen with this MVP race. I hope Josh doesn't lose sight of what's most important -- the "game" of living for Christ. That may not be the most important thing for all people in sports or life, but my observation is that for people who have a testimony such as Josh's, it really must be the important thing. He's already discussed examples of struggles that have followed when he's lost sight of the higher purpose. I don't know what any of that means for whatever steps he'll take to get back into the game. I do know I'll be interested in seeing how this plays out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sweet music of September: Back-to-school songs

I wanted to sleep until 9 this Saturday morning, but I awoke by 7:45, my mind racing. After getting up briefly, I petted the kitty at the edge of the bed, pulled up the covers and tried to settle back in to sleep. About 10 minutes later, I could tell I might as well get up. The mind would not relent.

The thoughts aren't worry, dread or fear; it's more like I'm incessantly trying to figure things out: How to share what's in my heart without boring or preaching. How to express my concerns without sounding like I'm worrying. How to know what is the right next thing to do in my home life, my relationships, my activities -- with family, friends, at work, church, in fellowship and at play. How to be part of the solution instead of the problem in all of these areas. How to reflect God's glory in all aspects of my life, including relationships and work.

These are the triggers to the most recent round of thoughts:
-- Realizing before I left work yesterday that I face three to four weeks in a row of my less-desirable work schedule, which includes tasks and circumstances I'm not as skilled at and comfortable in dealing with. I said aloud that I want to figure out how to approach this positively, confidently, productively and effectively.
-- Realizing I don't know how to express to my siblings some things I think they may be missing as our parents grow older and face health issues.

One of my biggest worries or fears is that I'll come across as too intense (my behavior was once described as offputting by a superviser at work), a know-it-all, a busybody or meddler. But I know that some of my most valuable lessons have come from finally listening to things I didn't want to hear. Others have come from watching people and learning from their experiences (in this case, seeing four close co-workers and two friends, all about my age, go through the death of a parent or spouse, sometimes unexpectedly and other times gradually, with varying amounts of suffering and angst). And one of the things I've learned is that I don't just assume I or others are "getting it." Sometimes the thing that should be obvious is obscure. I usually don't like it when people point out what I'm missing or any of my weaknesses, but most of the time I end up being grateful.

What does any of this have to do with "back-to-school songs"? Well, Mom posted on Facebook last night that she and Daddy went to the high school football game. I followed her post with lots of questions, ending with this one: "Don't you love having a kid who's a journalist, full of questions?" (This was after I had sent at least one question-filled e-mail earlier in the week.) Mom's response to the final question: "Questions are how we learn."

I believe that. Questions and discussion -- communication -- are a big part of how I learn. Experience is essential, too, but I learn so much about life and myself and others through conversation. I pray to continue to strive to not be overbearing or offputting but to also not be afraid to communicate, especially with family and friends. That is something I've learned since I've graduated from formal schooling. May I never quit learning in the school of life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sweet music of September .....

As I turn the page to September
I'm grateful to take time to remember
Rich blessings of friendship, family and spirit.
Sweet music of life: To hear it! To share it!

I think I first wrote those words in a journal as October turned to November (yes, with November instead of September), possibly more than 15 years ago. They work well with all the "ember" months, with the November focus on gratitude, and December as a time of looking back and remembering as year's end approaches. But when it comes to richness, September seems to be the month. And this year is no exception.

Actually, I think I went through a period in which I didn't like September, because it marked the wind-down of summer and the onset of shorter days, less sunlight and colder temperatures. Maybe that changed when my nephew was playing college football and I looked forward to those games (and realized it was still pretty dang warm!). Anyway, I have renewed appreciation for the nature of September days.

But what I really appreciate is the richness of the September experiences. I think in some ways it starts with it being the month my parents got married. My parents were married Sept. 18, 1953; this year is their 57th anniversary. Their anniversary isn't always a big celebration, but it was twice -- for their 25th and 50th anniversaries. By the 50th, I was very aware that without them being together, and without their perseverance in staying together, my life would be much different. As I grow older, I continue to learn so much by watching them relate in their marriage and also as I gain insight into some of their choices and experiences along the way. Much of this awareness has come just by spending time with them, and that's what I did Sunday.

Saturday morning, Gene and I decided we would brave the Labor Day weekend traffic and drive from Norman to just south of the Red River that evening. The next day, Mom and Dad picked me up for church in Gainesville and then to spend the day with them, while Gene went fishing. In some ways, it's not all that different from when I still lived at home some 30 years ago, except then Mom usually fixed a roast for a Sunday dinner for a houseful of hungry kiddos, and now they go to a restaurant to eat. But reading the Dallas Morning News and Gainesville Daily Register are very much a part of the typical Sunday afternoon on the farm. I suppose in the olden days Daddy spent more of the afternoon outside, tending to one thing or another even on a Sunday. But he's 84, and though he probably doesn't think so, he's entitled to stay inside where the air conditioner is running. Now there's a cat in the house, too, which we didn't have when I was still at home. ...

I guess this ends up being Verse 1 of what could be a long September song. Although I need to quit writing for now and go do other things, I don't trust myself to come back to finish it today or even later this week, so I've got to post what I've written and just go on. I wonder if there's any writer in the world who is this unable to just sit down and follow through on what he or she wants to write. For the sake of other writers, I hope none do have this problem! I know what's happening -- a flood of thoughts and emotions related to life circumstances including me and my parents all growing older. I'm a writer, and I feel compelled to try to express the thoughts and observations and feelings in words. But I still get stuck in the struggle, and then the struggle is part of what I end up writing about. It seems to be part of a spiritual journey, but I truly hope it also leads to a written account of some important moments in life. Until then and always, my life is in God's hands. He's with me on this journey, and for that I'm grateful beyond words. And I'm grateful beyond words that I could take time this weekend to spend time with the most precious people in my life: my Mom and Dad and my husband, all of whom happen to have September anniversaries, by the way. (Gene's and my 28th was Saturday.)

Sweet music of life ..... the song continues ....

Monday, August 30, 2010

The cycle continues

After more than two weeks -- including a week of vacation days -- pedaling only on the exercise bike and bypassing the two-wheeler, I forced myself to get out of bed, get dressed, strap on the helmet and head down the street.

And so another positive cycle resumes.

My thinking is different when I pedal through neighborhood streets than when I walk along the same neighborhood sidewalks and trails. I think it's the combination of the refreshing breeze from my faster pace and the need for heightened alertness to avoid any sudden movements by cars as neighbors get ready to head out from their driveways and streetside parking.

Among my thoughts today:

It's so much easier to just ride the exercise bike. So, why bother to ride outside? As with going to church on Wednesday mornings to pray, I can't really explain why it's worth doing. I just know it is. For some reason, to decide not to ride outside today, when I knew I had the opportunity, would have been a negative start to my day and week. I guess it's as simple as that. That was the strong feeling in my gut/spirit, and I responded. I feel better for it. One reason I had opportunity today is because I'm back on the 11 to 7 schedule at work. I'm much less likely to ride outside when I work 10 to 6. And, as for why I didn't ride during my vacation, well, many things did not go as planned that week. Riding wasn't a priority. An interesting thing is that I ride the exercise bike about every day, usually while watching TV (often Texas Rangers baseball) or reading my daily meditation books. I can do it early, late, wearing anything or nothing. It's easy, convenient and seldom the only thing I'm doing at that time. Riding the two-wheeler outside takes deliberate effort and focus. But I enjoy riding the two-wheeler outside. I'm glad to realize I don't feel obsessed with it but can just choose to do it for pleasure. (Hmmmmm. Something to ponder there, for another time.)

When walking or riding, I typically make it a point to pray. Again, there's something refreshing about praying and meditating surrounded by the outdoors. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving. (Thank you, God, for Your mercy, love and grace. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for Your graciousness, love, spirit and all You are. Please help me know and do Your will, one moment at a time, in all things, to Your glory. You are God. You are God of me and all that is. You. You alone. Loving. Gracious. Omnipotent. All.) Prayers for family and friends and circumstances. Top of the list: My dad's continued medical tests.

The rest of my thoughts were pretty much a jumble: trying to think of something to write about and whether I even have time (I didn't, but I did anyway!); anticipating September, historically a very rich month for my family and myself (expect to read more later about that); work concerns; priorities, etc.

So, yes, the cycle continues. And, thanks be to God, the cycle continues to be positive.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Expression of gratitude

I've written this before, but it's time to do it again. Here's an accounting of just a few of my many blessings for which I am grateful to God and want to give Him the glory:

-- The love and faith of my parents and family.
-- The love and support of my husband.
-- A growing attitude of faith, acceptance and gratitude, in the face of whatever comes in life.
-- Appreciation for the good things in life.
-- Willingness to look for the good things in life, even when much seems less than good for me or others.
-- Health.
-- A reasonable dose of intelligence and common sense.
-- A job that continues to offer many more positives than negatives for me.
-- A loving and supportive family of faith, including but not limited to those who are members of the church I attend.
-- A loving and supportive fellowship of friends on a 12-step journey of recovery, one day at a time.
-- God's word through the Bible. The Psalms may still be my favorites, but there are great passages throughout. This week, I've been reading from Job, Corinthians, Psalms and Proverbs. Lately, Scripture reminds me that it's OK to be repetitive in my praise. God's not demanding eloquence. He wants heartfelt, honest expression.

This list could go on and on, but it doesn't all have to be written tonight. It just seemed important to put in writing some of the thoughts of gratitude I've been feeling personally and expressing to others as I have opportunity. There are still many other things I want to write about. I guess I could add to my blessings list that I am growing in patience as well as an ability to prioritize. With it continues another blessing: Hope that springs eternal that someday I will be able to let go of the lesser things and focus on the things that are truly important in life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When words fail (pray, trust and obey)

I just realized (again?) one reason the self-imposed blog deadline is sometimes difficult. It's because even though I say I have no rules and don't have to have a theme or strong focus or be clever or witty, I always do want to achieve all of those things.

I don't expect to have time to write tomorrow (the actual deadline day), so I wanted to get it done tonight. I've been trying to think of a topic all day. I had a great weekend and a great prayer time this morning -- but none of that really inspires me to WRITE. For today, my thoughts are distracted by knowledge that close loved ones are facing times of uncertainty involving health and other issues. As I sit here trying to find words to write, I drift into prayers for those things on my heart that I do not want to be writing about right now. Strangely, my awareness of the power of prayer seems intensified as I struggle to write. I want to write, and all I can do is pray! So I guess that's the right thing to do. I thought writing would bring a new perspective of faith and hope, but all I can come up with is Amen. Trust and obey (words on my heart as I left church after prayer time). Pray, trust and obey, humbly and gratefully, to God's glory.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swinging for the fences

I've been going through a period of second-guessing and self-doubt. It's what has kept me from writing about the reunion and some other topics that have been on my mind and heart, including issues about singing and insights about the bunny in the neighboring backyard (I observe him often because there's no fence between us).

I need to remember that the best part of this blog for me is that I can write through the writer's block or whatever it is. I don't have to have a strong lead or theme going in. I have all the space I need to write until I find out what it was I needed to write about. Now, whether I have all the time I need is another matter, and it's a major source of second-guessing and self-doubt. Many times when I sit down to write, I think I should be doing something else. Many other things should be more important, shouldn't they?

Perhaps. But as the guest preacher at church said Sunday (this is me poorly paraphrasing her paraphrase of a prayer she learned in college): Lord, please help me know what you would have me do in this situation. And if I choose the wrong thing, I pray that you can use even that for good.

One of the things I tend to waste time doing is watching sports on television. Last Saturday, I happened to catch some of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Dallas Cowboy great Emmitt Smith's speech was filled with examples of faith and gratitude for others, but also amazing clarity in setting goals and achieving them. He almost came across too perfect to be real. The next day, I heard him in an interview, where he was asked how he did that without having it written out or using a teleprompter. He said he wanted it to be from the heart. But he admitted he forgot something important, because he had not mentioned his college team, the Florida Gators. Now, some commentators said they thought it was intentional (some lingering resentment about something), but I just don't think it could have been. But for me, it was a good reminder that even someone who is so confident, goal-oriented, successful and faithful (interesting that humble does not come to mind as an accurate description) also isn't perfect.

Emmitt's speech was sandwiched between some Texas Rangers baseball games for me. I don't remember whether they won or lost on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but I know they are in a pennant race, and it's hard for me not to get caught up in the frenzy, although teams I follow always tend to fizzle before the finish. Even now, this team can be so good on hitting, pitching and defense, but sometimes they make mistakes that just seem stupid.

Sometime during the past week, I realized that I can relate baseball to me and singing. Josh Hamilton is my favorite player, and I always want him to at least get a hit, and it's awesome when he gets a home run. But you know what? He usually strikes out, flies out or grounds out at least once or twice a game, and often more. And yet I, an untrained singer, expect to hit a home run every time I sing for church or family. What's up with that?
(I was talking to a friend about this, and the question came up: What would be a home run regarding singing at church? I said that would be when I'm just totally trusting God and singing to His glory, and not worrying about how I sound or what people think, although somehow in such moments, I do also feel connected to those who are listening. It comes from preparation that includes choosing, learning and practicing a song, eating right, resting, praying. And then just trusting. I guess it's often what seems to me a lack of preparation that keeps me from fully trusting, even though I've seen over and over that God is able to use even those situations to his glory.)

Sometimes when I watch the Rangers, I think they're too relaxed. Sometimes Josh comes up to the plate, and they really need a home run, and he just hits the ball to second base or strikes out. But I've also heard athletes and coaches say that a key for them is to not get too high about a win (or a home run) or to low about a loss (a strikeout or error). That's something I struggle with greatly, whether watching a sports team or taking part in my own game of life.

As I continue to ramble and try to wrap this up, another thought comes to mind about something the guest preacher said Sunday. She was talking about a church member who felt certain the world was going to end on Dec. 31 one year, and the woman had prepared for that. And when it didn't happen, she didn't know what to do. The pastor asked her what she did before Dec. 31. Did she love God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength? Did she love her neighbor as herself? Did she walk humbly with God? (There were others, I know they are in the Bible, but I wasn't taking notes and can't remember and am flat out of time -- beyond out of time!) She told the woman she should just keep doing those things. (The pastor also offered a quip that I'm sure I've heard before, but it sounded fresh, that maybe the reason the world hasn't ended yet is because people keep making predictions, and God has to cross those dates off his list because He said in His word that no one will know the time in advance. It got a pretty good laugh.)

P.S. One other thing I gotta mention: I wasn't thrilled with my singing at my parents church, the church I grew up in, the previous week. Practice went well and it was a song I love to sing and share the message of, but when I sang during the service, I seemed disconnected. I don't know what that was about. I prayed before and during. It was more like the old confusing times of singing. And people didn't respond the same. I have continued to pray the same prayer: It's about God; it's not about me. But it was interesting. And then a woman I don't know said that I had such a youthful sounding voice. At first, I thought she might have said beautiful, but as I was trying to decide, she said I sound like a teenager. I told Mom I'm not sure what she meant by that. I know now that I probably didn't sound very good when I was a teenager. My voice was weak and undeveloped; what I heard inside my head didn't get very far beyond my mouth. But I can think of some aspects of a youthful voice that could be complimentary, especially for a 51-year-old. So why can't I just focus on those?
It made me realize that I still don't have much confidence in my singing. That singing for me is about words and feeling. And when for some reason it doesn't seem as if the feeling is there, I fear the singing isn't very good.

As usual, I just continue to lift it all up in prayer. (Is that like swinging for the fences?) I'm still hoping that writing and "publishing" will help me clarify or get rid of some of these words crowding my mind and thoughts. Unfortunately, right now it looks as if the more I write, the more I think. I know that not writing is not the answer. So, God willing, I will continue to write as I live and learn.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Experience, remember, smile and thank God

It's my self-imposed blog-posting deadline, but none of the things I'd hoped to write about are ready. I smile to think of the family reunion in Texas; the bunny in my neighbor's backyard; my continued and growing awareness that attitude really is important and that each person can control his or her attitude; the amazing grace and camaraderie that keeps occurring at work in difficult circumstances; and so many more things. Many things make me smile right now, and I'm grateful for that. I want to write about them, but I guess it's not time yet. For now, I just experience, remember and smile. I thank God for His mercy, love and grace that blesses me daily. I pray to know how to return these blessings to His glory.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growing through cycles

When I mentioned to my husband this morning that one of the advantages to the exercise bike versus the regular bike is that I can pedal after I've washed my hair but before I get dressed, he said then I should just give back the bike.

But why should it be all or nothing?

Since my exercise bike was still in need of repair, I headed off for a quick, mind-clearing ride. I saw a couple of kitties (first time I've seen cats in about five neighborhood rides) and was generally having a great time. But then I couldn't resist riding around the lake in our neighborhood. I've walked it many times and know that cyclists often share the concrete path. I was trying to decide whether bikes were actually allowed to be there. I decided I didn't really care, not for the first time, anyway. So, I took the little curb-cut to the path and started the route that was much more winding that it seems when walking. And then I got to one of my favorite parts, where the path winds between a house with a beautifully landscaped pool on one side and a bunch of trees and shrubs and the lakeshore close by on the other. I had some anxiety that this might be tricky for me. But I kept going. And the next thing I knew, the front tire was off the concrete, onto dirt and then grass, and I was sliding onto the concrete, scraping my knee and elbow and apparently landing harder than I realized on my hip.

What do you do when you fall off a bike? You get back on. And so I did.

I like riding the bike. I like the variety it adds to my exercise arsenal that includes the exercise bike, walking, a small amount of taking the stairs at work and some regular pacing, fidgeting and generally staying in motion at home, at work or when waiting in line.

Each activity seems to have a place. As I mentioned to Gene and others, the exercise bike is great because I can do it any time, any weather, any attire, without risk of sunburn or mosquito bites. And I can multitask -- watching TV, reading, doing arm exercises, meditating, practicing singing or, very occasionally, just pedaling. (But even then, yes, the TV is on.)

Walking actually seems like the best exercise for me. It seems the most invigorating in terms of my breathing and also the overall workout for my body. I enjoy viewing the houses and trees and landscapes and clouds and just everything in my path. I don't mind sweating in the sun. But I can't stand bug bites, and that's kept me from walking since at least June. (After reading all the warnings on bug repellents, they just don't seem worth it, and I usually end up getting bitten anyway!)

What I like about the bicycle is that it is smooth and makes its own breeze. It's a different pace. I enjoy the fresh air, and the same houses and landscapes somehow look different when passed by more quickly. And I can pray and meditate and reflect as I ride. And I really enjoyed the one day that my husband and I were up at the same time and rode together. (When he rides, he's usually back before I even get up in the morning.) But there are definite things I don't like, especially the limitations of when and where I can ride. Back when I was in college (1977-1981, Texas A&M University in College Station), the bicycle and shuttle bus were regular means of transportation for me. My sister and I traveled some of my routes by car when we were there again last fall, and those roads still seem more bicycle-friendly than anything I see around here. Here, the lanes seem narrower, and I just don't trust car traffic anymore. Because of what I know about motor traffic from my 50-plus mile round trip daily commute, I do not feel comfortable riding the bike the two miles to the mall or shopping center, much less across Interstate 35 to church. I hate that, but it's true. And if you can't tell by anything I've ever written, comfort, convenience and safety are critical for me.

So, fortunately, I don't have to choose just one way to be active. I can enjoy the exercise bike and the bicycle. And amazingly, even after taking a somewhat messy spill and being frustrated to realize I probably shouldn't ride on what look more like sidewalks than roads, I don't want to get rid of the bike. I'm grateful for the variety and hope to keep making good use of it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great is God's Faithfulness and the support of His people

Psalmcat 51:7.25.10

My midweek emotional meltdown wasn't much fun, but I sure did learn a lot from it. I think what brought it on was a combination of work pressures; a larger than usual number of friends burying parents or other loved ones; summer heat and humidity; and the cumulative and emerging stresses of aging, which include anxiety about the continued disarray of the "stuff" of my life, and possible hormonal changes.

The result was that sometime between when I left work Wednesday and when I was trying to get ready to return the next morning, I felt so distressed, depressed and frustrated that I just had to express. And so I posted on Facebook:
I've about decided work is never going to get better, only worse. I've tried to stay positive, but that seems like denial. I'm praying for God to keep showing me how to bring His light into the situation. (And please, if anyone comments on this post, do not ask or mention where I work, OK?)

I added the comment: And yes, I'm grateful beyond words to even have a job. But is it worth it if it exhausts me mentally and spiritually? I guess that's why I'm praying for answers. Sometimes it seems as if work is my God and my life. I can't let that happen.

Of course, I'm well aware of the dangers of posting things about work on Facebook, so within five minutes I pulled that post and replaced it with something more general: "I've about decided a big part of my life is never going to get better, only worse. I've tried to stay positive, but that seems like denial. I'm praying for God to keep showing me how to bring His light into the situation.
" I also revised and reposted the followup comment.

I don't know which surprised me more: How that wave of hopelessness had overtaken me and demanded expression, despite my awareness of the risks of expression; or the outpouring of support and concern I received from friends and family. And then I noticed something else: How positive most of the people in my life are. A niece, a librarian friend, a couple of pastors -- all routinely post things on Facebook that make me smile. And Thursday was no exception. But I noticed at work, too, of all places, that even amid a seemingly impossible summer workload, people found reasons to smile, to care, to share at work -- and to make it a point to have lives outside work.

And I realized that I'm usually very positive, too. It seems there was a fairly extended period in my life best characterized by self-pity and worry. But over time, much of that has been transformed into faith, hopefulness and a positive, encouraging outlook. I'm sure that transformation has been a direct result of beginning to grow spiritually through a commitment to read the Bible and pray regularly, and to take my commitments to family and friends -- including my church family -- more seriously.

There was so much more intertwined into all this, but I want to wrap it up because of time and space. But here are a few observations I can't leave out:

I think it was before Wednesday that one of my Facebook friends posted this Daily Question:
Which of these song titles best describes your year of 2010 so far? (a) Father Along We'll Know More About It (b) Why Me Lord? (c) When the Battle's Over We Shall Wear a Crown (d) This Is Like Heaven to Me. I don't always comment on these questions, but this one seemed to call out to me. My response: OK, I have to admit that out of those choices, it's D, praise God! But I was hesitant to admit it, because I thought, now there will probably be new challenges and puzzlements. So far this year, God has been constantly revealing heaven on earth. I'm grateful for that.

Then, at Wednesday morning's Seeking Hour at church, the Scripture was 1 Kings 19:1-8. We talked about Elijah's meltdown and how could something like that happen to him and could it happen to us and what could we do to keep that from happening. I left singing "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!" And yet, before the day was over, I was feeling as hopeless and helpless as Elijah had in that Scripture, despite all I supposedly know about God and His faithfulness.

And for some reason, I couldn't just keep it inside me or share it with just my confidants. I kept hearing myself talk about how negative and hopeless I felt. But somehow, even as that was happening, I could sense another transformation was occurring. I made it through the day, and I slept better that night than usual. And I woke up Friday morning feeling mentally and spiritually refreshed. Nothing had changed in the work situation that had frustrated me so much, but it now longer seemed hopeless. And it hasn't since.

Thankfully, it now seems Wednesday-Thursday was just a little Elijah meltdown. I'm better now. Great is God's faithfulness -- and the support of His people. Life is good. Not quite sure why I had to express that negativity on Facebook, but maybe that was part of the prayerful process!

A young friend recently posted on Facebook: "I'm living life until it hurts."
To which I commented: And when it starts hurting, just keep on living, because the best is yet to come!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Side trips on the way to the train ride

When I decided to ride Amtrak's Heartland Flyer from Norman, Oklahoma, to Gainesville, Texas, after checking to find out the fare was reasonable ($25 one-way, because of booking so close to departure), my plan was to drive my car to the Norman Depot and leave it until I returned, either that evening or the following day. But my husband, Gene, mentioned on the Friday afternoon before I was to leave Saturday morning that a co-worker had told him it wasn't safe to leave a car overnight at the depot. I don't have anyone (besides Gene, who would already be in Texas) I'm comfortable calling on short notice for something like a ride to the train station on a Saturday morning. So I really didn't know what I would do. If I hadn't already booked my reservation, I probably would have canceled the trip. The fun, convenience and spontaneity of riding the train was lost if I had to start calling to find a ride! On top of that, it was hard for me to believe the city of Norman (and Amtrak, for that matter) wouldn't make it a priority to keep passengers' cars as safe as possible. And the train station is right across from the Sheriff's Department and not far from the police station. But it's also right across the tracks from services for the homeless. Because of that, after Gene raised the concerns, I didn't dare want to risk leaving my car there and having it stolen or broken into.

So, acting on about the same kind of whim that led me to even make the train trip, I checked the Yellow Pages to see what kind of taxicab service Norman has. I called and found out a trip to the depot would be about $12. That seemed pretty reasonable. I called for the cab to arrive about 8:15 a.m. for my 8:50 train departure. The driver seemed to be glad to have a fare in what he said is a pretty slow summer in Norman (although not as slow as it used to be). It was a pleasant, leisurely way to get to the depot, and I figure the fare plus a small tip was worth it for convenience and car insurance!

At the train station, I had the pleasant surprise of realizing the depot is home to the Performing Arts Studio of Norman, and on display was an art exhibit for which I had just edited the newspaper's review at work the day before. Dixie Erickson's excellent "Instrumental Art" centered on banjos.

From The Oklahoman's review by John Brandenburg: "This banjo was the director of my band — I played all the variations," the Norman artist said of her use of various media and methods to celebrate the instrument. "My music is sight, not sound — all the different styles, all the different mediums, all the different looks of the banjo."

I never seem to make it to galleries to see art exhibits, so I was glad this was placed along my pathway to ride the train! Adding to my enjoyment of the exhibit was the juxtaposition: To see the single-themed artwork, I had to look above the wide variety of people seated below the mounted pieces, waiting for the train to arrive.

I guess the point of all this is to note that my decision to take a different route to a familiar destination led to unexpected perspectives and experiences. And that seems to be how it always is with life. I'm glad I was open to the opportunities. I hope to experience more soon.