Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Music of Life, 2011

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

I'm not going to take time to rehash the year's precious memories. Most if not all were  addressed along the way. But I felt the need to write a few words before I do some last-minute work to wrap up a few 2011 details that will help give the new year a fresher start. 

One of the things I had jotted down but not yet shared is a year-end accomplishment that gives me hope for the future. After wanting to do so for several months if not years, on Dec. 21, I committed to cut my gum consumption  by half -- which is probably still more than anyone else in the world  chews. And surprisingly, I've chewed less than my allotted maximum several days. And there have been some very positive health aspects. For anyone who has never had a habit get out of hand, this probably seems like no big deal. But I was hooked. It was on a prayer list of things I wanted to change, most of which still seem impossible. The thing that pushed me to action on this was noticing again just how much I was spending on gum. Why all of a sudden I was able to make the change, I do not know. But I credit God. I began by trying to get through just one day, then one work day,  and then one shopping day. Each new situation seemed impossible. But I just kept praying and recommitting and focusing on the positive results. I don't know that it's getting easier, but my awareness of the benefits stays strong. 

Also strong is my sense of hope that if I can finally, with God's help, do this seemingly minor thing but impossible thing,  maybe the next goal for self-improvement will be possible. 

I feel this change is part of the slow but sure growth of my faith. Much of the growth this year came through experiences related to the health and eventual death of my Dad. I got to find out whether my faith is real and rooted; I found that it is, but I know I must continue to nurture it by reading the Bible, studying, and spending time in worship, service and fellowship with others seeking to follow Christ. (I just realized I want to buy my own copy of a devotional book my Mom received; I like the thought of reading the same Scriptures and meditations she sees each day.)

That parenthetical realization made me think of one other thing I want to include, but it may be too personal involving other people.  How can I summarize it? An email exchange among loved ones after Christmas warmed my heart and just made me want to praise God. Why does it  take what seems like adversity for people to realize how blessed they are?  Some never do, so my heart rejoices whenever people I love make the grateful choice to see beyond material things.  

That's all of my words to share here for now. I need to tackle those tasks, accompanied by sweet music and memories of life. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in transition

I'm back in Norman after a very nice Christmas weekend with family in Texas. Thanks to all who joined along in singing (and playing) songs of the season! And oh the food and smiles and hugs and love. Sweet music of life -- to hear it, to share it and to praise God for it.

It was our first Christmas without Daddy physically among us on Earth. There still weren't any public tears that I was aware of, and not much discussion of our thoughts since Daddy's passing. To me, it seems people would rather not talk about it. I was aware we didn't do a family picture. No one mentioned it that I heard. I thought of it but didn't want to be the one to bring it up. I do have a sense that late August was our Christmas, and we took lots of pictures then.

As I prepared for the weekend, one of the things I tried to recall was what our mindset as a family was last year. It was after Daddy's lung surgery. As far as we knew, the surgery was a success and he was cancer-free. I think the sense was overwhelming gratitude that he had come through everything so well and that we were together for another Christmas as a family. All of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there. I don't recall any thoughts that it might be our last Christmas together, other than just as part of our fresher reality that we won't all be here forever. And then when the 3-6 months prognosis after an inoperable liver cancer diagnosis came in last August, it still seemed hard to fathom Daddy wouldn't be here this Christmas. That was still the case for me the first week of October. But by the last week of October, it was clear that God's, and Daddy's, gift to the family would be for Daddy's suffering to end and our new reality to begin.

And for me, some of what Christmas is all about was stronger in my heart, knowing that God's gift of His son is why we don't have to fear death -- our own or those of our loved ones who put their faith in Him. Daddy was certainly in good company for his first Christmas in heaven.

Anyway, I'm still trying to find my way on when and where it is appropriate to really talk much about Daddy and honor his memory. Among ways today: Memorial donations and words on a blog.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I was grateful to attend the Christmas Eve communion and candlelight service at Whaley in Gainesville with Gene, Mom and Amy. Then Gene and I went to McKinney to spend the night and Christmas Day with Gene's sister, Mae, and her son, Michael, joined later by his significant other, her son and their hyper chihuahuas. And somehow there was still time for a Christmas night visit to see Mom and those staying at her house. And of course Monday with Mom and my siblings and their families and extended family and friends is always time to treasure that ends too soon. Grateful for memories -- and pictures!

I caroled every chance I got, including on Facebook. I enjoyed that we did sing Christmas songs -- spiritual and seasonal -- before opening presents Monday.

I don't know what I expected for this Christmas. I know it turned out good. God's presence seems more real to me than ever. I pray to live in a way that I never lose that.

Happy birthday, Jesus. Thank you, God. I pray to reflect Your love and live to Your glory.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I guess it's time -- smiling through tears

Well, the tears are becoming more frequent. They are mostly while I am alone, praying, writing or just thinking. Today's were prompted by a bit of frustration with Christmas preparation, realizing another thing I'd forgotten to take care of, combined with a warm memory about my Dad and a nativity scene I'm pretty sure he wanted me to have. And they are truly still tears of joy and gratitude -- but of course also sadness and loss.

Sadly as for what it says about my vanity, one of the most frustrating things about tears and weeping is that even if I do it privately, the effects of a puffy face and itchy, tired eyes are very public.

So, if you notice my swollen face and eyes or see me crying, understand that I truly do feel joyous and blessed. Those feelings warm me so deeply inside.

As I've expressed many times, smiling through tears produces beautiful prisms, like sunshine or light blazing through water or rain. They are beautiful. They represent beautiful memories and blessings and gifts from God.

And, of course, God's greatest gift is His Son, Whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. That's why I know that even if I cry or my face is puffy or I have a moment of self-pity, God is with me/us. Emmanuel. Joy, joy, JOY TO THE WORLD! The Lord is come!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A gift from the Father to a daughter of the Psalmist's son

Faith. Hope. Love. And the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith is very, very important, though. In recent days, I have been increasingly grateful that God and Daddy (Charles Davidson, whose surname makes me think of him as the Psalmist's son, and me as a daughter of the Psalmist's son) gave me a gift of greater faith.

Pray. Believe. Have faith. Trust. Obey.

I am having to rely heavily on faith as I face Christmas. I fear I will cry at any time. I often feel I am on the verge of tears. A few come, such as when I called to talk to Mom this morning. But not many have flowed. (Yet.) I am reminded I can have faith that's OK if and when the tears flow. And what if I don't cry? That's OK, too.

Monday I was starting to feel resentful about how some things are going at work and in relationships, especially with regard to Christmas expectations. I finally had to step back and just pray some more. God gently reminded me that I still am very much in the process of grieving. Holidays have been a complex mix of eager spiritual anticipation and earthly stress for me for many years, and of course they are more so this year, so soon after Daddy's Oct. 30 death. God was able to help me trust again that He is in charge, guiding me and loving me and strengthening me and comforting me.

Part of this is related to thoughts I've been journaling about for awhile: Yes, but ... What if?

How many times will God have to show me before I really believe? First came Daddy's summer 2010 diagnosis, fall 2010 surgery, new diagnosis in August 2011 and eventual amazingly sudden and smooth passing; and seeing so many ways in which God sustained Daddy and Mom and the family. In the weeks since Daddy's death, Mom has had some health issues, and again we see over and over how God has taken care of her and continues to do so.

But as Mom has had her health scares and things keep working out smoothly, my thoughts have touched at least briefly on situations where that isn't the obvious result. What about the death of 5-month-old nephew Ryan all those years ago, uncle Joe's desperation, Josh's dad, 9/11 and other unexplainables .... people who died too soon, unexpectedly and/or alone.

For today, the message God seems to be giving me is that it's not what happens but how we react that matters most. Daddy reacted in simple faith. Mom reacts in simple and strong faith. I am grateful to be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), on earth and in Heaven -- people who have chosen faith in God. And I can choose faith, too. What a gift!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seeking to sleep in heavenly peace on Earth

OK, what is up with this? Some time ago, the preacher acknowledged being an insomniac, and now the choir director is experiencing episodes of sleepless nights.

I am not an insomniac. I do sometimes have trouble sleeping. And I can remember times when it was much worse.

Somewhere along the way, I found that, for me, I'm usually better off staying in bed and resting rather than deciding I might as well get up and do something, or maybe deciding that reading, watching TV, getting on the computer or Facebook or listening to music will help me doze off. Those may work for some people, but they just seem to stimulate me and make it harder to calm my mind and go to sleep. (However, it does seem something different would be at play if I used the time when I can't sleep to clean house, write letters or some other productive rather than mindless pursuit. But few people choose those routes when they can't sleep. Very seldom have I.)

I'm not sure where I learned this. It may have been along the 12-step path of recovery. I just know I've come to believe that, most times, God provides the rest I need if I stay in bed; pray and keep as positive thoughts as possible (counting my blessings helps); try not to worry -- especially about not being able to sleep; and keep my body as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Part of my prayer is for faith to believe this is true: I pray for faith to believe that God will provide the rest and strength and energy I need -- or He will provide other options regarding what I thought had to be done that I can't do for lack of sleep.

This also has helped me stay calmer when I'm unable to sleep because of sickness or pain.

This is one of those insights that I'm hesitant to share, for fear it will quit working, and then I'll not only be unable to rest, but I'll feel foolish for having thought I had an answer and written about it. But that's the old fear. Faith says I can feel free to share it -- and trust that it will continue to work for me or that God will show me a new way.

I trust God to give me the rest, peace and strength I need.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee." Isaiah 26:3
("You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.")

Monday, December 12, 2011

Signs that are making me wonder

Signs are making me wonder ...

I seem to be getting a lot of signs that it's time for me to take a break from caring about sports. 

--The Aggie football season; A&M's departure from friendly -- or at least, for me,  convenient -- confines of the Big 12; and coach replacement. None of these make me feel optimistic about fun-to-watch games ahead. 

--Dallas Cowboys are doing what  Texas Aggies did all season. Finding ways to snatch defeat from victory. Their latest collapse Sunday is what got me to really thinking I need to take a break from caring about sports. But there's more ...

--Albert Pujols   of the Cardinals'  traded to the Angels, and the Rangers' CJ Wilson going there, too, doesn't make me feel good about Rangers' chances for a return to the Major League Baseball  playoffs, much less the World Series. It seemed like this past year was theirs, where things were lined up -- and they missed the mark.  Things that started rolling against them in the series continue. 

--Mavericks. Chandler leaving. Barea leaving. Butler leaving. The lockout. But the NBA champions'  core stays solid -- Dirk, Kidd and Coach Carlisle, so ... I have my greatest hope here.  They did pretty well under the radar last year, after all. And besides that, I have two teams I like in this pro sport. (The Thunder are fun to watch and get a lot of good press in the hometown.) Should be fun, but I would do well not to get too caught up in it. 

--Aggie women. The defending NCAA women's basketball team hasn't fared too well against good teams so far this year.  More evidence that when you get your big chance, like they did last year, it's so important to do what it takes to go all the way.

 There's also something to be said about being the underdogs. None of the experts really ever gave the Mavericks or the Aggie women any hope of being champions until they just won it on the court. 

--Aggie men's basketball. They lost their coach to a supposedly better team, and the new coach was diagnosed in the summer with Parkinson's. I have no idea what to expect here. 

Maybe these really  are just signs that I need not focus too much on winning. Why can't I just enjoy the games? I  need to find a balance. I want to enjoy and care but not let it affect my mood. I don't know if that's possible for me, but it seems like a worthy goal for me. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shout the Good News! (formerly: Priorities, procrastination. FOCUS!!!! on what?)

It's blog deadline, but I don't really have a topic or time. I need/want to be practicing the Christmas cantata. So, maybe I'll combine the two. Ah! Song 1, "Shout the Good News!" Now I'm revved up!

This year's cantata, "Shout the Good News!" has seven songs, no solos. The arrangements are beautiful and include some variations on carols, but as usual, I can tell I'll be much more comfortable if I take time in addition to choir rehearsal to make sure I know my part. As of last Wednesday, I was not able to sing with much confidence, often stumbling over words or notes. I can tell this run-through has helped. Maybe this week I'll be ready! And by the time we sing it for worship on Dec. 18, it will be pure joy!

I'm also working on "Gesu Bambino" for early service this Sunday. I know this by heart, but I still take time to practice in hopes that the sound that comes forth will be the best I can do for God. Singing a Christmas solo is a highlight of the season for me, and this is one of my favorites. When Christmas falls on Sunday, there's one less Sunday for a traditional hymn- and special music-filled worship service. I'm glad to have the opportunity to sing at early service. It's been a while since I've been able to schedule it.

As far as the blog headline, I put those original words (Priorities, procrastination, FOCUS!!! on what?) up there as I was trying to think of something to write. I am so aware of not being focused, and that sure makes it easy to procrastinate. For those few moments just now, it was very worthwhile to focus on the message of Christmas through the songs of the cantata. Beyond that, I'm still struggling.

Since Thanksgiving, I've found myself finding excuses not to do more than I've actually said yes to. Why didn't I go to the Hanging of the Greens service? How many parties have I missed? That's a recipe for regret that I hope not to have to taste. I continue to pray to know and do God's will. Help me not find an excuse to skip caroling or other opportunities to be involved in moments of the season that combine joy, fellowship and outreach to those in need of even something as simple as a visit. Even as I pray, right this minute, I don't feel confident I'll make what seems to me to be the best choice. Somehow, I think I have to be OK with that, too. I know the alternative -- beating myself up for the way I am -- isn't very productive.

Maybe it's OK for me to "Shout the Good News!" of God's great gift of salvation through His son Jesus, even as I am so aware of my unworthiness to receive that gift. Because, as I understand it, on my own, yes, I am unworthy. But the very gift makes me worthy if only I will receive it. And so I will receive it and I will share it -- and I will trust God to shape my life to His glory.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Here's to Thanks-living!

Thanksgiving is over, but thanks-living is not.
-- Terry L. Tramel, "The Pen of the Ready Writer"

I was going to post on my blog for Thanksgiving some of the great inspiration I found from family and friends on Facebook, but I didn't get it done. The above post showed up the day after Thanksgiving, and I saw there was still plenty of context for posting.

Many (most) of the inspiring messages and song lyrics actually were posted by Terry. Among them:

-- Apples of Gold - "Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." (W.T. Purkiser)

-- Point to Ponder - "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." (William Arthur Ward)

-- Evening Praise - "For all that You've done I will thank You, for all that You're going to do; For all that You've promised and all that You are, is all that has carried me through, Jesus, I thank You...And I thank You, thank You, Lord, Thank You, thank You, Lord...Thank You for loving and setting me free, Thank You for giving Your life just for me, How I thank You, Jesus, I thank You, Gratefully thank You, Thank You..." (Dennis Jernigan)

-- Hymn of the Day - "For all the blessings of the year, for all the friends we hold so dear; For peace on earth both far and near, we thank Thee Lord...For life and health, those common things, which every day and hour brings; For home where our affection clings, we thank Thee Lord...For love of Thine which never tires, which all our better thought inspires; And warms our lives with heavenly fires, we thank Thee Lord." (Albert Hutchinson)

-- Point to Ponder - "When we bless God for mercies, we usually prolong them. When we bless God for miseries, we usually end them.". (Charles Spurgeon)

And this from friend Charleen Hudson:
-- I was standing at the kitchen sink after cleaning my oven and I see Cheridan standing in front of the TV dancing instead of cleaning her room. I was going to yell at her and go on a rant about how I really needed their help getting the house ready for tomorrow. Instead, I ripped of my gloves and joined her. I think I made a wise choice. I just hope I can keep this perspective all day.

From Jim Shepherd:
-- You can't be thankful without saying "Thank you." So thank you to all of my friends, old and new, who have embraced me and who have endured me, who have loved me and who have tolerated me, and who cared for me when I have been weak and who have whacked me when I have been stupid. Thank you! A faithful friend is one of life's greatest treasures. And I am thankful for you.

There were others, but these are the ones I saved. They are good reminders to me to live gratefully every day. And the reminder is timely as we are now in a time that for many Christians is observed as Advent, a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of God's great gift of His Son, Christ, on Christmas, and right after that will come a new year, with so many temptations to set expectations too high.

So, here's the Thanks-living, one day at a time, every day, praying to be a reflection of God's mercy, love and grace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So sad to see the Aggies SECede

"Goodbye to Texas university. So long to the orange and the white." Texas A&M's swan song football season  in the Big 12 has been disappointing for me. After starting in the preseason top 10, they've lost some close games, many of them heartbreaking occasions of snatching defeat from the hands of victory, squandering more than 20-point leads and fighting through four overtimes before coming up short.  

And circumstances kept me from experiencing the Aggies' final visit to OU for the foreseeable future. 

And now circumstances (work)  will keep me from attentively  watching the final conference showdown between A&M and Texas on Thanksgiving Day.

A big part of why I hate that A&M is leaving the Big 12 and heading to the Southeastern Conference is because I'll miss them being part of the local (Oklahoma City) sports coverage. Besides football, it's been fun to watch men's and women's basketball teams and baseball and softball play in Norman and Oklahoma City. How I will miss those visits. 

For some reason, it didn't seem like the end of the A&M/Texas Thanksgiving rivalry would bother me that much. But as it's gotten closer, the reality is sinking in. Traditionalist that I am, I'm actually more saddened by the end of this rivalry than by the Aggies no longer being in the Big 12.

So far,   I've done pretty well accepting that that's how life goes sometimes and it's not that big of a deal. I hope the price for that acceptance isn't detachment and aloofness. 

I do still hope the Aggies "beat the hell outta t.u.," as the ever-popular yell says. Unfortunately, I'll still be sad about the end of an era and a proud tradition. 

I have so many more thoughts and feelings about this and how it relates to real life, but as usual, if I wait until I can make enough sense of it to write it down, I never will. Maybe I'll update later. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving thanks -- and feeling peace

Somewhere in the first week of November, I realized that several of my Facebook friends were making posts each day of the month stating something for which they are grateful. I've enjoyed reading along. I may try to do something like that next year. As it is, they have helped me look beyond the usual to see things each day for which I am grateful.

I say "look beyond the usual" because I realized on Saturday that gratitude has become an integral part of my daily life. At my 12-step meeting Saturday, I was able to think back clearly to when I didn't have such a deep-rooted sense of gratitude. For many years of my life, this was my predicament: I knew I was blessed. I could see blessings all around me. How could I not feel grateful and blessed? But for whatever reasons, I didn't. I wanted to feel grateful, but it was a longing, not a reality. Some of the 12-step literature reminded me of the process I went through to recognize things that blocked me from feeling grateful. Chief among them: resentment and self-pity, along with a heaping helping of depression. Again, I didn't intend to have those feelings/nonfeelings, but I did.

Through a lot of self-examination, prayer, working with others (some therapy and medicine helped, too), I guess I gradually developed a faith that helped me let go of the resentments and to trust God and to see and feel His very real presence and power in my life. And somewhere along the way, instead of just thinking I ought to feel grateful and wanting to feel grateful, I found myself feeling grateful and blessed, even when I didn't like a particular circumstance or outcome. I became able to see past a situation to focus on God and His love and presence. How could I not feel blessed? How could my heart not sing?

A result of that, for today, is a peace that truly surpasses my understanding. One of the spiritual networks I'm on includes a daily email. For the past week, it focused on Isaiah 26:3: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." (Or, as it is in my mind from a song I once sang but don't still have the music for: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.") I don't remember whether any of those messages made the connection between gratitude and peace, but as I sat in my meeting and was thinking of how an attitude of gratitude went hand-in-hand with letting go of self-pity, resentment and even depression, the awareness I had was that the result is peace. And I feel grateful for the peace.

What a wonderful cycle: Look for things for which to express gratitude to God, let go of self-pity and resentment, and feel God's peace. Look for and see more blessings all around (if you don't think you see any, one easy solution is to reach out and do something kind for someone), express gratitude to God, feel more peace -- and some joy, too!

My heart and soul continue to be filled with a warmth and peace that is beyond my understanding or ability to explain. All I can do is say thank You, God. Please help me keep my focus on You, to Your glory, during this particular season of Thanksgiving and always.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lest I forget: Remembering Daddy, God's blessings

Charles Baker Davidson
March 20, 1926 - October 30, 2011
Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather

Nov. 2: The celebration of Daddy's life was just right. The church was filled with probably more than 200 people. A lot of those people were family, but there were also many, many friends.
The pastor has only been at Mom and Dad's longtime church (and the church I remember growing up in) since January, but he did a wonderful job of expressing Daddy's spirit and his legacy of family, faith, friends, farm and hard work. Chuck had really listened to Daddy in recent weeks and also to the family, and was able to celebrate his life fully and also share the message of Christ.
Emily read the family recollections of Charles, who he was and some of what he liked. Then I sang "Blessed Assurance." I didn't even remember until that night at Mom's that I changed the words to the final chorus, singing: "This is Dad's story, this is his song, praising our Savior all the day long." I actually looked at Daddy's picture some as I sang and when I finished. I am so grateful to have been able to do that. I didn't fall apart until the service was over, then collected myself in about five minutes or so.

There were so many people at the reception. I didn't even see some of them. Due to many requests, the pastor got the group to quiet down and I did sing the song Daddy in late August had said he wanted written and sung at the gathering after his service. Amy and I wrote it: "Charlie D's Farm." "Ol' Charlie D he had a farm, EIEIO ..." It was fun and very well-received, too. Amy's friends and Sally were among the insistent ones.

My prayer at the end of that day, or along the way: Lord, please help me remember and savor and acknowledge all of your love and grace to our family through these dear ones. I know you are raising us up. Please help me stay focused on You and to live to Your glory.

I have to keep reminding myself that the blog is a Web log, a place where I can record things, and if the first two years is an indication, easily return to them.

So, what is written above is pretty much the note I wrote myself that day. What follows are some of the other notes or reflections I made leading up to that day. Some of it is very personal, so don't feel obligated to keep reading. Again, I don't trust my memory, and writing helps me remember. Possibly it will help others, also, either remember or to make their own kind of notes of those special moments they want to be sure not to forget. (I'm a bit envious of those who don't have to write everything down. I have to remind myself that God created me exactly the way I am, and just tresure the blessing of that.)

Nov 1: I don't even know where to start. From a friend: In very clear ways, a testimony to his life. Psalm 128:3.

Oct. 30: Daddy's gone to heaven. 10/30/11

Mom, Becky and I found out while we were in church. Mom's sister Sally and grandson Brian were with Daddy.
On that long (20-minutes?) drive home from church, the Christian radio station played great songs. The one that really caught my attention and made me prismy (smiles through tears) was an enthusiatic arrangement of "When the Saints Go Marching In." I guess he made it! I had no doubt.

Daddy wanted Mom to go to church. I have to believe that. He told me that the week before. He knew that's where we were going.

Mom had forgotton her phone, and I had called on the way to church to give Brian my number in case they needed to reach us, even though we didn't think they would. I turned the ringer off. So neither I nor Emily (Brian's wife, sitting on the pew next to us) nor Becky (my sister, Emily's mom, driving in for Sunday School) heard our phones to get the calls or messages. Brian had to call sister-in-law Brandi and Emily's dad, Tom, for help, and Tom called the church and they got Becky and told her she needed to call Tom. Becky, Mom and I all had been visiting with people and having good fellowship at church. And then ... In an instant it all changed. I just hope and pray that Mom and Brian and Sally and I never lose faith that God was totally in control of the timing and situation.

Mom insisted on driving home. I was with her, which made it OK, I guess. The music on the radio was comforting. "You Raise Me Up" brought tears as we drove on the gravel and up the lane.

Daddy was so ready. I don't understand why it didn't work out for Mom to be there. I have to believe -- and I do -- that it was all in God's plan for Mom and Daddy and all of us. He is in heaven now. And he has no more pain. And he is reunited with the dear ones who have gone before, including Granny and Grandpa (his Mom and Dad), grandson Ryan, sister Ella Frances and in-laws including Joe and Bobby. But it's still so hard to let him go. Thank you, Lord, for your mercy, love, grace and compassion. We trust you to provide everything we need, now and in the days to come.

Other thoughts/notes about that day:
--Mitsi was on the bed on Daddy's legs as he breathed his last breath, and she got back up there before we got home. Mom didn't even notice her, but I did. That may have been just for me. Before we left, I had said to Daddy how I remembered him saying Mitsi wasn't his cat anymore since he couldn't take care of her. But I assured him he was definitely still her guy.

--It was Becky's birthday. I had just sang happy birthday to her at the church when we got the call. Mom said she hated that it happened on Becky's birthday. But Becky said she realized about two weeks ago it might happen, and when it did, she accepted it as a gift.

--The preacher came by while Becky and Emily and I went to the Dress Barn looking for something for me to wear and for me to buy her a present. So I missed that spiritual bit. But before the funeral home took Daddy's body after Mike got there around 4 pm, all of us who were there at the time, including many who were not when the preacher was there, gathered together, and I prayed. I'm very grateful to have been able to do that.

--It was important to Mike that Daddy's body still be there because when he left to return to Arkansas the day before, he or Daddy had said something about whether Daddy would be there when he came back. Daddy said he would be. Mike also sees why it was important for him to be with his family the night and the next morning to share the news.

--More such moments that I can write. I need to just turn off the light, recite the 23rd Psalm and trust God to hold me and these dear precious ones in the palm of his hand.

Oct. 23-29: Loving my Daddy
Sunday, Oct. 23: Sitting and talking quietly with him. Not avoiding the reality. Him feeling safe to say he knows his life on Earth is over for all practical purposes, and he hates how hard this time is for Mom and that he doesn't want her to wear herself out. He said he would rather not go to a nursing home, but he accepts that at some point that may be what needs to happen for Mom, and he wouldn't want to fight it. That's when he looked at me and said he knows his life is over. And he's OK with that. We talked about the ones who have gone before, and about how blessed and grateful our family is. He said he can't really think of anything he'd do differently in his life, but he doesn't think about that too much because you can't change the past anyway. I said that's right -- we can just live this moment and forward.
And I did what I'd been praying to be able to do: I sang "How Great Thou Art." And then without really planning to, I prayed with him. I prayed for God to just lift up Mom and Dad and our family and to guide and support us and help us live each moment to his glory and I don't even know what else, but it was from the heart.
I said I realize that it's possible the end will come and I won't be there with him at that time, and I think I'm OK with that. I know he won't be alone, and that I am with him in spirit.
Very grateful and blessed.
I love my Daddy so much.

More notes on that: I told him I hope and pray he doesn't have to go to a nursing home, but I'm glad he's realistic about the possibilities. Very good, intimate talk. That's when he said Mom needs to go to church when I or someone is there to stay with him.

God provided and blessed the moment. Grateful.

Sent to Mike very late on Saturday, Oct. 29, catching up since he headed back to Arkansas before I got there: I'm glad you were able to be there when you were. Things seem to be changing pretty fast. Who knows what's next. I'm very grateful for last Sunday morning when I had a good talk with Daddy, and he said a few things to me, too. Then I sang How Great Thou Art and prayed aloud, holding his hand. From what I see tonight, it's hard to realize that was just a week ago. Praying to know what to do to be most helpful to him and mom. Feeling pretty helpless, though.

For today, Nov. 14: Different people work through things different ways, and as I pray to know how to feel and process and move, God often seems to guide me to write (or sing) and just trust Him with the results. And so I share words, even if they are really just for me and God. I truly thought writing all of this would bring a flood of tears. It still brings a flood of feelings, but the tears are staying behind the surface, just misting the eyes. For now, I just keep rejoicing and praising God for the blessings and love He bestowed upon Daddy and our family.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Milestones, reminders, placeholders -- and hope

Last Saturday was the second anniversary of That's the Spirit. I actually checked in October to see when I started it, knowing I was writing by November 2009, and thinking I would post something reflective for the anniversary. But even though I posted Nov. 4, the Nov. 5 anniversary wasn't on my mind. I didn't remember until my cousin Eric mentioned his blog's ninth anniversary earlier this week. Not that a blog anniversary is really anything worth mentioning. But those of you who have read along the way -- and especially those who have read from the beginning -- probably understand why it is worth mentioning for me. I hope and pray it is a tool and not a distraction. I believe that is true.

I had hoped the blog would evolve into sharp writing and clear observations by now. That hasn't happened. I accept that it is exactly what it is supposed to be today. I've stayed true to my original goals, and only once did I go eight days instead of seven without posting. Too many of these posts have been what I call placeholders, nothing more than checking in to say I met my deadline. But usually, even on those, I ended up putting together a word or two of hope and inspiration. And on those rare times when I did post something that seemed more worthwhile, I knew the act of checking in had played a part.

Technically, this is another placeholder. I have so many more important things I want and need to express. Part of me fears that the longer I wait the harder it will be. And another, hopefully stronger, part of me believes that when the time is right, I will write about those things. I am grateful for family, friends, Scripture, prayer and my relationship with Christ, all of which reassure me that where and who and how I am is blessed, even as I prayerfully strive to improve. God bless you all!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Endings, Part 2

When I wrote Happy Endings, Part 1 last week with the Rangers and Aggies most in mind, I was aware that at any time my dad could die of complications from liver cancer, although I didn't really think that moment was imminent. His last breath on Earth came Sunday morning, and of course the concept of happy endings grew in meaningful complexity.

I will write much more about my Daddy later. I've made a lot of notes but want to take time to reflect before sharing.

For now, I'm aware that there often are no endings; there are just transitions. Winning a World Series or NBA championship or Super Bowl may seem like a happy ending. But in very little time, teams, fans and commentators only care about the next win, not what happened in the past. I was hoping for a happy ending in terms of me maybe watching the Aggies play the University of Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday for the last time before A&M heads to the SEC. But it seems clear to me that if I didn't have to be there when Daddy took his last breath, I don't have to be at that game Saturday. There are many lessons for me in this and elsewhere if I will pay attention. Many potential areas of self-improvement have been revealed to me since my Dad's death. (But a dear friend also reminds me not to be hard on myself.)

Tonight I went to a premiere of a documentary about the life of Wayman Tisdale, a standout OU and NBA basketball player whose first love (outside faith and family) was music, and who had become a successful songwriter and musician on the bass guitar and an engaging concert performer before he died of complications from cancer in May 2009. I learned of the opportunity to attend this on Thursday while I was still in Texas with my family and surprised myself by saying I would go. Although I knew it would touch on some of the kinds of grief and loss my family is dealing with, I knew the sadness would be far surpassed by the inspiration and joy of Wayman's life, legacy and music. And so it was. My dad wasn't famous, but as they showed interviews of Wayman and others talking about Wayman's situation and how he faced it and had lived his life, it made me think of my dad in his much smaller realm of influence and the outpouring of love and friendship with which people responded to his life.

On the way home, I read that a faithful member of my church had also now died after a grueling battle with cancer. I immediately recalled having noticed his wife was one of the prayer team members who had prayed and signed a sympathy card for my family on Monday. There is another lesson and example I must take to heart and seek to learn from.

So, this starts as Happy Endings, Part 2. But it evolves into life goes on, day by day. It reminds me to live each day (and moment) as if it is the first -- and the last. Seek God's guidance; love, worship and serve Him -- part of which comes in loving and caring for people; and give Him the glory, thanks and praise.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Endings, Part 1

Watching Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, in which the Texas Rangers could have won the championship with a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, I found myself realizing how natural it is to be drawn to a happy ending, whether in sports or life in general.

After so many chances to win last night, the Rangers came up short, with the Cardinals scoring a home run in the bottom of the 11th to win 10-9. So, there will be a Game 7 tonight. I'm worn out and I'm not even playing the game!

Isn't life like that, though? So many times it seems like I'm finally through the tough time and have achieved some accomplishment, and then there's another challenge. On to extra innings. This time, at least there's another chance for victory. (And, too, there was a happy ending for a lot of folks last night, just not the ones I wanted to see celebrating. Maybe that was their moment, and the one for Rangers fans will come tonight!)

In sports, as in life, and where I am today, is the realization that sometimes I have to redefine a happy ending. I need to be prepared to find the joy in what might seem to be an unhappy ending. Even so, in the case of the Texas Rangers in the World Series, now at game 7, I'm holding out hope for a championship!

There's a lot more to write on the broader subject -- the game of life -- whether the Rangers win or lose tonight. I'm aware of so many great moments with family and friends. It will be more fun though, if they win. Victory is energizing. Defeat is challenging. I'm up for whatever comes. Let's GO, RANGERS!

(P.S. I need to wrap this up, but I also want to add a spiritual component, which is very much a part of my journey. I will write it out later, but the Upper Room devotional had a timely message, and "Hymn of Promise," a song with which many of my Methodist friends are familiar, also is playing in my mind: "... unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.")

Monday, October 24, 2011

Let's go, Rangers!

Tonight is blog deadline, and nothing is coming together. I have many ideas but none are ready to go without some focused thought -- and that's not happening when game 5 of the 2-2 World Series has the Rangers and the Cardinals tied 2-2 with the Rangers batting in the bottom of the eighth. Let's go, Rangers! More to come later in the week. So many wonderful moments of life, only slightly mirrored by exciting ball games!  

Monday, October 17, 2011

No "Passages," but another good weekend

Recently some of my best times have been on weekends, especially involving moments with my parents and family in Texas. But this past weekend in Norman was surprisingly good.

--Some long-needed quality time with my husband.
--12-step meeting: I had to persevere through a 45-minute traffic delay due to road construction, and since I was already running late, I just got there for about 10 minutes of the one-hour meeting. But many people stayed afterward to talk and catch up. I miss these meetings when I'm on the road so many weekends. It was uplifting and strengthening to be there.
--Some needed clothes shopping!
--Aggies win over Baylor (a higher-ranked team; that doesn't happen often anymore, it seems).
--Beautiful weather for a walk around the neigbhorhood pond on Saturday and Sunday. I tried to get Gene to join me, but our ideas of the best conditions for a walk just don't coordinate.
--A nice supper from the grill and microwave with Gene.
--Watching the Rangers win the American League Championship Series and earn their spot in the World Series for the second year in a row.
--Attending my home church and singing in the choir. As I've written before, I have two churches that I love attending and hate to miss either one -- Goodrich, where I'm a member in Norman, and Whaley in Gainesville, where I grew up and my parents are still members. An extra-special and inspiring thing at worship was to see my good friend Paul, who had a stroke late last year, and his wife make it to church together for the first time since then.

Part of what that reminds me is how, had things gone as I'd planned, I would have been in Texas this past weekend and in Norman the weekend before, and I would have missed seeing Paul's delightful smile. My plan was to avoid OU/Texas football traffic Oct. 8, and to use time during the weekend to go see the "Passages" exhibit of ancient Bibles and other pieces at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art before it ended Oct. 16. But after the Rangers made it to the championship series and I knew they'd be playing that Saturday night, I decided I wanted to go watch the game on TV with my Dad. I just don't know how many more opportunities I'll have for that -- between my Dad's health and not knowing for sure the Rangers would make it to the World Series. Even though rain delayed the game in Arlington, and Daddy and I only watched an hour together, it was nice to be there and keep him updated as the storms came to the Davidson hill. The Rangers pulled out the win right around midnight, right after Mom disconnected the TV because of lightning. The next morning, the parched farm was still enjoying a refreshing rain, so I stayed with Daddy while Mom when to church and to buy groceries. A few hours later, I entered the slow-moving mass of cars on Interstate 35 headed back to Norman/OKC after their big football game. Traffic was every bit the headache I feared -- and it was so worth it to have spent the time in Texas.

During this past week, I realized that "Passages," as wonderful an exhibit as it seemed to be from all I had read and heard, just wouldn't fit into my plans and priorities at this time, especially since I didn't have anyone to go with. I realized that doing things that connect me with friends and family is what I need right now. Looking back, I saw that, perhaps, my decision to attend a friend's sparsely attended book signing Oct. 8 was an example of that. And since I'd decided not to try to carve out time this past Saturday (Oct. 15) for "Passages," I had time to spend with Gene that morning. I can't do everything I want to, and sometimes it's hard to decide what to do, but it's amazing how, for now, things do seem to be unfolding in a divine way.

There are still some troublesome areas. Even with the stresses of work and my Dad's illness, about the only thing that has brought me to tears over the past few weeks is my beloved kitty who keeps peeing on the carpet. I think she's acting out over us being gone more and maybe just picking up on my stress. How do you reason with a cat? I love her so much, but nothing is seeming to work to solve this problem. Does God have answers even for this in my life? As I wrote on Facebook: I'm trusting Him for answers in the issue I just can't figure out. Grateful and blessed. The good far outweighs the seeming less-than, thanks to continued prayer to know and do God's will, including to feel the joy.

"Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees." Victor Hugo (as quoted in OA For Today). Part of the commentary: Often in the course of a day, I may think or act with a certain spontaneity, accepting virtually everything about life. That, to me, is a form of prayer ... Prayer allows me to like and enjoy life and to live without suffocating in guilt over past mistakes.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." James 1:2-6

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another sneaky deadline

Deadline snuck up on me again. With my current work shift, I miss my morning walks around the neighborhood pond/lake, which had become a good time to let thoughts shape into insights, perspectives, inspiration, etc.

I am still struggling a bit not to feel and exhibit frustration, exhaustion, overwhelmedness (I don't think that's really a word), lethargy, depression or any number of other forms of negativity.

I've been meditating on Wednesday's passage from my John MacArthur "Truth for Today: A Daily Touch of God's Grace" devotional, and I have faith that it will help me get to where I need to be.

Here are some excerpts.

No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Evaluating a trial as a joyful occurrence is something a Christian must discipline himself to do because joy is not the natural human response to troubles. He must make a conscious commitment to face each trial with a joyous attitude. ... When you see a trial coming, take on an attitude of joy that comes from anticipating the perfecting work the Lord will do through it. ... It is the joy of one who counts it a privilege to have his faith tested because he knows the testing will draw him closer to the Savior. ...

Among my present "trials" are work, my dad's health, my cat's behavior and many of my troublesome habits that I just haven't been able to change or get rid of. It seems like I'd been trying to face them with joy even before I read this, but I don't know that I've made much progress. But I have faith and hope that it will occur. That is my prayer and what I will continue to focus on and make a conscious commitment to.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Blessings from expressing faith through love

This is one of those times when I have to ask myself: Is there really any value in honoring the self-imposed deadline to post something on my blog at least once every seven days? I have nothing compelling to express, and the only reason I am sitting here typing is because of the commitment I made to myself. I've made plenty of commitments to myself that I haven't kept, so why do I bother trying to keep this one, when I could be in bed instead? But here I am, trying to find something to write.

I thought something might develop around some of the things I've posted or read on Facebook or in devotionals this past week. And maybe it has ....

When it was time to return home after another very good weekend trip to see my parents and other family members, I found myself in new territory. I didn't want to leave. That's not the first time that's happened, but I really had trouble dealing with it. I just wanted to stay and be. And the thought of leaving made me want to cry. So I just sat there and stared out the window. And finally I did cry. But I was quickly reminded or given reason to wonder whether there was any value in crying. I tend to think there is value in letting the tears flow. But if everyone cried, nothing would get done, I suppose.

The dilemma I faced then and also after I returned home was trying to express positive thoughts and say positive things when I was really feeling very sad, tired, overwhelmed and confused. My husband has even more trouble dealing with my emotional outbursts than my mom does. After several attempts, I came up with this for my social and supportive network of Facebook: Let go and let God is so much easier for me to say than do! I've been trying to keep it positive -- about ready to give up. But what good would giving in to negativity do? None at all. It would do no good at all. And I think the response to expressing even that little bit of negativity -- but striving to find the hope -- helped. I slept better than I would have expected, and awoke much more hopeful than I expected.

One of my realizations was that for a person like me who has depressive tendencies, I must find ways to express the sadness, fear and other feelings that seem negative. It doesn't seem to work for me to just acknowledge them to myself and God and then put on a happy face. I'm a talker; I need someone to hear me, the happy as well as the sad. I need to identify and stay in close touch with those unconditional, supportive listeners. Not people who will let me sink into self-pity, but who will listen and offer bits of encouragement, affirmation or guidance that help so much.

One of today's Scripture references from my Upper Room devotional sums up where I want to be as I go forward: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6, NIV)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daily to-do list built around the letter L

--Love. It's a choice. It's an action. I choose to do it.
--Learn. Watch someone do something that seemed impossible. How does she keep going in the face of such difficult odds? How could he play through that pain? Surely I can keep working through my discomfort. By doing so, I learn that it's true.
--Let go. Whatever is driving me nuts, just let it go. If it at first I don't succeed in letting it go, do it again. Let it go. Let it go ...
--Let God. He will take those burdens if I will let him. But I also need to "let God" have my heart, my praise, my service, my thoughts, my words, my actions -- indeed, my very life!
--Laugh. If I don't think I can laugh, then at least force or even fake a smile. And then another. If it feels really stupid to do this, I can get out my camera phone and take a picture of that goofy smile and send it to some trusted friend or loved one. It probably won't be long before I am laughing at and with myself. And if I can reach out and share a laugh, that's even better.
--Live. Breathe in deeply and live life to the fullest.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What would you do if you knew? Part 3

What would I do if I knew ... ?

--Surrender. Not to the disease or the fear or the grief or despair but to the care of a loving and gracious God. This sometimes is a moment by moment process. I surrender then I take it back. I surrender, then I try to start fighting it again. Let go and let God. Let God fight it for me.

--Acceptance. The Serenity Prayer. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." I want to know everything -- the doctors, the medical details, the nurses, the Hospice team; how daddy and mom are experiencing everything. I want to be there. I want to help. I need to accept reality. Add to the Serenity Prayer an attitude of gratitude: gratefulness that Mom and Dad have family, extended family, church, friends and resources including medical care and hospice.

--I thought I would cry. There haven't been many tears yet. What seems to be happening is that I'm shutting that down. I think that may explain why some days I feel as if I'm in a fog. It seems I can't shut down the negative or sad feelings without affecting the full range of emotions.

I thought maybe when the Aggies lost to OSU yesterday in Aggieland that would trigger tears. No, not yet. It will be something more random, I guess. All that game did was mess with my mind. A win would have made me feel a simple kind of happiness. With a loss, my silly mind keeps going over what-ifs. What a waste of mental energy, but that's what happens. So I expend more mental/spiritual energy to tear my thoughts from that unchangeable and truly insignificant thing to subjects of substance. I rationalize and try to see what God is trying to teach me from my reaction to a game. And I still wish they had won. (See, I still haven't let go.)

--Smiles and gratitude. Still, so far, there are more smiles and more gratitude for blessings and less sadness and fewer tears than I would have expected. But there is growing tiredness, and with that comes greater vulnerability to unhealthy choices -- and also to the breakthrough of pent-up emotions. So, I'm back to where I started: praying to let go and let God, to trust Him to protect me from negativity, despair, fear or even too much tiredness, and to hold me in His loving arms and care.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What would you do if you knew? Part 2

What would you do if you knew your time on Earth was up?
--Would an ex-smoker buy a pack of cigarettes?
--Would a recovering alcoholic buy a fifth of whiskey?
--Would an abstaining compulsive overeater order up her favorite sweet treats?

An ex-smoker's remark about thinking he would get some cigarettes made me think of my own addiction/obsession. Would that be where I would want to go? Back to the habit I worked so hard to break? Would I ignore the effect it could have on my relationships? I pray to God the answer always will be no.

An amazing thing is that the ex-smoker's comment didn't upset me. It did spark an interesting comversation, too. But it mainly made me think.

A related question that came to mind:
What would you do if you knew today was going to be good? What if you knew it was going to be bad? Would it make any difference in what you do and how you do it? It doesn't seem like it should make a difference -- shouldn't I do what I can to have a good day anyway? But often the perception of how something will be -- whether it be a day, an event or an outcome -- can affect my approach.

As usual, I see God providing answers for the questions:
-- He is helping me set priorities. I'm able to realize what's important and focus on those things. I've seen several things that would have driven me crazy in the past become no big deal.
-- He is giving me strength. Part of that comes with setting priorities and not spending as much time in pointless, time-wasting pursuits. Rest and healthy eating are priorities that help keep me strong.
-- He is giving me so much grace to fill the void between my intentions and my actions.

Most of the time we don't know the certainty. We just know the possibilities. But I'm seeing daily that the choices I make can have an effect on the outcome. I pray to make choices and decisions that reflect and build love, hope, compassion, faith, humility, grace, gratitude, wisdom and joy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What would you do if you knew? Part 1

What would you do if you knew? The question has been on my mind a lot lately as I've contemplated my Dad's cancer prognosis and then 9/11 remembrances and now some news at work.

What would you do if you knew you had six months to live? A year? A day? A few hours? None of us really knows how long we have -- 9/11 and auto accidents and deadly storms are reminders of that.

A few years ago, such thoughts would depress me and make me want to just shut down, crawl back into bed or escape into a binge of overeating. Today, the thoughts still overwhelm me, until I release them to God's care.

Some of the answers He has provided, for today:
-- Be still and know that I am God.
-- Seek God. Trust God. Obey God. Praise God.
-- Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine ... Angels descending, bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love ... Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blest ... filled with His goodness, lost in His love. This is my story ... praising my Savior all the day long.
-- This from today's Upper Room devotional: "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14,NIV).
-- Some people get choices and opportunities. Some don't. We all have the choice to live in such a way that we have no regrets. (Even having regrets is a choice.) Love. Make things right. Amends. If I can't make direct amends (I can't change the past) I might be able to make living amends by doing better today and in the future.

This is titled Part 1 because it really does just touch the surface. News today that the company I work for is being sold -- with promises that nothing will change -- is another reminder that life goes on and changes happen, and I cannot predict or control the future. Some of how I learned this latest news seemed to involve a direct lie of something I had been told earlier, but on closer examination, I see how they got around it. But it sure makes me wonder: Who can I trust?

Well, I can trust God. And I do trust my parents and my family and many many friends. Based on that foundation -- trust in God and love -- I pray to face whatever comes with grace, gratitude, strength, hope, love and compassion.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Savoring the Spirit of Aggieland -- and more

A quick wedding anniversary/football weekend trip to College Station and Texas A&M University brought many smiles, rekindled memories and renewed hope.

Few eras of my life are marked by vivid, precise, detailed memories, and that includes my college years. I can't think of any friendships that I made during college that have endured and grown. My strongest relationships I have tied to Aggieland are people I knew before I attended school there or that I met since I graduated.

Except for Gene. I grew up on a family farm just nine miles from Gene's family's farm, and our families attended the same church, but Gene and I, three years apart in age and attending different public schools, didn't meet until we were more than 200 miles from Cooke County at Texas A&M. We met near the end of my first semester, at a Cooke County hometown club party at the apartment complex where I lived. The next I remember of Gene was when he recognized me in the Geology classroom at the start of the spring semester. By the end of the semester, we were dating. And as best I recall, I guess we've been in a relationship ever since. I can't think of a time we ever broke up, which is really kind of amazing, because we are so different in many ways. (That's a whole other blog post -- or several.)

Even as we walked around campus before Midnight Yell Practice on Saturday and then before the game on Sunday, I'm sure we both were aware of our different styles. But something about that east-central Texas air and especially the sound of the Fighting Texas Aggie Band and a mass of Aggies doing tradition yells just pushed the differences aside and drew us together like twentysomethings.

Spending a few hours at the George Bush Presidential Library, with its prevalent themes of family, faith, service and integrity, fit right in with the spirit of the weekend.

We've been back home and now at work a couple of days, and I can see how easy it is to fall back into old patterns, partly because of work schedules but also just from our own set ways. I don't want that to happen. This can be different. This can still be fun. What can I do to make it happen? I know I'm supposed to live one day at a time, but I don't think it's too early to start planning for Sept. 4, 2012. What can I do today to make the 30th anniversary even better than the 29th (or the 25th -- celebrating at Alcatraz was especially memorable!)? I think it really does come down to how I live each day. In the rush of things, I don't always find quality time for Gene, even on the days when our schedules would allow it. I will work to improve that.

The decision to go to the A&M vs. SMU game, which happened to be on our anniversary, was made less than a week before we left. That's pretty spontaneous for us. Everything costs twice as much when you wait that late to commit. But I'm glad we did it. It reminded me of a few more of the blessings I sometimes take for granted -- and reminded me that the best ways to experience blessings and feel joy and gratitude are to share them. And of course, I must always do so in an attitude of humble gratitude and praise to God.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Psalms, prayers, songs, prisms and perspective

The past weekend provided more evidence of God's continuing presence and blessings.
-- Six adult siblings came together to watch a Texas Rangers baseball game last Saturday, but the breakfast the next morning with Mom and Dad and other extended family members was the highlight.
-- Daddy is not a singer (as far as I know), but he definitely appreciates music. One of his requests for the days ahead includes a song. It should be a doozy. This daughter of the Psalmist's son feels privileged and deeply touched.
-- There were more smiles than tears, but I am reminded that smiling through tears -- and the prisms this produces -- could become more frequent in days ahead. I've always thought prisms were beautiful. Their significance continues to increase.
-- Some things did not go as planned. On Friday, the day before six planned to leave from Arkansas, one of the two vehicles they planned to drive broke down. This presented challenges. The challenges were met with faith, hope and teamwork. Everyone made it to Texas, to the game and to the breakfast. And even when the other vehicle had problems before the return trip home, it was able to be fixed in time to make the trip. That involved lots of teamwork, too.
-- The Rangers didn't win, but everyone seemed to really enjoy the game anyway. And the ones who are big-time fans seemed to appreciate the fact that the game still could have been won in the final inning (bases were loaded in the bottom of the ninth) -- and since it was the only loss in a 3-game series against the division rival, it was still a winning weekend for the team. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who wondered why the next night's big win couldn't have come a day earlier. It's so much more fun to leave after winning than not winning. But it still was a great day.
-- There is so much more, but I've got to get to work, and there's another big weekend ahead. I hope to post again before "deadline" arrives, but we'll see about that.
-- Faith abounds. Hope abounds. Love and caring abound. We are family. We are blessed with friends and faith. Smile. Thank you, God.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Choices for such a time as this

In the face of a beloved one's dire prognosis:
I choose hope.
I choose gratitude.
I choose to walk by faith.
I choose to see the good.
I choose to let God lead me.
I choose to believe God has prepared me.
I choose Jesus.
I choose love.
I choose life.
I choose joy.

None of these choices will automatically make things easier. I believe they will make things better.

Despite all those positive choices, I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit to some fear and anxiety. I think of Job in the Bible. He seemed to choose the better way -- faith and trust in God -- and God still let Satan wreak all kinds of havoc in his life. There are other examples in the Bible in which it seems as if those who profess their faith are tested almost beyond their ability to stand. And the key word is: almost. I believe the Bible makes it clear that God will not allow more to come our way than we can face successfully if we stay true to Him, although I also believe sometimes how that all works out remains a mystery in this life on earth. Some of those holy mysteries remain in my life and those of loved ones.

What this is about is that my 85-year-old Dad recently received a new cancer diagnosis. Last year, he had a spot on his lung and had successful lung surgery. That was a long and sometimes difficult journey for Mom and Dad and the family, but I see much evidence that God was with us through it all, and that He worked it for good.

Now, Daddy has liver cancer. While last year's prognosis was good, this year's is much less so. The doctors say things such as "three to six months" -- the first part of that range is before Christmas! -- and that the end could be bad. Information is still being gathered. I'm hoping and praying for the best. And I'm grateful for continued opportunities to spend quality time with my parents and family, expressing and showing love and support.

Psalm 23 comes to mind: The Lord is my shepherd ... He leads us. He prepares us. He guards us. He goes with us. He sustains us.

I think that's been my overriding affirmation since first learning a week ago, Aug. 19, of what was causing Daddy's pain and what may lie ahead, which doctors seemed to confirm on Tuesday. In various communications with family and friends, including at church, God has given me a sense of hope and peace for which I can't even begin to adequately express thanks.

-- I think in my family's situation, God continues to bless us with opportunities to grow in love and faithfulness and grace and gratitude. Many people/families don't get that chance while the loved one is still with them. I pray to always be grateful.

-- Please join me in praying that God just uphold and sustain Daddy and Mom and all of us no matter what lies ahead, and that we appreciate each day He gives us and helps us to live to his glory and honor and service. Thank you so much for your love and prayers.

I think a lot of people know and live these things without having to write and share them. But for me, writing and sharing helps me know, remember and be accountable. As with singing, I write and share in what feels like faithful service to God and as an offering of praise.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Readings that have helped me keep going this week

From Beth Moore's Praying God's Word Day by Day Aug. 16 (my Mom's birthday)
Beth's quote: "Allow your circumstances and weaknesses to do the job God has sent them to do -- provoke humility."
Praying from the Word:
Do not be far from me, Lord, for trouble is near and there is no one to help ... They feel like roaring lions tearing their prey open, their mouths wide against me (Psalm 22:11,13).
But to You, O Lord, I left up my soul; in You I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me (Psalm 25:1-2).
Guard my life and rescue me, O Lord. Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in You (Psalm 25:20-21).

And today, Aug. 19, praying from the Word:
Mighty God, help me to understand that I've been called by You to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Strengthen my spiritual vision, Lord!

And this is from the Overeaters Anonymous "For Today" devotional booklet for Aug. 18:
"Life offers me treasures beyond imagining, here and now. They are there for me to take and use with the God-given talents and skills and energy I possess today. My enthusiasm is the digging tool. I dig into the actual for the sheer love of digging; therefore, the fact that there may be something better tomorrow is irrelevant. I will be here, digging into life and getting something out of it today. ... The right way to live is to live as fully as I can today; to take what possbilities there are and make of them what I can."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another attitude adjustment

"Good morning," he said.
"Not the best," replied I.
I mean, here I was back at the car care center first thing Monday morning, trying to figure out why my brand-new tires that had been mounted Friday gave me such a miserable ride from Norman to Fort Worth and back on the weekend. I was full of frustration and resentment, so I dared not say more, since the service manager already knew the situation from my call on Saturday. I just left the car and the keys, saying let me know when it's fixed, and I hope it's before noon so I can drive it to work. I did suggest that if they couldn't find the problem, they should just put on new tires.

But as soon as I headed on the pleasant two-mile walk home about 8:30 a.m., before it had a chance to be too hot, I regretted my less-than-cheerful response. It was a beautiful morning. The tires made it safely if not smoothly through the weekend trip. I had alternate transportation to get to work if my car wasn't ready in time. I was alive and healthy and residing in the arms of God. How dare me respond as if a little inconvenience made the morning less than good.

I didn't make amends for my negative attitude at the car care center that morning, but I did take the lesson with me through the day at work and later in the week as I picked up my car and still had some problems. I don't want to let inconveniences and setbacks keep me from having a cheerful and grateful attitude. Staying positive and cheerful is often easier to intend than to do, but I was able to see several times during the week that turning it over to God in prayer and praise (in all things give thanks!) really made a difference.

And I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to keep applying that lesson one day at a time in the coming week, as I already see challenges shaping up. Pray. Trust. Obey. Praise. Help me, God! Thank you, Lord!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Striving to keep it positive

Another week of vacation is almost over. I have quite a mix of feelings. It's a bit of a struggle again to focus on the positive and not get pulled down by some frustration and disappointment. But that is what I need to do and will do.

What triggered it this time (again) is finally tackling something I'd been putting off -- getting new tires and getting the dealership where I bought the car to keep a promise to pay for them. I took the needed action Thursday to confirm the payment, then took the car to Firestone Friday to get the tires. I knew I was headed to a Rangers game in Texas on Saturday and looked forward to a smoother ride. I picked the car up Friday evening and took it for a spin on city streets. All seemed fine.

But when I headed out on Interstate 35 late Saturday morning, I could tell I had a problem. When I accelerated above about 60, the car shook like it was going to fall apart. Now, I was on my way to Texas for the ballgame and didn't really have time to head back to Firestone to get this figured out. I called to make sure it was safe to drive. They seemed to think it would be. So I bounced to Gainesville and then Muenster and then to Arlington and back to Muenster after the game, and back to Norman today. I'll take it back to Firestone tomorrow and insist they make this right.

The thing that is so frustrating to me is that it seems like what should be routine maintenance steps -- whether it be for my car or my health -- so often ends up not being very routine. This mess started when I took my car to the dealership in April 2010 for maintenance work that was somewhat botched. That led to the promise that my next set of tires would be paid for. But figuring out when to get those tires, which tires to get and following through to get them paid for are things I'm not good at. But I finally did it. It was a good feeling, and I was so eager for that smooth ride to Texas. Instead, it was one of the most nerve-wracking ever.

What follows has nothing to do with any of that -- I'm sure the timing was purely coincidental -- but the very next thing I did Thursday after feeling so good about getting the tire arrangements and payment worked out was to brush my teeth. And before I was finished, a big filling near the front had fallen out. Have I mentioned that I may dislike dealing with dentists and doctors even more than dealing with car maintenance, based on the same track record of things never seeming to go smoothly? But what choice do I have? I made an appointment to get it fixed -- even though it will probably mean having to miss some work. (That's a whole other subject I'm striving to feel positive about as vacation nears an end and I go back to working afternoons and nights.)

Some of the thoughts that go through my head with these things include why bother and no wonder I get so frustrated. But all of the negative thoughts just sound like self-pity, I used to spend a lot of time stuck there. Now I work through it more quickly and move on to the next right action and a more positive outlook. Daily Bible reading continues to help guide me and strengthen me. I still don't know why these moments that are just part of life can be so perplexing to me. But I am extremely grateful to God that He somehow manages to keep me moving forward.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More lessons from singing

Actually, this is a continuing study on the same subject. 

The blessings of being open to suggestions ("Whispering Hope," with someone joining in on harmony for the choruses and final two verses)  and challenges (the key in which it was written) continue to whisper hope that positive results are possible in all areas of my life if I will seek God's guidance, do my best to surrender, trust and  obey, and give Him all glory, honor and praise.

May I continue to seek to carry the lessons of worship and praise through song into all areas of my life.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

5 good things

I'm still in what I hope is just a summer slump. I know the answer is just to get busy, put one foot in front of the other; take one step and then another.  But something is blocking me.  

I'm praying for willingness and faith to know and do what God would have me do, to His glory. But the results still seem nil. 

My daily reading from the United Methodist Upper Room offered this suggestion: Make a list of five good things God has done in your life recently. 

Why does even this seem hard? Everything God does in my life is good. He does so much. And I guess I take a lot of it for granted. Plus, right now, there's the issue of thinking He could do so much more in my life if I didn't get in His way. 

Five good things ...
--He's given me encouraging words to share at church, in my family, at work and in other interactions.  Yes, even in my "meantime," I think most of my negativity is focused inward so I can still see and express much that is good. 
--He's given me faith not to give up even as I struggle. 
--He's given me awareness that keeps me from overeating when I'm frustrated or in a slump. (That would only make things worse for me.)
--He's faithful every day.  Great is God's faithfulness:  morning by morning, day by day, new mercies I see. 
--He continues to bless me with His love and the love of family and friends. 

Sigh. That didn't work either! Or so it seems. 

Words of encouragement I've received this weekend: 
--God loves us just as we are. We don't have to earn His love. He knows our needs, our hurts, our dreams, our frustrations and our passions. He knows our hearts. 
--"Whispering Hope." It's the song I'm working on for next weekend. The words provide comfort, guidance and, yes, hope. May I take them to heart. 

And, yes, I am still avoiding the real issues. Maybe next time. Sigh. 

OK, another powerful suggestion just came to mind, this one from today's anthem: "O sinners, let's go down, down to the river to pray." Before and after the anthem, I was thinking I needed to spend some time in prayer. Not at the river, but maybe the altar. And then I got caught up in talking with people after church and didn't take that time. But there's no reason I can spend some time on my knees now.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trust and never doubt ....

Checking in with thoughts and reflections from the weekend ... 

--A precious new great-niece was born Friday. I really wanted to make the couple hour drive to Texas to see her and all the family but just couldn't do it. I'm thankful for phone conversations and pictures and comments on Facebook.  I hope to get to see her in person in two weeks. 

--"Trust and never doubt. Jesus will surely lead you out. He never failed me yet!" The choir's rousing Gospel anthem is part of why I stayed in Oklahoma instead of going to Texas this weekend. Our director has us singing with joyous hearts in ministry to God. And the director did a stunning solo of "Give Me Jesus." The sermon and Sunday school and fellowship were good, too. 

--I went to a piano recital last night by  a friend who is chasing a dream as a concert pianist. She'll be in Washington, D.C., this week in a big competition. Her playing is beautiful and soul-stirring. And her passion inspires me. I wish her the best. 

--The "Friday Night Lights" TV show officially ended Friday night. I haven't gotten to watch this Texas-based drama, which is built around  high school football but includes so much more, as regularly as I would have liked, but I've watched when I can and feel sad about it ending.  There are so many things I could write, but I'll just leave it at this for now: I don't like that it ended with Coach Taylor in Pennsylvania. What is Tami thinking? Certainly a Texas college will lure her back to be its dean of students so Eric can get back to coaching Texas kids. I just don't see how they can be happy in Pennsylvania!  Yes, I know it's a tv show, but as a native Texan in her 29th year living in Oklahoma -- and that's just one state away -- that just did not resonate as a happy ending for me. Just as I believe in my heart I will finish out my days in the Great State, I would love for that show's creators to revisit it in a couple of years as the Taylors, like so many before them, come home. "Texas forever." 

--There is probably more worth writing about,  but considering that just 30 minutes ago I had about decided not to post anything, I'm gonna be satisfied with this. I keep intending not to wait until "deadline" to write, but I'm still not having much luck with that, as continues to be the case with many of my other intentions. But there also continues to be something positive about "checking in on deadline," just as there continues to be much positive about doing whatever right thing I can even when it seems like I miss so many opportunities to act. I remember when it was worse. I believe it can be better. I trust God to show me His way. And He's never failed me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matters of timing

It's blog time. I was going to write about tricks of the trade -- techniques I've learned that seem effective in some areas of my life -- along with musings about why I can't seem to find such techniques to apply in other areas.

But the topic crowding my mind is timing. For everything there is a season ...

What brought it to the forefront was the tragedy at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Thursday, when 39-year-old firefighter Shannon Stone, who was at the baseball game with his 6-year-old son, Cooper, died after apparently losing his balance and falling over a railing and hitting his head on concrete after catching a foul ball he had asked All-Star and MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton to toss to them.

How can there be a season for something like that? All involved seemed to be engaged in life-affirming, family building, fan-friendly, innocent fun pursuits -- and such an unthinkable result occurs.

The game went on, eventually resulting in a big win for the Rangers. Players and other fans had reason to hope for the best regarding the father's condition (there were reports he was alert and talking, asking about his son) until they were informed after the game that he had died. And then what? How do you celebrate a victory when a child has just lost a father, a wife has lost a husband, a mother has lost a son, and countless others have lost a friend, comrade and hero.

Another game was played Friday, and even though they won decisively, the victory again was somber for the Rangers. Would it ever seem OK to really celebrate a win again?

I guess the answer came Saturday, when the Rangers were unlikely winners with a 2-out, 2-run walkoff homer by Josh. The team and fans -- and Josh, who'd been tormented by his part in the tragedy -- celebrated with the smiles and innocence of children.

I still can't wrap my mind and soul around how such a celebration seemed appropriate then and not the nights before. Many writers referenced Ecclesiastes -- For everything there is a season ... For a moment, it was time to play ball and celebrate.

I hope and pray that it was appropriate, and that family and friends of Shannon Stone -- and his wife and son -- somehow shared in the celebration. Reports had said Josh was Cooper's favorite player, and he and his dad had bought a new glove on the way to the ballpark, and their goal was go catch a ball from Josh. How does a child process that? How does a family?

Josh's response has been that he's just praying and praying. He's praying to know how and when to reach out to the family. In my mind, it seemed like maybe he already should have, and certainly that he should have said in his postgame comments he was thinking of the father and son as he rounded the bases. But his comments were just about baseball. That surprised me. But I believe him when he says he's praying hard for that family and about his response. And he expresses faith that God does have a plan and a hand in what's happening, even if we don't understand. I guess that makes sense.

But it sure messes with my mind. I want to believe that for everything there is a season, and I want to believe that I live by faith. But a Sunday school discussion today reminded me of what a worrier I am, and how worry really isn't compatible with faith. I pray and pray to know how to handle a situation -- or life in general -- but in reality, instead of truly trusting God to guide my steps (whether to work, play, serve or celebrate, etc.), I keep worrying and trying to figure out the right thing to do. And while I'm worrying and trying to figure out, I miss learning that a recently widowed friend was in town Friday night on a visit from Ohio. I don't know why I wasn't aware she was here. I would loved to have seen her. If only I kept closer contact with church friends ...

If only ...

I lack a good sense of timing -- what to do when. And it often leads to regret. Somehow, as events of this week made me even more aware of that weakness, they also reminded me that none of us can change the past. We can just choose our next action. Right now, I don't feel like I'm doing that very well. I'm stuck again in habits -- past actions. That's part of what the other topic would have addressed: "tricks of the trade" to change patterns and achieve better results. But that's for another time.

I've been praying as I've been writing, and the best I can come up with is that, for now, it's time to post and log off. And I do feel strengthened in my faith that God will show me what this is all about -- or use it to His glory anyway -- in His good time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

God shed His grace ...

It had been a while since I'd done a solo at church, and I was beyond ready. So I expressed to the new choir director my willingness and desire to sing at the early and late services. He suggested I do it when he was on vacation in July, so we would have special music without the choir having to sing an anthem.  Although I was a bit disappointed he wouldn't hear me sing, I knew it was a good plan. 

The Sunday of his vacation turned out to be July 3, so in the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, I decided I would sing something patriotic rather than what I had planned. "America the Beautiful" was my choice. 

At choir practice that Wednesday, I was surprised when we started a new anthem selected because we would have Communion on Sunday. It wasn't until choir practice was over that I knew for sure that the choir director had had a change of plans and would be there to lead us in this very worshipful anthem. I was glad. 

But I began to have second thoughts about singing "America the Beautiful" as a solo. I'd chosen an arrangement with a key change and that ended with a soul-stirring flourish, but I was really doubting my ability to carry it out. It was a higher key than I realized, and I also wondered whether some of those words sounded very melodic when they emerged from my mouth. I prayed as I practiced, seeking guidance and even assurance regarding how to handle this. I  worried it would sound thin or screechy. Some of the techniques our director has shared in his short time  with the choir came to my mind, and they were helpful as I practiced and tried to figure out how best to approach some notes, words and phrases. I practiced with increasing faith, even as confidence continued to elude me. 

As far as the key, God was able to remind me that I am a soprano and have the ability to sing those notes,  so I could just pretend I was singing with the whole choir. 

More lessons I took to heart from the new director: Work on technique. Practice and practice. Then let go and worship. It seemed like that happened the first service. But the second service, it seemed different, maybe less connected spiritually. And my mind or spirit couldn't seem to recall the idea of pretending the choir was singing along. But then a wonderful thing happened. At the start of the final verse, "Oh beautiful for patriot's dream ...," after the pianist played a brief fanfare, members of the congregation and choir started to stand and then join in singing! The power of the song. The power of the spirit. The power of patriotism. The power of freedom. The power of God!

How humbled and grateful I feel to be allowed to have a part in such a moment of worship and praise.   Again and again, God sheds His grace on me and all who seek Him. I pray to never stop seeking and praising Him. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The new routine is no routine

The new routine is no routine. I need to remember that when the next few weeks tempt me to think there is a routine again. 

Since the start of the year -- after many years of starting work in the morning and going into the late afternoon or early evening -- I've gone to an ever-changing schedule that is all over the place. The first two or three months it was mostly 2 or 4 p.m. to midnight. Then it was a few months of basically 2-10, 2-12, 2-6, 12-8 and 3 pm-1 am, Monday through Friday. In June it went to Sunday through Thursday, except when I wasn't needed on Sunday, so I worked Friday. 

A mid-June vacation without a schedule fit right in with the confusion, and the vacation was punctuated by pulling an all-nighter for Relay for Life. 

And now I'm working days again, noon to 8, which in the past would have seemed normal but now is just another change before going to a month of 10-6 Monday through Friday, unless something different is needed. And that will be for just a month, and then it will probably be back to the afternoon to night shifts.

What I am so aware of is that even when -- or especially when --  my work schedule lacks routine, it is imperative for me to build structure and maintain discipline in my life.  Patterns of eating, sleeping, exercising, reading, praying and meditating are important. Most days I keep a pretty specific list of what I need to do and when. I went through a period this month of viewing that as a weakness. But today as I walked, after waking up on target after a within-range amount of pillow time, I embraced my list and willingness to use it as a strength. 

As I was walking, I thought of my Dad, whose life example includes all kinds of work schedules, including true graveyard shifts. He and lots of people, including one of my sisters, have often worked far from ideal schedules. Their examples remind me to do whatever it takes to make it work for me. For me, that  includes keeping it healthy,  which is probably why it is more of a challenge, because keeping it healthy requires discipline for me.  

That also made me think of Daddy's newest thing. A couple of days each week, he'll be going into town for pulmonary therapy. Why? To continue to build up his strength. He wants to be as healthy as he can be, even at 85. I am proud and inspired.

I sometimes wish my life were more routine or automatic. It seems as if what comes naturally for me is to do nothing. (I had some thoughts about that, too, while I walked today, that renewed my hope that I can change.) I'm grateful that I keep fighting that instinctive inertia. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vacation memories

My vacation from work did not go according to plan. I had two big household cleaning/organizing projects I wanted to accomplish, plus several smaller tasks, but I really can't claim any measurable success. Toward the end of the week, I started to lapse into regret and despair. I felt as if I had wasted the week.

Then I looked closer.

The main reason I scheduled this week off was so that I could be assured of having the Friday for Relay for Life in Perry. I accomplished that, plus I had time to buy and break in new shoes. Mom and two of my sisters, in addition to the sister who is my relay team captain, all spent some time at relay. That was so nice to be there with Mom, a cancer survivor. And she wouldn't have been there unless Daddy, also a cancer survivor, was OK with her leaving him home alone overnight. Mom's trip also included a shower for her great-grandson, due in September. There were many treasured moments for me.

I was also glad my vacation timing worked with the Dallas Mavericks NBA championship win. It allowed me to watch the game and postgame and even the victory parade. Unfortunately, that's probably what kept me distracted from my work projects. About midweek, I was experiencing those regrets and shame about how I'd spent my time. But even as that happened, I kept reading Scripture and devotionals that reminded me my worth is not based on what I accomplish. A couple of readings even made it seem possible that what to me seemed like wasted time might fit into God's big plan for me. So I kept looking and praying for guidance, even as I seemed not to heed it.

Another confusing but memorable aspect of my vacation was that it coincided with the Youth Force mission project at the church. I had not realized that would be the case, and when I did make the connection, I decided not to alter my personal work focus. By the end of the week, as I accomplished so little, that seemed like a big, selfish mistake. I did go to two of the worship services, and even though doing so seemed selfish, I think it was part of the plan.

There is so much more to write about my vacation, but it's deadline, so I'm posting, with grateful memories and a smile.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Hear It For the Team: Dallas Mavericks, 2011 World Champions

As Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat wound down Sunday and a Mavs championship looked imminent, I found myself thinking I wouldn't know how to react if they actually won. It turns out the reaction is that neat kind of happiness that results when you see what looks like positive efforts and hard work being rewarded. I liked that, once again, the team that played like a team, that put the team before the individual players, won the prize.

Life and sports don't always work out like that, but that's the second time this year it's happened with a team I care about. The other was in the spring, when the Texas A&M women beat Notre Dame to win the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship.

Interestingly, in both cases, it was obvious that, as far as the media (particularly ESPN, but not just ESPN) was concerned, first the Aggies and now the Mavericks wouldn't be the story whether they won or lost. I remember watching the sports coverage the day after the Aggies won, and it was all about what Notre Dame did wrong and why they should have won and what they need to do in the future. About the only coverage featuring the Aggies was what couldn't be denied: Game highlights and the trophy presentation.

Last night and today, it's been that all over again. It's all about LeBron James and what he didn't do, not about Dirk Nowitzki and what the Dallas Mavericks did. The thing is, all the focus would be on LeBron and the Heat if the Heat had won, too. So, I'm very happy the Mavericks won! Analysts and observers and even players can talk and speculate all they want, but they can't take away the Mavs' championship trophy and Dirk's MVP trophy.

I think these excerpts from an article by Mike Fisher, a journalist who has covered the Mavericks for 20 years, hit the highlights that resonate most with me today. He's talking about how Dirk, the superstar, and the whole team were playing with each other and for each other. For the team.

"This," The UberMan (Nowitzki) said, his new "NBA Champions" hat sitting crooked on his head, "is a win for team basketball." ...

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle spoke, too. ... "This is one of the unique teams in NBA history. Because it wasn't about high-flying star power. Come on, how often do we have to hear about 'The LeBron James Reality Show' and what he is or isn't doing? When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished? That's what's special. … We knew it was very important that we won this series … because of what the game is about, and what the game should stand for. … (The Mavs) have made a statement that's a colossal statement."

They made a statement, alongside Dirk and for Dirk. They did it with nary a word. They did it with a two-week-long, 48-minute-at-a-time flurry of basketball punches to an opponent that had foolishly questioned who they are and what they stand for.

As is often the case, there are lessons and there is inspiration for me from the world of sports. I may write about those later. But for now, I'm just happy to see a hard-working, and as far as I can tell, pretty humble and classy team of players win the championship. I hope victory doesn't change them. And I hope having two teams I root for carry home the prize this year doesn't change me, unless somehow it makes me a better person.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Time? Now!

Why does it always take a seemingly worse situation to help me appreciate what I had?

After a pity party that I hope is now over, I'm back in action. No excuses. Just do it.

I've written about it before. The work schedule seems to get worse and worse, but in the honest analysis, for today, it's still a good job, and I can do what's asked of me. Yes, I squandered some opportunities for spending the off hours of the "better schedule" productively. But stewing over that is pointless and decreases the chance for future productivity.

So, today I walked. I'm blogging. I've checked off from my list a number of things large and small that as recently yesterday it seemed like I would delay just out of self-pity. And who would that have helped?

God is surely showing me again, so many things:
-- No matter how many opportunities I squander, He doesn't give up on me. He gives me another chance.
-- What looks bad to me (a schedule, etc.) usually isn't as bad as I think.
-- What looks bad to me often holds an opportunity for blessing if I will just keep my focus on God.
-- In all things, focus on God's will and give honor, glory and praise to Him.

Thank you, God.