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.