Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perils & payoffs of passion (Looking back at January 2012)

This first month of 2012 has been quite a process. In some ways, I feel as if I've made a lot of progress in some important areas. But progress seems to take so much effort, and doubts creep in as to whether I'm on the right track and whether it's worth it.

Perils of passion:
Early this month, someone brought to my attention a mistake in the newspaper
where I work, and asked, How could that happen? I wondered the same thing and, even though it was Saturday, decided to send an email that ultimately suggested a correction be made. Unfortunately, mixed in with my suggestion for a correction were a tone and some words in which I took the side of someone outside the paper instead of one who works there. (The mistake was that the Singing ChurchWomen of Oklahoma were called the Singing Church Ladies of Oklahoma. I wondered how someone couldn't question that, since it made me think of a "Saturday Night Live" skit, which could be considered offensive.) I will say I was reminded when I returned to work many of the reasons someone might not question that. And the most important thing I was reminded of was that this still is an area in which I struggle. I try so hard not to make mistakes, to the point of it making me slow at my work. And I do still make mistakes. But it's hard for me to imagine that I would not have questioned that. I question things constantly at work. I consider it my job. Even so, I need to watch my tone when I respond to the mistakes of others. It brought back to mind the time a superviser described me in an employee evaluation as "offputting." I laugh now, but that was such a shock and insult to me at the time to think someone could describe me like that. But even then, the bottom line seemed to be that I expected too much of people at work and wasn't diplomatic enough in working with others. The funny thing about that is when I think of what I might have been like had I not TRIED so hard to be diplomatic. I really did and do try, even in the deal this month!

Payoff of passion:
One of my dear sweet Facebook friends posted about a relationship change, and it caused me some fear that she might react with some unhealthy choices. I wanted to respond, but I was hesitant to do so. I don't want to meddle, etc. But I did send a positive, encouraging and honest message. And I prayed and prayed. It's another extremely fine line of knowing whether to express anything or how much; what I hear a lot of people say is that they hold back because they don't want to interfere. But my heart sometimes says I just must. And eventually, and so far, there has been a good response. I continue to lift this dear one up in prayer and am trusting she will find her best path.

Perils of persistence?
As I continue to try to make a habit of chewing less gum (that sounds funny was I read it); not be obsessed with certain tv shows; type on my iPhone with my thumbs instead of my left index finger; spend quiet time daily in prayer and meditation (rather than praying as I go, whether while lying in bed, pedaling on my exercise bike, walking down the hall or showering), I can't help but wonder whether it's just a new way of self-obsessing. Yesterday's reading in Jesus Calling said: "Whatever occupies your mind the most becomes your god." Immediately I was convicted. What do I think of most? Me! How embarrassing. I'd already done some prayerful soul searching about this and continue to do so. Right now, I still think God is leading me on the path of developing these more positive disciplines so that I will be freed from some of the bad habits and have more time and energy to love and serve God and others. But today's reading makes me take another look at that, as it suggested: "Instead of assessing your energy level and wondering about what's on the road ahead, concentrate on staying in touch with Me (Jesus)." The focus this month has been on trusting Jesus. On Jan. 4, the suggestion was to learn a new habit. "Try saying, 'I trust You, Jesus,' in response to whatever happens to you." And I've turned to that often.

Power of prayer:
And I turn to it now. Toward the end of the month, I've felt discouraged that some of these positive changes still don't come naturally. They take more time and effort than I think they should. Have they become idols? But again I am reinforced by Scriptures that God gives me as I spend quiet time with Him each morning (and the purring cat He places on my lap). They remind me God gives me all the strength and energy and direction and grace and guidance and love and more than I could ever even think I need or would ask for. He does it through the love of family and friends and the kindness of strangers. And His concept of time is not mine.

Today, I asked Him: Are you directing me to try to fix some things with me (discipline of gum, soap operas, blog, prayer time, etc.) or is this my will and another crutch? I believe You are leading me, Lord. I trust You to correct me if I am going astray. My hope is You. My prize is You. I pray to know and do Your will, Lord, one moment at a time, in all things, to Your glory.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Glad It was just a dream

For the second time in recent months (since the paper sold), I dreamed this week that I was laid off. Both times it was so vivid. Both times it was clear it was just a business decision and that I have no control over such things. 

So far, and fortunately, my dreams tend to reflect past experiences and situations more than what's coming. They provide reminders not to put my faith in earthly things. They affirm my need to pray, without ceasing, to know God's will, work hard (anyway), show love, seek justice, praise God and trust God. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Here I go again ... (oops, using fingers again!)

I guess it's time for this  ol' cat to learn a new trick. It seems a strong possibility now that just more than a year of using my left index finger to type on my phone is starting to cause problems.

I think I noticed the more frequent numbness in my index finger first. My fingers have always occasionally gotten a little numb when it's cold.  But they rebounded pretty quickly. This winter, it happens more often -- and it's harder to get it back to normal, especially my left index finger. And when it happened again yesterday, I took my gloves off and looked for the first time in  good light. The top part of that finger was colorless. Pretty freaky. I massaged it back into shape and vowed to make the change that has never worked for me before: using my thumbs to type on my phone. 

 So far, it's extremely difficult and frustrating. I've lost some posts I was trying to edit, and I'm constantly having to back up and try again.  So, it's taking forever. 

I realize it's quite possible these tiny keyboards aren't intended for essays such as blog posts.  But the phone makes it so easy to just start writing when the thoughts come, such as sitting in the reclined with the cat on my lap, or even when I'm pedaling on my exercise bike.  

Perhaps if it were just the numbness when it's cold I wouldn't be concerned. But I've also started having some pain in my left wrist. I've managed to avoid carpel tunnel symptoms in about 30 years of computer work. I'd hate to start having problems due to a supposedly smart phone. 

So, I am trying the thumb method. I may already feel positive results  in my hand, if not in my ability to type like this. My daily devotionals continue to offer words and Scriptures that affirm and encourage me along this path of making changes that weeks if not days ago still seemed impossible. And that gives me hope that I'll follow up on an even bigger step I know I need to take. 

From today's reading: Don't waste energy regretting the way things are ... Start at the present moment -- accepting things exactly as they are -- and search for My (the Lord's) way in the midst of those circumstances. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Until now ... And henceforth

-- Staying mostly in bed and not leaving the house from Friday night until Monday morning last weekend probably really did help me get over a cold faster. It is amazing, though, how tired I still was after spending that much time in bed and/or sleeping and doing nothing. 

-- It was great to be back to a weekly meeting I missed last Saturday and church today. 

-- As I've mentioned before, on Dec. 21, I made a decision to cut my gum consumption by half, which, as I said at the time, is no small thing for me. Even as I still struggle to keep that commitment in the fourth week, I've added another, prompted by the same strong inner feeling I had  about the gum. This one is to quit recording a soap opera and making time to keep up with it. Sounds simple, right? But I guess I'm one of those people that trying to cut back or cut out makes me think I want it more. I have to remind myself every day why I made each decision and why it is worth keeping the commitment to myself. One day at a time is important to remember. 

-- I have made some changes in my diet along with the gum. I think overall it's healthier. It's still a work in progress. 

-- Oh, yes: The 28-year-old dishwasher quit working Friday night. A lot of people I know would have gone right out on Saturday and bought a new one. We'll actually try to fix ours. Trying to keep old appliances out of the landfill as long as possible, I suppose. And they just don't make things like they used to. Meanwhile, I feel solidarity with Mom and others I know for whom washing dishes by hand is no big deal. 

-- I responded passionately to three different things this weekend. I shared insights in writing to make sure people in certain situations were aware of possible mistakes or other options. The world and society sends a lot of messages that seem to say people should mind their own business. And you certainly have to not show emotion! But something within me requires me to express. And so I pray, and usually write, rather than speak. And I trust God with the results. 

-- On this 15th day of 2012, I'm mostly feeling positive and hopeful and as if progress is occurring. I'm grateful for that. The new morning prayer routine sitting in a comfortable chair and using the Jesus Calling devotional  and A Praying Heart journal starts my day with peace.  So many good insights from Scripture. I am learning to say daily and believe: I trust You, Lord. 

As the bishop said when he preached at our church today, from 1 Samuel 7:12, up until now, God has been with us and blessed us. And we can have faith that He will continue to be with us and bless us. (But it helps if we start out right from the top, as he shared from his lesson as a 7-year-old who had some trouble with his first beloved button-front shirt.)


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blessings/lessons while sick

It is really hard for me to stay home just because I don't feel good. It would help if, by staying home, I got better sooner. But I'm not sure that's the case. I guess I should also consider the germ factor: People probably are glad am not out there spreading them!

Bridget is enjoying me being here. 
When she rests so contentedly and purring on my lap, the delight and rightness I feel makes me imagine how God feels when I stop and rest in His Presence.  

Lessons/blessings from being sick:
--Different  sense of dependence on God. One of my new devotionals for the year has suggested I learn to say, in all things: "I trust You, Jesus." It doesn't come easily. It is amazing how much it has helped when I do. 
--I'd rather praise God for keeping me well. I'm glad I know to praise Him for keeping me even when I'm sick. 
--Gene is over his health maladies (including last weekend's cold I probably caught), so he can make drug and grocery runs for me. 
--Stocking up my gum bank; unexpected answer to one of my odd needs.   

I still struggle to understand why I will miss church and 12-step meetings with cold symptoms, but am less likely to stay home from work. (I worked Friday even though Gene would not let me come see him  in the hospital; he didn't want me to infect the sick people.) I think it's because they don't "need" me as much at church and OA. I need them. But we really feel it at work when someone is gone. And I can work. I just don't feel great. (And I keep Germ-x with me at all times.)

Now that I think about it, it's somewhat new for me to actually stay home from the OA meeting and church without worse symptoms. Maybe it's a result of me praying more intentionally and seeking God's wisdom and presence. It's still too early to know for sure. I know I hope I wake up in the morning feeling so much better that there's no question about whether I should go to work. I still think that is possible. 

Until then and always: "I trust You, Jesus."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inspiration at the start of 2012

Psalmcat 52:1.1.12

On New Year's Eve, I wrote down three thoughts for 2012: Keep it simple. Keep it spiritual. Let God lead.

So, today the year began, and it didn't seem much like a holiday. Gene spent most of the day in bed with a cold or more, and Bridget still can't keep much food down. (I think it's hairballs.) I thought we would have Communion to start the new year at church; instead, we had a guest speaker so the preacher could travel with his family. (The guest did a superb job.) And the person who was supposed to do special music could not sing today.

I really struggled not to overeat and overchew. Gene being sick in bed didn't help. I did cook us a meal of ham, black-eyed peas, salad and crescent rolls. I knew he didn't have much appetite or taste, but eating black-eyed peas is a tradition for us. Here's to a healthy and prosperous 2012.

More vital to the success of the year, however, will be what I finally started tonight. I bought my own copy of Jesus Calling, a daily devotional book Mom received after Daddy died. "Come to me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed." That's how it started today, with reference to one of my favorite Scriptures, Jeremiah 29:11. The devotionals are designed to help the reader be open to and experience God's presence.

I also started a daily devotional prayer journal I received for Christmas. The two books are not related, but if the first day is an indication, they will complement and enhance each other. The Scripture reference there was The Message version of "Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me." And it also led me to re-examine Psalm 139:23-24 -- "Search me, oh God, and know my heart ... and lead me in the way everlasting."

I also want to share this, from Debbie Hazen Bennett, a cousin of my friend Susan. I was just going to pass along excerpts, but it is so real and resonant as written that I will not change anything. So, with this, just thank You, God, for another day to live and learn to serve You in grace and love.

12 things that I wish I had known at 25 ~ Or more accurately, 12 things that, had I put them into action, would have made my life a lot easier. Some are bits of advice that wisdom figures have told me and took years to sink in. Others are the result of some hard knocks. A few are insights from the great spiritual masters that I've adapted for my own life. Maybe a few will help someone you know who's 25. Maybe one or two will help you.
1. First up: Stop worrying so much! It's useless. (I.e. Jesus was right.)
2. Being a saint means being yourself. Stop trying to be someone else and just be your best self. Saves you heartache.
3. There's no right way to pray, any more than there's a right way to be a friend. What's "best" is what works best for you.
4. Remember three things and save yourself lots of unneeded heartache: You're not God. This ain't heaven. Don't act like a jerk.
5. Your deepest, most heartfelt desires are God's desires for you. And vice versa. Listen. And follow them.
6. Within you is the idea of your best self. Act as if you were that person and you will become that person, with God's grace.
7. Don't worry too much about the worst that can happen. Even if it happens, God is with you, and you can handle it. Really.
8. You can't force people to approve of you, agree with you, be impressed with you, love you or even like you. Stop trying.
9. When we compare, we are usually imagining someone else's life falsely. So our real-life loses out. I.e. Compare and despair.
10. Even when you finally realized the right thing, or the Christian thing, to do, it can still be hard to do. Do it anyway.
11. Seven things to say frequently: I love you. Thank you. Thank you, God. Forgive me. I'm so happy for you! Why not? Yes.
12. Peace and joy come after asking God to free you -- from anything that keeps you from being loving and compassionate.