Saturday, February 11, 2012

Finding peace in the present amid thoughts of past, future

All of my spiritual devotionals point me to Scriptures that remind me of the importance of living in this moment and not getting caught up in the past or the future. And I have learned the value from experience. But it's still hard to do.

In the past week, two things in particular have tempted my mind to wander back or ahead. The first was to learn that the person who has become my best friend and most trusted colleague at work has given her two-weeks' notice. Her last day will be Friday. In the past year especially, but also for quite a while before that, she has been a rock in helping me learn and grow at work as well as in life. She's helped me not give up trying to achieve high standards when they don't seem to matter any more, and we've shared many a conversation about our families, interests, dreams, goals and cats. I am so happy for her and excited about the step she is taking. Many things of where I am personally and at work tell me that this will be a good a time for me to make some changes even as I stay at the job.

So, I am trying to stay focused on the positive things in the future for my friend and for me. But I find myself having to fight off distracting thoughts, such as:
-- where I am after what will be 30 years at my job if I make it to September (I've been a reporter, assistant department editor and religion editor, among other things, but sometimes now I think of myself as "just a copy editor," although I strive to be the best I can and do think the job is very important);
-- how inadequate I seem at developing and maintaining lasting friendships, at work or anywhere else (I have lots of people whom I care about and they care about me, but none that I ever just hang out with for a meal, shopping or a movie);
-- whenever someone as good at her job as my friend leaves, it's harder than some people admit to fill that void. So, at least for the short term, things will be more hectic than ever. And because of the roles she filled, it's possible there will be changes ahead in how things are done, and that's always stressful for me.

So, again, I've been working hard to keep those stressful thoughts at bay and to focus on my trust in God to show me the way in whatever is ahead. By faith, I can be open to change and confident that God will not only equip me for the work but also give me His peace and presence. And with that, I pray, will come a positive, cheerful, grateful attitude.

The second bit of information in the past week that has teased my mind to wander is learning that Whaley Memorial United Methodist Church, the church I grew up in and have maintained ties to, is having its 125th anniversary this year. The timing is interesting as I've become constantly more aware in recent years of how much that church means to me. I blogged about it just last weekend. For some reason, the big anniversary year gives me a sense of urgency to not miss the chance to be a part. One of the things I realized is that I don't even remember being aware of the church's centennial, even though I was married at the church five years earlier and have always attended at least a few times each year when my husband and I visited our parents. (I would have been 28 at the time of that anniversary.) It also brings a few troubling thoughts about why I don't feel more at home at the church where I am a member now. Maybe it's because the reason I feel so much a part of Whaley is my family, and I don't have that as much where I am a member now; it's just me and occasionally my husband -- no connection to grandparents, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews or children of my own there. As with work, I have many people there whom I care love and care about, and they love and care about me. But that same character weakness or whatever that keeps me from really having friendships elsewhere is very present in my church relationships.

Anyway, both of these exciting things have piqued my interest this week. That't not bad in itself. Much of the thinking has been productive and positive. But I have to be vigilant not to get lost in the thoughts of the past or future, especially if those thoughts bring anxiety or regret. Only in the present -- God's presence -- do I find peace and the wisdom to know and the power to do His will.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8

"The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace." Psalm 29:11

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." Psalm 46:1-2


  1. (My Facebook link comment) Yay! By writing this tonight, I won't have "deadline" pressure tomorrow. Which I guess means I wasn't practicing what I'm trying to preach, if I was already thinking (worrying) about tomorrow. But -- maybe God in this present moment wanted me to go ahead and write. (I choose to think that's what it was, and I thank Him!)

  2. Pat, whatever you think you have received from me, I have received in kind from you. Don't sell yourself short. You have impressed me with your ability and willingness to adapt to the ongoing changes at work. To be honest, I was worried for you when these changes began, but you showed you have grit and tenacity, and I think of our little group you came the farthest in going forward. I wouldn't have predicted that. It shows just what big strides you have made in the past few years. You should be proud of yourself. There have been many times when I wanted to just "let it go," but I could hear your voice (sometimes literally) reminding me of the importance of what we were doing and maintaining high standards. So you helped inspire me, too. You are not "just a copy editor." You save butts and reputations almost daily and ensure that readers have a product they can trust. It's important. I've known some "just copy editors" -- you're not one of them.
    As I make this major change, my biggest fear is losing touch with the co-workers who have also become good friends, such as yourself, so consider this a standing invite to lunch (I'm not much of a shopper). We just have to make it happen. ...Renee

    1. Yes, lunch! We will do it. And I look forward to seeing you at art shows and galleries!