Friday, March 30, 2012

Keeping the Faith

This is another time when the blog just needs to be a somewhat chronological accounting of some of the week's highlights and challenges. I'm hampered again by desktop computer woes that force me to use iPhone. That becomes one more challenge. Sigh. 

-- 10:30 am Monday: I would be 100 percent stressed out if not for growing faith. Instead, I'm just aware of the anxiety beneath the surface. And I just keep turning it over to God. 

I tried to explain to my husband  last night how bad it seems work should be, and it still just isn't. How can that be? Thank You, God. 

--  9:53 am Wednesday: Overate leftovers last night. I know it was because of work stress and weird schedule, but it still only adds to my stress and has no apparent positive effect -- except to remind me, perhaps, that even with thankfulness, faith and trust, I still am a compulsive/obsessive addict, whose drug of choice is food. At least it was protein, veggies and cornmeal, and not candy or dessert.

So, it's harder to focus today, but by the grace of God, I can and am. 

-- During the day Wednesday:  housekey broke off in deadbolt lock; computer won't print for my insurance reimbursement; got home after having prescription filled and was notified by homeland I had dropped my wallet at the pharmacy. Sigh. Just stressed and exhausted. Help me pray, Lord. 

-- Later: I'm really in a slump. Day (day off) had good moments, but I didn't make a dent in things I need to do and stress is taking hold.  Obstacles to everything. Really struggling not to shut down. And that's twice in two days I nearly spelled shut with an I. Smile.

Good included: Oa meeting; stopping at my husband's  office to get fishing license and visit his secretary, who is retiring after 17 years with the department;  picking up her clock at Midwest trophy; getting  stuff I needed at walmart; top down driving; supper at CiCi's with husband;  choir practice; rx refill and double coupons at homeland ... So much is good. Lord, please help me stay focused on You in faith, to Your glory. 

-- Thursday morning: Below are the "Jesus Calling" Scriptures for today. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me through this bout of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and unsure which day it is in a convoluted week -- and this is after a day off! I know I'm struggling when so much good is happening, and I can hardly see it for the stress.  

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."
—Ecclesiastes 3:1

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
—John 16:33

--  About 5 pm Thursday: Great is God's faithfulness. This day -- as with all days -- is fine if I just keep my focus on Him, do what I can and not worry. Grateful to be back on track. (Turnaround actually came about 11 am, a couple hours after original post. Now I'm at work and still peacefully focused.)

-- Now it's Friday evening, of  another day off. Some of this morning's devotional and Scripture:
"I am taking care of you. Trust Me at all times. Trust Me in all circumstances. Trust Me with all your heart. When you are weary and everything seems to be going wrong, you can still utter these four words: 'I  trust You, Jesus.' By doing so, you release matters into My control, and you fall back into the security of My everlasting arms."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
—Proverbs 3:5

So many things are churning in my brain. One minute I feel peace, and the next I'm trying figure it all out again. God strongly advises me against trying to figure it out. So, again: "I trust You, Lord." Please help me rise above any doubt, confusion or unbelief, to Your glory. I thank You and praise You. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lessons From the Fast Lane

I got a traffic ticket on the way to work yesterday afternoon, and even though it's pretty expensive, it didn't bother me too much. As much as I drive, I'm surprised I haven't gotten more. Of course, I also will make an extra effort to avoid getting  any more. 

But work -- That is bothering me. 

Traffic: Pay the ticket and slow down. A timely reminder to slow down. I apparently was going at least 6 mph faster than I would have guessed. I was on my phone, but I take pride in saying that doesn't stop me from paying attention. I may need to rethink that.  

Work: I have no answers. 
The new situation sorta started Wednesday when I agreed to help out by working four extra hours instead of my usual short shift that allows me to go to choir practice. Even then, the problem was trying to figure out how to absorb the hours, since overtime isn't allowed and people are still gone. And then Thursday, even more people were gone, plus someone gave notice they will be leaving. And now it's Friday and we are still short staffed. 

For now, I'm grateful for quiet time with God and this purring gift of cat. 

I started to do a status update on  Facebook this morning  about yesterday, but it quickly evolved into more of a blog post. I was aware that yesterday's inspiration from Scripture and Jesus Calling helped keep me going and trusting. And now -- another day the Lord has made, with blue skies and sunshine to boot! I will rejoice and be glad. 

 Seems someone is going to have to come up with answers at work,  or there will be big problems. I'm doing what I can, but I can only do so much. 

On the top of my list, today and always: Trust and obey and give thanks. Thank You, God. I trust You, Lord. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cramps and cat pee: Show me Your glory, Lord

Cramps and cat pee: show me Your glory, Lord. 
(And I know He will.)

I typed that much and put it in notes Friday. I thought blog deadline was Monday. But it is today!!!!
Cat pee and cramps were two things that seemed to occur without warning and no apparent reason Friday morning.
A Thursday that included a "good health" checkup in the morning, a satisfactory haircut, a 20-minute walk and a surprisingly smooth 3 to midnight work shift quickly gave way to bewilderment with some pretty painful cramps as I was preparing for the drive home. I'd just told the doctor this didn't seem to be a problem anymore. What is up with that.

After finally getting relief from the pain, I had a good night of sleep (can you call it night when it starts after 12 a.m.?). After I awoke feeling much better, I settled in for morning prayer. I was aware of how sweet my kitty seemed, and also that she seemed to be over her health problems. And probably less than 30 minutes later, while I was trying to decide which socks to wear, I looked down and saw that cat peeing on the carpet!!!! Why? Why? Why? And what a hassle and mess.

When I was dealing with the cramps just hours earlier, I read from the Jesus Calling devotional for the day that had just begun. It reminded me "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me" (Philippians 3:4).

I don't have to understand. I just have to trust and obey. But I sure have found myself at a loss these last few days as to what to do about some things. Add to it now that what started with biting the inside of my mouth about three times during the week seems to have possibly spread to a toothache and sinus pain. Is that even possible? I just know that if it still hurts when I get up, I will need to call the dentist, which is about the last thing I want to do.

Through it all, the Scriptures related to my daily readings remind me not only to trust and obey, but also rejoice and praise -- and not to worry. Sometimes the best I can do is try. By God's grace, maybe that's enough for today.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reflections on a happy birthday

Reflections on a happy birthday. 

The computer has a virus, which means I'm composing this on my phone, which means I'm using a finger, so I need to keep it concise. Good luck with that. 

I began looking forward to this day when I volunteered to do special music at worship, truly as a gift back to God on my birthday. I immediately learned it wouldn't go as planned, but as the week progressed, I was grateful to be able to have a part in God's greater ministry. You will never convince me that I am a good singer, but God through my family and friends has convinced me that He wants me to use the voice I have to praise Him. I am humbled and blessed to do so. 

When I realized I would be singing at early church on the weekend of the clock springing forward for daylight saving time, I panicked. And then I decided to trust God. And for the first time ever, I set the clock ahead, went to bed based on the new time and awoke rested. One of the Scriptures for my Jesus Calling devotional today was 2 Corinthians 5:7 -- for we walk by faith, not by sight. The devotional reminded me to trust God and not to limit myself by what I think I have time or energy or enough rest to do. But I also saw that if I ask Him to help me, I just might actually be able to have a full, restful night and awaken refreshed. It still seems like a minor miracle. 

Despite plenty of sleep and a good plan for the morning, I still was late for early church. I could blame it on the rain or the distraction of birthday greetings, but the truth is running late is just something I do. 

As I prepared to sing at church on my birthday, I thought of two very special Sundays for me last year.  I sang His Eye Is on the Sparrow last March 20 on my Dad's birthday, and I sang Blessed Assurance Sept. 18 on Mom and Dad's anniversary, both at their church. Singing may seem like a public thing, but it also is a very personal, heartfelt communication for me. 

That made me think of and thank God again for the great cloud of witnesses that influences me from heaven and on earth. Jesus Calling is a daily devotional I bought for myself after Mom mentioned a copy was given to her around the time of Daddy's death. As I center myself for prayer, I remind myself to breathe in deeply through my nose and exhale through my mouth -- something I picked up in Dad's therapy related to lung surgery. The focused breathing is calming and makes me smile to think of him. And the Bible I read the Scriptures from belonged to my husband's Dad. And he had underlined some passages on the page I read from today. 

I thank God for so many gifts, today and always. May I use them to His glory. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

In ALL things: Praise!

Little annoyances were starting to accumulate, and I had started to compose a blog post:

Negativity, get thee away from me!

I'm wrestling with some less than positive feelings. Among them:

-- about some issues with choir and singing at church. I resent that I have to make a special trip to church to practice if I want/need to sing with a cd. It's not my fault the pianist isn't available! No willing spirit avoids challenges, it seems. I know God is going to take away the negative feelings and show me His will and glory. It hasn't happened yet.
-- about my hair and hairstylist. Something is not working with my hair, and we are somewhat at odds as to the solution. He tells me not to snip those parts that won't behave as they grow out. I won't leave them alone.

-- Feelings about work. Frustration? Being overwhelmed? These don't feel like resentment. I just know I like my job and what I do, but that some of the circumstances feel impossible. I guess fear is the feeling. If things doen't change or get better, I fear it will become unbearable. And then what?
-- Health issues. Will these allergies/sinus/congestion symptoms ever go away? It seems like everyone at church yesterday was dealing with them. This morning, I just wanted to crawl back into bed, and did for about five minutes. And that was after 9 hours of regular pillow time!
-- Nutrition issues. I read an article about aspartame that was pretty scary for someone who consumes as much as I do. I admit I use artificial sweeteners to help me deal with stress of work, etc., without getting into the problems that sugar causes me. But as with everything, I go way overboard. And this particular report included the part that I just can't ignore: Some of this stuff hasn't been proven to be bad, but it also hasn't been proven not to cause the problems some allege. Do I want to be safe or sorry?
-- Various things feeling like frustration; could there be some anger? (that's a hard one for me to admit, and I still don't right now); and nonclinical depression.

And then, finally, I sat down to give my focus and thoughts to God. I don't really even know why I'm surprised by the results. But once again, I am amazed and grateful.

Among the things I read:

-- "Make friends with the problems in your life." Remember that God is sovereign over them. God can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that I trust Him. Thank God even for problems. (Excerpts and reflections from "Jesus Calling," Romans 8:28)

-- "When troubles seem overwhelming, it's a great time to pull out the prayer warrior's secret: praise. As you focus on God's goodness and greatness, everything seems to fall into place." Part of what's interesting about this one, from "A Praying Heart," a daily journal I got for Christmas, is that this was the reading for March 3, but I skipped a page without realizing it, so I read March 5-6 on Saturday and Sunday, and so I was catching up today. And these words were exactly what I needed today. In the journal, I wrote that I didn't really feel like praising, but that I would anyway. I started singing "I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship You ... (may my worship and praise be a sweet sound to You, Lord), "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty ...," then others, ending with "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." And the corner was turned. The Scripture is Revelation 19:5 - "From the throne came a voice saying, 'Praise our God, all you His servants, and all who fear Him, small and great.'"

Great is God's faithfulness. May I never, ever forget to seek Him and to trust Him and to thank Him and to give him all the honor, glory and praise, in all things, good and bad, large and small as these things today were.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another round of "no regrets"

I went to watch the Texas Aggies play basketball against the University of Oklahoma men in Norman today. The main reason I went is because the end of an era is drawing nearer, and I do not know when an A&M team will again play a game in Norman that I might be able to attend.

As I was trying to decide for sure whether to go to a game I was pretty sure the Aggies would lose (they did, 65-62) and likely would not showcase high-quality basketball (it did not), many thoughts washed through my mind. From the first time I heard it mentioned and all along the discussions and news reports, I've never been happy about the possibility of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12, where it played teams along the I-35 corridor including two in Oklahoma, for the Southeastern Conference. But that didn't stop it from becoming reality, and this year is the farewell tour.

The OU/A&M football game in November was in Norman, but it was the week after my dad's death, so it was pretty easy to decide not to go even though I knew they might never play here again. (I also knew they'd probably lose, which they did.) I also missed the Aggie women's basketball team's final Big 12 trip to Norman last month, because it was on a work night. (I also feared they would lose in Norman, and they did.) I've never gone to an Aggie baseball or softball game in Norman, but I have attended their games in Big 12 tournaments in Oklahoma City. I hope to have chances to do that this year, which I guess means the farewell tour might not be quite over. But it's hard to bank on the future, so I decided not to let this opportunity pass by.

It helped that tickets were just $10. It also helped that I have an iPhone to provide a distraction if needed. It was OU's final home game, so it was senior day, and I guess there were various promotions going on, because there was a much bigger walk-up crowd that I would have expected. (And of course, there were the white Cheer Like A Champion t-shirts that seem to have been on the seats for every OU game I've attended in Lloyd Noble Center; draped over the seatbacks, they make it look like people are sitting there even when the arena is far from full.)

By time I got through the line, it was 7-6 Aggies when I entered the building. And before I knew it, the Aggies were behind, and they stayed that way the rest of the game, trailing by at least 14 in the second half. As I wrote on Facebook about that time: "This is hard to watch on so many levels. I knew that when I decided to come. I will stay anyway. Because either I will miss it when it's gone, or this will help me not miss it so much." But then the Aggies started a comeback, and I had to hope the Sooners might be able to blow just one more game in which they had a lead at halftime and toward the end. But that was not to be. Gig'em Aggies, anyway, and now the two teams will play again Wednesday in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.

Among my thoughts before and during the game:

-- I hate that the Aggies will no longer be playing in the Big 12. Not only does that mean they won't play games against OU and Oklahoma State University, but they won't be included in the newspaper's Big 12 coverage nor on local television stations' games of interest. I hate it! Boo hoo! There's nothing I can do about it. But it doesn't mean I have to like it. I anticipate withdrawal sensations in the season to come.

-- It made me think of why I didn't go to the football game, which brought thoughts of my dad's final weeks that still are amazingly peaceful for me to reflect on. My reason for not going to that game somehow influenced my desire to go today. I think Daddy would have approved. He knows his kids like their sports.

-- I thought of the wide variety of Aggie men's basketball games I've attended in Norman. I sat through probably the team's lowest-scoring half in history (it seems like Blake Griffin blocked every shot attempt; I wish I could remember the stat on how long the Aggies went without scoring) one year, but I also enjoyed some very pleasant wins under Coach Gillispie and Coach Turgeon. Most years there has been a pretty good turnout of people wearing maroon, but this year about the only people I saw wearing A&M colors were right behind the team bench. My sister came to Norman for a few of the games along the way, and Flat Stanley also attended with us one year. (Where, oh where, is that picture?) Overall, the memories make me smile.

-- I came ever-so-close to not going. My husband happened to have plans for the day that didn't include me. If that hadn't been the case, I doubt I would have attended, because he wouldn't go, and I wouldn't want to leave him at home. So, I could say thank you fate, but God knows I prayed about this, too, so I'll say, thank You, God!

-- The only negative is that after the game, I could have gone to an event at church to help with care packages for troops, but I ended up not going. I had time and even stopped to get supplies and snacks. But when I sat down for a bit and the cat got on my lap, I decided to just stay home. I'm trying not to fret about why I make decisions I don't understand. Supporting the troops would have been a good thing to do, and I would have enjoyed the fellowship. But I just didn't go. One reason I went to the game was because I didn't want to regret not going. I wish that would have kicked in regarding the event at church. I do think there will be future opportunities. Still, yes, I feel some regret.

-- I have to remind myself, in this and all things: Thank You, God, for Your presence throughout the day as I tried to decide what to do. Help me trust You, God, with those decisions and their results, to Your glory. And thank You for many, many good moments today that had nothing to do with either of these events. I feel grateful and blessed. May I live to Your glory.