Saturday, April 28, 2012

When love is not enough

It was just after midnight, barely Sunday morning, April 29.  I was settling into bed, trying to relax my back, and I heard that dreaded sound: a steady squirt somewhere in the bedroom. I knew what it was: Bridget peeing on the carpet again. We thought we'd just about got the cat urine smell out of the bedroom  carpet and the one in the  dining room, but here we go again. We've probably spent more than $200 since October or whenever on chemicals, carpet pad and paper towels, not to mention the toll of stress.

I told Gene we can't keep doing this. We either need to get ok with the smell, or we need to get rid of the cat. I don't know how to do that, but I think it will be up to me. I'm praying to God and trusting Him to show me how to be able to keep her or how to get rid of her. I just cannot keep going through this with Gene. Can I?

I can't shake the feeling that it's ultimately my fault for not being a good housekeeper, or much of  a housekeeper at all.

I was going to post this as a Facebook status update, but will post it on the blog instead: I cannot get my cat to stop peeing on the carpet. My house reeks, my husband is going nuts and my heart is breaking. Supposedly she's not sick. I've researched and prayed and prayed, and still no answers. I love her, but I know she's an animal, a cat, not a person. How much are you supposed to go through for a sweet and beloved pet? I've tried to give her whatever she needs and take great care of her. I haven't forced her to share the house with another cat. And this  is how she responds? She's probably just stressed. She seems clueless to the fact that her peeing is causing lot of the stress. 

This is a continuing saga, about which I've kept notes. 

-- Problem kitty, Sunday, April 22

Gene got home last night while I was in Texas and confirmed what I feared before I left: Bridget is peeing on the carpet in the dining area. I didn't smell it when I first got here about 6:30, but I have ever since. It reeks. And I do not know what to do about it. 

God, can I pray specifically for an answer on this? Please make it stop! But what if that means not having Bridget? Why does she do this and what can we do about it?

Dealing with the cat pee is a nuisance and a distraction. It's keeping me from thinking straight about other things. Because it is a continuing problem I just don't know what to do about. The simplest solution would be to get rid of the cat. Or no, that's not really the simplest solution. But it's possibly the only way to end the problem. So the challenge becomes how to live and deal with the problem. Lifting that up to You, Lord, again. 

-- I see there's also a blog post related to all of this on March 18, with spiritual  insight that was worth reading again, although it still doesn't reveal the solution to the problem. But this guidance is true:  Trust and obey and praise God, even if I don't understand why this is happening or know what to do about it. 

-- Bridget 10/16/11

My good day came to a tearful end when I was lying in bed in the dark and suddenly heard a strong squirt of running water. The dang cat who we had spent good time with during the day went over to the corner and peed. I do not know what to do. Praying and thinking and no clarity. I know God has an answer for this, but I do not know what it is. All I could do is sit in the dark and sob. I talked to her and petted her last night and this morning. I'm telling her how dire it is -- and how much I love her. But I don't love her more than Gene or God. She is a cat. I continue to prayer for God's guidance in this, that I may live to His glory.

--  10/11/11

When I called Mom about something else, I mentioned Bridget and of course she thinks sometimes you just have to do what you have to do even if you don't want to. 

I just don't think I can. And if I tell Gene to just do whatever he wants to with her, I fear I will resent him. But if she keeps doing this, he will resent me as well as her. 

Praying for answers. But I have been for so long, and still no clear answers.

  -- Bridget 9/27/11

I'm worried about my kitty. She's peeing  on the carpet again, and that often means she's getting sick. But for Gene it is just aggravating -- he just can't seem to deal with it. His reaction adds to my stress. Of course, I live in fear those growths are tumors. And she won't ever let us treat her. Now she's not eating hardly at all. I noticed that this morning. But she's purring and acting fairly normal. Lord, can I pray for my kitty? I lift her up to you. Please help me know what to do. 

-- September 28

She seems better. Eating. Pooped some. Don't know about the peeing. 

(Note: It turned out she was sick at the beginning of this, and we had tests run and gave her medicine, and the health problems seemed to be resolved.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Forces of nature (All creatures of our God and King!)

Less than two months ago, in mid-March, I strongly doubted the survival of some trees and bushes at the edge of a lake in a park where I enjoy walking in Norman. While green leaves and buds emerged on other trees along the bank, a few remained starkly bare and brown.

But I guess I did have a little faith they might make it, because I took pictures, just in case I wanted to compare later.

Sure enough, after some passage of time, on subsequent walks along the path I began to notice signs of life on the plants that seemed dead. I couldn't resist taking more pictures, even as I still harbored doubts these sprigs of green would endure a sunny day. (The biblical parable of the sower came to mind.)

But today, my first time there in more than I week, I could not deny or fail to be inspired by the force of nature. Every plant boasted greenery, some amid hopelessly dead branches, as if in defiance to last summer's harsh drought. I don't know whether these trees and bushes can survive another hot, dry summer, but I marveled at their persistence.

And I thought of other strong forces of nature revealed in April.

-- Holy week and Easter.

-- Murrah Building bombing remembrances, 17 years later.

-- Families that continue to find joy in living and gathering, even as they feel the recent and longterm loss of loved ones.

-- Tornadoes and other bad weather, whether deadly or just destructive.

-- Lots of people involved with American Cancer Society Relay for Life events and other groups determined not to let diseases continue to wreck lives.

As my walk neared its end, more forces of nature rang loud and clear. All along my walk, I saw birds, squirrels, bugs, tufts of white fluff, green grass and trees, colorful flowers. I heard birds, dogs, running water, quacking ducks, playing children, wind rustling trees and shrubs. I felt the warm sun, the cool breeze. I smelled a fresh smorgasbord of flowers, grass, trees, water. (It's amazing to realize there was nothing foul among the scents today.)

Scripture describes how nature praises its creator. Nature's example inspires me to also praise God for all of His wonderful works.

Shortly after my walk, I saw that this passage of Scripture was included in two of my devotional readings for today:

"We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Hope springs eternal, in April and always. Great is God's faithfulness. I will join creation in praising Him.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A necessary day -- trusting God all the way

Today was one of those necessary days. It was the 58th (or 59th) annual Davidson family reunion, which I think goes back to my Dad's grandparents. But it was the first one without Daddy and one of his cousins. Even though Daddy had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010 and had surgery late that year, he seemed to be doing well last  April. I don't think anyone would have guessed at that time that he would be gone by the end of the year. 

I was glad to go and had a good time visiting with people, including some relatives I see just at the reunion. I also visited with those,  including Mom and my sister and her family and cousins and an aunt, whom I see fairly often.  A neat thing is that, in addition to the older generation, younger ones continue to come, too. And there always is an overabundance of the best food. 

But now I  just feel exhausted.  I bet that shouldn't surprise me at all. 

I'm sure I am grieving my Dad's death, but it really has been nothing like I would have expected. There have been several times, including today, that it seemed like possibly sadness and tears would prevail.  Instead, there continues to be gratitude, peace and joy in the moment. But when the moments are over, there is that exhaustion. 

The day started with church with my Mom and my sister and her family, and then I even did a Relay for Life promotional song (another sister changed the words of YMCA to CURE for me) during the after-worship  fellowship time before the reunion. That's crazy, high-energy fun for me. 

After the reunion, Mom and I watched the rest of the Rangers game on TV, which we were happily surprised to see them manage to win 3-2 in 11 innings. And as I was driving back to Norman, a niece I don't hear from much but whose birthday was today called me to thank me for a card and gift I had sent. Hearing from her was an answer to prayer and warmed my heart. 

And then I got home to see my husband. We're both in the middle of a lot of stuff, between our jobs and various interests. But we now also have another little task to deal with again as my sweet sweet kitty seems to have picked a portion of our carpet for a litter box. 

Did I mention I already felt exhausted? 

This was one of those days in which I just felt so blessed by and grateful for the presence of God each step of the way. Even though I have no idea what to do about this lingering problem with my beloved kitty, who this very moment is on my lap, purring fervently, I can't help but trust that God doesn't want me to stress out about it. And he certainly doesn't want it to ruin a rich if exhausting day. So, I will continue to lift this up in prayer, trusting Him for answers, while continuing to praise Him and thank Him for His abundant mercy, love and grace. 

"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm  16:11 Nkjv)

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:30, 31 NIV)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a difference, round 2

It's been another seven days in which things didn't unfold as I would have guessed.

I knew I would be off Friday, and I thought I'd spend most of that time in Texas. But a late night (early morning) at work contributed to a late start Friday morning. As it turned out, I was still in Norman when first a little bit of hail and then a big bit of tornado threat bore down on the town sometime after 4 p.m.

The tornado missed my area, but while I was regaining my bearings after exiting the closet, I got a call from work. I thought maybe they were checking on my safety or needed me to report on some of the damage closer to downtown. But no, I was being told I was a winner in a national headline contest for copy editors. That was totally unexpected but very cool news!

In Texas, surprises included a large tree branch down in front of a house that I got to help take care of Friday and Saturday. I ended up agreeing to do some general yard work or Sunday as well.

Saturday included lots of good time with family, including at my aunt Amma Belle's (my Dad's sister) party for her 90th birthday. It also included a trip to see Uncle Bill, whose condition a week before had given me somewhat of a scare. It was good to see him doing so much better, able to talk and in obvious good spirits and humor, despite still having a long way to go toward restored health.

After being gone all weekend, Monday was busier than usual, and I actually got done more than seemed possible.

But Tuesday was back to nothing beyond the most basic tasks, as I gave myself time to rest and relax. That ended for a moment about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, when, as I was turning my car off at home in the garage, the ignition lock came out with the key. I learned another benefit of my iPhone and Facebook, as I was able to "share" this strange occurrence without having to awaken my husband!

Wednesday night found me a tad apprehensive about teh blog deadline on Thursday, since I knew I also needed and/or wanted to get car ignition fixed, wash hair, wash clothes and walk. I thought of my options, then said a little prayer and went to bed.

And now it's another April 19, a day that always brings so many memories. The Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, ended 168 lives and changed so many more, including mine, in profound and subtle ways. I didn't watch TV today as they read all the names, but I do remember and reflect and recommit to be grateful for the blessings of each day, which include how God uses His people to overcome evil and tragedy with good.

Wednesday's Upper Room Scripture and devotional message were about Daily Courage, a thought that stayed with me as I thought of some of those changes -- differences -- that have occurred since April 1995.

The Scripture: Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.- Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Among the writer's thoughts was this quote from a poster: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow. ’ ” (words of Mary Anne Radmacher)

The writer, Lisa Stackpole of Wisconsin, also wrote: Whatever our circumstances, we can take heart from God’s words to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Whether our daily challenge is a stressful job, a stubborn child, or the struggle to recover from an illness or addiction, God is with us. We can turn to God for the courage to try again tomorrow.

I need that kind of courage in a world that is different every day. I thank God for giving it to me as I trust in Him.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What a difference a week makes

Last week at this time, I was in the midst of a streak of feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed and about as close to being depressed as I've been in a long while. Today, I'm in the fifth day of a stretch in which those clouds are gone, and energy and hope are renewed.

So, what happened? A simple and honest answer would be Easter. A more complete answer would be an Easter experience.

As I was in that dark, frustating place, I kept praying to know and do God's will, part of which involved asking Him to help me not lose faith. I tried to be open to ways God might show me to get out of the funk. Among those results was the experiment of no TV, which really seemed to reduce some stress and open me to hear God's suggestions.

Among my prayers, as I tried to make it through basic tasks of each day, was to do something unselfish. I wasn't sure that was happening each day, but by Saturday, I started to see fruits, as I put aside my fear of not having enough time or energy and made a 25-mile trip to Oklahoma City (the second trip that day) to meet friends for dinner. It would have been so easy for me to find reasons not to go, including knowing I had to be up for early worship with the choir the next morning. But I went, and I was blessed.

I was aware of a growing desire to head to Texas after church to visit my mom and also to visit a 92-year-old uncle and 90-year-old aunt in medical facilities in Denton. I was having a hard time whether this was an impulsive/obsessive desire or a nudge from God, but since the feeling didn't go away as I prayed about it, I began to make some phone calls. And before I knew it, I was headed to Gainesville to meet my mom and then on to Denton (about 150 miles, and despite some concerns about the weather).

One of the things I really had it on my heart to do with Uncle Bill was to sing a hymn. He's been having a difficult time healthwise lately, and the family isn't sure how much longer he has with us. I wasn't sure what to expect. No family members were there when we got there, and he had on a breathing mask and wasn't able to communicate with us. But it just seemed right to hold his hand and talk to him -- and then sing the song, How Great Thou Art. I hadn't given much thought as we were going there how difficult it might be for Mom to see him like that so soon after Daddy's final struggle, and I appreciate her letting me know. But I also appreciate her making the effort to stay there with me.

It was one of those visits where you wonder if it even makes a difference. But when I talked to Uncle Bill's daughter the next day, she indicated he had his most peaceful night in a long time. He was able to take off the breathing mask and communicate some with the family. She said she thought our visit really helped. I believe that. God works through his people. Another aside is that one reason I felt such a strong desire to go is because that family has been there for my family so often. I can't and don't always go, but this was a time I could, and I'm grateful I did.

Then we went to see Aunt Amma Belle, in a hospital across the street. She had fallen and come in for tests. She was in great spirits as she anticipated getting to go home the next day. Her 90th birthday was Wednesday, and a big family gathering is planned for Saturday. Knowing I'd be making that trip to Texas in the coming weekend was one of the things that almost kept me from going last weekend. I'm glad I realized there was no reason I couldn't make the trip both weekends.

And then Mom and I headed to the farm. I can't really describe how good it felt just to be relaxed and peaceful and visit. We had "Easter ham" for supper, then watched the Rangers win on TV. The next morning, as I prepared to make my trip back to Norman before a 3 to midnight shift at work, I asked Mom if there was anything I could help her with around the house, something that would be easier with two people. She couldn't think of anything. But then she looked down the lane and noticed the cows gathered around the cattle guard. She suspected some of them had gotten out and were on the public road. So we went and checked it out, and sure enough, she was right! We got them back in, but again, her instincts told her they weren't going to stay. So, we moved them across the road to a pasture where they would be less likely to get out. I'm not much of a cow hand, but it was neat to just trust Mom and God and believe we could do this. And we did.

Then Mom showed me all of her flowers and we enjoyed the spring beauty before I finally did head on back. I mentioned that I'd probably be tired, but that it would be a good tired.

But an amazing thing has happened: I really haven't been that tired. I've done more than I could have imagined each day apart from work -- catching up on buying groceries, washing clothes, walking, other tasks -- and I just keep going. Work seems less stressful, but I think that has more to do with my attitude than work itself.

One of the other things I was aware of last week was that it seemed possible the reason I was so exhausted and bordering on depression is that I was expending all of my energy on work. I was good at work, but as soon as it was over, I was drained. And it took all of the next day to gear up for work again. That's something I prayed about. Work is not and cannot be the most important thing in my life, so why was I acting like it was? I want to do the best I can at work, but I was too aware that I was in a dangerous state of imbalance. I wasn't sure what to do about it and prayed for answers. I didn't feel a direct response, but looking back, I see at least part of the answer was making sure I was living life outside of work. I really don't know which comes first, getting over the borderline depression or getting back to action. But the reminder is that if I keep praying and trusting, God will lead me through whatever comes.

I titled this "What a difference a week makes."
But these are the things that really made the difference:
-- What a difference prayer makes.
-- What a difference faith makes.
-- What a difference thanks makes.
-- What a difference God makes.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Going to Extremes

I'm at the end of my third day of not turning on the TV at  home. It turned into a Holy Week experiment. The spiritual benefits are noticeable. I don't know what the longterm results will be. 

It started because I felt so tired and stressed and distracted, largely because of work. I became aware of just wanting to zone out in front of the TV. But for some reason, that wasn't relaxing any more. It was adding to my stress and anxiety  rather than easing it. It was bringing  back reminders of when I battled untreated depression 

I hardly know what to do with the quiet time, and at least three times, turning on the TV seemed like such an innocent choice. But I couldn't shake the truth that even if watching was not a problem at that moment, watching might make it harder to turn away when I really did not have time to waste. And so I've left it off, even when I could have watched Opening Day for the Texas Rangers baseball season Friday afternoon before work.  

This afternoon, I turned on the radio at the house to listen to the Aggies baseball game with OU. Even without video, it was a total distraction for me. When it was over, I turned off the radio and welcomed the renewed quietness.  

As I was telling a friend about my Thursday and Friday without TV, her response indicated she thinks I'm being extreme. But am I? After all, it's just an experiment. But some initial results seem clear, whether I like them or not. Watching daily soap operas adds nothing positive to my life. If I need an escape or distraction. I'm pretty sure God will help me find something better with which to fill that time. As for watching ballgames, it's definitely problematic for me. These are matters of balance, and when I'm tired and stressed, I have a hard time with balance. 

I didn't give up or add anything for Lent this year, partly because I was already doing more prayer and meditation and quiet time  since the start of the year. As Holy Week has gone along, I wondered if I would be ready for Easter.  The discipline of these past three days help me be open to new possibilities that the Risen Christ may have in store for me. 

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.' "
—Isaiah 30:15

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:5-8 NIV)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." 
--John 3:16
(Now, that's extreme!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time to get the soaps out

Tuesday  I prayed for God to help me give back to Him the time I've been stealing regularly to watch soap operas. They seem like innocent attempts to relax or escape mentally, but for me they always result in second-guessing and regret. They do not help. They interfere,  just like overeating does for me.

A week earlier I had written:  Lord, please help me cut ties with the soap operas. They are time wasters I cannot afford in my day. But I just keep going back to them, hanging on, catching up, wasting time, being distracted. Even to let go one day would help, but I just don't see it happening. Lead me, Lord. I trust You and thank You. 

Yes, it seems like one small thing, but it's big amid the stress. I can't afford to waste time watching TV.  It adds to stress rather than relieves it. 

Last week, I turned the soaps on anyway. And when I turn them on, I end up watching. But this week, I didn't turn on the TV Wednesday morning, and the goal is to not turn it on Thursday or Friday. 

It will be Maundy Thursday and Good Friday of Holy Week. I won't be able to attend the worship observances commemorating significant final moments of Jesus' earthly life before His crucifixion. I'm praying for God to show me some other ways to experience this part of the Easter story, and I'm trusting that He will. 

Here's a thought: Sometimes Maundy Thursday services include foot-washing services, re-enacting one of Jesus' teachings. Maybe if I can get the soaps out, it will be symbolic of that. 

Lead me, Lord. I trust You and thank You.