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.

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