Wednesday, May 30, 2012

If this is a test, I pray to pass it

Every day, and usually several times a day, I pray to know and to do God's will, to His glory. I pray with trust and with thanksgiving. And I guess what I'm continuing to learn is that sometimes responses to prayers regarding problems seem more like lessons than solutions, at least in the short term. But at some point, I can look back and see a blessing. The blessings are there along the way, as well, if I will just stay focused on God so He can reveal them.

Thursday, I will take my kitty to a new vet, in hopes of finding answers to intermittent but increasing litter box problems that are making my sweet, beloved Bridget hard to share a house with. We've tried many things since last August, and nothing has had long-term results. Most just seem to compound the problems.

An example of that is when we finally, at the start of May, banished her from the bedroom. She's slept on our bed almost all of her 8 or so years, so of course this hasn't gone over too well. (It's also been hard for me. I love to have her sleep against me, and it is agonizing to hear her meowing and scratching at the door. I've actually slept on the sofa some nights so she wouldn't feel abandoned!) But if, as many sources suggest, part of the problem to begin with is her feeling stressed, this would certainly make it worse, not better, for her.

And such was the result. So, I decided to board her at the vet the weekend of May 19, so tests could be run to see if perhaps an antianxiety medicine would help. Without going in to detail, I'll say the vet agreed, so we started it. But after about three days, it was clear the side effects were unacceptable. In the process, I lost confidence in the vet. And my poor kitty is more confused and stressed out than ever.

So, after continued prayer and a good telephone discussion with the new vet's office, we will go for a second opinion tomorrow.

I'm grateful that Gene and I both have been willing to keep working together and with our cat on this. I'd be lying if I said it's not extremely frustrating. And the beloved kitty apparently has no clue that she's the one causing the disruptions, which she doesn't like any more than we do.

The process of checking out new possibilities and solutions is going slowly, but I'm grateful to be able to recognize blessings each day:

-- Gene's patience beyond what I could ever have hoped.

-- God continuing to take away my feeling of complete despair (most days).

-- Bridget's delightfulness in all areas except her bathroom habits. As far as we can tell, she's healthy. She's just got this one issue. In fact, I think right now she suspects there may be another kitty in the bedroom, judging from how cautiously she checks everything out, especially under the dressers, when we give her supervised visits to the bedroom.

-- The reminders this brings me of people dealing with much larger issues, including troublesome children or loss of loved ones, and to say prayers for them and ask God how I can help.

-- Continued and growing awareness of God's loving presence and the peace and hope it brings.

I've come across some quotes this week that help me stay focused on God through all of this.

-- This is from today's Denison Forum by Jim Denison: Yesterday I encountered a statement by C.S. Lewis I had never seen before: "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." As he famously remarked, "Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in'; aim at earth and you will get neither." At what are you aiming today?

-- This is from Tuesday's Jesus Calling devotional: I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me. Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you. Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs. When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.

-- And this was posted by friend Mary Lou Moad on Facebook: "Whether or not it’s a good or bad decision, shouldn’t be determined by the outcome. Sometimes you make a good decision, but don’t see the fruit of it... God is teaching me to make the right decision, because it’s right. Then it’s God’s job to do what he wants about it." (Brian Johnson, worship leader, Bethel Church, Redding, CA.)

Through it all, I strongly sense that God is letting this be a test for me. For all I know, it may be an endurance test! Whatever it is, I pray that I will pass the test and that He will find me faithful. I love Him, I trust Him and I thank Him, and I pray to respond in a way that glorifies Him.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An unexpected wellspring

When I first heard that Cooke County's Relay for Life organizers had scheduled a time to finish the original event that was washed out by a storm and power outage two weeks earlier, I was less than enthused. Seriously? People had planned for months to be involved with the May 4-5 event. How could they be expected to have more time to spare another date on short notice?

But as I learned more about the new event, where once I saw a crazy idea, I began to see opportunity. I hadn't planned to return to Texas that weekend, but there was nothing on my schedule to stop me. And the new event was on Saturday; if it had been Friday, no way could have I participated. As I became open to each new possibility, God provided another, until I ended up with a blessed, jam-packed whirlwind trip to Texas that included:

-- Relay with my Mom, her sister Margaret from Albuquerque and my brother Mike from Arkansas from 7 until after 10:30, then continuing with team members Emily and Brenda through about midnight, and walking to the end at 2 a.m. with Emily. We remembered Daddy and others and honored Mom and others who have or have had cancer. Both the event and our team ended up surpassing fundraising goals to support the American Cancer Society's efforts to find a cure for cancer and to offer resources for dealing with it in the meantime.

-- I didn't get much sleep, but I was determined to make it to early church with Mom. I'm glad I did, as I heard timely messages at worship and Sunday school about waiting, drawn from Luke 24:44-53 and the Lazarus accounts in John 11 and 12, respectively. I also was blessed to hear an original song about Miracles I had heard about and wondered if I would ever hear.

-- I attended a family reunion on my paternal grandmother's side that I don't usually go to. It was good to be there.

-- Afterward, many of us visited my uncle in a rehab care center. The reunion was actually at his house. It was good to see him. He's made so much progress since probably a low point around Easter.

-- I was able to get in a nice nap before making the two-hour drive back to Norman.

-- I was refreshed enough from the wellspring of family and the home church that I could spend time talking with my husband about some important issues, especially involving our cat, Bridget, who had spent the weekend boarding with the vet.

As this week has unfolded, I've continued to draw on the wellspring as well as the messages about keeping my faithful focus on Jesus while I wait for Him to show me His glory and reveal His will and way. He provides glimpses each day, which renew my hope and for which I am grateful.

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." (Micah 7:7)

"The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3:25-26)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A herd of unharnessed thoughts

When blog deadline approaches and no clear topic has emerged, I find myself trying to lasso my scattered thoughts, in hopes of capturing a theme worth writing about. That's where I was as I drove to work Wednesday.

Among the thoughts were continuing issues with my cat, the saga of Cooke County's yet-to-be-finished Relay for Life, work, my marriage, trying to decide where I want to go for an anniversary trip, when to wash clothes, some things related to church and choir and when to buy midweek groceries. I didn't find any blog fodder among the ruminations, even as I was aware of hopeful turns in most of those areas.

I couldn't harness any of my thoughts, but God was able to help me herd them into a corral of prayer. The image makes me smile and gives me peace. And it buys another week of time before the next "official" deadline, even as I'm optimistic that, God willing, I will post again much sooner, with words to reflect on and express gratitude for an abundance of blessings that I hope never to take for granted.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chased by the storm

My prayers most often take the form of lifting up to God the people and situations on my heart. I tend not to ask for specific outcomes, because I really do believe God knows what is best, that He can provide, and I trust Him.

But I do find myself praying more fervently nowadays in regards to some specific things.

Most recently was Friday night. After watching advance forecasts all week (and I'm pretty sure even before I left work about 1 a.m. Friday) and seeing only a 10 percent chance of rain for the time of Cooke County's Relay for Life, I noticed later Friday morning that the forecast now included a 30 percent chance of rain during the key hours of 6 to 11 p.m. It also noted that isolated thunderstorms were possible, some severe.

I tried not to let this worry me, but as I was nearing the Gainesville High School site just before 7 p.m., I finally prayed aloud. I really wanted to ask God not to let it rain. But I just could not ask that. Instead, I acknowledged God as the creator and controller of the sun, moon, wind, rain, clouds, storms, Relay and all the people involved. I did tell Him I hoped it would not rain out the event, which of course God already knew was my hope. But I said I trust Him and would praise Him whatever the outcome, and that I just wanted Him to be glorified.

To try to keep a long story short, I'll say Relay got off to a great start. My mom is a longtime cancer survivor, and now we've recently lost Daddy to cancer. The significance of Relay to support and celebrate and remember those touched by cancer and to raise awareness and money for research for a cure was heightened. My niece was the captain for our team, from the church where her family, her mom and my mom are members. We had a great team, including the energy from a 4 and 8 year old, and most of us were looking forward to participating all night.

But less than two hours in, the weather became more of a concern. By 8:45, we were directed to the school's cafeteria, where we hoped to be able to ride out the isolated severe storm and then return to the stadium to resume Relay. But about 10:15 -- 15 minutes before we were to return to the field -- the school site lost power except for backup generators. And so we were sent home.

This is the second time I have been involved in Gainesville's Relay with my family. As with this year, in 2006 we got chased off the field by a storm before 10 p.m., missing the symbolic heart of the event.

I don't understand why God lets storms interrupt worthwhile events. But that is part of life. And we know that sometimes the storms cause more than disruptions; they can be deadly and destructive to lives and homes.

But from all I've ever seen, heard about or experienced, when the people involved trust God and praise God, they find a sense of peace. People work together to make the most of less than ideal situations. And God is glorified.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can I Get an Overreaction? (Or Life Goes On, or Love Really Is Enough)

Just needed to post an update on the cat saga. I still have Bridget. She's still acting out. We don't like the results, and she doesn't, either. I still think it's behavioral rather than medical. God willing, finding some answers or a solution will be my priority next week. He has given me some ideas for discussion with a vet or pet therapist and also for dealing with the house.

Looking back, I couldn't not post that sordid account of early Sunday morning. But it's also hard to believe, not that I wrote the words, but that I made them public.

My biggest fear on the cat deal has been how my husband will react. I think it's only by the grace of God that he is still taking it in stride. But I know -- and doesn't God know? I've certainly told Him I think so -- that some things need to change with the cat. I need to find answers, or at least search out all the options. Maybe there are no answers except to just keep trusting God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And one more realization: Love is enough. I think God is showing or reminding me through this that His great love is sufficient for me. If I love Him and seek Him and let His love lead me, He will sustain me and give me His peace, no matter what life brings.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV)

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV)