Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Closing the blog on 2013

God, 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.

The familiar words of the Serenity Prayer, quoted in my Voices of Recovery devotional book on Monday, have helped me as I try to let go of 2013 with so much undone.

I can't get back the insurance benefit of not going to the dentist all year -- and the possible detriment to my dental health. I can't get back the moments I wasted instead of giving time, effort and-or money, visiting, calling or sending cards.

As always, the year held many blessings and high points. My trip with Mom on Mother's Day to Arkansas for a niece's graduation; sons born to two nieces; and a European cruise were some of the highlights.

The year got off to a rough start, with an emergency room visit before the end of January, followed by the death of my cat just a few days later. It ends with fervent prayers for a loved one's recovery from troublesome cancer and related concerns.

And, for all my good intentions, I'm not sure I've made any progress on becoming more giving and helpful and less self-focused. It is still a major goal.

The devotional provides guidance as I hope to use that prayer moving forward.

"Now, when I find myself troubled by a situation, I think about it while I say the Serenity Prayer. If it is something I can change, I think of the steps I can take to begin the change, and I pray for the willingness to take action. If it is something I cannot change, I turn it over to my Higher Power and pray for the willingness to accept it."

I've read this page in Voices of Recovery many times, but yesterday and today are the first times it actually seems like something that could work. I hope to try it.

One other quote comes to mind as I close the blog on 2013. It is from today's My Utmost for His Highest selection by Oswald Chambers: "Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him."

And this Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11-13: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Amen. And good-bye, 2013.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What was I expecting?

I don't know what I was expecting, but I'm pretty sure this is not it.

So I will continue to watch and wait. That is faith. That is hope. That is love.

Christmas isn't the end of God's story. Nor is Easter. Every day is a beginning and an end -- and also a continuing.

Maybe that's why we celebrate Christmas and Easter and birthdays every year. New gifts are revealed each time. But will I see this year's gifts? Or will I overlook them? If I see them, will I accept them? Will I appreciate them?

God is doing great things. I know this in my heart. If it's not obvious to my eyes, mind or experience, it's only because I don't see the whole picture. I trust that God does, and that He is in control.

Sometimes I find what I need or want to know when I write. This Christmas, maybe I need to try something different. So, as I head to a second Christmas Eve service for the night, I pray to be receptive to whatever God has planned. Lord, please help me think less and trust more. Let me feel and share your joy.

And, yes, right this minute, that would almost seem like a miracle ...

(More to come, whenever .....)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dare I even dream?

What does God expect?

What do I want?

Those thoughts were triggered by a series of comments from friends and readings from devotional books since the start of the month:

-- A friend talked about her house she loves, but how she feels out of place in her neighborhood with high-echelon academic and philantropic leaders.

-- Another friend described her trip to New York City with a benefactor, a kindly and rich older woman who more or less adopted her. I know this older woman, and she seemed to adore me, too, at one time. If I'd played my cards differently, could that have been me on that trip?

-- And one more friend told of her granddaughter, who helps train dogs for a legendary football coach and a superstar country entertainer who live in my town. How does that happen? (I know I have friends and family members who remember when I bordered on being a stalker of this music star!)

-- The Dec. 11 Jesus Calling meditation, encouraging me to hear Jesus saying "bring Me all your concerns, including your dreams," and me realizing: I don't think I even let myself dream anymore. What are my dreams?

There were times that I dreamed of living in one of those wonderful houses, taking wonderful trips, meeting and working with celebrities. I guess I knew I would never have the ambition and drive to make the kind of money to afford those things, so I dreamed -- or, more accurately, WISHED -- for them to somehow just to come into my life.

IF I'D PLAYED MY CARDS RIGHT ... I've interviewed celebrities before, but I felt like the fish out of water. I wanted to be friends, not a reporter, especially because I didn't feel very competent as a reporter. I don't think or write quickly; my questions as well as my insights usually take shape quite arduously.

Now, it seems instead of dream, I'm more likely to pray. I pray to keep my focus on God, and to know and do His will. I pray for healing and strength and blessings for loved ones. I pray for wisdom of leaders of churches, schools, governments, businesses and organizations, from the most local to worldwide levels. I pray for peace.

But God wants me to bring Him my dreams? Dare I?

To be continued ....

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everyday Christmas and Thanksgiving

It's 11 p.m. Dec. 10, and I have done nothing to prepare for Christmas. When Dec. 25 falls on a Wednesday, it's harder for the extended family to make plans to be together. Will it be the weekend before or the weekend after? No one has extended an invitation or declared intentions for a family gathering. The best I can tell, there is a sense that my siblings and our mom may not all be together at the same time this year.

It will be different with my husband's family, too. In recent years, we've spent a day and sometimes overnight celebrating with his sister, but this year she is going to spend the holiday with her son in California, rather than him coming to her house in Texas. I've actually volunteered to work on Christmas Day, so those with children and families close by in Oklahoma can spend time together on the holiday.

Will it even seem like Christmas? Or will it seem more like Thanksgiving, which for me in my adult life working at a daily newspaper has generally meant just having Thursday off, and sometimes not even that, which makes it hard to be with family in other cities and states.

But Christmas and Thanksgiving aren't just about dates on a calendar or even about large celebrations with family. They are a spirit and a commitment and an expression of love in action. They are gratitude to God for daily blessings and the gift of His beloved Son, Whom He sent into the world as a baby, God in human flesh, to grow and live and love and provide an example, and then to die on a cross as a young man, but to rise from the grave three days later, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I may have done nothing to prepare in terms of decorating or shopping -- or even scheduling gatherings on a calendar -- but I am praying for an open heart to receive God's gifts of Christmas each day, and to respond with gifts of gratitude in loving service to others, in His name.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What does God expect?

Below is what I posted truly as a place holder on Tuesday (under the heading: Yes, I am cheating ... To be continued) -- and probably illegally at that, because it is pulled directly from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers for the day before.

Now for the Saturday update: After a last-minute decision to go to Arkansas this past Saturday morning to see my brother and his family, and to stay, one day at a time, through Tuesday morning and go straight to work three and a half hours away in Oklahoma City, I felt too tired to post anything, but had no idea when I might get back to this. And I feared just letting it go. I'm not sure why these posts are important, but something about the discipline -- even when I have to fudge a bit like this time to meet my deadline -- helps me. Or maybe it's not even the value of the discipline as much as just responding to what still feels like a call from God. So, on Tuesday, I posted this text that inspired what I likely would have written, knowing I could and would update it later.

For me, it's not even about being perfect. It's about wanting to be useful, helpful, meaningful, loving, caring and have purpose in God's world and in relationships with people. What the text helped me see is that I do tend to focus on or worry about whether I am letting God use me the way He would like to. I tend to think I fall short. And this helped me again to fathom that I truly just need to focus on the love of God through Christ, and to TRUST HIM. Last weekend was one more example of how, when I do trust that part of me that is focused on God, I end up where I am supposed to be. I have no doubt that was the case then. So how can I not also trust Him to help me take care of what's in front of me now. And so I will.

(Excerpts from the pilfered text follow, with emphasis added.)

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect . . . —Philippians 3:12

It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do — God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. ... What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick.

Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. ... I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. ... God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One more time: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise

A weird pattern has emerged this month. I post something new on the blog on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, some news comes that seems to have been foreshadowed by the post.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about jobs and value, and the following day, people were laid off at work.

Last week, after reflecting on the layoffs of loyal co-workers and other events of the past week, I ended the post the same way I did the previous week:

For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

And the next day, that again became a Scripture I could cling to as a guide amid frightening health news involving people I care deeply about.

There have been days since then in which expressions of joy and gratitude were a struggle. I seemed cynical at the best and bitter at the worst, with a range of emotions including sadness, frustration, anger, hope and confusion in between.

But the cloud of spiritual witnesses on earth and in heaven seems to be in full force the closer Thanksgiving gets, and I could not escape reminders that a prayer can be as simple as saying "Thank You" to God, and that in saying "thank you" in all circumstances, I am affirming my trust in God. After a day or two of half-hearted expressions of thanks, a deeper sense of gratitude and faith returned.

Among those reminders along the way:

Perhaps the most timely was Friday, Nov. 22, in Jesus Calling: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

That same day: "God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1 amp)

From The Upper Room, Monday, Nov. 25, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12, NIV)

From Jesus Calling, Tuesday, Nov. 26: "This is the day The Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)

Jesus Calling, Monday, Nov. 25: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, quoted above, and Romans 15:13 -- "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

"Give thanks to The Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (Psalm 118:1)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Come what may .... again

Last Tuesday's post was titled "Income, outcome, come what may," in which I pondered the value of a job or a salary or material gifts or possessions or how time is used or what is important.

Little did I know what would come the next day.

As I was walking from the parking garage to the elevator to get to my floor at work on Wednesday, I greeted someone I work with who was headed out, which I figured meant he was on his way to interview someone for a story.

But shortly after I got to my desk, I learned that he and more than 30 other people had been laid off, including five others on my floor and with whom I have worked for many years.

I still have my job, and I am very grateful for that. I also am strongly reminded of an aspect that I didn't address last week, which is that employment and salary and material things are fleeting. Layoffs at work are stark evidence that you can be doing great work one day and be unemployed the next, through no fault of your own. It's just a matter of the economy and circumstances -- including some that sap whatever sense of security I might have ever had in the past about my own role.

Even though I have much more I could write, I'm going to end this exactly how I ended last week. Two things are at play. One is that, like last week, I'm only touching the surface of what I'm thinking and feeling. The other is that, no matter what I am thinking or feeling, what I ended with last week is what I need to heed today as well:

For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Income, outcome, come what may ....

Sunday's sermon included a question I recently pondered here: How much is enough?

Among the comments the pastor offered was this thought that resonated with me: A job is not about the income, it's about the outcome.

I'm not even sure what it means to me. It's kind of like some songs: It speaks to me in ways I don't fully comprehend. It has meaning beyond the literal.

But I keep coming back to the concept as I seek perspective in the job for which I get paid as well as regarding tasks on which I spend (or feel I should spend) my time and energy.

The income can be the paycheck or it can be the immediate reward or result of an action or investment of time and energy.

Tbe outcome goes beyond, to what is done with that paycheck or good feelings (or even the bad ones) that come from an undertaking.

The outcome may also have a net component: Was the effort worth the pay?

The income also can be an expenses-paid European cruise or a nice gift for 30 years of employment with a company. But what is the outcome? Right now, in both of those cases, it is a strange sense of confusion. And maybe that's OK. Maybe the outcome is continuing to evolve. I think that is true, and this is part of the process.

For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Four years and still going ....

It is the anniversary of when I started trying to see where a blog might lead me. And four years later, I still have no clue.

I guess it doesn't help that I haven't evolved beyond my original "simple goals":

-- Post at least one thing each week.

-- Feel free to go back in and edit.

-- See where it leads.

-- Give the glory to God.

That self-criticism ("I guess it doesn't help ...") echoes one that has emerged at work. I'm feeling a need to add some skills or set higher goals to increase my job security. But I also have reasons to believe that just not falling behind will be a major challenge between now and the end of the year and possibly the first few months of 2014.

In recent years, with my Dad's illness and then his death, November and December stir deeper thoughts, feelings and emotions -- including some grief, depression and confusion, but also gratitude, hope, love and joy.

For instance, Central Oklahoma has been having a bunch of earthquakes lately. I haven't felt any of them, but they make me think of the one two years ago tonight, when I was with Mom at home on the family farm, the Saturday after my Dad's death and funeral. That still seems more surreal than eerie, but definitely some of both. You just don't think of houses rattling and shaking without a strong wind or a storm going on in these parts. But I guess that is just one more thing that keeps changing.

Recent days have provided some good lessons to me about how life goes on. My Mom headed out on a trip with two of her brothers to see their sister last Wednesday -- the anniversary of my Dad's death. What a powerful message to me. She saw a precious opportunity to spend time with her siblings and she made the most of it, even as it meant missing three of her out-of-state children being at her house while she was gone. Again, this was so instructional for me. Before she returned home, she and her sister would go to visit their sister-in-law, whose husband, their brother, died a year ago today. Driving with Mom to his funeral in far west Texas last year was a rich experience for me, bringing more memories and blessings that are with me today. I know she, too, will feel enriched, even as it has to be emotionally draining at times.

Which brings me around to an excerpt from today's devotional from the Bible Gateway, drawn from 1 Kings 17:8-24, that I wanted to end with.

"Faith is the step between promise and assurance. Miracles seem so out of reach for our feeble faith. But every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience based on faith. We may not see the solution until we take the first step of faith because God offers help where we least expect it. God provides 'a pathway no one knew was there!' (Psalm 77:19). When we put our faith in God for small things like a meal, we will be more ready next time to put our faith in him for big things—like life."

I can only experience the richness of life if I step out in faith to trust God with whatever comes. And He never forsakes me. His Spirit stays with me. That's the Spirit I want to keep embracing and sharing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Living a legacy (Thoughts of Daddy)

Today (Wednesday) is the second anniversary of my Dad's death, and this daughter of the psalmist's son (Charles Davidson, get it?) is really feeling emotions this year.

I told Mom it seems like it's been three years. When I did the math, I realized why. The first year without him with us physically on earth seemed like two years. What seemed like the first year was getting through the first Sunday, and then Thanksgiving and Christmas and to the end of 2011 without him. So, when the actual anniversary of his homegoing came in 2012, it seemed like two years. And now it seems like three.

I am more aware of missing him than I have been in a while. I think that's because of things that have been going on that I know he would have been interested in -- and I long to hear his supportive and often surprisingly original response. The European cruise, the Barcelona adventure, my (official) 30 years of service at work and now this upcoming alumni basketball game, among so many other things -- what would his response be? Pride, for sure, but also some comment that only my Daddy would come up with.

Another reason, I'm sure, that I am more emotional and aware this year is just the reality that we all are getting older and closing in on the heavenly homecoming. None of us will be on this earth forever, nor should we want to be.

That's where the phrase "living a legacy" came in. If I live the legacy of my father and ancestors, I won't have to worry about leaving a legacy. God the Father and my cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth provide loving support and guidance on the way to go.

I thank God for the love and the legacy of my dad. May I live it to the honor and glory of both of them.

(There's a whole other column to be written about my precious Mom during all of this, but that is for another moment.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finding my place

Muenster High School has an alumni basketball game coming up, and when I heard about it a month or so ago, I could not resist signing up. I don't know whether I really qualify -- I only suited up in junior high and as a freshman, and I probably only made it into one or two high school games. But I think I'm probably in a uniform with the team in the 1974 yearbook. So I offered my $20 registration fee, and they took it, so I guess I'm in!

When I heard about the event from a Facebook posting, I commented that I would sign up if they promised I wouldn't have to play. "My place was on the bench -- and before my freshman year was over, I realized even that was too close to the action for comfort!"

They assured me they would have a place reserved for me on the bench. But I've had second thoughts. I'd forgotten that even the ball handling during practice and warmups was traumatic for me. So, now I hope to just enjoy the fish dinner, get my T-shirt and take a seat in the stands, where I ended up being for games throughout high school, as I watched my sisters and brother and classmates play. (I wouldn't mind being in an alumni team picture, but if that requires ball handling or me to actually sit on the bench, they can probably count me out!)

While some have picked up a basketball to prepare for the game, my workout has been mental. Here's some of what I've come up with:

I call myself a bench warmer on the team. But upon more thought, I realize I'm not really even a good bench warmer. Shouldn't a bench warmer be like the scout team, maybe not good enough to play in the games, but a very worthy practice opponent. I am not and never was that. I am not comfortable handling the ball and have no clue what to do as a defender. I am more of an obstacle than a resource. Some people have no business in practice, in a uniform or on the team. And it wasn't a good use of my time. I wisely got off the bench and moved to the stands.

Although I didn't realize it until now, that may have been one of the defining moments in my life. I don't remember my thought process at the time, but ultimately, I realized that just because everyone else in my family was athletic and played basketball didn't mean I had to. I do recall it was hard to give it up. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't harder than it was to go to those games and live in fear that the coach would send me into the game and the ball would come my way!

Unfortunately, the way my mind and reflections go, I realize I'm still searching to find the team where I fit in, where I feel like I can contribute, carry my weight and maybe even make a difference. A couple of opportunities that came close were the Oklahoma City Gridiron Club (journalists doing a musical roast of politics) and then a praise team at our church. But after a few years of camaraderie with the journalist group, I fell out of favor, and it has never worked to get involved again. Meanwhile, after a short span, the contemporary worship service and praise team folded, and attempts to keep it going also fizzled.

Also unfortunately, I blame myself: Maybe the reason I can't find a place is because I am selfish and lazy and judgmental and perfectionist and undisciplined. Is there anything I am truly good at? Not in my eyes. From my perspective: Mediocre is me.

And yet: Jesus loves me, this I know. The Bible tells me so. God knows where and how I am. He created me. He goes before me and with me. I see again and again how He uses me, especially in supporting roles.

So, once more, I will suit up and show up, eager to see what God has planned for such a time as this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gratitude and awe

Mistakes are such a distraction. That's what I found myself thinking after I botched some of the words on a solo I sang at church Sunday. I knew some of the words were tricky for me, but I had practiced, and it went so smoothly at the early service. Then, at the second service, I stumbled over the tricky spots. And I just don't really understand why. I suppose I might be more likely to get the words right if I kept my eyes on them, but that's not how I sing. I have to look at the people. And I guess the price of that, for me, is that sometimes I will mess up the words.

But the thing is: People are so gracious. Either they don't notice, or they totally excuse the mistakes. Am I the only one who notices or cares? So it seems. So why do I care? It's a weakness I have trouble overcoming.

Between the words of the song and the words of the sermon, though, I have the response to whatever it is I'm going through: Keep my gaze on Christ. Seek Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. Love Him. Praise Him. Rejoice in all things, because of God's great love through Him.

The song: You are beautiful beyond description; too marvelous for words; too wonderful for comprehension; like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of Your love? Your are beautiful beyone description: Majesty, enthroned above. And I stand in awe of You. Holy God, to Whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.

The sermon: Rejoice! Drawn from Philippians 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ... 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.

Rejoice in The Lord. Trust God. Even when I don't understand why I seem so inept.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In a new light (True colors?)

Most days, my graying hair and crinkling face don't bother me much.

Even when someone near and dear suggested in late August that I should consider coloring my hair, because the gray is showing, I confidently responded that I know I have gray, but I'm OK with it.

Since that time, however ... new light has been shed on the matter.

First was a picture taken at the end of September. Sure enough, my hair looked grayer than I'd ever seen it. Hmmmmmm. Is it time?

A couple of days later, the flourescent lighting in the bathroom began to flicker. When we changed out the tubes, the new ones were white rather than the warm, yellow-tinted hue. And the result in the mirror is Ms. Mousy Gray!

I truly have no idea what the real color is or how bad it looks.

And that's when I realized: Does it even matter?

I wouldn't say that I always like my hair (and overall appearance), but I'm generally quite OK with it. And I have little faith that spending more money or time on it would make me like it more. Maybe that's the point: To some degree I realize that, even though I want to feel good about my appearance, it's not the most important thing. And results seldom seem worth the cost or effort.

At the same time, for someone so unwilling to spend much time or money on my appearance, I do think (or worry -- or at least wonder) about it more than I think I should. I think it has more to do with insecurity than actual vanity. I don't even dream of being beautiful (well, OK, I can dream), but I do want to avoid looking bad. And that's where the awareness of graying hair, droopy eyelids and increasing evidence of aging come back in. Still, as in so many areas, for today, I can't see changing from the way I am.

Besides, aren't we always told that it's what's on the inside that counts? Ouch. Maybe that's why I get distracted by the outward appearance -- because I don't want to look within. Appearance is superficial, but what's inside is the heart of the matter. And I'm so aware of the flaws and imperfections there.

Meanwhile, a friend suggests that instead of focusing on what I see as imperfections and lack of symmetry and balance and uniform color, why not marvel at God's creative artistry?

I've been contemplating this subject for more than a week, and I still can't bring it to a conclusion. But I'm ready to move on.

Certainly this is not just about gray hair and wrinkles. It's about life.

The thing I am most aware of is that I spend too much time thinking about me and not enough caring about and doing with and for others. Fortunately, working on this is pushing me into faith and prayer -- and action.

Trust God. Serve God.

Lord, if you have a message to speak from this, please let me get out of the way and Your word shine through, to Your glory.

May I remember that what matters most is what's inside. If the heart and soul are cheerful and filled with love and gratitude toward God, the light of His spirit will shine.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 2ook at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God help a fearful giver

How much is enough? What's it worth? Who decides value? Does it matter?

Variations of such questions were with me long before my all-expenses-paid cruise, but they have been with me even more since.

God has blessed me so lavishly through the years. How can I say thank You? How can I reflect His goodness? How can I show and share His love?

I want to make a difference. I'm tired of being selfish. My intentions are generous and compassionate. My reality is much less so.

I want to give more, serve more, help more, show love more, read more, sing more, write more, trust and obey God more ....

So, what is stopping me? What is holding me back. Fear, yes. But what is that fear? Part of it is fully me, my own sense of insecurity, doubt, and even uncertainty about what to do and where to begin. Part involves the wants, needs, values and priorities of others.

Two things in the past week have highlighted this vividly.

First is the ongoing pledge drive at K-Love, a listener-supported Christian radio station that I listen to almost every time I am in my car, which is at least an hour most days. I've listened for probably 20 years -- and I've never given a penny to support the ministry. I've thought about it many times, but I've always held back. It's never been a matter of whether I can afford to. It's always been matters of circumstances of my own little world. Among the things that have stopped me: Not liking how they conduct their pledge drive; and fear that they would do what everything I've ever donated to has done, which is send more and more requests for money. Another excuse involves feeling overwhelmed with the need -- and how much is enough: If I give to this ministry, shouldn't I also be giving to that one and that one and that one? How does one decide? Where does one stop? And, of course, in all of this, I am convicted by the testimonies that are shared on the station, of people with so much less than I have who give in faith. I did finally decide to give, but even then, I gave a one-time amount rather than a pledge. I'm not sure what that's about. I hope it opens the door to more giving. The station and its music help keep me focused on God and the good His people are doing every day. Of course I want to support that. Why is this so hard? But ... it still is.

While that was going on -- at the end of the first week of the pledge drive, before I gave anything -- I got an email from the American Cancer Society asking me to complete a survey about a fundraising campaign they are considering doing. They have my name because of my support of Relay for Life. In the course of completing the survey, I again was confronted with my confusion and insecurity and lack of generosity ...

How do people who donate significant gifts make those decisions? I actually have been praying about this for some time -- how to be a good steward of what God has given me and Gene. So far, I'm still not clear. My best hope is that when the time is right, God will make it clear.

"Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have." (2 Corinthians 8:11-12)

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ,and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:12-15)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Catching up and moving on, again

I needed to post a few more words before this day ended, if no more than symbolically to say a new month has begun. The previous post may be stamped Oct. 1, but in my mind, it was supposed to be September.

So now I'm on to October. I hate that it has begun with so much turmoil in our nation's government. I have friends who feel strongly on both sides of the political spectrum involving this Obamacare, the budget and now the shutdown. And I know people who are being furloughed and others who still must work but don't know when they will be paid. I don't have a strong sense of who/which side is right and which is wrong or what kind of compromise is needed to come up with a solution. I've prayed some intercessory prayers. It doesn't seem like enough.

But I'm glad October is here. As has often been the case for me in September, it was a month filled with opportunities and emotions that take more than 30 days to comprehend. I was ready to turn the calendar page, and hopefully, prayerfully, get back to my life's more routine structure. Call me a creature of habit -- it's one of my catlike traits. My boring routine might seem like a negative, but the past month away from it reminds me of its purpose. It's OK to take a break -- a vacation -- but it's good to be back in my familiar place.

Even so, I have a sense that I may never catch up. But I will try. Starting today. With how I worked, ate, exercised, prayed and blogged. I fell short again on reaching out to others in service or compassion. That will be a goal for tomorrow. It is one of my most important goals daily goals -- and the one I seem to most often fall short of. This time, I will keep trying. God willing, I won't give up before the next miracle happens.

Grace period

In my rush to get ready for October (actually, more just looking ahead than getting ready), I forgot to take care of September.

I had on my Oct. 1 to-do list "blog," but when I woke up Oct. 1, I thought, "Oops! I forgot to blog on Sept. 30!"

Which meant I only had THREE POSTS for September, which highlighted missing my goal of posting at least one time every seven days. And it looked like this time there was no way around it. (I'd already missed the "post every seven days" goal while on my cruise, but rationalized I could at least balance out the month with four posts total.)

And then I remembered I might have started one that I hadn't posted, and if so, it might post with that time stamp, making four for September.

And then I thought: "Grace?"

And then I thought: "Or is that dishonest?"

And then: "Grace period."

"Grace. Period."

In a September so rich with opportunity and experience that I can only claim progress in making sense of, it was one more example of God's grace. Unmerited favor. An undeserved reprieve. In all things, great and small.

God's amazing grace. Period.

Grace. Amen.

I choose grace. Amen.

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

As God's co-workers, we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. (2 Corinthians 6:1)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Has anything changed?

After what I described as defining moments and answered prayers in Barcelona, I've found myself wondering: Has anything changed?

The answer seems to be yes and no.

No, because I'm still disorganized, I procrastinate, and I let opportunities slip by. And because I already believed in miracles but just hadn't given them as much thought.

Yes, because I don't think a day has gone by that I haven't prayed with renewed faith that God will intervene in what appear to be impossible situations.

So, I pray for miracles. As I do, I realize that sometimes the miracle is sanity. Patience. Gratitude. And sometimes it really is the desired thing that seems impossible except with God's intervention.

-- The soul and spirit of loved ones who are good people, but I'm not sure they have the relationship with Christ that my faith and theology tell me is essential for their eternal salvation.

-- Those troubled by addictions, compulsions and/or mental distress.

-- A dear couple going through heartache and heartbreak over children and parents.

-- A four-decades-plus marriage that seemed to be on a strong Christian foundation and an example for all, and now is coming to an end.

-- Chaos, conflict and oppression throughout the world.

-- Situations where hard-working, conscientious and dedicated workers are pushed to near impossible limits.

Really, I'm not sure whether these need miracles or just healing. I lift them up to the Lord, praying in faith, trusting Him.

Today's reading from a 12-step devotional seemed appropos for my Barcelona experience and also as I continue to pray for God's intervention in all those varied situations. It's a quote attributed to French dramatist Jean Anouilh: "True miracles are created by men when they use the courage and intelligence that God gave them."

Of course, I don't take that to mean that people create miracles, but I do believe God sometimes uses people to orchestrate His divine plan. And sometimes He doesn't.

Speaking of miracles, sometimes the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 seem miraculous. Is this really possible? And of course the answer is yes!

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

And the following aren't miracles, but they are promises and prayers I take to heart as I wrap this up:

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” —Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” —Numbers 6:25–26

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Defining moments: Miracle in Barcelona

For all the glorious sights and experiences of my nine-day European cruise, the defining moments unfolded in an unplanned window of time as I found myself alone in the crowd of humanity at Barcelona's Park Guell, without identification, money, credit card or a phone.

Heading out about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday with a tour group for A Closer Look at Gaudi, I was thinking again that I was out of my element. Here I was on the final day of an expenses-paid cruise from Dover, England, to Barcelona, Spain, that I had done nothing to deserve and seemed unqualified to appreciate to its fullest. From the moment the travel opportunity came up, I had prayed to know whether to say yes, and also for understanding of God's will whether I accepted the trip or stayed home. The answers were still unclear. But the uncertainty did not keep me from enjoying the overall trip or this tour, which was taking the group past numerous notable buildings, including at least two designed by renowned Spanish artist and architect Gaudi.

Then we arrived at his Park Guell, a beautiful and fascinating creation with terraces, steps, houses, columns, colorful mosaics and designs. It wasn't crowded when we got there, but became more and more so. I was taking pictures as usual with my little Canon and my iPhone. All was going pretty well until the Canon quit working. I couldn't get it to come back on after it closed when not in use. I tried swapping out the batteries, and it still wouldn't work, and then I swapped memory cards. Still nothing. So I took the batteries out again and blew on them. And it came back on. What a relief!

By now, the group was heading back to the tour bus. Unfortunately, when I got there, I couldn't find the memory card. The original one. Which meant I had no pictures except those on the iPhone. I looked through all my stuff, and it wasn't there. What am I going to do? I mentioned it to the people around me and the tour guide, and she said there was no time to wait for me to go and look for it, which I knew. But she and several people seemed to be encouraging me to go back to look, and then to take a cab to the next stop: Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. I finally decided to do that, after making sure I had money for the cab ride to the landmark cathedral.

Stepping out

As I stepped off the bus and walked unaccompanied back into the gardens, I started praying. I expressed praise and gratitude and trust in God. I acknowledged I was unworthy of a miracle, but humbly asked for one. I also affirmed to God my trust that, whatever happened, it would be OK, even though, by this time, I felt more "out of my element" than ever. I was aware that, without a guide to lead the way in the park crossed with many paths and levels, I was unsure even which way we had come while I was trying to get the camera to work.

At some point, I was thirsty and started trying to fish a water bottle out of my bag. I got my drink and kept going. Along the way I also saw a cat and had to take a picture, even as I became aware I probably wouldn't find my little camera case and the memory card within it. I knew I didn't have all day to look, because I was to rejoin the tour at the La Sagrada Familia. I decided to call my husband and just tell him I had lost the memory card with all my pictures, but that I knew there could be much worse things to lose, so I would just go on.

And then I began to experience what could only be classified at the moment as "much worse." I could not find my phone. And as I kept looking, I realized I could not find my wallet, either. Usually the phone was in a zippered pocket on the outside of my nylon backpack, and the wallet was in a smaller bag inside the nylon one. But in my rush to make sure I had money and phone before getting off the tour bus, they ended up together in the smaller bag.

I didn't know whether one of the pickpockets I had been warned about had gotten it, or if it had fallen out when I got the water. All I knew was that I now was in a busy city park in Barcelona without identification, money, credit card or a phone.

No longer was I praying for a little miracle. I knew I needed a big one.

Here, the idea that I don't deserve a miracle -- nor did I deserve the trip -- returned. Still, I prayed. In faith. With confidence. Not knowing what to expect.

Instead of writing notes about sites in Barcelona, I began filling my journal with what was in my mind, trying to stay focused and calm, writing out prayers: "Lord, I trust You. I thank You for Your presence." Lessons: "Don't go alone! Never go alone! And even so, trust God. Trust God. Don't cry. Pray for calm. Seek help." "Be gracious." "I trust You, God. It will be OK."

Having no idea where this would lead or how long it would last, my first stop was the bathroom, then I checked with the gift shop in the area where I had looked for the camera card. The young clerk spoke English and said items that are found sometimes are brought there, but my bag had not come. He told me where I might find police to help me. I looked some more for the bag containing my phone, money and ID, praying and hoping against hope, but didn't find it.

Meanwhile, by about 11:30 a.m., a police van had come to the gift shop area. Fortunately, one of the Barcelona Guardia Urban's finest spoke some English, and eventually he was able to reach the cruise line by telephone. An official there suggested the policeman get me a taxi and assure the driver the fare would be paid when I arrived at the terminal. (It never occurred to me or the police to call my cellphone! Duh! That's another lesson to learn from this.)


It was in the taxi that emotions started to overwhelm me as I thought of the lost pictures and the lost opportunity -- and how helpless I felt. I also felt embarrassed, stupid, humbled, grateful -- but fortunately never really scared or alone.

Still, tears formed. All my pictures. Gone. Credit card, gone. Driver's license, gone. Euros and U.S. currency, gone. (At least I knew my passport, the identification needed to fly home, was on the ship.) "If possible, Lord, if it be Your will, please help me not cry. If it's better for me not to cry, please help me not cry. And if it's OK -- then let the tears flow. Or, perhaps, if the tears flow, please help it be OK." (The tears trickled, and it was OK.)

When the taxi arrived at the ship terminal, I was greeted by people from the cruise, who even before paying the fare informed me my bag had been found and would be back at the ship at 2:30. (This was about 1 p.m.) I wasn't totally convinced, but felt hopeful. I got a new room key, then went up, praying and again trying to be positive but hesitant to get my hope up. Shortly, I had a phone message. It was Olivia, a member of my cruise group who also was on the Gaudi tour. She was excited to tell me she had found my bag. I could come and get it in the room next door. But when I got there, it was the camera bag and not the one with the phone, etc. What had been the object of my original search now seemed so insignificant. I felt crushed again. But I thanked her and expressed hope that, possibly, the information about the bag coming back at 2:30 might also be true. Dare I hope? How could I not?

Again, I kept praying, even as I was afraid to get my hopes up. I also considered whether to call Gene yet or wait until I knew whether the bag was found. (I knew that if it wasn't found, I would need my husband's help in canceling credit cards and making other arrangements to get me home. And if it was found, did he even need to know about all this before I got home?) But right around 2:30, the desk called and said my bag with phone and wallet was there. I felt such relief. Oh my. Thank you, God!

It wasn't clear to me where the bag had been or who brought it to the ship, but I was just glad to have it back.

As soon as I had my iPhone, I used it to get online and check email. And I saw Gene had emailed me just after 11 a.m. (4 a.m. Oklahoma time). "Call ASAP. Lost handbag?" As soon as I saw it (about 2:45 in Barcelona and 8:45 in OK), I texted: "Handbag is found. You can call me when you get this or have a chance." He replied that he couldn't call out, so I called him. Little did I know ...

Meanwhile, in the U.S. ...

Gene told me he had been awakened at 4:03 a.m. by a call from my cell phone number. "And it's a guy, speaking English. Good English. Not even an accent." The man said a bag with this phone had been found. And this was the last number called. Gene said it must belong to me, his wife, and that I was on a Crystal cruise. The man said he would make sure the bag and phone get back to the ship. Of course, Gene is wondering what happened to me. "I'm literally thinking you are in the hospital or dead." He knows I often take my purse and phone with me even when I go to the bathroom at home, so for me to be separated from them seemed serious. Had I been kidnapped?

After a couple hours of wondering and worrying, at about 6:30 (7:04?), Gene called my number back, trying to get more information about what was going on. The man said the bag was being taken back to the ship (but he apparently had no idea where I was). Gene said he had not been able to contact me, so the man gave him a phone number for the ship. Gene called and talked to someone on the ship, but that didn't really provide any clarity as to my whereabouts.

So, while I had no idea Gene was aware that my bag had been lost and found, he had no clue about where I was or whether anything had happened to me until I called after 2:30 p.m. Barcelona time (8:48 OK time). (As best I can tell, that was at least four hours without him knowing; some of the times and numbers don't quite add up, based on what Gene and I remember and what time stamps on emails and texts reflect.)

Everything in its place

That night, I met my cruise group for a small party, but decided not to go back into Barcelona with them. I wanted to try to track down the rest of the story of who found my bag and how it got back to the ship and thank whomever was involved.

And, amazingly, I did! The woman at the ship's front desk said the person who brought it back was one of Crystal's ambassador hosts, and he was in the Stardust Club dancing. So I headed that way, and when I was about there, a woman going the other way looked at me and exclaimed, Are you the woman with the lost bag? I said, um, yes. I asked what she knew about that, and she said she and the woman with her were among the people who found my bag and brought it back. So I met her and her sister-in-law -- and the host who was the excursion's escort.

They were with a different tour going through Park Guell. They gathered in an area with benches, and some sat down. When they got up to go on, someone noticed the bag. They thought it belonged to someone from their group, but no one claimed it. As they tried to decide what to do with it, they saw the iPhone. Only one knew how to use it and decided to call last number. That's the call that awakened Gene, who was in Arkansas for a conference.

They could tell by the iPhone pictures that I was on their ship. Plus, one of the women said she recognized me (from my driver's license picture?) as someone on the ship. Of course, like Gene, they had no idea where I was or what had happened to me, so they were quite concerned and were praying, too.

They had been as interested in finding me as I was in finding them. They had checked with the desk later to find out if I had returned to the ship and were relieved to know I did. But we all were glad to get the chance to meet, take pictures, express gratitude to each other -- and thank God!

I've always had faith and an awareness that God loves me, never leaves me and works all things for good as I seek Him and trust Him. And if you asked, I would say I believe in miracles. I believe that, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, I experienced a miracle in Barcelona. I see no way except for God's perfect, divine intervention that all my lost or misplaced things could have made their way back to me. I just don't think that could all happen by chance.

While I missed my coveted visit to the architecturally and spiritually significant La Sagrada Familia (known, among other things, as a work in progress more than 100 years after it was started), God visited me -- His own work in progress -- in an intimate, powerful and transformative way. I stand in awe of His amazing grace and pray to respond to His glory.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

An ongoing project

I'm back from the cruise.

It was wonderful.

I've been trying to compose reflections about it, but each time I've gotten bogged down with details. There is so much I want to write down -- for my records and to share -- but it is taking more time than I had hoped to make sense of it all. So, it will be an ongoing project.

The "Wisdom from Oswald Chambers" I encountered and shared before the trip was helpful along the way:

"When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come." Shade of His Hand, 1226 L

"Take things as they come." That's what I did and continue to do.

My expenses-paid "European Embrace" aboard the Crystal Serenity was indeed a sweet cup, with many opportunities to feel joyful, refreshed and blessed. God revealed His presence, trustworthiness and power in new, transformative ways, and I pray to be faithful in my response. This, too, is an ongoing project.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trip prep (or, paraphrasing Oswald Chambers: Don't make a sweet cup bitter)

Some people get ready for a vacation by planning, shopping and packing.

No matter how hard I try to change my ways, my standard approach includes some sort of meltdown as I get stuck in the planning phase. I make lists and try to be methodical and organized, but I seem to run out of time before getting much done. When there wasn't much time to start with, that makes things particularly interesting as departure date nears.

So, here I am again, headed on a grand trip that appears to be so much more sophisticated than I am. I am not complaining. I'm just documenting.

My most important preparation continues to be spiritual. Maybe I need counseling in addition to prayer, but right now, I can't find time for that. (And when I tried counseling in the past, it just seemed to add to the confusion!)

So, I continue to pray and write and express and find my way in trusting God.

In my prayer journal on Aug. 24: Lord, it seemed like You paved the way, because so many things had to fall into place quickly for it to even be possible. And that is my only hope for having confidence that I can do this with grace and graciousness, to Your glory. ... You know I now am second-guessing whether I should have said yes -- or should I have at least attempted to acquiesce to whoever was interested. ... But I guess I'm committed now. I do believe I will see that it is Your will and plan -- even a gift. Please help me know what to do, how to prepare -- and what Your purpose is for me. To Your glory. ... Focus on You. Trust You. Lean not on my own understanding.

Later: Right now I'm thinking the lesson is that just because I could doesn't mean I should have said yes. But the flip side is I would never do anything if I had to feel certain. Either I will learn I can do anything, or I will decide it's time to simplify more and be even more discerning before I say yes.

And then: I prayed from the start and continue to. So, why am I still so full of doubt? Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. You are the only companion I need. Help me walk humbly with you. Be not afraid. Trust and obey. Believe.

By the end of the day, I wrote to a friend: I think I am terrified, actually. .. I am not nearly a confident enough traveler to be doing this on my own. Why, oh, why did God let me think I could? ... I guess I'll find out!

The odd thing about that is that I traveled alone to Israel and to Jordan years ago, meeting up with groups when I got there. I don't remember this level of anxiety. But the good news is that even while I feel this crazy anxiety, I also feel an excitement, peace and a strong level of faith that God is with me and guiding me and forcing me to stay humble.

Saturday, the 24th, was the meltdown day. Since then, it's just been a frantic pace of trying to stay focused on all I need to do, while not missing work before I leave.

Scriptures and devotional writers have been great help. Following a reading in My Utmost for His Highest on Sunday was this quote from Oswald Chambers: "When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come." (Shade of His Hand)

From Utmost and Chambers on Aug. 26: "With regard to the problem that is pressing in on you right now, are you 'looking unto Jesus' (Hebrews 12:2) and receiving peace from Him? If so, He will be a gracious blessing of peace exhibited in and through you. But if you only try to worry your way out of the problem, you destroy His effectiveness in you, and you deserve whatever you get. ... When a person confers with Jesus Christ, the confusion stops, because there is no confusion in Him. Lay everything out before Him, and when you are faced with difficulty, bereavement, and sorrow, listen to Him say, 'Let not your heart be troubled ...'” (John 14:27).

It still seems somewhat surreal the circumstances under which I will be flying to London to embark on a nine-day cruise to Barcelona. I certainly am not more deserving than other people at work or anywhere in my acquaintance that never get such opportunities. I guess I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. As I've written before, I struggle with feelings of guilt or shame that God continues to allow these blessings into my life -- and I just don't seem to do much with them, at least from my perspective. I am so simple -- except for the complexity of my mind that never stops spinning.

And yet: If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Exciting times!

I announced some cool news to my closest family members today, and now I will share it with a somewhat wider group.

First, BASS announced today that Gene will be their conservation director starting Jan. 1. He was in Michigan today as preparation began for a Bassmasters Elite Series tournament, and that's when it was officially announced. He will take early retirement from his job with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at the end of this year. And no, he will not have to move to Birmingham, where BASS is based now, although he will travel there and other places for them quite a bit. He will work from home. Very exciting!

And I am going on a 9-day European cruise as a travel junket for the paper. I will fly to London, where I will board the Crystal Serenity, and sail to Barcelona, with stops along the way at ports in France, Portugal and Spain.

This will be the fourth amazing trip I've been able to take in my 30-plus years at the paper. As is always the case on these trips, it's pretty short notice, and timing had to work out just right. And when those kinds of things happen, I feel grateful and humbled and perplexed. My perspective always is that good things don't come apart from God -- and that when they come, I want to be sure to respond in a way that glorifies Him. (For the record, my perspective also is that when seemingly bad things come, I want to be sure to respond in a way glorifies Him.)

Anyone who knows me or has followed "That's the Spirit" may realize just how crazy this all seems to me. I struggle to pack for an overnight trip to Texas to see my mom or a weekend trip to Arkansas to see my brother and his family. Truth be told, it's good I don't have weeks and weeks to plan for this trip, because I always end up waiting until the last minute anyway and would just feel bad about not being better prepared. At least now I have an excuse!

I have much more I want to write about these bits of exciting news, but this is where I will leave it for now, except to add a couple of Scripture/devotional references. In both of these instances, even with the excitement of the opportunities, I could easily have let fear, doubt or uncertainty keep me from saying yes or being supportive. It's only through praying, letting God's words through Scripture sink in, and trusting God that I have confidence in our choices and decisions.

The Scripture from last week's post is fitting again tonight: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

And from today's Jesus Calling: "You are walking along the path I have chosen for you. ... Do not worry about what other people think of you. ... Stay on the path of Life with Me. Trust Me wholeheartedly, letting My Spirit fill you with Joy and Peace."

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Searching for something of value

It's the dreaded deadline, and I can think of nothing of value to write. More accurately, I can think of nothing of value that I have time to make sense of. So -- I guess it's time for another placeholder post. And as I've learned in the past, even this has value, at least for me.

I had hoped to come up with something short and sweet.

I don't have time to write about lessons I've learned from Josh and Johnny (and I guess, before that, Toby).

Nor is there time right now to get into values; how much is enough; and what is important.

Today, I found great value in a spare keyboard that I was able to confiscate after I spilled nearly a whole cup of hot cocoa/coffee on mine at work shortly before I left. It would be prudent of me to banish beverages from my desk, but I just don't know whether I can.

And I was reminded of the tremendous value of Scripture and faith in God when I reread the Aug. 7 devotional from Jesus Calling, a bit of which I am repeating here: "Understanding will never bring you Peace. That’s why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not in your understanding. Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out, in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives. But the world presents you with an endless series of problems. As soon as you master one set, another pops up to challenge you. The relief you had anticipated is short-lived. Soon your mind is gearing up again: searching for understanding (mastery), instead of seeking Me (your Master). ... As you look to Me, you gain awareness of this precious Peace."

The related Scriptures:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5–6

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Another good start

Evidence that August has started well is that I was OK even as my last-minute but well-intentioned weekend plans didn't work out, then a key co-worker's maternity leave started 10 days early on Monday.

I am starting to experience more benefits of the day schedule, including being able to attend my artist friend's gallery show opening in the Paseo on Friday. Then, Saturday, it came naturally to go to my 12-step meeting in Norman instead of drive to OKC.

I wanted to go to Texas with Gene, but it turned out I would not have been able to visit Mom, who was out of town for the weekend, nor Gene's sister, who had plans Saturday evening. So Gene and I enjoyed a movie ("Two Guns") and dinner out on Saturday, then he headed to Texas Sunday while I stayed in Norman for church and my other usual activities. Though it wasn't my preferred way to spend the weekend, it ended up being peaceful and restful.

The relaxed weekend became a godsend when I got to work Monday and the first person I saw was the one who would be filling in when a key day shift person was on maternity leave. I thought (hoped!!) maybe she was there for training, but no: the baby was born Sunday and maternity leave has begun 10 days early.

So, just when I was getting comfortable with the schedule and work routine, it returned to a new but hopefully short-lived form of chaos.

I seem to be making progress with a healthy degree of acceptance that it's OK not to be all and do all. The reality is that I can't be all and do all even when I try, but I typically waste mental and spiritual energy fighting that reality.

As usual, some Scriptures and devotionals have been timely in this first week of August.

From My Utmost for His Highest on Aug. 5, drawn from Luke 18:31,34 -- ". . . and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.’ . . . But they understood none of these things . . . "

If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. ... we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” ... we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian ... trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities.

Aug. 1 Utmost: "When Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples . . . He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities." Matthew 11:1

He comes where He commands us to leave. If you stayed home when God told you to go because you were so concerned about your own people there, then you actually robbed them of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all the consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach ... If you say, “I know that He told me to go, but my duty is here,” it simply means that you do not believe that Jesus means what He says.

He works where He sends us to wait. “. . . tarry . . . until . . .” (Luke 24:49). “Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual fits of emotion to “wait patiently for Him”? (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where I am, again, as July ends

Patience continues to be a major struggle for me. Trusting God requires me to be patient. I was somewhat trusting and patient for a couple of days, but I'm back to wanting clarity, NOW!!

Several of my daily readings have happened to address right where I am, including Wednesday's from My Utmost for His Highest, drawing from James 1:4 -- "Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Among the commentary from Oswald Chambers: "Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives."

For me, it's pretty clearly more than one thing. Among them: Impatience, lack of faith, selfishness, all undergirded by fear.

Saturday, I had somewhat of a breakthrough, at least for a moment. In a moment of indecisiveness, I sat down and prayed for guidance about which of two meetings to go to. The clear answer seemed to be to go to the first meeting (at 10:30 in Norman), then I could go on to the second meeting at noon in Oklahoma City. And that's what I set off to do.

But on the way, I realized two important things. First was that I really didn't need two meetings on the same day. I need two in a week, but going on the same day probably wouldn't be that beneficial. The second thing was recognition that I was trying to hold on to the familir -- the meeting I'd been attending at noon in Oklahoma City -- instead of transitioning to the 10:30 meeting in Norman that better fits my present circumstances. And that's exactly what I was still trying to do at work, at the end of the fourth week of the new schedule, as I continued to seek ways to be involved with my former shift.

I renewed my commitment to let go and move on, and for the rest of Saturday and Sunday, it seemed to help. Saturday, I petted the kitties at the shelter, bought some new clothes, bought gas, cooked supper and even went to a friend's piano recital. Sunday wasn't as busy, but it was peaceful. Monday and Tuesday, I did better than usual at staying patient, trusting God and not trying to figure out how to get things to work out certain ways.

But by Wednesday, I was really feeling the stress and anxiety again. I find myself wanting to make suggestions and plans to try to shape the future. But God's call on my heart keeps telling me to be patient. Slow down. Trust. Be patient ....

This, also from My Utmost, on Monday, also spoke strongly to me, under the title "God’s Purpose or Mine?" The Scripture reference was Mark 6:45 -- "He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side ..."

These words convicted me: "We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. ... We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. ... What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself."

And this guides me: "What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God."

The process. Letting go of my pride. Depending on God's power. Patiently. Prayerfully.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is this what God had planned?

"I'm praying and trusting and thanking God that today will be exactly what He has planned for me. So far, that hasn't made it any easier. But He never said it would be easy. He just promises He will be with me and that His way is the right one for me. I believe that. I hope and pray my attitude and actions will match my belief by time I leave the house!"

I posted that on Facebook Wednesday morning as I continued to battle frustration and negativity, despite my supposed decision and hope over the weekend that I had turned the corner toward a needed attitude adjustment.

My work shift had ended early Tuesday, when my superviser, probably aware that for a day and two-thirds I had been on edge and overreacting to things, suggested I take advantage of a somewhat caught-up moment and go home. I tried to argue with her, among my reasons being this would put me out in traffic at 4:50 p.m. -- potentially the worst of rush hour. But in a moment of sanity and clarity, I realized maybe she wasn't trying to punish me or put me in time out, but instead was doing what she herself would do. And so I left, and traffic wasn't all that bad (although I did observe what appeared to be some road rage invovling a couple of drivers), and it was nice to be home early.

But when Wednesday morning came, the negativity and frustration were back, and my efforts to overcome them were having no effect. Nor did my prayers seem to. The Facebook post was a plea for additional prayers, and they came.

Prayers and support came, and my attitude was better at work, though stll far from what I would like it to be. But I guess I saved the worst of it for choir practice, where some unusual circumstances seemed to mirror part of the situation at work that is so frustrating to me. (It has to do with how time is used.) I felt resentful and crabby. And for some reason, in those three days especially, my filter for hiding my feelings was not working very well.

Vacation Bible school was going on at church, and my spirit was lifted a little to see all those energetic, cheerful kids and adult teachers and volunteers. But that also made me feel guilty, because I hadn't done even one thing to help.

After I got home, I got an email from my sister-in-law, who had been in a wreck that totaled her car and left her battered and bruised but nothing broken, cracked or concussed. The night before, I had learned a brother-in-law had to get stitches after a farm accident. I offered prayers for all of these -- and noted that I had slacked off of praying regularly for family members.

Several times during that day, I found myself wondering: Is this really exactly what God had planned for me? I followed the wondering with continued prayers and expressions of trust and thankfulness, even though I had my doubts.

I guess I still have my doubts. To me, it looks more like God has good plans for me, and I keep messing them up. But I still believe He promises to be with me even when I lose focus and temporarily stray, and that He leads me back to His way, and that His way is the right one for me.

And in the days since, I've seen clearer evidence of that, which I hope to write about soon.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5)

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why I am here, again

This was another of those weekends I wished I could be two places at once. It was so hard not to just hop in the Mustang and head south today for what I'm sure would have been a delightful time with family, including the growing-so-fast great nieces and nephew in Texas. And yet, I felt God was showing me that the things awaiting me closer to home were the better choice today. But less than 30 minutes before I needed to head to Oklahoma City, I still hadn't really decided for sure I wasn't going to Texas.

I ended up in Oklahoma City, and I know that was the right place. I keep telling myself it was, even as I drove around trying to figure out where to park among the chaotic streets and garages of downtown Oklahoma City. I know the reasons it was a good place. It was 12-step work, with people I need to spend time with for my physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is where I needed to be.

As the day wrapped up and I headed home, I was pretty comfortable with the decision. My next goal was to use the rest of the day to get some things done around the house and to prepare for Sunday. Of course, that was part of why I didn't want to stay close to home. The things I need to do around the house are things I could procrastinate about forever, and rushing off to Texas is a good tool for avoidance. I feel more frustrated with myself when I have time and still don't get much done. But that's how it went tonight.

Along the way, I learned that my brother from Arkansas and two of his daughters were among those in Texas. My first thought was that it was good I didn't know, because if I had known, I would have gone to Texas instead of staying where I needed to be, here in Oklahoma. But sure enough, it wasn't long before I was second-guessing myself and regretting that I hadn't gone to Texas.

And that's the thing about me that I really need to recognize and get straightened out. I need and want to quit hanging on to how I wish things were instead of how they are. The recent shift in my work schedule and its focus seems to have brought this tendency to the forefront, and decisions involving many other areas of my life are getting caught in the mess. But after three weeks on my new work schedule, it's past time for me to assess and face reality and come up with a new plan/routine/discipline that works. Wishing things were different won't make things different. I know that. But prayer does change things. I believe that. I can trust God to help me adjust my attitude and come up with a plan of small steps to make it work. I've done it before and it's time to do it again. And I'm pretty sure when I deal with that overwhelming thing called work, the rest will fall back into place.

So, let me remind myself: I was where I needed to be today. I prayed to God for guidance, and I feel certain this is where He led me. I guess the thing I need to acknowledge is that I just don't like the fact that I couldn't do it all. (That's also a key factor in what's impeding my transition at work.)

Do I trust God or not? That seems to be what it boils down to. And the answer is yes. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me live by faith, to Your glory.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sometimes things just don't add up right

Math has never been my strength, and maybe that's why some things in life just don't add up.

I was thinking about this life math earlier in the week, when I was trying to figure out where my time is going on this current work schedule. I seem to be losing three or four hours a week.

When I worked 3 to midnight, I was able to go to prayer time at church on Monday, a 12-step meeting at noon on Wednesday, and also to choir practice on Wednesday because of scheduling that allowed one 4-hour day and four 9-hour days. I also could find time to pet the kitties at Second Chance at least once every two weeks, plus fit in haircut, doctor appointments or car maintenance if needed.

Working 10 to 6 every day now, I miss the prayer and 12-step meetings. I realized that going in. What I wasn't as sure of was what I would get back in my off time. As of Tuesday, it seemed like I'm only losing time. I'm in bed less and also probably at work less. But I'm getting much less done in my time not spent at work or in bed. What gives?

I think I finally figured out and am coming to terms with two big challenges. The first involves what I already knew: that I am more self-motivated in the morning, but now that time is focused on getting to work. When I get home, I'm ready to wind down rather than start anything. But if I start doing anything -- and sometimes even when I don't -- it's hard for me to get to bed by 11, which is my goal to go with the 7 a.m. alarm. So I'm often also getting less sleep.

The second thing I realized is that where I gained time is on Saturday mornings. But that only works if I get up at 7 instead of 10. So, now I need to do what I did when I first shifted to the night schedule. I had to very intentionally plan each day and to find a workable, productive routine. I found one then, and that's what I need to do now. I haven't figured out the new routine yet, a structure to maximize motivation and energy for relationships, prayer, socializing, service, chores, exercise and whatever else. But identifying the need, and reflecting on how well it worked in the other shift, helps me move forward. It took discipline to not waste time when I worked nights, and it will also take discipline during the days.

(An important insight I had today in talking with someone is that, before I went to the night shift, I was in the tendency I am now, which is to not get much done after work. But I'm pretty determined not to let that become the routine this time. Also, an important note about today is that some timing worked out amazingly and unexpectedly well as far as a chance meeting with someone I'd been trying unsuccessfully to schedule time with. Part of my response was to go with my heart to pet the kitties afterward even though my mind told me I really didn't have time today. And I'm pretty sure it's all going to work out.)

Thinking about things that don't seem to add up, this completely unrelated thing also come to mind:

A week after Toby Keith's Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert, I've still heard or read no educated estimate on how much money was raised. What is up with that? All that talent and such a big deal -- and no one is saying they raised at least a certain conservative amount of millions? After Johnny-come-lately-and-far-more-humble country superstar Blake Shelton's televised concert, which Toby essentially dissed as being too soon after the tornadoes (which I also thought as it was planned, but not when and after it was carried out), donations were tallied quickly and continued to be updated (the last update I saw was more than $6 million in donations and pledges). For that event, even people who couldn't get tickets could watch and feel a part as they donated. At Toby's event, meanwhile, they encouraged people to donate even if they didn't get tickets and couldn't share at all in the show. Wasn't that nice of them to encourage that!!!! How this relates to my math theme is that it just doesn't make sense to me.

That could lead to a whole other essay on costs and values and priorities. But that's for another time. Right now, I'm out of time, if I want to keep moving toward that transition to going to bed earlier to go along with awaking earlier. So this is all for now.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why I am where I am today

The concept of supporting Toby Keith's Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert with Garth, Trisha, Willie, Sammie and others was intriguing, but if I didn't have the stamina it took to get tickets online, on the phone or in person (apparently these require time, planning, patience and persistence, and maybe some luck; personal connections also seemed to help some I know who got tickets), then what made me think could endure 3 pm heat and that crazy crowd on July 6? Of course, there is really no comparison. This is frustrating. That would have been fun.


That's a paraphrase of what I wrote June 21, when I struck out in my brief attempt to get tickets. I gave up after several calls and posts came up with "Sorry, there are no tickets available for this event."  

I made a choice that day, and it was about more than what I would do this July 6. I looked within to assess: who  am I, and where does this concert fit in? What I saw then, and continue to see, is that I am a low-key person. My needs and wants are fairly simple. It's a conclusion   I've reached before, and it's meaning continues to evolve.   

I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed going, but it has been a good lesson to live the choice I made. Instead, I am in Texas, for a very low-key visit with Mom and whoever else is here (many are traveling) and also doing some upkeep chores on the farm. Tomorrow, I will attend the church I grew up in instead of the church where I am a member now. That's another case of where, if it was possible to be two places at one time, I would do both.   

But I can't do it all. I can't have it all.  I don't need it all.   

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want ...   

I rest safely beneath the everlasting arms. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Off to a good start

June ended nicely, with Relay for Life, time in Perry and Stillwater and then Mom coming back to Norman for the rest of the weekend. And despite my anxiety, July is off to a good start. The first day or two on the new work schedule and focus were chaotic and challenging as expected, and sometimes confusing. But each day, amid some frustrations, I found plenty of pleasant surprises. I can't have and do it all, but so far, it seems there is meaningful work to be done in this new shift. And when it was time to leave work at 7:30 instead of 1 am on a surprisingly mild July 1, the top down drive home was refreshing part of the transition to a new routine. .... Much more to write, but I need to sign off for now.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

For such a time as this, again

Change is never easy for me. I've made a lot of progress over the years in taking things in stride. But recently an old pattern has taken hold, and it is taking an amazing amount of my mental effort to keep it from paralyzing me.

Actually, several things are in flux at this midpoint of life (sure, why not think I will live to 108!), but the one I will focus on is one that has been announced.

The old pattern is that I am having big doubts about what first seemed like good news and an answer to prayer.

The change is that, starting Monday, I will work noon to 8 p.m. most days, instead of 3 p.m. to past midnight. This certainly would seem to be an unexpected answer to something I began praying for after I learned how much my husband disliked my late-night hours. I've continued to bring my thoughts back to that reality -- that God hears my prayers -- when my mind starts second-guessing, as it always does.

Two of the first potential negatives I became aware of were that I may no longer be able to attend the Monday morning prayer time at church or my 12-step meeting at noon Wednesdays. And I also know that I've become fairly productive in the use of my time on this schedule. Coming home so late, I don't turn on the TV or start anything when I get home. I just get ready for bed.

I realized fairly early on when I began working the late shift in January 2011 that I gained productivity in my time away from work with that new routine. When I worked days, I tended to come home tired and end up wasting time watching TV. At first, I watched TV in the mornings and afternoon on the late-shift schedule, but eventually gave that up, in one of the best decisions I ever made. It seems I have more energy earlier in the day and am more likely to self-start on things then. By being at my job late at night, I had external, forced motivation to stay productive -- and I also forced myself to shape the day so I wouldn't be too tired to drive home. The result was getting more done. The cost was less attntion to relationships, including the marraige, and social activity outside work.

Pretty soon after I learned about the latest change, I also started to have doubts about some changes in duty with the new schedule. In my 30-plus years at the daily newspaper where I work, I've been a reporter covering a variety of beats, features and general assignments; assistant supervising editor; religion editor; copy editor, headline writer and page designer.

The hardest transition was going from religion editor, which I had considered my dream job, to the copy desk. How could a wordy, slow person such as myself ever sum up a story in the small space of a headline on deadline? But over the years, I became an award-winning headline writer and copy editor. I've excelled working on some of each day's meatiest stories. I was reminded as last Friday's shift continued through 3 a.m. Saturday that, yes, I love being a part of the heart of the newspaper.

One of my fears is that the work of the new shift, with more focus on non-deadline features and community news, won't seem as significant. I spent many years working in community news and features, and I have continued to have some specialized contributions there. I also have respect for its importance. But I'm also aware now that it doesn't seem as important or exciting as the late-night work. I guess it's just a part of the transition process that I am drawn to what I liked about what I'm leaving, and I gravitate to my fears and doubts about where I'm going. I'm pretty sure that's human nature for a lot of us.

As I've faced this with prayer and more prayer, these are phrases that have emerged to provide guidance:

Trust God.

Faith my fears.

For such a time as this.

When one door closes, another opens.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would not only learn to enjoy but would thrive being a daily news copy editor and headline writer.

When I left the job as religion editor, it was with a sense that I had failed to succeed in my dream job. But even with that cloud, I looked for and found silver linings of hope. "Through prayer and desperation, I began to accept what I had seen as failure as a sign it's time to move on. Rather than feel sad, I can be grateful. ... It's time for the next step of faith ... The best is yet to come!" is what I wrote in my final column more than 10 years ago.

This time, to some degree, it the sense of success rather than failure that makes the transition difficult. I want to stay where I see my value and ability to succeed and make a difference. But I trust God is in charge of my life. He controls all things, and I have such limited knowledge of His greater plans and purposes. So, again, I will say and, with God's help, strive to believe: The best is yet to come.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt You in due time; casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)

"In you, Lord my God,I put my trust. ... Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (from Psalm 25)

"... And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Simplify and Prioritize, One Day at a Time, Forever

I've been thinking a lot lately about my continued need and desire to prioritize and simplify. The need and desire have been with me a long, long time. I haven't given up, even though progress comes ever so slowly.

I approach the task prayerfully and carefully.

Here are some of the latest contemplations and insights, in no particular order of importance.

What is important to me? How can I know and do God's will and let go the rest.

-- Church: attendance, giving, prayer, service, worship, fellowship, evangelization.

-- Marriage: goals, what are priorities; willingness to be more spontaneous and take a few risks (car, cat, work, house, vacation, travel, giving, serving) but also patience.

-- Family and friends: cards, visits, Facebook and email, phone calls, a place for people to stay when they are willing to come visit.

-- Cat lady without a cat. I can see how this is the way it is supposed to be, at least for now. But it also doesn't make sense not to get one. It doesn't have to be perfect. But how can I not get so attached?????

-- Work: I want to do it all. Lord, please help me know how to set boundaries and do what You would have me do and let go of the rest. Including whether or how to mess with contests and recognition, and what to do about vacations and comp time. Please lead me Lord.

-- Hobbies, interests, passions: writing, singing, cats, time with friends and family, enjoying favorite sports teams.

-- House cleaning and maintenance.

-- Car maintenance and cleaning.

-- Clothes, shoes, accessories and jewelry.

-- Health and well-being, including 12-step program.

Maybe perseverance, which was a theme that I made note of from my spiritual readings May 8, is a good word for me to think of here. These are excepts from 1 Peter 1:3-11, one of the readings that day:

1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

1:4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

1:5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,

1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,

1:7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

1:8 For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1:9 For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.

1:10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.

1:11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

This also is good, from My Utmost for His Highest, on June 11, drawing from Matthew 11:28 -- "Come to Me ..."

Where sin and sorrow stops, and the song of the saint starts. Do I really want to get there? I can right now. The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words — “Come to Me.” Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but — “Come to me.” If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires. I will actually cease from sin, and will find the song of the Lord beginning in my life.

Friday, June 14, 2013

So, this is June .....

So, this is June.


The month started with sunshine, and after the way May stormed out, I was grateful and relieved.

And I still am filled with appreciation for warm (some would say hot) sunny days that beckon me for outdoor walks and topdown rides.

Unfortunately, some of my usual, annoying companions also have journeyed into June with me, and there also is an unexpected arrival. I try to be gracious and find a place in my spirit and life to welcome these characters, believing I can find a blessing in anything if only I keep my focus on and faith in God.

But so far this hasn't been easy.

Who, you may ask, are these uninvited companions?

While I won't be naming names, I will describe the one that seems to be making everything else worse. It is a companion of aging that I thought I had said goodbye to forever about a year ago. But I guess it will still come to visit occasionally for a while longer. At least now that I've identified this visitor (to myself) I won't be surprised when I notice how it leaves things sometimes awry and out of whack in my life, physically and emotionally.

The others are some of the usual suspects that shouldn't surprise me but always do. Uncertainty. Tiredness. Difficulty making decisions. Procrastination. Frustration. There are many more, but they seem to have slipped from my mind right now.

These are some of the things they are standing in the way of:

-- Father's Day is Sunday. People are starting to put tributes to their Dad on Facebook. I don't even know where to begin. I miss him. He is no longer with us in this life. I don't have time to cry. I am grateful for memories and for lessons I carry with me that I know are from him.

-- How to help out with tornado recovery. I did finally give some money, and I plan to buy at least 4 tickets to the big concert planned July 6 in Norman, even if I decide it's too hot to go. (Yes, it's at 3 p.m. on the Saturday of July 4 weekend.) I find myself questioning my priorities, but I'm pretty sure I will get these tickets if any are available when I get up next Friday morning. (They go on sale at 10 a.m. June 21, and I probably won't be up yet, if next Thursday's work shift is anything like the most recent ones.)

-- Relay for Life of Noble County is June 28 in Perry, OK. I am on the Orange Crush team. I have done very little to help raise funds. With all the demands for funds to help people recover from the tornadoes, I'm unsure of the priority of taking time and money for cancer research right now. I mean, that will always be with us, or so it seems, but the tornado concerns are more immediate. But I will walk, and I will put out a plea for funds. I will resurrect my song videos ("C-U-R-E" and "(Relay) Walking After Midnight," if nothing else) and post them on Facebook. But I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I'm just going through the motions this year.

-- Quality time with my husband. We are making some progress -- including actually having lunch together for his birthday on a day I worked until past midnight. But overall, this week seems to be conspiring against me doing much of anything besides work, eat and sleep.

-- Oh, yes: work. I guess the bottom line is that my uncertainty, tiredness, difficulty making decisions, procrastination, frustration and other defects keep me trapped in a situation that right now seems unrealistically demanding. I am in one of those places where the balance of life swings way too far toward work. I want to believe this is just temporary, but it's been going on since before May 20, and there really are no signs of anything changing. I appreciate my job and for the most part enjoy it and engage in it with a passion, believing it is where God has planted me, at least for now, and continually seeking His guidance on how He wants to use me.

Something I do even on the days when I seem most tired and unsure of what to do is read Scriptures and daily devotions. Recent days have included many on slowing down, trusting God and resting in God. A theme I keep hearing on Christian radio is "don't try so hard."

One of the things I read today seems particularly fitting as I need to close this out (yes, it's 2:15 p.m. and work beckons; Lord, forgive me if I've misplaced my priorities again). It's from My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. His writing isn't easy for me to understand sometimes, but neither are my own words. It's based on John 15:4 -- "Abide in Me ...:

Think of the things that take you out of the position of abiding in Christ. You say, “Yes, Lord, just a minute — I still have this to do. Yes, I will abide as soon as this is finished, or as soon as this week is over. It will be all right, Lord. I will abide then.” Get moving— begin to abide now. In the initial stages it will be a continual effort to abide, but as you continue, it will become so much a part of your life that you will abide in Him without any conscious effort. Make the determination to abide in Jesus wherever you are now or wherever you may be placed in the future.