Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stuck in a worry rut

I still keep trying to figure things out -- including how not to worry about the things I don't understand or can't figure out.

I would be better off if I could just stop worrying and trust God. Let go and let God.

I'm grateful that He patiently puts up with me even when I'm in a worry rut. It's as if worry is a habit that I'm having a hard time shaking. Most of the time now, even when I worry, I have inner peace and confidence that God will work things for His good, which also turns out to be for my good and His glory. And even when I lack that inner peace and confidence, I can eventually look back and see that God did work things out for good.

So, with or without worry, I pray for willingness to continue to seek Him, trust Him, obey Him, thank Him and praise Him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Still trying to figure it out

I still haven't figured out what's going on with me this year, why nothing seems to be working out as planned. I wish I could quit trying to figure it out and just turn it over to God and thank Him and trust Him and go with what life brings. But I can't seem to stop the mind from wondering about causes and effects.

Oh, wow. As I wrote that, I realized something I know but had forgotten again: I keep striving to avoid difficulties in life, and I get frustrated because I keep encountering them anyway (often because my striving involves more thinking and wishing than action).

For the second time in less than a month, a medical emergency of sorts caused me to miss a chance to sing at church at a nonworship event. The minor emergency was a pretty severe cat scratch infection, incurred while volunteering with the kitties at Second Chance before work last Friday. I got an antibiotic shot and pills Saturday but still had too much fever and pain to make it to sing. My whole forearm and hand were swollen through Sunday, and reaggravated after I worked at the computer Monday evening. Finally, the pain and swelling is limited to the actual punctured area.

When I got scratched by that sweet kitty, I found myself wondering why that happened. And I quickly came up with answers! One of the things I'd been contemplating is that I should be volunteering to spend time with people rather than the kitties. Even though I had acted the day before on my intent to visit someone from church who has been sick, I wondered if the cat scratch was some kind of sign I should just give up kitties for a while. I also realized that one of my thoughts before it happened is that maybe I could take this kitty home with me, even though I've said we don't plan to get another kitty. So maybe the spirit of my recently departed Bridget entered Tombstone and said, "Not so fast, my friend!" But the reality most likely is that the three cats in that room all have dominant personalities. Tombstone and I had a great time playing, and cuddling and having all kinds of fun, but then he got distracted by Gabby for a minute, with them sharing a growl and a hiss. Shortly after that, he grabbed me! And when I said, NO!, which my cats have known means release, well, he held on tighter! OUCH! I will go back though, and I hope either he is still there or has a good home. That's what he needs -- a home without those other dominant personality cats.

The next day, when I realized I would miss singing my song because of the infection, my new wondering involved whether I'm not meant to sing that song. But why would that be? It's called "Good to Be Alive." It's a contemporary Christian song that I enjoyed singing along with on the radio and decided to get the accompaniment track. I worked it up for the talent show -- and then colonoscopy prep sidelined me from singing it. This time I was committed to sing at a dinner, and I had to cancel at the last minute again. While I came up with possible "reasons" or "lessons" from the cat scratch event, I have had no insight on this one.

But Wednesday night, I reread something I had flagged from "My Utmost for His Highest" daily readings, this one from Feb. 7. Reflecting on Luke 24:21, Oswald Chambers wrote: "Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer."

In other words, I just don't always have to know why, especially not on my timetable. (And I think I don't so much insist that God should give me an answer as just wonder whether the reason He hasn't is some fault of mine. So then my prayer is, God, what do You want me to do? And I just keep waiting for the answer on that one!)

Another of my daily readings has drawn a lot from the Book of Job, and I've really identified with some of his laments, even though my circumstances are so very minor compared to many people I know today, and especially what is described in that biblical account. Today's reading includes a good passage with which I'll try to wrap up this rambling post.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27)

So, even though nothing is going as planned this year and I still feel tireder and wearier than I would like and hate that I probably sound like I'm complaining or ungrateful, I really do hold out faith in God and believe He is working all things for good. And I do feel grateful, it's just harder to express when I'm tired.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not giving up for Lent

It's interesting to me how, through the years, my attitudes and approaches toward Lent and Advent, the liturgical seasons that provide spiritual preparation for Easter and Christmas, respectively, have varied. I can think of several times when I've looked forward to the spiritual rituals that go with both seasons and the building of excitement for the big event. Other years, such as this one, I wonder whether there's any real value to going through this again. My initial feeling is that I am heavy with the load.

But amazing things already have happened. Today is Ash Wednesday, and I did go through my basic Wednesday routine that includes at least 15 minutes of a 12-step meeting and four hours at work, and then, before an abbreviated choir practice, I went to the Ash Wednesday service that included Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes in the sign of a cross on each person's forehead. My church also had metal spikes each person can take as a reminder of what happened on the cross three days before Christ's resurrection. For the second Ash Wednesday in a row, I picked up my spike knowing it was unlikely my work schedule will allow me to attend the Good Friday service, in which participants symbolically hammer the spikes into a large wooden cross on the altar.

Earlier today I realized that, as was the case with New Year's resolutions, my Lenten discipline seems to be falling into place as just keeping on keeping on spiritually, seeking God one day at a time and not trying to anticipate beyond that. Our pastor had written a column suggesting that we consider giving up something we value for Lent, so we can really feel what it means to sacrifice. And I toyed with the idea. But what I came back to is that's not what is in store for me this year. (I also remembered and am grateful that I have not returned to one of the things I gave up last year: watching soap operas. And, yes, I still am tempted at times.) Another popular approach in recent years has been to add a spiritual discipline, such as more intentional Bible reading or some kind of service. I'm not making a commitment on that, but I won't be at all surprised if increased opportunities present themselves in this next 40 days. And I will begin to find out, starting Thursday, just how I will respond. I also downloaded a Lenton devotional today that intrigued me, but I haven't decided whether I will use it. I think it's more important that I keep up with the readings that I've been using since the start of the year that continue to be helpful.

Back to those amazing things: I've found myself feeling physically, emotionally and mentally drained several times in these early weeks of 2013. Today, I listened to the words of a song on K-Love that I really identified with: "Worn" (Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Mike Donehey, Jeff Owen; performed by 10th Avenue North; Copyright Sony/Atv Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music, Formerly Music, West Main Music, Prepare For The Zombie Apocalypse).

I'm tired, I'm worn/ My heart is heavy/ From the work it takes/ To keep on breathing/ I've made mistakes/ I've let my hope fail/ My soul feels crushed/ By the weight of this world/ And I know that You can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win/ Let me know the struggle ends/ That You can mend a heart that's frail and torn/ I wanna know a song can rise/ From the ashes of a broken life/ And all that's dead inside can be reborn/ 'Cause I'm worn ...

As I listened, I thought, this is a song I want to learn and sing. But the next thought was even better: As I sang along, I felt renewed energy. I didn't feel quite so frail and torn. I felt confidence that redemption wins and that the struggle, even with myself, would ease. And the song does rise ...

I know I need/ To lift my eyes up/ But I'm too weak/ Life just won't let up/ And I know that You can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left ...

And so begins this Lenten journey -- one step at a time, praying for God to be my guide, my strength and my song, to His glory.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In all things: thanks and praise

As I expected, tonight after choir practice -- like Sunday after church -- I have really missed my kitty. My husband wasn't home when I got here either time, and the house just seemed so abnormally empty. Can a pet really make that much difference? Of course, the answer is yes, especially when the pet was as attentive to me, and also as persuasive in her desire for attention, as Bridget was. I really think she delighted in me as much as I delighted in her.

One of my new challenges is to figure out how to channel that into a positive direction. For the record, for reasons my husband and I both accept, we probably won't get another kitty until we retire to the farm. I do plan to volunteer to spend time with the cats at one of the local animal sanctuaries. I also am very aware of another area where some of my unconditional love, acceptance and enthusiasm also needs to go.

Sunday I made the mistake of trying to ignore my feelings of sadness and loneliness or just deal with them through prayer. It wasn't until the end of that day and the next day that I realized what I had done and the consequences. So, as I contemplated what I would do after choir practice, I finally realized two things were key. I needed to write, and at least part of what I wrote would need to be a gratitude list.

I learned before my Daddy's illness and death that writing is therapeutic for me, and that lesson was confirmed in many ways during his illness and after he died. The therapeuatic value of writing seems to increase for me when I post it to the blog. I think the reason is because these are things I wouldn't mind talking to someone about, but I don't want to bore anyone, and I really don't know who cares to listen. So, by writing and posting, I can express without imposing. Loved ones who choose to read can do so whenever they want, and it's up to them whether to respond.

Part of my mistake Sunday was thinking that people are probably tired of hearing or reading about me missing my kitty. That kept me from posting anything on Facebook or the blog. (And I did talk about it to people, but maybe not as much as I needed to.) Tonight, I am back to being OK with who I am: a person who needs to take all the time and words it takes to express and work through emotions. IT IS OK!!!!!! I know this, but I do forget.

Now, as for the gratitude list, I don't even know where to start. There are so many things. I will only mention a few. But really this whole thing is about gratitude.

-- God is always at the top of the list. I've seen many examples these past two weeks (and, really, these past two years) of how He works everything for good. I know it would be true even if I didn't see the evidence. But seeing the evidence helps me keep the faith during the times when it's not as clear that things will work for good.

-- I am grateful that God has helped my eyes open to see His goodness. I think I spent many years missing it. Now, instead of dwelling on a past I cannot change, I strive moment by moment to make better choices in how I relate to people and spend my resources including time, energy and money. I trust in His goodness even as the change in me seems to happen much too slowly. I pray to know and do God's will -- and how to reflect His goodness.

-- I am grateful for my family and my friends, especially beloved ones at church, work, the 12-step program and some from past associations. I still sometimes am amazed that they accept me as I am, despite how odd, inept, inadequate, inconsistent, disorganized or any of those other negatives I might think I am.

-- I am grateful for multiple chances to get things right. Second chances are seldom enough for me. I'm grateful for God and, again, those family members and friends who don't give up on me when my best efforts require do-overs -- however many it takes.