Friday, May 24, 2013

Patience and Gratitude: 2 contributions any person can offer

Patience and gratitude. These are two important contributions that every person can offer. I was most aware of their importance as first I was stuck in traffic Tuesday on my way from my home in Norman to my office in Oklahoma City. (The areas of south Oklahoma City and Moore ravaged by Monday's tornado are in the path of my 25-mile commute.) That awareness has continued as I have gone far out of my way to avoid adding to traffic jams in critical areas the rest of the week. When I start to feel impatient as it takes me twice as long to go about my trip to work, I say a prayer for those who are stuck in traffic on their way to help -- and for those who are waiting for that help. Patience for me also involves acceptance that I don't have to help out with the recovery in tangible ways immediately. This isn't selfish. Right now, I am in a support role that demands my focus. There will be vital ways for me to directly help and serve after the headlines fade. As for gratitude, is this really always possible? From every story I've read or heard and from my own experience in a very minor support role, I have to believe the answer is yes. People who are hurting, grieving, frustrated and exhausted -- so many of them still seem to find and focus on the things that are positive: what they still have rather than what they've lost. Help. Hope. Precious moments. Faith. If they can do that, can I do any less? Gracious Lord, please help me be patient and grateful as I seek to know and do Your will today. I love You, I praise You, I trust You, and I thank You. May my words, thoughts, prayers and actions glorify You. In Christ's name I pray. Amen. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:11, 12 NASB) (As a friend points out: "Is not gratitude merely a manifestation of faith?" To which I would add: Patience for me also is possible only with faith in a God that I can't even find the right words to express how much I do love and trust and want to glorify.)

Snippets and status updates

Insights posted on Facebook that I don't want to forget, whether for future reference or whatever reason.

Around 2 or 3 a.m. Tuesday, finally home about 12 hours after the deadly and devastation EF5 tornado ripped through Moore and south Oklahoma City, midway between where I live and where I work 25 miles away.

Even though this tornado devastation looks like what happened May 3, 1999, in that same area of Moore and south Oklahoma City, emotionally it feels like April 19, 1995. Moore was eerily dark as I came through from the north after 2 am. And then I-35 passed through the floodlit areas, with a destroyed hospital on the right and twisted trees and debris all around. It will be hard to face driving through that in daylight tomorrow -- and it's not even the hardest-hit area. Confirmed death toll is 51, and it is expected to rise to at least 91. Gracious Lord, please hear our prayers and comfort these people.

Around noon on Tuesday, May 21

Preparing to head to OKC office from Norman. Dark sky, steady rain and thunder and lightning -- but hopefully no hail or tornados. Roads jammed between here and there. And these are minor inconveniences compared to what so many in Oklahoma face. Praying for all involved.

Afternoon of Wednesday, May 22

Seriously: Interstate 35 northbound toward Moore is backed up to Robinson Street in Norman. Emergency responders and supplies are stuck in the quagmire. If you don't have to be on I-35, take a detour. I guess I had to find out for myself.

(Moments later) I am stuck in detour traffic now, but it is the right choice. It's not about me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Don't be surprised ... be grateful!

In conjunction with Pentecost, my pastor on Sunday shared a phrase that has stuck with me. I didn't write down the exact words, and I didn't catch the source, but this is the idea: Don't be surprised when God arrives and interrupts your life.

Sunday morning, the meaning clearly tied to what the Bible in the Book of Acts describes happening when the Risen Christ met with His disciples and poured out His Holy Spirit.

But when a deadly tornado passed too close to home for comfort later Sunday, and then an even more devastating one cut a path Monday about midway between my home and my job 25 miles north, the phrase took new layers of meaning.

I hope to write more about them soon.

For now, there is too much work to be done.

But I am grateful to know that God is present in the storm and in the recovery. So, maybe even though the lyrical phrase has stayed with me, what it is really reminding me is that God is already there. Life is what interrupts -- and when it does, He has already arrived, there to help all who will call upon Him in their time of need as well as praise Him in their times of joy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What I did for my vacation

I split five days off work over two weeks, taking Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, then Monday and Tuesday. The time allowed me to drive to north Texas on Thursday to spend the night with Mom, then drive her to to Arkansas Friday and stay through Sunday, drive back and spend another night with Mom, then head back to Norman on Monday.

The weekend was jampacked with travel and ceremonies and celebrations, including my niece's pinning ceremony Friday to become a nurse and then her graduation Saturday, followed by a nice get-together of family and friends, then her birthday on Sunday, which also was Mother's Day.

And even with all that going on in Arkansas, I was not able to attend another niece's graduation from another Arkansas college, nor my nephew's graduation with a D.D.S in Oklahoma. It would have been a great weekend to be three places -- actually four, because cool stuff also was happening back in north Texas -- at once. I'm thankful that I've reached a point in my life where I can enjoy the moment and place I am at and not just be filled with regret or longing for where I cannot be at the same time.

No regrets. That's how I'm trying to live my life. It's challenging on days like Tuesday, the last day of my vacation, when I wonder where the time went and why I didn't get more done. But experience tells me I can't change what I did or didn't do, and fretting, worrying or regretting really won't make any difference. So I might as well accept it.

I am grateful for a very fulfilling weekend and a couple of especially refreshing walks to start the new week. I'm really not ready for this time off from work to end, but I think I will find that its richness does carry through and make potentially stressfully busy work days ahead easier to face with an upbeat attitude and positive spirit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Catching up before I move on

As I sit here again trying to put thoughts into words, and wondering why I am so stuck, a possible answer has entered my mind: I need to catch up before I can move on.

But I'm not sure that really is the answer. The truer answer may be that I have to let go of the past before I can move on.

Or maybe it's that I need to accept that I may never catch up, and keep going anyway.

These are some of the things I am behind on writing about, or that I don't remember (and don't have time right now to check to see) whether I already wrote about:

-- Family. New great-nephews, and the joy of the older greats, plus their parents (my nieces and nephews) and their parents (my siblings) and their parents (my mom and my dear departed dad). Along the way there have been more birthdays than I can keep up with. And now this weekend includes three college graduations, at least one more birthday -- plus it's Mother's Day! How cool is all that? I'm still working to find cards and decide on gifts. I don't want to leave anyone out. But it seems I often do, as my actions fall short of my intentions, and I run out of time, and then the list of things I'm behind on grows so long that I never get caught up. But I haven't given up. YAY about that!

-- Work. We're going through a period of soul-searching and change. At first it seemed scary to me, because I'm not crazy about change. Sure, things could probably be better, but so many times it seems that efforts to make things better just make them different (and sometimes worse) -- and everyone is tireder because of the effort expended in the process. After my initial unease, I went through a period of enthusiasm and optimism that the process this time really would be worthwhile. Now I'm back to what seems like the reality that the process is tedious and time-consuming -- and it sure would be nice to have some tangible incentives. Instead, the only incentive is the possibility that things will get better. I guess I've been around too long to hold my breath about that. So, instead of holding my breath, I'll try to keep holding on to hope that as I do what I can each day, work will at the very least stay OK -- and possibly really experience some exciting changes! YAY!

-- Work, part 2. I've received recognition outside my company for some of my work, and that is always a strange thing for me. I love to be recognized and get awards, but immediately I feel undeserving and start thinking of how subjective awards tend to be. My awards are for headlines. There are some funny aspects about it. In one contest, I was able to enter two sets of three. It seems that what I considered my runners-up were the winners in the eyes of the judges, and what I considered my best work came in third. In a separate contest, I was only able to enter one set -- the ones I considered the best-- and they placed second. It's also funny to me that, whether it was when I was a reporter writing stories or now a copy editor catching mistakes and writing headlines, anytime I produce results of which I am proud, I truly wonder how it happened and whether it will ever happen again! I guess that's why I appreciate each day that I see what I consider positive results. And I appreciate getting recognition, because I have doubts I will ever do anything again worth recognizing. Of course, I also have to constantly remind myself and confess to God the danger of obsessing on results rather than just doing the best work I can, with the only prize that matters being if it can honor and glorify Him.

-- Faith. I'm not even sure what to write. Progress not perfection. Gratitude for grace. Great is God's faithfulness!

That's all I have time for right now. I hope that somehow these words -- and the discipline of sitting down to write for another self-imposed blog deadline -- will free the mind and spirit for the hidden words to flow when the time is right. And, as always, I do pray that whatever words I say or write or actions I take honor and glorify God.