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.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Focusing on the positive (Great is God's faithfulness)

June really is off to a good start. Free and easy is how I've described some of the days this week.

First came some unexpected news about what appears to be a positive change in the near future. On the surface it seems to be an answer to prayer. But there is much I don't know about details. So, the second amazing development is that I am not letting myself fret or worry about what I don't know. When my mind starts to wonder about the details or question whether this really is a positive prospect -- I am able to refocus on the good part that I do know. I take the bit of news I have received so far as a gift from God, and I will trust Him with wherever it leads.

Actually, the positive steps started with posting on my blog last Sunday, then doing things Monday and Tuesday I might would have preferred to put off. Everything seemed to take more effort than it should. After Tuesday's good news that also included many questions not to be answered yet, Wednesday was kinda unsettled.

But by Thursday, an amazing sense of free and easy had set in. I got more done before work than I would have ever imagined, including vacuuming the house and washing some clothes and going to Second Chance to pet the kitties. A fun surprise at the animal sanctuary was the presence of nine little kittens! So much fun. On Friday, the beautiful weather called me to walk. The work shift that followed was intense, but somehow I was able to leave a little earlier than usual, which made it easier to get up Saturday morning and not be as late for my 12-step meeting. Saturday included another walk.

Sunday included church and some very good fellowship in addition to worship. I finally followed through on an intentional gift -- and I also made a spontaneous one. Both seem small amid the magnitude of various needs, but they are important steps for me. Later, I cooked supper -- something I don't do often but my husband really appreciates when I do. And then he washed my car, something he doesn't do often, but what a delight for me, especially since a bird had left its mark on the rear window Thursday or Friday.

What is my takeaway? Building on what I wrote last week, but quoting the scripture instead of a song:

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May I say goodbye

I had just given in to what seemed the reality that I was taking a break from my blog. I missed Friday's deadline and couldn't even think of a placeholder to post tonight. So I was composing a Facebook post to make it official. But in writing it, I realized this could be the placeholder, even though it is two days late. Surely deadly tornadoes and flooding Friday are legitimate excuses, even to carry over to Saturday and now into Sunday night.

I had every intention of writing on Friday, but one more day that included a potential weather emergency in the forecast shifted those plans, especially as the potential spun into reality.

I feel grateful and blessed beyond measure that I, my loved ones and belongings have come through each of the scares (May 19, 20, 30 and 31 that I can think of easily) unscathed. And I guess I struggle some to accept that even though that is true on the physical and material levels, there still are emotional tolls. I think my exhaustion is more mental than physical, and I know the sense of selfishness/guilt I feel over not having done more to help others is an emotional burden. I remain confident that I will do my part to help out, but that seems inadequate right now.

There really was much good about the month of May. The Mother's Day/nursing school graduation trip to Arkansas and a Memorial Day trip to Texas, both involving lots of family, were awesome highlights. My husband and I found more time than usual to do things together, and I feel very positive about that. Amid many initiatives and changes underway at my job, and then the high intensity of doing my part to help put out newspapers covering the deadly storms and other news, I have witnessed and participated in some amazingly meaningful work.

But I was more than ready to say goodbye to May, especially after the way it stormed out.

And I am grateful that June burst forth with blue skies and sunshine.

"Summer and winter and springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love....

"Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have neede Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."

("Great Is Thy Faithfulness" by Thomas Chisholm, 1923)