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.