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.