Friday, January 31, 2014

Time to pay up

Finally some clarity! My blogging stops until I finish some projects that are more pressing. That could be two days or two weeks -- Lord, please don't let it be two months! I desperately need to use my computer time for at least two and maybe four lingering tasks.

And when that's done, I'll decide whether this experiment is over or just on a break. My hope is it's just a break and that I will return refreshed and with more spontaneity, sharper perspective and less fear.

How did I go from writing about the vibrant spirit of people and things around me to the confused spirit within? Of course, I know the answer: It's part of my spiritual journey, a search for deeper meaning and greater understanding. It feels like a calling.

But right now, as January 2014 comes to a close, the same voice that calls me to try to share my own spirit says it's time to put this away for awhile and share the spirit of a wonderful experience I enjoyed five months ago. The bill is due. Write it. Just do it!

I had resolved to complete this project while my husband was gone on a weeklong trip through last Wednesday. But I let one excuse after another get in the way -- and now he's back and spending a lot of time on the computer, and my work is undone.

It is time to rise above whatever has been holding me back, most likely fear, pride, insecurity and perfectionism (what a crazy combination, but all are factors).

I know God gives me victory over those things if I will but ask and receive. I've asked. It's time to receive. I need to pay this debt so I can focus on the growing number of opportunities to go beyond written words to touch lives with actions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Almost a year without a cat

About this time a year ago (that was when I started writing, at 10:30 p.m.), the stage was set for my first-ever ambulance ride, a surreal and unexpected late Thursday night trip from the workplace to the emergency room. It all turned out fine, but a year later, the memory is strong and the whole experience just as puzzling.

But what it really triggers is the realization that, just as unexpectedly, by the following Tuesday, I had put my sweet kitty, Bridget, to sleep to end her suffering from kidney failure. And ever since, I've been a cat lady without a cat.

Her picture is still my Facebook cover photo. I smile when I see it -- and I cry whenever I consider replacing it.

For years, it didn't take much to bring me to tears, but by the time my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, I was aware that I seldom cry. Even as he faced death and then died a year later, I more often just felt the sadness rather than cried. I either accept or am jaded to the fact that our loved ones won't be with us forever, and I thank God for precious moments before my dear Daddy's life came to an end.

I'm also grateful for the precious moments God gave me near the end with Bridget -- some moments that were only possible because of my medical emergency a year ago.

I guess what makes it hardest now is that I agreed with my husband that we probably would not get another cat until we retire to the farm. Because, truth be told, as precious as Bridget was, she also was a problem kitty who didn't always use the litter box and ruined our carpets. The cat lady could live with the consequenes, but the cat lady's husband, despite his love for the kitty, wasn't as patient and tolerant. The fear of that situation arising again paralyzes me.

And so I remain without a cat. Saturday, I will go to Second Chance Animal Sanctuary and spend time with the kitties there. If I'm lucky, one or two will let me hold them and will purr contentedly. My view likely will be prismy, as I smile through tears.

Volunteering to spend time with the shelter cats is good, but it doesn't fill the void.

In the same way that I prayed for guidance in dealing with the difficult issues while my purring buddy was still alive, I now am trusting God to know my heart and my needs in the current situation. I thank Him for the memories and the lessons -- and the hope for what is to come.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I just can't quite let go ...

I am struggling to find the words to express the spirit I see around me. I'm torn between wanting to call it quits on the blog -- or at least declare an indefinite hiatus -- and being unable to stop "checking in."

Maybe "the writing is on the wall," so to speak, and what it says it that I should just give up, once and for all, on this experiment that I thought might lead me back into meaningful prose.

Some advice often given to writers who are blocked is: Write one true thing.

Tonight, that thought leads me to this: Fear. I can't write because I'm afraid -- of my thoughts, my feelings, of looking dumb, of offending someone, of being unable to express whatever it is I have in mind, of sounding negative, whiny, selfish or ungrateful.

As a result, little is making it past my self-censor. (And this that does is not pleasing me at all!)

And still I cannot stop trying. I'm pretty sure there will be more to come ...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Decision time

I'm getting tired of how hard it is for me to make even small, relatively unconsequential decisions, such as choosing what to wear to work or to church or to wherever I happen to be going. Talking to a friend about this on Sunday, I realized I am inhibited by what I think people will think about me or how I will look to others. I can say I know it really doesn't matter what other people think and acknowledge that most people don't even notice and surely don't judge -- but it's much harder to let go of that driving force.

I don't know how this became so ingrained in my decisionmaking (and in my struggle to make decisions), but I am increasingly aware of it. And it's not just about what to wear. It's what to do, what to do first, what to say, whether to go somewhere, what to eat -- I'm always thinking ahead to what might be the outcome, how will it affect others, and, ultimately, what will people think. This "how will it affect others" part could be mistaken for sensitivity, but more recently I've noticed that it, like the other concerns, is mostly rooted in perfectionism, insecurity, fear and pride.

Fortunately, I believe awareness is the first step before change is possible. Unfortunately, my experience is often that the awareness phase sometimes continues a long, long time before I see much change. But I can hope!

I do hope.

And I am taking action.

During these early days of 2014 that have started with a "First 15" of time alone with God, I've encountered afresh Scriptures and other readings that remind me of God's great love -- love from which nothing can separate me; love which I have done nothing and can do nothing to deserve; love that is beyond my ability to describe or measure; love that conquers sin and death and meets all my needs.

All I have to do is receive it -- let it flow into me and fill me and overflow from me.

That seems so simple, but if so, why didn't I do it a long time ago? Why am I still struggling to really feel God's love in such a way that all fear and doubt are gone, and that I can live joyously and confidently in His will and to His glory?

I don't have to know why. I am grateful to know that this moment, this single moment, I am closer. It is a constant choice: Will I be still and let God's love fill me, or will I look around and try to find something else with which to fill this searching soul and longing heart?

One day, 15 minutes, one moment at a time, I pray to choose God's great love.

"You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
 at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Another good start

I sat down to write on New Year's Day, thinking that would be a good way to start 2014. But the words did not come. After reflecting a bit on some guidelines I had written out the night before that I hoped to incorporate into my decisionmaking, I conceded that since the words didn't come, it was OK to let it go.

Seven days later, I see how that was part of a good start.

The best part of the good start has been using a spinoff of one of my daily spiritual readings (Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, that encourages spending the "First 15" minutes of the morning in focused prayer. I tried something like that two or years ago, and it was extremely rewarding. But sometime since then, life got in the way, and prayer returned to a mostly on-the-go pursuit, and reading and reflection returned to something most likely to happen while I'm pedaling the exercise bike, showering, doing situps or lying in bed, in the moments as I try to go to sleep or wake up.

I decided to give this a try, even as I knew it would start at the same time my husband's routine was changing so that he would no longer be leaving the house each morning before I get out of bed. Would I take the time for myself that includes a praise song, Bible reading and prayer?(Among other things, I feared it would look to him as if I were loafing or being lazy.)

Well, for seven days I have, and I hope and pray I will continue. It hasn't been easy, and I've had to choose each day, and sometimes plan for it the night before, whether I would set aside that time. Each day, it has become clear as the day unfolds that it was the right choice.

Along the way, I've found a new dentist, had my first checkup and scheduled a followup appointment. I've talked with an editor about a story I'm committed to write but struggling to get done. Those are two big issues that clouded the start of the year, and while the story is still far from done, the discussion gives me hope. Overall, the time in prayer seems to be helping me connect to the confidence I have from faith in God.

Of course, there are some tricky issues involved. I've seen and read many things this past week that have made me feel less-than, until I force myself to believe that I must not compare myself to others or worry about what others think.

And then there's the matter of talking or writing about prayer. On the fourth day of the "First 15," the model was given of Matthew 6:5-8, which includes this: "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." I have to ask myself: Is that what I'm doing? Trying to look holy or pious? And I can say the answer is no. That is not what I am doing. I'm just doing the best I can to follow where the Spirit leads me, and part of how I obey is to keep praying and seeking and trying to write and share and just be this chaotic person that I am ...

And I call this a good start? Yes. Yes!

Even as the journey continues ...

“You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'” Psalm 27:8