Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dreaming of a vacation -- looking back

The vacation was great.  Palatka, Vilano Beach, St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville, Fla. Sightseeing, visiting with relatives, eating and lots of relaxing.  

And now it is over. 

I jotted down lots of notes and took some pictures but failed to find the time to organize them for print.  And as March winds down and a busy April looms, I'm not sure when that opportunity will come.  But I believe it will. 

Meanwhile, in the days between the return from the trip and the resumption of work, I've taken advantage of warmer weather in Oklahoma to try to get back to the healthy habit of walking. Saturday and Sunday brought good steps in that direction. And Monday, I plan to continue to build the habit of talking stairs instead of the elevator at work. 

Why oh why do I think these steps will make it easier for me to eventually write and be of support and service to others? Actually, experience has shown it to be true. 

Hope springs eternal. Again. Great is God's faithfulness. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Today and always. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dreaming of a vacation

I think it's time for a vacation. Florida seems like a good destination. The Jacksonville area would allow me to watch Gene work a bit, then to visit a beach, my uncle and aunt and cousin and Gene's cousin. Anything else would be icing on the cake, so to speak. 

Typically, the days before a vacation make me vow  never again to take time off work and then go for a trip. I don't know which is worse -- wrapping up things at work and at home, or packing for the trip. 

Will it be different this time? I continue to believe it will be. I am trusting God to guide me. I hope to have an update soon. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

55

I survived the week of birthday 55! That should not be a big deal, but the week was quite a roller coaster. Fortunately, the highs far outnumbered and overshadowed the lows -- and, ultimately, I think I found something positive and uplifting in everything that at first seemed like a problem or low point.

And after a few weeks of feeling more and more tired and worn down, my outlook and attitude and energy surged -- possibly starting with the decision last Sunday to resume putting together a few words about life and posting them online each week in this blog.

I'm wearing brighter clothing. I handled several unexpected, somewhat unsettling challenges at work better than I would have imagined -- and when I did lose my cool a couple of times, I think I was able to rebound acceptably. (I'll know more about that in days and weeks to come.)

My desk at work is clean -- and I am determined to keep it that way. A bouquet of yellow roses and other sunshine-colored flowers from my sweet husband graced my desk from Tuesday through Friday, and now brighten my home. Another birthday bouquet sent to the house added to my festive spirit.

I waited until Wednesday for my birthday dinner out -- and it did not go at all as planned. But rather than be upset when the item I ordered because of the fresh asparagus came without it -- and the shrimp in sauce had tails and the clams had shells, neither of which I expected -- I reacted with amusement. My husband's spirit helped out greatly with that.

Also on Wednesday, I accepted the opportunity to provide special music at church on Sunday, and that helped ensure I would have an uplifting song on my car stereo and in my heart and mind the rest of the week as I learned the words.

Then on Thursday came an invitation to eat out on Saturday night. It's something I wanted to do, but after another long work week and knowing I would be leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to take Gene to the airport (before heading to church to sing at the 8:30 service), saying yes was far from my comfort zone. What if it kept us out too late? However, I didn't want to hinder the development of a social relationship. We said yes, and it ended up being an early meal (I guess that's to be expected with a bunch of retirees!) and time well spent.

Three weeks ago, I had read Charlotte Lankard's column in The Oklahoman (and on newsok.com)about things she has realized about growing older. I was surprised at how much I agreed with her observations. After all, she is 75!

Still, at the time, it seemed to me like maybe it was a good thing to accept those things at 55 rather than wait 20 years.

Among the things that resonated:

Getting older is not better or worse than being younger, it is simply different. In many ways, life now seems fuller, richer and more honest. ... Spending time with people with whom I have to pretend or perform for them to like me is not acceptable. ... If I don’t like the wrinkles I see in the mirror, I remove my glasses. Ah -- the lines soften immediately. And I finally concede there is not another living soul in the world that cares if I have wrinkles. ... I am aware that impermanence is the truth of life, and so I understand the importance of living in the present moment. ... Aging for me has been about coming home to myself. It is a time of being ... more of who I am: being honest, caring, curious, available, involved and coming to each day with intention.

But as March 11 and my 55th birthday neared, I grew tired of giving in to being old. There are truths I can grasp at 55 -- and among them is that I still have a whole lot of living to do and energy and enthusiasm with which to do it.

So, I still have no plans to color my hair or get treatments to make my face or skin or body look younger. I'd still rather care less than more about my appearance.

What I am interested in is my health and well-being and attitude and spirit and relationships and acts of kindness and service.

My spirit.

On Tuesday, when dealing with one of many challenges at work, I told a colleague I had given myself the gift of optimism for my birthday. Little did I know at the time how valuable it would be.

It's a gift I hope to give every day -- and spread it to others.

Excerpts from my devotional readings on Tuesday contributed to the positive outlook.

-- "When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed in with its wonders." (Rabindranath Tagore, as quoted on Page 71 of For Today, published by Overeaters Anonymous Inc.)

-- From My Utmost for His Highest (): "The only way to be obedient to the heavenly vision is to give our utmost for God's highest ... The test is the sixty seconds of every minute, and the sixty minutes of every hour, not our times of prayer and devotional meetings."

-- And finally, Jesus Calling reminded me that God's grace and strength are sufficient. Evidence of God's faithfulness in that promise emerged throughout the day. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ah, yes: That's the Spirit!

I thought and hoped my return to the blog would be more focused and impressive, but alas. This is me. What you see is what you get (to borrow a phrase the acronym for which has become common around my workplace with a computer upgrade -- WYSIWYG).

The task that needed to be completed on a computer before I returned to this blog took place at the home office, but the concurrent preparation and then implementation of the new system at work kept me distracted enough that I wondered whether I really would come back to this little pursuit known as "That's the Spirit."

The pressing task, the debt that had to be paid, was the writing of my story about the European cruise I took aboard the Crystal Serenity back in September. It has not been published, but it is written and available.

Writing it was every bit as hard as I feared it would be by the time I forced myself to do it, although when I agreed to go on the trip and while I was there and even in the early weeks afterward, I really did not think it would be that difficult. I had hoped that my regular crafting of words to post to this blog each week for a few years now would have made it easier to write something for publication. But it did not. I'm still puzzled by that. I know I spent many years as a newspaper reporter, pushing deadlines but eventually getting stories written about people, places, things and issues. It never was easy for me, but it always felt important and right to do and somehow worth the struggle.

Until it wasn't. Maybe that's the key. That was the job for that time, and after that, it was time for something different. I am sure I could not be a writer in today's newspaper world, but the yearning to write will not leave me anymore than the desire to sing will. Both pursuits now are limited to small audiences. That saddens me somewhat.

And yet, I see how the limited audience is probably part of God's plan.

On Feb. 20 -- day 20 of my self-imposed break from blogging until I finished the cruise story and a couple of other tasks involving the home computer -- I wrote:

No regrets.

Bloom where God plants me.

Not everyone can be great.

Trust God.

On Feb. 18, in "My Utmost for His Highest," daily devotionals based on talks by Oswald Chambers, I read Christ's response after He asked the disciples to pray, but they fell asleep: "Rise, let us be going" (Matthew 26:46). Or, as Chambers notes, it's as if "Jesus Christ comes and says, 'Sleep on now, that opportunity is lost forever, you cannot alter it, but arise and go to the next thing.' Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him."

That's hard for me. I struggle to get started on taking action, and then I struggle with regret for lost opportunities.

And still Christ calls: "Rise, let us be going." He lets it go. Forgives. Doesn't look back. Looks ahead to the next opportunity, all the while offering His love and presence. And what is the next thing? "To trust Him absolutely and to pray ..."

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Sunshine brightens a blue sky and pushes the temperature into the 70s. I should be walking! But my faith tells me there will be other days to walk. Today I return to writing and also some literal and figurative housekeeping.

But shouldn't I be visiting the people from church who are on my list? I can't really explain why sitting inside is the right thing today. But it is. (I did stand in the sunshine in the back yard while making a phone call, to enjoy the beautiful, fresh air.)

I didn't give up anything or add anything for Lent this year. This isn't the first time that the best I could do is just "give up," and take Lent -- and life in general -- one day at a time, seeking God each day and trusting Him to guide me. To my surprise, that's what the sermon was about today. The preacher expounded on the merit of sometimes being willing to just give up -- and fall into the embrace of God.

So, I'm going to skip the first of the congregation's Lenten challenges, which was to spend a week (or even a day) in the shoes of someone without a car, to rely on public transportation, friends, feet or a bicycle to get around. And I won't make that hospital visit. I hope I will send a couple of cards. And I have a couple more phone calls I need and want to make.

I will take a deep breath. I will exhale slowly. I will rest in God's radiant presence (see "Jesus Calling," March 9).

"But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:40-42)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)