Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In the moment: New Year's Eve

I am so tempted to end the year by looking back at what I wrote a year ago on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (if anything). I am trying to resist that urge. 

My goal is to stay in the moment. I can look back tomorrow. Or some other day. Or never. 

For the first time I can remember as an adult, I have no inclination to stay up to greet the new year. Maybe it's because I'm battling a cold. Or maybe because I'm tired
(exacerbated by the cold). Or maybe it comes with being 55. 
(It's most likely the cold; I certainly hope my future includes some fun New Years Eves!)

I feel amazingly peaceful this moment. Some habits of the past year are likely key. 

I continued daily reading from the Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young. She has written at least two other devotional books, but for me it seems best to keep it simple by reading the same one again and again -- at least until I feel led to try something new. That's how my mind works. The message I get from her writing and the Scriptures she includes is to trust God, to feel His love, peace and presence, and to thank Him. She reminds me of my great need: the peace of Christ's presence. 

I added daily use of the First 15 guide by Craig Denison. The goal is to spend the first 15 minutes of each day in focused prayer, worship, praise and meditation. I didn't always get it done first thing, and sometimes it ended up being pretty unfocused. The guide has been good for me because it repeats Scriptures for reinforcement. 

And there's that crazy recent addition of the #healthy65 Holiday Challenge, which for me meant reducing my gum consumption by half at least two days a week. I quickly committed to do it every day, and that discipline has influenced other positive decisions through this 51st of 65 days. 

This year has given new meaning to a slogan that has been part of my life for close to 30 years: one day at a time. I think I had viewed it as a negative (is that the best I can do?), but tonight I see it more positively, an opportunity to look for and be grateful for the blessings of each day. 

I'm sure I've quoted this before in a year-end blog, from My Urmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers: "Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. ... Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him."

I pray to build upon this foundation, to God's glory. 

Wrapping up Christmas

Christmas with family was blessed, fun, peaceful, heartwarming and humbling. 

I had dreaded the logistics of working into the evening on Christmas Eve, going to an 11 p.m. worship service then getting up fairly early Christmas Day to head to McKinney for an overnight visit  with my husband's family. After the Friday return to Norman was a Saturday trip to Stillwater, and, likely, a swing by Greenwood, Ark., before returning home again to Norman on Sunday. (I really didn't even give much thought to what looked like a small chance of snow.)

If it were up to me to make all that take place smoothly, I'm pretty sure it would not happen. But by the grace of God and with amazing support from my husband, the moments unfolded calmly and gracefully. 

Gifts of presence included talking and listening; patience; smiles and laughter; and advice only when asked. 

My new iPhone with a better camera and extra memory let me take pictures with abandon -- and many of them captured fun moments with siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews and "grands." 

Gift-giving and receiving often stress me out, and the preparation certainly did this year as well. But the new and appreciated conclusion this year was satisfaction with gifts given, instead of the usual

Meanwhile, I was humbled to receive way too much. All I could do was say thank you. (I also made a mental pledge to start getting rid of some of my accumulated possessions, and I have made early efforts toward that.)

One of my gifts was the trip to Greenwood. It was as if God put it on my heart to carry some of the Stillwater festivities to those unable to attend. 

A thought that comes to mind is that a person cannot outgive a God. I was trying to be less selfish, but it seems even my smallest efforts toward others returned blessings to me. That was not my intent. But how can I not be grateful?

Throughout the Christmas festivities, starting with the choir cantata on Dec. 14 and continuing with the Christmas Eve worship service and several of my daily devotionals, a prominent Scripture was John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  It's not a traditional Scripture associated with Christmas, but it really gets to the heart of the reason for the season. 

How does one respond to such a gift? Share it. But how? I continue to pray to know how and to do it. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All is well -- Joy to the world!

I wondered what it would take to finally feel like Christmas. 

Giving cards and little gifts before leaving work helped. 

Hugging my husband who was busy taking care of my preparation while I worked. 

And then that picture of some precious nieces, their faces bright with beautiful smiles.

And now I'm ready to worship with my church family at a Goodrich.

All is well. Joy to the world. The Lord is come!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Better Days (act as if ... )

I went from this on Wednesday night: 

This is at least the third time I've encountered this Scripture today. I really need it. Struggling with various aspects  of depression, tiredness, sadness, disappointment, frustration  -- and guilt and shame for feeling and then insisting on sharing those things. I know it will pass. But when? Soon, I hope. I want to feel the joy and peace I know God has for me.
(The scripture was Romans 15:13 -- 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.)

To this on Wednesday morning:

The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name
-- "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman. 

With some Psalm 23 and Page 353 (Dec.18 reading) in the OA Voices of Recovery in between: 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... He restores my soul ... Guarding, guiding all the way ... With blessings overflowing, His goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life ... And I will live with Him forever. 
-- The New 23rd lyrics, modified 

There are those gray, bleak days when I don't feel like doing what I need to do to ... I'm tired of the effort. I want to give up. But I stop and reflect. If I quit making the effort, I'll slide backward. And backwards, for me, means ... mental, physical and spiritual anguish. ...
So I pray for the willingness to do whatever my Higher Power nudges me to do. Then I get my body in motion and do it! ... And then once again, I experience the healing and recovery. 
-- Voices of Recovery

The slogan "when all else fails, act as if" also came to mind today and probably helped. 

But, above all, faith and gratitude. 

Hope springs eternal. Morning by morning, new mercies I see. Great is God's faithfulness. 
-- Lamentations 3:22-23, paraphrased

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oh. No. (plus) Oh. Yes. (equals) O.K.

I thought the blog deadline was Thursday but then it seemed like it just might be tonight. So I checked. And it's tonight. 

To write or not to write: that is the question. Or maybe, since now I am writing, the question will be whether to post. And the answer is pretty certain, given my past performance. I will post, but it will probably be pretty meaningless. 

I'm not sure where my time is going. I feel as if I'm letting more and more things go, and still I keep getting more behind. I've had many things I wanted to write about -- including the Christmas cantata, caroling, selfies, hair, clothes,  hoarding and emotions. Plus, I'm more than  halfway through my #healthy65 Holiday   Challenge, having completed 35 days of reducing my gum consumption by half and using that as a springboard for other positive choices.

So much seems positive and hopeful, and at the same time, my stress level is as high as ever as I wonder how I will  get all done that I need and-or want to do by Christmas and the end of the year. 

It's going to be OK. I know it is. It always is. I pray and I have faith, and God knows I try to know and do His will and live to His glory. And even though I tend to think I'm falling short and dishonoring Him, He keeps working things for good and showing me His blessings. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150:6

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:6

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My #Healthy65 Holiday Challenge update, Day 28/65

My #Healthy65 Holiday Challenge goal started out as reducing my gum consumption by half for two days per week. It immediately became my desire to meet this standard every day. I've been going along pretty well with it, even as it has continued to take intentional thought. (If I didn't think about it, I would easily slip back into continuous chewing, as annoying as that is, even to me.)

For some reason, today, Day 28, I found myself wondering if I'm being honest. I think I may be playing mind games. For one, I was downplaying the amount of gum I previously chewed, and therefore set my target low. That means I've had some wiggle room, which I have used. (I can go over my target some and still be reducing my consumption by half.)

Anyway, the thing I realized is that I feel guilty or bad or ashamed of myself if I go over the lower target.

I don't want to feel guilty or bad or ashamed of myself. But I have a tendency to do so, and not just involving what I consume. In recent weeks (maybe the four weeks of this challenge?), I've really been working myself over mentally, second-guessing most of my thoughts, feelings, actions and attempts to express. High on the list is that I'm still as self-focused as ever, letting fear or just blatant selfishness hold me back from being a more generous and serving person. (Oh yes, I've also given myself a pretty good mental thrashing over a spell of forgetfulness and losing things that is driving me crazy, even though the good news is I've ended up finding most of the misplaced things!!!)

Unfortunately, in the process, I see that I have a tendency to judge others just as harshly as I judge myself. And I think I may express those judgments more than I realize, especially at work but also in other areas.

I want to lighten up. I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. I think that is my next goal, to find a way to be less judgmental, critical and negative, and more gracious, supportive and affirming. I'm pretty sure I can only do that with God's help. And so, as usual, I will pray, then try to let go and let God, and give Him the glory.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Praying in faith

Having a cold was not on my priority list for the start of December. It happened anyway. As colds go, it hasn't been bad. But combined with winter weather, an uncomfortably cold office, and stress from a variety of sources, it's about wiped me out. 

The stage was set Saturday -- Nov. 29 -- a day of contemplation and some tears, including with a dear sister in Christ who understands all too well. ... Feeling helpless but never hopeless. Grateful and blessed. And loved. Rich blessings of family, faith and spirit. Sweet music of life: To hear it! To share it!

The stronger symptoms of the cold came that night. Fortunately, the amount of water I drink and other methods seem to keep a cold's drainage from settling in my chest or head, so by Monday I felt remarkably better.  That doesn't mean there's not a steady stream of mucous and especially lots of tiredness. 

As a result, I've been less successful in dealing with emotions and stress. 

Even my prayers seem feeble and unfocused. It's all I can do to pray in faith -- I literally express to God that I have faith He knows my cares and concerns, and  I trust Him to take care of them. I trust that if He needs me to be a part of His work in an area, He will guide me and equip me. 

By the end of today, I was also reciting the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Thy will, not mine, be done.) Amen. 

None of this seems easy right now. I'm not feeling the faith I claim. It's more like   acting as if. And there is value in that.

Meanwhile,  I feel so much tension in my body. Would crying make me feel better or worse???? 

I feel as if I need to bawl, but I fear if I start I will never stop -- or it really won't help, and then I'll just also have a headache and red, itchy, puffy eyes. 

And so I continue to pray in faith and trust.