Monday Musings

sunrise

What can I write in 15 minutes? I have to wake Ruby and Jonathon up then. I don’t know. I could write about duking it out with Dr. X on a grade he gave me in the class with the longest title known to man. Then me calling him on not following his own requirements for the paper (!), us talking on the phone and me resubmitting the paper. He doesn’t give out 100s, despite the fact that the other professor I have does. Regularly. This is week 7 of a 10-week term, people. Can’t wait for the 3-week break!

I could write about how we still don’t know for sure what’s happening with admin in our group. I could write about how morale is pretty low and we feel like “why bother?” with so many things. We’re moving a specific direction in capital projects, synching with Public Works, but no definite announcement yet on specifics. So we live half in both worlds, peering ahead into the misty distance at what could be, and looking down at the work in front of us at what is. It’s awkward.

I could write about Jonathon. He’s looking for a job. Found a couple of interesting gigs. But more limbo there, too.

I could write about how it’s all a walk of faith. I keep waiting for life to be perfect and make sense, whatever that is. But there are good friends in the now, and chocolate, and a fabulous husband, and kids, and Jesus. Not necessarily in that order. I am good at blaming myself when things aren’t perfect. Waste of time and energy. This, friends, is my slow deliverance. Choosing to reject the condemnation and embrace the good is a moment-by-moment task. It’s a rewiring of sorts. Good thing I know the Manufacturer. He is able. And He is patient with me. He will do the same for you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  – Philippians 1:6

The Harvest

fall-fruits.jpg

I looked up at the pre-morning sky. Stars winked in the inky black.

Monday. Again.

I tossed the ball in the air, dodging a shower of pine needles as it flew. Shadows flickered on the driveway as the trees swayed under the electric lights. The air felt damp and cool from last night’s rain. I tried to muster up enthusiasm for the day ahead.

I’ve been in a limbo place for a long time now. Trying to be peaceful / joyful / content / everyone’s cheerleader in this season has proved challenging. My tank runs dry. But when you’re an adult, you don’t get to just lie down. Or, you shouldn’t. You keep getting up and going to work – fully dressed, ideally. Ladies, remember your foundation garments! You pay bills. You clean. You check on kids. For believers, you attend church. You tithe. You worship. You read your Bible and pray. Even spend time crying out to God for some kind of answer, anything.

Then when nothing happens, you keep on.

Nothing is horribly wrong. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense. I know I’m supposed to be based in Shelton, but I spend 45 hours each week going to and from another city. I guess it’s just over 25% of my time, when you think about it. I have applied for jobs here in town, interviewed, and they’ve gone to someone else. I don’t begrudge those others getting jobs. But how do I get back home? I keep clicking my heels, eyes closed. It hasn’t worked. I probably need the real ruby slippers or something. Sigh.

I like Thurston County. I work with great people. Yet…my job is unchallenging. That’s putting it kindly. My boss is wonderful. No complaints there. The commute is fine, most days. In fact, driving in on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, I sailed along with little traffic. All of a sudden, Knight Rider appeared on my bumper. I pulled into the right lane as a cop from the other side of the highway roared up behind us. Knight Rider got a ticket, not me. So, not without some chuckles.

And yet…something’s missing. I think its purpose. I’m learning patience (gah!). No, I didn’t pray for more patience. That I remember, anyway. So what’s a gal to do? Well, celebrate was good, for starters. Family. Health. Provision. Jobs that allow us to use our skills. Friends. Good food. The lovely fall season. Goofy pets. I can go on, but you get the idea.

I think I’m also learning faith. Not sure I like that one either. But untested Faith isn’t really faith, is it? It’s just passive belief. Maybe I need to press the faith muscle into service, like how in the natural muscles gain strength through exertion. If I really believe God works all things together for good for those called according to his purpose, I have nothing to worry about (Romans 8:28).

That leaves me with: more faith and patience. Yay! Neither is a favorite “food”, but they are fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Fruit doesn’t just happen; it has to grow, and that takes some time and care, as well as pruning. Lord, let my life be filled with these delicious fruits for others to sample and taste Your goodness. I want a good harvest.

Facing Fear

fear is a liar

(source)

I ran outside today. It had stopped raining. It’s been a few days since I could say something like that. The air smelled good, filled with the scent of growing things. But also woodsmoke, since temperatures still start out in the high 30s, early 40s every day.

I cruised downhill. I reminded myself that I’d have to go back up again, and not to get too cocky. The skies partly cleared, drifting clouds floating above me. Lavender bushes put out their fragrance as I ran by.

I thought about fear. I tend to pick up the emotions of people I’m close to, and fear seems predominant at the moment.  Of course, my own fears add to the muddle. It’s fear about the future, fear of failure, all the ones that keep you up at night. At the conference we attended this weekend, one of the speakers reminded us that as believers, we’re thermostats, not thermometers. We don’t reflect the current attitude; we change it. I don’t want to be a thermometer, measuring the feelings of the people around me. I want to change the atmosphere.

I started reminding myself of the scriptures that deal with fear:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

I like the New King James Version better, though:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. – Psalm 55:22

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. – 1 John 4:18

Fear is crippling. Fear is a cheater, tripping us up at the end of a good race. Fear keeps us from thinking clearly and creatively. Fear keeps us from all that God has for us. I am meditating on these scriptures today as the day progresses. I’m going to take my thoughts into captivity and trust Jesus for the outcome. I’m going to start speaking faith and not doubt. What are your favorite scriptures to change the atmosphere?

17% Streetwise

After last week’s close call, I reconsidered pepper spray. Kudos to my mom, who gave some to me probably 4 years ago. I remember laughing at her.

“It’s Shelton. I’ll never need this, Mom!” I shook my head and shoved it in the glove box.

Well, never has arrived.

I pulled out the clear containment unit.

pepper-spray

In case you can’t read the label, it says “17% Streetwise”. I thought it odd. I don’t want to be only 17% streetwise. What about the other 83%? I need to be 100% streetwise. Hence the spray with cayenne pepper in it.

The directions stated to fire it at least every six months if not in use regularly. D’oh! I turned the red nozzle a quarter turn.

“Even works on drug addicts!” the page yelled.

Great.

I pointed it away from me and sprayed on the insert. Watery, bright orange goo spurted out of the bottle. Guess it still works.

This morning, I picked up the vial. It felt light and compact in my hand for such a strong deterrent. Where to put it? Would I be quick enough on the draw if I placed it in my left coat pocket? I opted for the right, mp3 player on the left.

I opened the back door. The dark morning was cold. Stars glittered above me and temps hovered at 40 degrees. Rex followed me down the driveway to say goodbye.

I ran along by streetlight. But I couldn’t relax. I listened. What was that? Any and every strange sound made me jump. I passed the first bench-and-garbage can combo on my route. The lights showed me nobody there. Good.

I pressed on to the next pairing. This was where it happened last week. The two objects sat side by side in shadow. Nothing moved. No sound. Cars passed on my right, beyond the median. I kept going. It, too, was empty. I breathed a sigh of relief. The entire 3-mile run passed without incident.

I thought about fear. It’s so crippling. FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear holds a wealth of deadly imagination within it, a potential frightening world within our day to day reality. But we don’t need to live there.

I want to make the most of this life, every bit. I don’t want to live hoping nothing bad happens. I want to live, looking for good to happen. I have to believe, should anyone ever approach me, that God would be with me. I have to know that He would direct me and protect me in critical moments. He does it now. I only have to pay attention. In that, maybe I can be more than 83% Godwise.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105

The Miracle

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”- Albert Einstein

We watched a movie the other night – “Miracles from Heaven”. Despite the semi-cheesy title, it turned out to be a good flick. It’s based on a true story. Some of you have seen it, but for those who haven’t, here’s a plot summary complete with spoilers:

A little girl, 10 years old, from a good, God-fearing family suddenly takes ill. After months of what gets misdiagnosed as acid reflux and lactose intolerance, a specialist discovers her digestive system lacks the ability to process food. And there’s no cure for the disease.

Jennifer Garner plays the mom, Christy, in this movie. Say what you will about her, she does mom roles well. The girl, Anna, doesn’t get better. In fact, time becomes precious as they realize she won’t live long. The family’s church and community rally around the family. Hundreds of prayers go up for Anna’s healing. Anna and her mom spend time jetting back and forth from Boston back to their small Texas town, getting doses of an experimental drug to prolong her life and give her some relief.

One day, Anna and her older sister climb a tree. Anna loves to climb. At her sister’s urging, they go up about 30 feet. Then the tree branch cracks. Her older sister urges Anna to get into the tree hollow to save herself. Strangely, the tree hollow collapses but the damaged branch stays intact. Anna falls 30 feet inside the tree, all the way to the base.

Firefighters rescue Anna out of the tree. She’s sustained only minor injuries, the first miracle. The doctors are amazed that she only has a slight concussion and no broken bones.

It gets better. Her digestive condition is gone. She’s gotten healed. Somehow, some way, she is back to normal. It can only be called a miracle. Anna’s specialist has no other word for it.

I don’t know why God heals some people and not others. This movie left me with more questions than answers. Early in the movie, women from Christy’s church told her Anna’s illness might be due to sin in Christy or her husband’s life, or possibly even Anna’s. Christy’s faith tanked after that.

Christy quotes Albert Einstein in the movie, the one at the top of this blog. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. How do I live? How should I live? This life, the air we breathe, our senses, it’s all beyond wonderful. Even more than that, what if Anna hadn’t gotten healed? Could she still see her life, limited though it was, as a miracle? I think I need to.

 

Miracles-from-Heaven-Drama-Wallpapers-5

 

Knee Discipline

woman-kneeling

(source)

I ran today. Confession: I haven’t been running as much as before I went on vacation. I had an ache in one knee, then the other. I decided to slow down a bit and rest. So I did.

As I headed uptown into the early morning, I thought of this scripture:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. – Hebrews 12:12-13

The first half of Hebrews 12 is all about God’s discipline and how it means He loves us. Frankly, I’d rather get flowers and dark chocolate, plus backrubs. That’s my kind of love. But you don’t grow to maturity when life comes easy. It’s when you’re down on your knees, seeking God for help, that you start to get somewhere.

Life’s afflictions can wear us down. We find ourselves in a sort of fog. We encounter the same people with those ridiculous beams in their eyes that we want to pluck out. With extreme prejudice. Yet we have beams, logs really, of our own. The discipline comes when we keep on living where we are, loving and serving, and trying to keep our 2 x 4s from ramming into others.

Maybe our circumstances don’t seem to change, no matter how hard we pray. Houses won’t sell. Money won’t magically jump into our bank accounts. Kids do whatever they want, despite our kind admonitions. But we don’t give up.

So, I’m holding on with my tired hands. I’m doing some lunges to strengthen my knees, as well as continuing to petition.  I will strengthen the spiritual and the physical parts. I don’t want to become one of the weak or lame. I need to press on and keep a good attitude as I do, every day, the things I know to do. I don’t want to be the reason others stumble. I can wait for God to move. He has all things in His hands.

Bug Swallowing

I stepped outside this morning. The air felt cool yet soupy. A storm brews. The cool breeze smells wet. I turned right on the county road this time, past all the garbage out for pickup, leftover revels in a can. The sun rose on my left as birds dipped around me. Clouds crept in from the west, over the lake. It looked like God was tucking us into bed with a thick gray blanket.

I ran past Sunset Beach. I spotted a couple of dead raccoons. What I didn’t figure on was the gnats. They have been here all along, swarming up from the lake in the afternoon. They get so thick you can barely see. Last night after fireworks, it seemed like all the bugs in the universe wanted in the house, or at least as close to the outdoor lights as possible. They stuck to the windows and doors, crawling and creeping. I could almost hear them crying out, “Let me in! I belong inside! Pleeeaaase!”

moody lake

The gnats like the standing water of the lake and its boggy surroundings. I closed my eyes and exhaled as I pushed through clouds of whirring wings. I blew as much air out as I could to keep from sucking any bugs in. I tried not to think of Old Testament plagues and their order of increasing magnitude.

But, inevitably, I did suck some bugs down. Some tried to get into my eyes. Some flew into my hair or tried to lodge in my nose. I kept swatting and I kept moving. One stuck to my lips. Thanks, Burt’s Bees, for making lip balm irresistible to insects. I appreciate it.

The gnats of doubt like to dive-bomb my spirit. They don’t totally go away, though I swat at them and keep my mouth closed.  I ingest a few, sometimes, along the way. Do I even have any miles in me today? Did we hear from God about fixing up our house? Why hasn’t our house sold yet? The thoughts swirl and the emotions surge, like a moody lake in our spirits.

Today should mark the end of my running streak. Actually, yesterday. It’s more than a month since I started running at least a mile every day. Originally, I signed on to do Memorial Day to Independence Day. I have no idea how many miles I’ve logged overall. I did 17 last week. I’d like to get 19 in this week. I’ve put in 37 days so far. What’s 9 more?

We can keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. You get up and just do it. Noah built the ark over 80 years. He must have felt mighty foolish at times. Abraham had second thoughts placing Isaac on the rock as a sacrifice. We can’t see the end or the outcome. Yet God has the answers. I just need to put in the faith..

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1