Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Just Couldn't Do It

Crippling, painful, and terminal conditions swoop down on people unawares. My own immediate family has fallen victim repeatedly, but I have remained healthy.

Self-absorbed parents abandon their responsibilities, and families disintegrate into bitterness. Instead of embracing that example, my children go out of their way to stay in touch, and offer support of every kind.

A driver breaks down on the side of the road and is stranded. It might have been me, but it isn’t.

Loss of income creates financial distress and puts honest, hard-working people out on the streets. Extended unemployment knocked my feet out from under me, but loving arms ushered me into a safe place.

All of these, and so many more instances I could name, are the reason I survive. All of these are evidence that God is in control. My understanding will fall short, my abilities may fail, and my spirit might flag, but God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy are eternal.

I don’t have to think long to be reminded of things I am grateful for. Over the years, I have faced dozens of difficult situations that could have had terrible results. Instead, God’s provision, enablement, and blessing have seen me through it all. I have never missed a meal, or been homeless or alone. I have never been in jail, or been attacked, or injured in a car accident. But I’ve been through enough to realize that any of those things might have happened to me.

And what of the things I’ve never known about? How many times have I not been in that intersection when the other guy ran a red light? Or have I not gotten the job that would have kept me miserable, or not been able to take the trip that would have ended in disaster?

Aside from the difficulties of life, I see God’s blessings all around me, giving me so many more reasons to be grateful. The love of my children and their spouses keeps me going. My sweet grandchildren make me smile. The glories of nature that emphasizes God’s loving kindness to His children, feed my soul. Friends, and the bonds shared with fellow-believers, encourage me. The privilege of owning something beautiful and well-made, the thrill of using a talent to glorify God and bless others, the joy of being content and resting in God’s love, the assurance of God’s salvation…this list could go on forever.

A friend wrote a blog post about gratitude, and encouraged her followers to name one thousand things they are grateful for. Within just a week or so, they have almost reached their goal. I didn’t take part, though.

The gratitude I feel when I think about the events of my life, difficult and pleasant, overwhelms me. Emotions well up in my heart and spill over from my eyes in the form of sparkling drops of humility and thankfulness. It’s just too much to put in a few words. Even a thousand words couldn’t do it justice, though, because mere words can’t express the depth of my gratitude.

It was a great thought Vonnie, but I just couldn’t do it.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Yeah, You Probably Have

Have you ever been in a tough place, and couldn’t come up with a way out? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever just tried to “make the best of it”? Yeah, me too.

Have you ever felt yourself losing your resolve and determination? Yeah, me too.

Sometimes I believe this is the story of my life. Not that I feel sorry for myself—well, maybe sometimes I do. But I have to wonder if this is really the plan God had for me—never knowing what the next day will bring or what I can do to make things better.

Common sense would say of course, do whatever it takes to assure a secure future. So I try one thing or another, but my results aren’t what I hoped.

It can get mighty hard.

And I can get mighty discouraged.

In fact, I can get emotional, and withdrawn, and even depressed.

And then it happens.

Somebody, somewhere says just the thing I need to hear. Maybe it’s just a word of encouragement. Maybe it’s a sermon or a song on the radio. Today it was a verse someone posted on Facebook:

Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Wow! There are so many fantastic things about this. First, it shows me that God knows that I’m struggling and need encouragement. Second, He responds at just the right time. Third, somebody, in obedience to God, and without ever knowing if anyone will hear, has reached out in a way that helps me.

That third one is the one that spoke to me today. Somebody did the thing God gave them to do, without ever knowing if any good would come of it.

That sounds a lot like my life. God has put me where I am, and he has a purpose for it, even if I never know what it is. When He wants things to change, they will. I have to be prepared for that when it comes, but for now, I need to be content with the thing He has given me to do today.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

What A Day!

Traffic was heavy, so I was stuck behind a semi, and because of the height of the trailer, I never saw the traffic light until I was almost in the intersection. I did, however, see the light turn red as I drove under it.

I hate when that happens! Especially now, because many intersections have recently been equipped with cameras that snap photos of light-runners. Within a week or so, the picture, along with a traffic citation, is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, courtesy of the police department.

Well, guess who received a very official looking envelope from the police department in the mail today?

On top of it being an extra-long work day, it was also a day when the stress level topped out. It was one conflict after another, and one frustration after another, since yesterday morning. The temperature hit a record-breaking 103 degrees, and I was physically and emotionally wrung out.

I fully intended to head for the shower the minute I got home, and then collapse in my recliner and not think for the rest of the day. But when I arrived, I found that letter from the police department awaiting me. And, before I had a chance to open it, I received a message concerning an urgent situation. A phone call might have settled the matter, but, as usual, my phone, the phone book, and directory assistance all failed me, so I had to return to work.

Contrary to what you may think, I really did keep myself under control. I refused to listen to the little voice inside that was urging me to vent my frustration, but somehow, the dog and cats must have sensed something was wrong. They followed me from room to room, which is typical, but they were quiet and mild-mannered, which is not. They also kept their distance, and when I sat down for a minute, they just sat and stared at me. This was so untypical, I couldn’t help but wonder what they were seeing. Was some extreme phenomenon happening in response to the pressures of my day? For a minute I imagined steam billowing from my ears and a loud, shrill whistle blasting away, but the humor escaped me at the moment.

Driving back toward work, my inner voice was growing louder, angrily proclaiming the injustices of the day, and throwing accusations all over the place. I knew that if one more negative thing came up, there would be no holding back. I also knew I couldn’t do anything about it, so I did what I could do…I called out to God.

Well, God is faithful. I did not do anything to embarrass myself or my testimony. My avalanche of challenges has come to an end, and my nerves have returned to their normal state.

The only thing left unfinished was that ominous letter from the police department. It turned out to be a courtesy letter informing me of something that may benefit me in the future. That’s a whole lot better than a traffic citation.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Life with Dogs; The Happy Ending

Butchie was in an admirable position. She was my very first pet. That alone should have given her a special place in my heart. Instead, I consider her to be wild and greedy.

Poor little Fluffy was destructive and high-strung.

Lizzy was smart enough, but also rather dumb.

Laddie was not only the King of Dumb, he was also supremely lazy.

And then there is Max. He has done much better on the scale of acceptable doggy traits. He is willing, optimistic, happy and loyal…but there is that persistent barking problem.

What a bunch of trouble. I have no interest in inviting anymore such headaches into my life, and often wonder why anyone does. I realize that sounds harsh, but it is my life, after all.

Well, no, it isn’t…not really. My life belongs to God because I turned it over to him long ago.

As He evaluates this life that I have surrendered to him, I wonder how it will measure up? Will my undisciplined ways be shocking to him? Will my vindictiveness horrify him? Will my bad habits disgust him? Will the thought of me bring to mind the phrase, “She doesn’t even have a clue,”? Will my positive qualities go unappreciated because the negative ones are so annoying?

Undoubtedly, the God who sees all things knows the unappealing truth of who I am. Miraculously, it does not change his opinion of me. He has called me the apple of his eye, and I will ever be precious in his sight.

Though my character may often mirror the unacceptable behavior of Butchie, Fluffy, Lizzy, Laddie and Max, I know God will not turn away from me. While I am eager to wash my hands of my little troublemakers, God has inscribed my name on the palms of his hands.

God’s ways are not my ways, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Life with Dogs, Part II

Max is the little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who resides with us now. He is true to his breed, in that he craves attention. His life revolves around his people. His day is made if you invite him to lie in your lap, or even snuggle up next to you. The little guy’s goal in life is to please…no, that’s not right. Rather, his goal in life is that his people love on him. He is not too concerned about behaving himself.

Max has learned several tricks. The possibility that he might receive a treat for a successfully performed trick is enough to cause extreme excitement. His tail wags so hard, his whole body shakes. Even when he can’t remember which trick he is expected to do when asked to shake, he will perform his entire retinue just to cover all his bases. His dead dog always has a furiously wagging tail.

He loves the two cats, Buck and Jeeves, too. Max is just as devoted to them as he is to his people. I don’t think that they share that devotion, though. His intense desire to play with them looks a whole lot like torment. He is about the same size as they are, and though they tolerate him most of the time, occasionally, Buck or Jeeves will give him what for. This absolutely mystifies him. After one of these acts of retribution, I watched him retreat to the couch and stare into space for half an hour. Had he learned his lesson? For that day, maybe. The next day, he was in their face again, just as if nothing had happened.

Max’s loyalty has no limits. If his cats are outside, he knows it. When they are ready to come in, he knows that, too, even when his people don’t. You’d think a break-in was about to occur, the way he rushes to the door and barks, except, of course, that the sound of joy in this particular bark would do nothing to give a burglar second thoughts. Hushing him does no good. He will risk the ire of his people, before he will abandon his cats.

The problem is that he barks at the door way too often. Yes, he does bark when it’s time to potty, the only sanctioned barking around here, but once he’s outside he becomes distracted and forgets to do his business. If he’s bored, he barks to go out. If a truck goes by on the highway, he barks. If he hears a noise, he barks. If someone walks by, he barks like crazy. So of course, when I have had enough and finally decide to ignore him, that’s the time he really has to go, and resorts to finding an isolated hallway to get the job done.

But then there is that precious, sweet, little face; and his persistently happy personality; and his joyful enthusiasm at seeing me walk in the door. No matter how many times I have scolded or punished the little thing; no matter if I have stepped on his paw or painfully worked out a snarl in his fur, he never holds a grudge. If my arms open for him, he is there immediately. Who could resist such wholehearted adoration?