The Refining Fires of Busyness

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I am so sorry for the unplanned hiatus these past couple of months.  Sometimes the seesaw of life (relationships, roles, unplanned events, and tasks) tips unevenly to one side or the other and seems to stay there awhile.  During busy seasons and faced with a decision on where to focus my energies, I often set creative endeavors aside.

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No, don’t adjust your monitor.  These photos are indeed out of focus and a little distracting.  A couple of years ago, the pace of daily life shifted to warp speed.  There’s barely time to live in each moment; much less process it.  As I click away, my mind continually processing scenes faster than the camera, my husband often shakes his head.  (I have even requested that no blurry photos be deleted.  Someday, I just might use those!)  Sometimes I snap a shot as some writing idea races through my mind.  More often than not, I am simply trying to capture the scenes of life flying past.

The busier the schedule gets, the quieter I become. But that quietness on the outside doesn’t always mean stillness on the inside.  Internally, there is often a flurry of activity as changes come fast and furious and I find myself in a continual balancing act.  There are times that I am quite certain the flexibility joint has bent as far as it possibly can.  But God always shows me that, yes, it can bend some more … if I am willing. He uses these hectic seasons to help me prioritize between the essential and non-essential.

Today, He may use me to bring comfort through a smile or a hug; to listen and cry with a grieving friend over a devastating loss.  Tomorrow, my role may be that of a secretary, chauffeur, dishwasher, or grocery shopper.  Next week, it could be as homework checker, teacher, or all around errand runner; to name only a few.  And on most days, the roles collide and blend together.  Regardless of the task, I am called to be available; even in the words of my posts.

Yes, there is joy at warp speed … again, if I am willing.  Instead of focusing on what isn’t getting done or what’s up ahead, God reminds me of the importance of the tasks He sets before me.  He would have me live fully in His moment; not mine.   It’s not the speed of life that’s the issue; the problem surfaces when I take my eyes off of God, even for a second.

I pray that one day, even in the busiest of seasons, a peaceful spirit will reign inside as well as out.

Romans 15:32-33 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.  Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

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Painful Anniversaries

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As the summer season and its suffocating heat fade, my soul seems to come alive.  Fall has always been my favorite time of year.  What’s not to love?  The mountains burst forth with color; reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the evergreens.  Leaves begin to fall and there is something exhilarating about the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.  The temperatures begin to drop; resulting in glorious crisp air in the mornings and evenings.  The morning mist lingers near the ground before disappearing with the sun’s warmth.  Deer venture out, sticking close to the edge of the forest.  In the country, the scents from wood burning stoves and fireplaces hang in the air.  In late fall, camouflage becomes the fashionable clothing of choice along with orange hats and vests as hunting season begins.

After one last curtain call of color, the leaves shrivel up and turn that ugly brown.  Leaves on the ground are soggy; providing a covering for the soil underneath.  The trees’ branches are bare, exposed but the trees are not dead. They are simply conserving nutrients; resting until spring when they will once again show new life. Crops are gathered and harvested.  Animals grow heavier coats.  All of these events signal the end of one season and beginning of another.

This is also the time of year that I, along with others, must face many painful anniversaries.

Most of us have them.  You know the ones; those heart-rending dates that loom ahead on the calendar.  We strive to remember, to never forget a loved one. We may try to blot out (but can’t) that heartbreak or event that forever changed our lives or someone else’s.

What do we do with those kinds of anniversaries?  How do we get beyond the deep sorrow and move toward the joy of spring and new life?

There are documented scientific reasons to explain seasonal changes.  But when it comes to losing a loved one, there is no earthly explanation that can soothe my hurting soul.  I have no textbook answer as to why one person lives a long life and another is taken away in their youth. Nor do I understand why disease claims the life of one yet leaves another untouched.  But I do know that these losses and other tragedies are a part of this life.  I trust that God has a purpose and a reason, even if I am never able to see good come of it.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:8

Each year when these painful anniversary dates come and go, there is always a time of reflection, of soul searching, and a letting go of emotions … yet again.

But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD…   Psalm 73:28

Revive me, O LORD, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.  Psalm 143:11

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  Psalm 23:3

Then I prayerfully and purposefully dwell on joyful memories of laughter and family gatherings.  I breathe in deeply of the crisp air and enjoy the sights and smells of fall.  I rejoice because somehow, even after deep sorrow, God once again reminds me how to smile.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…  Psalm 27:13

The Directionally Dysfunctional Club

As some of you know, I live in the not so happy land of directional confusion (except when it comes to being on the interstate where my internal compass always seems to point to the mountains where I was raised!).  These days, given landmarks like tall buildings or the names of main streets, I can usually figure out whether to turn left or right.  It just might involve a few wrong turns in the process.

I didn’t drive in my hometown as a young adult.  But even if I had, there was one main road in and out of town.  We had one elementary school, one post office, one bank, one volunteer rescue squad, one volunteer fire department, one grocery store, etc. Directions like turn left at the red barn or make a right by the bank, made perfect sense to me.

Imagine my confusion and frustration the first time I moved far away from home and there was more than one chain convenience store with the same name.  How would I know which one to look for if I needed to make a turn off of the main road?

And oh, those instructions that some well-meaning folks like to pass along like, “turn south at the far west end of the northeast side of the building”.  What?  (Yes, my husband told me this scenario is not possible but that’s my point exactly!)  Upon receipt of these type of directions, I promptly turn to my husband and ask, “Okay, so where do I turn and which way?”

Directions in plain English, please!  Some have said that landmark directions are considered “woman” directions.  That can’t be true since all of my children, including my daughter, have internal compasses.

Just give me a tiny hint.  What color is the trim on the house on the corner of the street?  What store is just before that intersection?  Which side of the street is it on?  Do I turn right or left?  Will I have to make a right or left exit off of the interstate?  You see, there must be plenty of time to change lanes!  How much longer is the drive if I don’t use the interstate?  In case you are wondering, yes, I’m absolutely sure there is a back road that I can use to get there.  People, somehow, miraculously managed to get from place to place before those complicated highway systems were constructed.

Once, after driving forty-five minutes the long way (interpretation-avoiding the interstate) to a pool playdate in an unfamiliar area, I headed back home with three happy but tired children.  One of our sons fell asleep; the official “help Mom not get lost” one.  I thought I’d just keep going.  Surely I would recognize the next turn while he rested.

Now, I must confess, whenever I get the opportunity to drive in the wide open spaces, my small town roots kick in.  For some reason, I think I am headed home with a long peaceful drive ahead of me.  I settle in to enjoy the landscape, cows, and fluffy white clouds without all the people, office buildings, stores, concrete, and traffic.

On this particular occasion, I suddenly realized that I had missed my turn.  I kept on driving, somehow hoping to see a street name that I recognized.  One problem when you’re lost in the country … very few street signs.  The road narrowed into one lane, room enough for barely one vehicle, and then turned from blacktop to gravel.  I turned the van around the first chance I could, in front of a dilapidated mobile home with tires on the roof and several barking dogs chasing our van.  The “navigator” woke up trying to figure out what all the commotion was.  The youngest exclaimed, “Mommy, I’m scared!  I don’t want to live here!”  Quite determined to retrace my steps, I spent over an hour driving back and forth; alternating between prayer and rising panic.

Tearfully, I called my husband who was waiting to be picked up from work.  After years of receiving these kinds of calls, he very patiently and calmly asked a few questions … ending with “which side of the van is the sun on?”  Whew!  My next turn would have been in the wrong direction.  Two hours later than planned, we made it back to his office in the city.

This is only one of many such mis-directional adventures over the years.  I assure you; the humor in these situations does not come until the shedding of tears and time to process.  Thank God for His mercy, an understanding husband and friends, directionally gifted children, and smart phones with GPS!  And yes, even with those blessings, I have still managed to get lost…especially when the destination changes while en route; making my carefully prepared directions obsolete.

So, the next time someone asks for directions or appears to be lost, please have mercy, be patient, and show compassion.  That desperate and glazed look in their eyes might just reveal a member of the Directionally Dysfunctional Club!

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:13

 And oh, LORD, I sure need it!!!

What I know to be true

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Given current world events, last week’s post presented quite a dilemma (which is why this post took longer than I would have liked). Right now, across the ocean, mommies are sobbing over the horrible deaths of their babies. Wives are witnessing the barbaric deaths of their husbands and they continue to face unbelievable terror and abuse. Families are living with incoming missiles as a part of their daily life. Even trying to watch the nightly news shows violent crimes in my own country and city that are happening way too close to my address.

In the meantime, life seems to go on with the mundane in contrast to these unimaginable situations. How can I write about longing for beautiful fall foliage, white fluffy clouds, or what’s for dinner when my heart is in such turmoil? Okay, so maybe I would not have written about those specific topics. However, could I really write about “normal” thoughts and offer any encouragement?

In the process of preparing this post, God gently rebuked me. I needed to take my mind off of the circumstances and focus on what I know to be true. I don’t have to come up with the right words or answers to life’s problems. I just have to remember where to turn.

My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.  Psalm 119:28

Despite the dark and sinister crimes described on the nightly news, God has not departed.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; … Psalm 139:7-8

No matter how horrific the actions of others, God is still in control.

He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah  Psalm 66:7

In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.  Psalm 138:3

Regardless of the fear that the world has turned upside down and life is hopeless, God’s word offers hope.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.  Psalm 130:5

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.  Psalm 31:24

Even though some want to rewrite history and thumb their noses at any and all truths, God’s word remains true.

For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.  Psalm 100:5

In spite of those who try to distort archaeological and scientific facts, God’s word tells us the truth.

The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.  Psalm 89:11

Taking comfort in God’s word and remembering what I know to be true…

…I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds…  Psalm 77:11-12

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

 

Special Reminder

This piece was written when our children were very young and posted in an e-zine no longer published. Those early stay-at-home mom years were sweet and tender. But, quite honestly, they were also full of hard work and sometimes, utter exhaustion. God always sent whatever was needed at just the right time. Be it a friend offering to help fold laundry, a family member surprising us with a cooked meal, or a kind word of encouragement from a dear sister in Christ. I pray I never forget those precious years nor the angels of mercy sent my way.

SPECIAL REMINDER

It has been one of those days that young mothers have so often. The laundry is piled high and I fear one of the babies may crawl into a pile and disappear. The unwashed dishes are stacked haphazardly. I just know that the little one, trying to help, will soon send dishes crashing to the floor.

I walk from room to room, seeing many household tasks before me. From morning to night, my feet tread the same path. At the end of the day, I often feel as if no progress has been made.

As I open the refrigerator to fill drink cups yet again, my eyes stray to a familiar newspaper clipping amidst the colorful magnets plastered all over the door. The poem’s author is unknown and I’ve read it many times before. But for some reason, today the poignant words strike a chord.

I read of a mother’s tender reflections on hands once too busy to play, now hauntingly still. My eyes fill with tears and I release a heavy sigh. It was exactly what my weary soul needed to hear on this difficult day.

Often my own hands are busy when my children ask me to play. My days are spent cleaning our home and caring for my babies. But in the busyness of daily chores, a very important part often gets left out. I rarely set aside time to just play with my little ones.

It was no accident that poem caught my eye today. God, in His gracious mercy, had answered my earlier request for encouragement.

I realize that as my children get older, they will not want to play games, find hidden treasures, or chase butterflies. Time flies and they will be grown with families of their own someday.

Much too soon, my own arms will ache with loneliness. I will no longer be able to kiss the hurts away, play with their dollies and cars, and read the same stories over and over.

God gently reminded me to cherish this gift; this special day with my children.

2 Corinthians 1:4 … [God] who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. NKJV

Early Morning Quiet

I love early mornings; the peaceful quiet when most of the household is still asleep. There are no interruptions. My brain is fuzzy, still sleepy.  It is a quiet that allows my heart to dream, to soar, and to pray without the distractions that will come later in the day.  I try not to think about the chores that need to be completed, the school lessons that need to be planned, or make a decision about what’s for dinner.  My thoughts can go directly from my head to the written word, whether by pen or keystroke.  Most days they get stalled somewhere along the way between correcting math lessons and keeping track of our busy schedule.  Perhaps this is why the psalmist writes of seeking God early in the morning. The days’ cares haven’t had time to push out the warm intimacy that comes in those early morning hours alone with Him.  I can cry out in anguish, lift my heart in praise, openly wait for His direction, and see things more clearly than at any other time of the day. Problems haven’t yet presented themselves.  Sleep doesn’t beckon like a chocolate bar when hormones are raging. On those mornings when I am up early, I enjoy the quiet where we all meet…my Lord, His word, my pen and paper or keyboard, my soul, and sometimes, a blessed cup of hot coffee.

Psalm 143:8  Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.  (NKJV)