Archive | January, 2017

If Worry Isn’t a Gift, Why Can’t We Let it Go?

19 Jan

This morning, while preparing to write an encouraging note for my friend Aimee, who is worried about undergoing a scheduled surgery today, I hit the synonym button to find a nicer word for “worry,” because it sounded so negative. My replacement options are: anxiety, perturbation, distress, unease, fretfulness, agitation, tension, and stress.

Folks, this is not a good word, any way you slice it. It’s weighed down with oppression and darkness, neither of which are burdens we’re designed to carry. In fact, there is a Bible verse that tells us we cannot add a single hour to our life with worry.

So why do we give worry so much of our time?

We are a nation of worriers. We worry about our weight, our families, the job, the boss, the kids, the bills, not getting the presentation, getting the presentation, getting sleep and staying healthy (both of which are hampered by worrying, FYI), overindulging, under estimating, and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SPOT!

The list is quite possibly endless. Actually, it IS endless, because many of us, when something we’re worried about does not come to fruition, will find something else to worry about right away.

I’m not a worrier, for the most part. It still astounds my worrier friends that I haven’t used an alarm clock for about 15 years. I let the world wake me up.

“But you could oversleep,” they say. “You could be…” (cue ominous music) “late for work.”

Is that the best you’ve got? Over the many years I worked in an office, I did show up late for work on occasion, whether because of traffic, kids, dawdling, or just plain laziness, but I don’t believe I ever overslept. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have been catastrophic. In fact, I figured that if I ever did oversleep on a work day, I’d consider it a gift just to be able to do so. As corny and Pollyanna-like as it may sound, there’s a bright side to every situation.

I wonder how my worrier friend Aimee might respond when the doctor says, “Everything went beautifully” and hands over her after-care instructions? Will she fret over the possible side effects of the pain meds, or that being off her feet to heal will put a burden on others? Will she wonder how long the repaired ankle could possibly hold up?

Perhaps more importantly, would all that worry change anything? The good and the bad will come. My son is fond of telling me pessimists are never disappointed and sometimes proven right. However, I say, optimists can find something to be pleased about and probably have a more grateful heart.

brian_no_worries

Meet Brian the hermit crab. He is not worried. He’s as happy as a clam, enjoying the world he knows.

I find it easier (and healthier) to remember that I’m in charge of nothing except my reaction to what’s happening at this moment. I don’t even get to decide what’s happening. When I’m driving, I can take reasonable steps to ensure my safety, like putting on a seatbelt and staying in the correct lane, but I cannot prevent an accident. Some texting fool could still come flying through a red light and turn my car into a mangled heap of metal. If it’s to happen, I can’t prevent it, even if I put all my energy into worrying about that specific possibility.

On the other hand, how many of us pull into the driveway or parking lot and pause to be grateful for arriving safely? Considering that this safe arrival happens to us multiple times nearly every single day, we have much to be grateful for, have we not? Like waking up in every morning or getting to sleep in, safe travel is a gift.

So, I would suggest to Aimee that if she were to examine and be grateful for all the aspects of this surgery that went right, instead of feeling the pressures of anxiety, her heart might nearly burst with the goodness of it all (which could be irony, considering the potential repercussions of a bursting heart). But think of it. We live in a country filled with highly educated, deftly skilled doctors, at a time of advanced scientific knowledge where medical procedures considered impossible 50 years ago have become out-patient routines. Our hospitals have technology and equipment out the wazoo that can see everything from our pulse (with a finger cap, for Pete’s sake) to that tiny, squarish-shaped dot of a thingy hiding behind a wall of skin, bones, organs, and whatever we ate for dinner last night, and, we have doctors who know what to do about it. Modern medicine is AMAZING!

Life is amazing.

Every day, every minute, and every breath is a gift, as is every kiss, hug, sneeze and scraped knee, for they all give us reason to be grateful, even if only for the invention of Band-Aids. Find the good in the moment and share it with others. We’ve been given only so many hours . . . shall we spend them loving or fretting?

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And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? — Luke 12:22-26

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Author’s Note: I dedicate today’s blog to my sweet and gentle friend, George, who is now dancing in sure-step with the Lord, free from all worry and the bondage of his earthly mind, and to his lovely Sheryl, who stands at the edge of a new way forward. There is goodness ahead. May you find joy amid the pain, light in the darkness, and comfort in the love of those around you.

 

To the Moon, Alice! (But Take Me With You)

12 Jan

Tomorrow marks my 33rd anniversary of marriage to a wonderful man. In previous years, I’ve used this event as a reason to wax over the ordinariness of our marriage or to tell you why my husband is my hero (much to his discomfort). By now, you pretty much know all there is to know about us . . . we’re not exactly Buzz-feed material.

However, I’m sad to say, there are still volumes to be written about double-digit anniversaries, because successful marriages are becoming increasingly rare in this fast-paced, me-first society. That is not to boast about “making it,” because, frankly, I sorta’ stumbled my way here. Given that I spend at least 70 percent of my time living in my own head and the rest judging with surprise that which has transpired while I was gone, I easily could have stormed away at many junctures along this merry adventure. I hung in there because I’m too lazy to cook and I can’t do math and Jerry is a master of both. I think he hung in there because I make him laugh—usually unintentionally.

Marriage is easy. All you have to do is say “I do,” sign the papers and ride off into the sunset. There ends the romance novel. Then comes love. Choosing to love, day after day, despite muddy footprints on clean floors, arguments on Christmas morning, less than angelic children, bounced checks, cars with mysterious dents, flannel pjs, temper tantrums, and all the other unromantic cogs that jam themselves into the wheel of bliss, now that’s the hard part.

I keep a reminder of what I believe is real love close to my heart. It came from an interview with the late Jessica Tandy and her husband Hume Cronyn, who were married 52 years. When asked the secret to a happy marriage, they replied in unison, “Frequent separations and partial deafness,” then smiled at each other in that all-knowing way. In case you missed it, the “real love” part is in the knowing look. I’ve always considered them the ideal couple. After Jessica passed, Hume compared living without her to being a quadriplegic.

My image of Jessica and Hume can only remain pristine as long as I never look too closely into their lives. I’ve learned enough about them to know they had place in their home called “the sulking room,” where one could retreat when they couldn’t stand another minute in the other’s company. I’m not saying a room like that would get much use in my own home, but I think I’d visit there a time or two.

mom-and-dad

Mom and Dad–A story with many twists and turns

So, how do we know what a good marriage should look like? My parents’ marriage lasted nearly 30 years, until my father passed away at 64. Those of us nine children who spent any amount of time with them in those final years would have called it an unhappy marriage, judging from the tears, the tiredness and the brokenness we witnessed. However, as I delve into old letters, I’m seeing traces of a different story, which I hope to share with my siblings one day soon. We’ll never know for sure, but, come on…nine kids?

nana-and-paw-50th

Never met a more gentle soul than my Old Poop of a Grandfather

My maternal grandparents were married almost 50 years. To her dying days, she called him the Old Poop. I never quite knew what to make of that, nor did I know for sure whether they were happy. They spent every minute of their 20-plus retirement years together. If ever a couple needed a sulking room…

Truth is, there is no perfect marriage, only imperfect people trying to live up to the ideals and values they’ve set for themselves and to honor their chosen mate as best they can with the imperfect tools they’ve been given. We can emulate our parents and grandparents, but without knowledge of what they endured off stage, it’s like reading every third page of a novel. Not the best how-to manual.

However, there is a perfect love. We see that in Jesus, who put others before himself and sacrificed for the greater good when the situation called for it. He showed us how to love, and, when we’re not being obstinate, it’s easy to see how loving His way can build up a marriage into the rewarding, blessed union God intended it to be. It’s something to strive for. I confess that I have, I occasionally, I often usually miss the mark, but I see my failures as blessing my husband with an opportunity to wield another useful marriage-building tool: forgiveness.

All kidding aside, I do take great delight in my marriage and my sweet husband, and I see him as a wonderful gift from God that means more to me with each passing year. I look forward to sharing with him the joys and trials that lie ahead, because I cannot imagine going through them with anyone else.

Jerry, you are my love, my rock, my steadfast friend, and my mathematician. And who knows, play your cards right and one day I might tell our grandchildren that you’re also my Old Poop. Here’s to 33 more…and a sulking room.

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Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life, and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 9:9

New Year, New Page, New Start

1 Jan

On this, the seventh day of Christmas, I received a most precious gift, as did you.

I stayed in bed this morning as long as I could, savoring the opening of it the way one unwraps a much-anticipated present—instead of tearing into the wrapping, I glided my metaphorical finger just under point where the paper overlaps and I nudged the tape until it released its hold.

Then I pulled back the wrap and lingered over the newness of it all, inhaling the scent of promise and potential.

It is here.

sunriseThe new year has dawned like a magnificent sunrise over an expansive ocean, with a freshness of clean linen, the newness of a tighly folded flower bud, and the secrecy of a locked treasure chest. I’m giddy over the endless possibilities of what lies ahead.

In my heart, I’m staring in wonder at a book that contains 365 blank pages, and my heart can only smile.

Right now, the pages are unstained, unblemished in any way. I haven’t hurt anyone with my sarcasm all year. I haven’t said any words I cannot take back. I haven’t judged someone for being different. I haven’t broken a promise to a friend, or missed an opportunity to put aside my work to take a long walk with my husband.

At this moment, anything is possible.

In time, the pages will fill, some with heartache, others with joy and victory. I pray for more of the latter but understand it’s not my decision, just as I also know that, when the year ends, page after page will contain absolutely nothing—a chronicle of hours burned up on mindless tasks.

I resolve to turn the pages more purposefully this year. I pray I can record at the end of each day that I smiled more, laughed more, and loved more on that day’s page than on the one before it. I pray this year my focus is not on how I can better myself, but on how I can make life better for others. Forgive those who hurt me, reignite waning friendships, write encouragement for others. What does that mean, exactly? I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll learn.

This year I will write a book, see more family, and meet new people. It’s going to be a blast.

How about you? What do you hope to put on your blank pages? Imagine the unimaginable with me, would you? Set your sights on the seemingly unattainable and laugh, because you can do it. Believe and make that first mark on the pristine page.

For no yearning is too big, no dream impossible on this, the first day.

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! — 2 Corinthians 5:17