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Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

Sometimes the smallest events can be lessons from heaven.  I just got one.  The teacher?  A bonafide jerk on the freeway.

My mother-in-law is here for a visit, and rather than try to squeeze a lunch out of an empty pantry, we thought we’d go out to lunch.  As we drove down the road with my ten-year-old daughter in the back seat, I became aware that the guy behind me was getting intimate with my rear bumper.  I was already speeding (ahem), so I didn’t go any faster.   I couldn’t really move to the next lane because it was fairly occupied by other cars.

That made him mad.

He got within kissing distance of my bumper, and then darted into a gap in the right lane.  Just as he passed my mother-in-law and daughter on the passenger side (at probably 80 mph), he expressed his feelings in no uncertain terms.

That’s right.  He stuck his arm out the window and flipped us the bird.

Without hesitation, my husband’s mother raised her hand and returned his gesture – by blessing him with the sign of the cross.

Ha!

Honestly, that was not what I thought of doing.  If I had been alone, I might’ve shouted some choice words from the comfort of my car.  (With the windows rolled up.)  Jerk!

But my mother-in-law is older and wiser than me.

So we prayed:

“Dear Jesus, that man must be a very angry person.  Please help him to be calm and not hurt anyone today.”

Even after praying, I felt … violated.  As if he had spit in my face.  But scripture worked its way into my mind.  God’s word spoke softly to me, like a gentle melody.

“A soft answer turns away wrath,” it whispered.

“Do not return evil for evil,” it instructed.

“Love your enemy,” it thrummed.

And eventually, I exhaled. 

Calm. 

Mercy. 

Grace.

Mr. Roadrage Man , wherever you are, I really do wish you the best.  You must have had a really crummy day.  Or maybe someone mistreated you.  Or maybe your mama never taught you any manners.  Whatever your situation, I hope you find peace.  I pray you find Jesus.

Much love,

Wendi

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Shortly after we were married, the company my husband was working for folded under mysterious circumstances, and its owner disappeared into the night.  For the next eleven months, my husband was without full-time work.  We were broke. 

We weren’t exactly rolling in the dough before he lost his job.  We were young and just beginning our careers, so this was quite a blow.

We took work anywhere we could get it.  I had a few piano students, took singing gigs wherever I could and decorated ice cream cakes at his mother’s store.  He worked for a neighbor who had a landscaping business and took odd jobs from anyone who offered.

We ate rice and beans.  We went to the public library for dates.  We bought our clothing at thrift stores.  And when it all got to be too much, we volunteered at a soup kitchen to remind us that there were others who had it far worse.

We couldn’t give up, though.  We had freshly promised before God and many witnesses to stick with each other “in plenty and in want.”  With some age and perspective on me now, I can see that God gave us that time of want as a wedding gift.

We were dependent upon each other for survival, so we learned trust.

We worked on our situation together, so we learned teamwork.

We had very little, so we learned the benefits of simplicity.

We couldn’t afford everything we needed, so we learned to set priorities.

We were desperate with worry, so we learned to depend on God.

I have heard it said that the purpose of marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy.  This weekend, my man and I will celebrate eighteen years of holy-making: sickness, health, plenty, want, better and worse.  (With all we’ve been through in the last eighteen years, we ought to be pretty “holy-fied” by now.  God is still working on us…)

Funny, it’s those early days I miss – days before kids and schedules and mortgages and careers.  Life was simpler then.

I have a feeling that our life will return to simplicity once again.  But by that time, the girl in the marshmallow wedding dress and the guy with the inappropriate moustache will be silver-haired and wrinkly.

And we will thank God for our most unusual wedding gift – a disguised blessing.

 wedding

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  (James 1:2-3, NIV)

P.S. This post was published at a coffee shop.  (Landscapers have seen to it that I have no internet.)  Your comment may not appear until tomorrow, when certain cut cables should be repaired.  :/  Thanks for your patience.  – wwh

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Scrooged

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to stress out this year.  Nope, I was going to float gently through the Christmas season, cheerily writing cards, happily buying and wrapping presents, and joyfully dancing through the month of December.  But I have also promised you from the very beginning that I would be honest.

Last week, you recall, I had just come back from a mountaintop experience that was sure to carry me though the entire Advent season.  This week, however, I am acting like Scrooge.

As a mom, spreading the joy of the season falls to me – not because my husband won’t help, but because of logistics.  He’s working many hours to support said joy.  My schedule is more flexible, so I write cards, attend school events, buy teacher gifts, grab that last minute Secret Santa gift for dance class, decorate the house, mail packages to six different domiciles, tend to sick children (Must they get sick in the month of December?!), and call the plumber because we have mud in our water.

When I went grocery shopping, I was already miffed at myself for leaving my grocery list on the kitchen table.  I slunk past the Salvation Army ringer because I always put money in the red bucket and I just didn’t feel like it this time. 

He knew how to get to me.  He pulled out a trumpet and started playing an off-key rendition of “Away in a Manger.”  (God bless him for playing out in the cold.)  I pushed my cart through the produce section, straining to remember what was on my list, trying desperately to block out “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in three different keys, and wondering if he’d stop if I put a fiver in the bucket.

I made it home in just enough time to put groceries away and hustle to school for the fourth grade recorder concert – which lasted all of fifteen minutes.  I went Christmas shopping, came home, and made what I thought was an excellent dinner (my children did not agree).  Then my older daughter came down with flu.  And the younger one was recovering from a mild concussion she sustained at basketball practice. 

I am officially down from the mountaintop.

I apologize for the rant.  My sense is, however, that you know exactly what I’m feeling.  You’ve been there. 

Here’s my plan.  I am going to take a little extra time to remember the most important gift of Christmas – the Christ.  I will listen to His still, small voice instead of the noise of this world.  I will feel His peace wash over me, and lift my burdens to Him.

Your turn!  In the comment box below, please supply a verse, or share what you do to keep your inner Scrooge at bay.  I’m all ears…

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I’ve never done it before.  My kids didn’t get it.  My husband only partially understood it.  This weekend, I joined three friends for an overnighter at a Franciscan retreat center.  We’re talking no TV, no internet, not even any music.  Just lots of opportunities to… well, I’ll get to that later.

I had such big plans.  I thought I might catch up on some writing, or study for some lessons I’ll be teaching.  I half-considered getting the Christmas cards out of the way.  Oh, yes.  Wendi the Responsible was going to get some work done.

Ha. 

Sometimes, God gives you what you need before you even know you need it. 

After a short hike in the woods, my friends and I sat down to lunch.  Just as we were finishing, I looked out the window.  Snow! 

Perfect, I thought.  I’ll grab a cup of joe, head to my room, pop open the laptop and get some writing done by the window.  But as soon as I sat down, all I could do was stare out at the snow.  I couldn’t move. 

I really need to work, I thought.  But…oh… look at the pretty, pretty snow…

The balance of the weekend went about like that.  I would pretend to study, write, or read.  Then I would find myself wanting not to do, but to be.

Sunday morning, I went into the chapel.  No one else was there.  Just me.  Just God.  I sat in the front row and looked up at the crucifix in front of the giant picture window.  There was no sound.  I didn’t know how to have church all by myself, so I whispered the Lord’s Prayer.  And that was good enough.

I kept replaying the story of Mary and Martha in my mind.  All my life, I have been a Martha – doing what I’m supposed to, doing what I think I’m supposed to, doing what other people think I’m supposed to – and sometimes going crazy for it.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV)

For once in my life, all I did was sit and look up at Jesus. I didn’t do anything.

Well, whaddaya know?  Somewhere underneath all of my hyper-responsible Martha-ness is a Mary who can simply sit at Jesus’ feet.

Maybe we all have this ability in us.  It’s just buried under too many expectations.

This Advent, choose what is better.

If you do, it will never be taken away from you.

4 Marthas turned Marys

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Across the street from an upscale neighborhood is a tiny, white, cinderblock house.  Its occupant, an older man in overalls and a John Deere cap, sits in a lawn chair beneath a large maple tree, watching the world go by.  When the weather is bad, he watches from the cab of his truck.  Sometimes, I see him tending his garden plot, but most days, he just watches.

I drive by his house every day.  I don’t know his name, but his mailbox reads, “Ernest and Lois T…”  I call him Ernie.

One day as he was watching me drive by, I decided to do something crazy.  I waved at him.  He gave me this look that said, “Who are you?  (Weird broad…)”

The next day, I did the same thing, with similar results.  But I persisted.  One day, he waved back.  Now, whenever we drive by, I say, “Wave to Ernie!” and we all wave.

I’ve never gotten the guts to stop my car and talk to him, but I do wonder.  What does he see from his lawn chair in the gravel driveway?  Did he watch as those big houses were being built across the street?  Did he once farm the land where those houses now sit?

As near as I can tell, Ernie doesn’t chase after the things of this world.  He lives a simpler life than the rest of us.  We run around like hamsters on a wheel, trying to get ahead.  We make it our business to acquire all the stuff we can.  We want to be on the cutting edge of technology.  We work way too many hours to support a lifestyle we can barely afford. 

And all the while, Ernie watches…

If Jesus rode a bike past his house, Ernie would see Him.  The rest of us would mutter under our breath about cyclists and play chicken with oncoming traffic to get around Him.  I think Ernie’s way is better.

Jesus taught that chasing after bigger and better material things only leads to disappointment.  Why?  Because they have a shelf life.  They will die, rot, rust, decay, get broken or be stolen.  And not one thing may be taken with us when we die.  Instead, we are to focus on the things of God.

If you happen to see Ernie watching as you drive by, give him a wave – or better yet, a salute. 

He’s got it right.

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  (Matt. 6:19-20, NKJV)

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I am being forced into changing with the times.  Needless to say, I haven’t been happy about it.  Last week, when our computer died, I had no idea what effect it would have on our household, my attitude – and what I would eventually learn from it.

I will not regale you with the particulars of our computer’s illness and ensuing death because that is boring, and we have better things to talk about.  But so that we are on the same page in the story, I’ll let you know that the machine’s passing necessitated us buying a new computer and software programs.  We are also grieving the loss of three years of financial data.  Poof.

(Insert sad violin music here.)

For the past seven days, I have spent so many hours and so much energy into trying to put things back the way they were.  It’s not happening.  It can’t.  So now I have a decision to make: what will my attitude be toward my changing circumstances?

After going crazy with frustration, I began to look for God’s fingerprints in the event.

First, I reasoned that God is somewhere in this because He is in every situation, big and small.  Second, I reminded myself that nothing comes to me without first passing through His fingers.  Third, since I know God is good, I can come to no other conclusion than that He intends to use this situation for my ultimate good.

I sat down and made a list of every possible positive outcome. To my surprise, I was able to list ten positive things about having a dead computer. 

Then, I began to list the lessons God may be trying to teach me.  (I have learned that many situations I perceive as “bad” are really learning opportunities.)  Well, wonder of wonders, I discovered some “fruits of the spirit.”  God, in His infinite love and understanding, was growing them in me – most notably peace and patience.

No, I am not joyful about the situation, but I am done freaking out.  I am no longer asking God to fix my hard drive, or magically make my data re-appear, or to have software programs that never become obsolete.  Instead, I find myself… giving thanks.

Thank you, God, for caring enough about me to teach me.

Thank you, God, for helping me to re-frame my circumstances.

Thank you, God, that You never change, even as the world changes at lightning speed.

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  (James 1:17, NIV)

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I am carrying a burden.  I’ve been doing it for years.  It seems that every year, it gets a bit heavier.  Today, I asked myself how long I intend to drag this thing around, this bag of bricks.  Maybe it’s time to lay it down.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a Class A Worrier, a summa cum laude graduate of The Institute for Gigantic Horrified Thinking (T.I.G.H.T.).  My husband’s response to this over the years has been to act as my foil and to not worry about anything.  This only serves to invoke my hyper-responsibility.  After all, if I don’t worry, who else will?

The more I worry, fret, and stew, the heavier my bag of bricks becomes.  Worse, my incessant worrying has become a habit, which, in turn, has almost become a way of life.

I said “almost.”

Fortunately, I’m not totally over the edge.  I do have the ability to get a grip once in a while, and I’m learning that it is not my responsibility to handle everything for everyone, or to protect all people from every threat, real or imagined.  It is not my job.  It is God’s.

Let’s say my child came to me and said, “Mom, I’m worried that we’re not getting a good enough interest rate on our mortgage,” or something similar.  That would be ridiculous.  She knows her parents take care of things like that.  If she did spend all her time fretting, I would feel badly for her.  I would want her to enjoy being a kid, and let us worry about grown-up things.  I would want her to be carefree and joyful.

God wants me to live without worry, too, and somewhere in my heart of hearts, I believe that He will always take care of me.  I believe it for you, so I should believe it for me.

I don’t know exactly how many times Jesus said, “Do not worry,” but I know He said it a lot.  (Makes me think maybe He meant it…)  Perhaps it is time for me to lay down this bag of bricks, and give it to Him to carry.  He promised He would.

We’re all lugging around a bag of bricks of some sort.  What kind of bricks are yours?

Are you ready to lay them down?

I pray we can both do that.

Today.

 

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”  (Psalm 68:19, NIV)

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