Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

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The world we live in is an amazing thing of beauty and wonder. It’s the big stuff of our lives. So I’m trying to convince myself not to sweat the small stuff. We paid dearly for a brand, spanking new refrigerator that was delivered yesterday. It was a fancy one, too, one that we purchased after much serious consideration. So today, we are sitting here with this fancy refrigerator full of ruined food. It didn’t work properly and a freezer and refrigerator full of food is lost.

I am fuming while the store tries to locate a technician. In the meantime, we had to put off a weekend trip waiting on the refrigerator outcome. So that’s “the small stuff” I am dealing with today.

So let me put it all in perspective for myself. Last year at this time I was in the hospital with a life-threatening infection. When I got over the worst of it, I could not care for myself. A wonderful therapist worked with me and helped me learn how to walk and write again. It was a slow and tedious process and just to get through daily activities, I had to have the help of a very special husband.

So this really is “small stuff” in the big scheme of my life. I thank God for the wonder of the earth and for ordinary days, even when things go wrong. And I’ll keep teaching myself not to sweat the small stuff.

Courage to Embrace Change

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Getting from the cocoon to the butterfly calls for a change in the insect’s very being. It can teach us a great deal about change when we realize that out of a dark, enfolding cocoon, a butterfly takes flight and experiences a new world. Leaving my home after 33 years was an enormously difficult life change. Moving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Macon, Georgia was quite a challenge.

Eckhart Tolle has said that although some changes look negative on the surface, perhaps space is being created in a person’s life so that something new and exciting can emerge. His words somewhat take the sting out of the process of change. It is not unusual for a person to resist change or dread it. Change can be difficult. Change can upset one’s equilibrium. Change can upset us when we have settled in to life’s status quo.

It is true that most of us fear change whether the change alters our work, our home, our family, our relationships or any part of life that has become comfortable. Here’s what happens. Just when were set in our ways, when we least expect it, life sets before us a challenge to test our courage to change. We usually fight it for all we’re worth, pretending that nothing has happened, insisting that we’re not ready, declaring that the change is not good for us or anyone else. We fight and resist until we learn the hard way that resisting does not stop the change.

What if we just allow ourselves to move with the flow and gently move into the change we dread? What if we had the strength of will to face a sudden change head on, without flinching or fighting? What if we let the change happen in us? What if we learn to look at change in the way Terry Pratchett describes in A Hat Full of Sky: the ability to see where we have been and where we are with new eyes and extra colors.

The truth is that change is growth. Change is a remedy against stagnancy. Change may well be a way to embrace something new that will eventually cause us to be more alive, more aware, more self-actualized and self-confident.

Each time we embrace change and make it through, we become stronger for it. When are willing to do something differently, to meet different people, to go to different places . . . even to embrace a self reborn, er are embracing change.

About two years ago, I went through a very painful life and career change. It was not a change I chose, but one that was forced upon me in a rather unfriendly manner. For a while, I honestly thought I could not survive it. I definitely did not see it as being something that was good for me.

To be honest, the change was NOT good for me in many ways. But two years later, I have found one way that it was good for me. I did not realize it but I had lost some of my creative spirit. The change forced me to either languish or to allow my creativity to be renewed and restored. I learned something about myself that was important to know. I learned, in spite of all the weeping and wailing, that I do have the courage to start over and that starting over is not so bad.

So I’m for looking deep within myself and finding the courage to embrace change when it comes. I hope you will do the same.

Seeing Clearly

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We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows.

1 Corinthians 13:12 Β -The Message Bible

Often I don’t see things clearly. Sometimes my spirit is low and I feel the beginnings of sadness. It is as if there is a fog hindering my vision, as if I am trying to see through a mist. Fortunately these times of sadness are infrequent for me. But in those times when I worry about what’s happening around me, the mist engulfs me.

God’s desire is for the fog to clear for us and for the sun to shine brightly over us. God wants us to see clearly, to know God in all of God’s glory.

Rainbow in the Sunset

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They say that in every sunset there is a rainbow. I looked up the science behind this and found several very complex explanations, explanations that don’t make much sense to the general public. Β Meteorologists understand the phenomenon. I just understand the sheer, magical beauty.

It’s better that way, because I can marvel at yet another of God’s astounding miracles. I can view the image of a divine portrait painting the sky in color, and give thanks to a creative God.

This is the same God who hears our every prayer and listens when we speak of our concerns. This is the same God that holds us close when we are troubled and reminds us again and again of the grace that restores our hope.

I’ll be on the lookout for the rainbow in the next sunset.

A Wilderness Prayer

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My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which you have redeemed. Β – Psalm 71:23

At times, God, this wilderness journey I call life becomes long and hard. There are stones in the road and mountains to climb. There are paths that seem to go on forever, leading nowhere.

And then there is the baggage I am carrying with me . . . heavy, cumbersome, oppressive, more burden than I can possibly haul around. How will I make this journey? Where will I find the strength to walk such rough roads and climb such steep pathways?

God of my long journey, where will I find streams of life-giving water in the desert? When will I make peace with the past and open my spirit to healing grace? When will I pick myself up from the dusty roadside and walk on to better days? When will my mourning turn to music?

Walk beside me when I must travel rough patches, God. Lead me, in sunshine and in shadow.

When my aloneness disheartens me, give me companions and friends.

Fill my soul with hope’s music and give me the heart to sing. Amen.

Welcome the Night

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Victor Hugo spoke of meditating under the solemn night with a million stars to inspire. He wisely explained what he called “thatΒ mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.” Meditation can happen anytime, of course. But there is something about a night sky that can take us to the shores of our spirit. There we can heal the soul of its wounds.

The sight of the stars moves us to dream, to hope, to contemplate all that is both well and troublesome within us. I can survive most any day, but the night has a certain power over me. In the darkness, I can either feel content knowing all is well, or I can feel despondent wondering when the light of day will come. The night can make us fearful. Yet written on a plaque at the Allegheny Observatory are inscribed the words, “We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

So I want to learn to welcome the night as a more silent season of introspection and inspiration. I want to love sleepless nights, not dread them. I want to believe in the presence of God in my darkest hours.

If you find yourself dreading the night, meditate on the words of N.P. Willis, “There they stand, the innumerable stars, shining in order like a living hymn, written in light.”

Comfort in the Valley

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Even though I walkΒ through the darkest valley,Β I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;Β your rod and your staff,Β 
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 | NIV

I love the mountaintop where it’s bright and fresh and one feels on top of the world. But life cannot be all mountaintop experiences. There are valleys to cross, and sometimes they are dark valleys. The Bible speaks of the darkest valley, the valley of the shadow of death. People walk that valley in times of great trouble.

My husband walked that kind of valley a year ago when he thought he was losing me. He walked it alone. Certainly, there were caring people around, but the impending loss was so personal that he was walking the valley alone.

He got through it, and I like to think that GodΒ was walking beside him, comforting him with the rod and staff. Today, I am thankful that no matter how dark the valley we must walk, God is with us, comforting us with every step. Yes, valleys are low and they can be dark, but often there are streams of living water to refresh us on the journey.

There is glory on a mountaintop, but there is grace-filled comfort in a valley.

Faith Is Not Magic

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 KJV

Faith is not about magic. The world we live in is not a magical world of fairies, unicorns and genies. We cannot wish away our troubles and expect our life difficulties to magically disappear. Wishing upon stars, looking for fairy dust, rubbing a bottle that’s supposed contain a genie . . . We know all too well that those are remedies that do not change the course of our lives. That which really does alter the course of our lives is definitely not magic, but itΒ isΒ mystery and miracle.Β It is a treasure that God has given us. That is mystery and miracle.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .

We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

From 2 Corinthians 4

Breathe Deeply in Faith

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Oh God, teach me to breath deeply in faith. Β –Β SΓΈren Kierkegaard

Sometimes you just can’t breathe. There is something so heavy on your heart that getting a deep breath is impossible. When I was a crisis counselor, I worked with hundreds of women who had been physically and/or sexually assaulted. As I sat with them in the hospital, the one statement they made most frequently was, “I can’t breathe.”

There is no easy remedy, but there is a way to find your breath again. Β First of all, take several deep, slow, cleansing breaths as you sit in a quiet place. Say to yourself a brief prayer like the one by Kierkegard, Oh God, teach me to breathe deeply in faith.

For me, there is no better place to learn to breathe again than a beautiful place in God’s world. I would always choose the ocean with the warm breezes and the sound of the tide. If you need to breathe, find your own calming place, even if it is your own back yard, and begin to center yourself in faith. It works.

The Morning Star Rises in Your Heart

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2 Peter 1:19 (NIV)

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Sometimes the heart is still and not filled with much joy. I have a friend who describes sad feelings by saying, “It hurts my heart.” I have always been able to identify with her statement, especially when my heart feels heavy. Sometimes several days pass, and through them all, I have a heavy heart. The causes are endless . . . worrying about my children and grandchildren, worrying about poor health, worrying about the cost of healthcare and prescription medications, simply worrying about the process of getting older and the toll it takes.

I know this . . . one can’t go long with a heavy heart. The heaviness has to lift and joy has to creep back in. The miracle of our faith is that it does happen. The heaviness dissipates and the heart, once again, experiences the feeling of hope.

I love the way the Bible describes it: “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart.”