Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another year is dawning

Over the past two to three months, Chuck preached a series he titled "What If...?" The last message, "What If You Were to Die Tonight?" was supposed to take place on 12/8/13, but the ice storms pushed it out two weeks (We had the pleasure of experiencing the Christmas concert during church last week since it also had to be rescheduled, and it was a full house for both services!).

In a sobering way, I think (well, I know) it was providential for this message to be the last one of 2013 and lead us into the new year. Thinking about death - its inevitability, its mystery, its unpredictable nature - brings life into perspective. It makes me think differently about what happened this year, what I'm anxious about in the coming year, and what I hope for in life.

With the impending flip of the calendar into the new year in mind, we also sang a well-chosen hymn that can be a strong prayer for 2014: "Another Year is Dawning."

"Another year is dawning, Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting, Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress, Another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness, In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training For holier work above.
Another year is dawning, Dear Father let it be,
On earth or else in heaven, Another year for Thee."

These words stood out to me the most:

  • In working or in waiting...
  • Another year of progress...
  • Another year of leaning...
  • Another year of trusting...
  • Another year of training...

In looking ahead to the coming year, I can see areas of my life that will include each of these - waiting, progress, leaning, trusting, training. And I'm sure there are areas that are not on my radar that will require one or more. 

May I be open to all of these growth opportunities in the coming year. And may you be open to everything the Lord wants to do in your heart and life in 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

You've got mail

It's about time I took a few days off from work. Best decision so far? Changing the settings on my phone to see only my personal email instead of "all" email (which included work). I really dislike having "unread" email in my inbox, so it was hard to come to terms with not keeping track of incoming mail and deleting/filing/responding to it in the moment. Even if I planned to only look and not respond, I know myself well enough to know that seeing the content of the emails would stir up thoughts in my mind about what needed to be done when I actually could address some of the emails, and that would take away any sense of freedom over the next few days. Does your mind work like that?

Like I said - best decision.

Yesterday reminded me of what life was like prior to three months ago. I spent a leisurely 3 1/2 hours with a sweet friend at La Madeleine. We caught up on Christmas activities and recent happenings, shed some tears but laughed the tears to shame, and shared prayer requests.

I had TIME. Time to run errands or just browse. Time to linger. Time to not feel rushed. Time to read. Time to clean. Time to cook.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I once read a translation that worded the first phrase, "Teach us to make the most of our time..." In our personal lives, we often associate "making the most of our time" as not wasting time, which is typically defined as laziness or sleeping in. In the workplace, not "making the most of your time" may mean laziness or it could actually mean you just couldn't cram enough stuff in a certain amount of time. You could be doing all the right things but just didn't get the project completed in time. Some people may criticize that you didn't work enough hours or that you shouldn't have taken lunch, etc.

But what if we redefined "making the most of our time?" What if it meant resting when our bodies need it and working more reasonable schedules? As a colleague of mine says, "The emails will still be there tomorrow."

Why do I feel like I have to respond to everything as soon as it happens? Honestly? I feel the need to respond real-time for a number of reasons:
  • Yes, it WILL still be there tomorrow, but so will 50 other emails. If I don't resolve it now, it will continue to pile up.
  • In my profession, a lack of response could affect someone's health and wellness, in some cases.
  • I'm a people-pleaser - I want to take care of things as quickly for others as I would like them to be taken care of for me.
  • Everyone thinks their needs are a top priority.
But life is more than work. God created us with five senses so we could enjoy things: see a sunset, smell the flowers, taste chocolate, feel the cool sheets as we slide into bed at night, and hear the morning songs of the birds. If we're working all the time, we can't enjoy these things.

Let's work on finding a better balance - making better use of our time. Work hard and well for the Lord, and then relax and play hard...for the Lord.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Making good use of ice

It's been over two years since the ice storm of 2011 here in the Dallas area. Two years since I moved apartments during one of the coldest winter storms I've ever experienced. The bitter cold of that storm gradually faded, although there are certain things I'll always remember:

  • my car sliding on a sheet of ice on the way to work the next day
  • the heat going out in one apartment while moving into another (yes, my sister and I moved apartments during the ice storm - crazy!)
  • red noses and blue finger tips
  • renewed appreciation for central heating

Now, almost three years later, we just survived "Icemageddon" or "Icepocalypse" 2013, and what a storm! Sheets of ice covering the roads, icicles encapsulating leaves and hanging off gates and roofs, and the icy fingers of the chilling wind poking through jackets and sweaters. In many regards, it was a nuisance of a storm. One or two days of being homebound was tolerable. It gave us all a chance to lounge in our pj's, pad around in thick socks, and eat comfort food.

After two days, though, feelings started to change. My Facebook feed was full of friends who were stir crazy or without power or food. Schools remained closed for a few more days, the highways were treacherous to maneuver on the way to work, and black ice caught both drivers and pedestrians by surprise.

Looking back at the storm, it is easy to think about how frustrating it was and how it inconvenienced many, forced the rescheduling or cancellation of plans, led to hospital visits, and caused heartache for those who lost loved ones. I doubt very few would look back on this storm fondly.

As I walked outside today, the sounds of melting filled my ears. I heard dripping and running water - saw it sliding off trees and buildings. The ice sheets that once covered driveways are now melting into the yards.

And what was once a treacherous, painful, inconvenient ice storm is now a source of nourishment and replenishment.

The analogy filled my heart today as I've experienced my own "ice storm" these past many weeks. How will God use this time to nourish me? To develop character? To grow me into the woman He wants me to be?

When I ask myself these questions, I am less frustrated with the storm and more curious with the outcome. May we be receptive to how He plans to use the ice storms in our lives.

Psalm 90:12