Stuff of Life

Okay, so I had this thought all planned out and everything has been settling in my mind for the past few day; then today happened.  Have you ever had one of those days that just challenges you on every single front?  That was my day today, and suddenly being “inspirational” about anything didn’t seem so reasonable.

I know that I tend to focus on one thing, like a dog with a bone.  I get it in my head and I can’t let go, regardless of what else is happening around me.  That was happening to me today.  I chose (yes, the thoughts I have are chosen by me) to dwell on one thing that happened today. By replaying it often enough, I brought myself completely down and made it so I was tuning out all the things that God was trying to tell me. Looking back across it, I can see how he was using other people to whisper to me in encouraging ways.  Let me share with you how my day played out.

I had arranged to have a conversation with a co-worker early in the morning before the school day started.  I needed to try to repair some damage that I had caused to our relationship at the end of last year.  That unfortunate circumstance was a result of my not submitting to my boss and not trusting her advice on how to handle something.  (Submission issues seem to be a recurring theme for me.)  I wasn’t feeling very sure of myself or how the conversation would play out, so I literally spent the entire drive to work (45 minutes) in prayer about it, and that was on top of the 20 minutes or so that I prayed while getting ready.  Sadly, that relationship can’t be repaired; all actions have consequences and some of them are very long-lasting.  Still sadder is that part of the reason that I didn’t want to follow my boss’s advice was because this coworker and I were finally making headway last year toward developing a friendship.

When our conversation ended, I chose to make myself crazy by dwelling on what wasn’t instead of what was.  I was mourning the loss of what I hoped I could restore and playing comments over and over in my mind.  Pretty soon our “words of wisdom” (the closest thing a public school can get to a Bible verse) came over the intercom.  Today they were talking about facing your fears and growing from them.  I tried really hard to tune that out because I wasn’t done with my pity party.  A little bit of a seed got planted, but I wasn’t going to water it yet.  I wasn’t done focusing on the things I could use as weapons against myself.  (I’ve always been extraordinarily good at beating myself down.)

Next thing you know the kids started coming in and I had to be “on” for them.  It was no longer about me and my feelings, but about their needs.  I didn’t have time to continue to dwell in the spot I had put myself emotionally, and by focusing on them I found that my mood had lifted by quite a bit.  Several rotations of children and a quick conversation with someone I respect passed and it was time for lunch.

Lunch also gave me time to return to my thoughts.  Knowing that I’m supposed to be in control of them, I did the best thing I could think of and prayed before I thought my first thought.  Now that really was helpful – it didn’t necessarily change the thoughts that I had, because of course I was rehashing the same ones from earlier in the day, but it did change my perspective on my thoughts.  Those words of wisdom from the morning came back and were starting to bloom because my respected friend had watered them with her own truth to me.  I desperately needed to hear the words she had for me, even if I couldn’t process them until a couple hours later.

When I replayed the conversation from early morning in my head during lunch, I listened with a different heart and found that I could grow through the difficulty.  Some things were pointed out to me that I hadn’t known before and they were hurtful to hear, but it got me thinking about the why behind it.  I was able to make peace with the fact that I am different than other people and I have a pretty good idea about the real reason behind those differences.  The thing that I need to focus on is my behavior and acting with integrity all the time; I think that’s a pretty rare commodity in this world and I think it makes people uncomfortable.  That’s a different topic.

The idea I’m getting at here is that we need to be aware of all the avenues God provides us with to get strength throughout our day.  We live in an imperfect world and everyone is going to screw up.  Everyone is going to have to apologize and everyone is going to have to live with the consequences of his or her actions.  But God doesn’t leave us there.  He is constantly offering a way up and out of the hole we’ve managed to dig for ourselves, we just have to pay attention.

After my lunch think session it was back to the kids and no time to process further until the end of the day.  As I was driving to the nursing home to visit my mother those negative thoughts started coming back, but I was ready for them.  I short-circuited their attempt to drag me down by asking for a bit of help in prayer and turning up the radio.  Instead of showing up with a crummy attitude I was able to enjoy a visit with my mom.  She has dementia, so for her a good day is a treasure.  She was able to interact with me, although the conversation is always one-sided.  When I left it was with kisses and a promise that she would eat dinner for the nurses.

My day didn’t magically “go away” nor did I get a “do-over” just because I prayed.  The consequences of my choices are still mine to deal with, but it was once again reinforced that I need to look first to God to change me and my heart.  I am the only person that I can control, and I have my hands full enough trying to do that!  All I can do is model my life the best I can after the way Jesus lived, and when things get tough I need to look around because He’s always right there ready to help.  I just have to accept that help instead of being picky about the kind of help I’m expecting.  He’s there.  He’s good.  He loves me and won’t leave me floundering.  All I have to do is believe.  That’s all you have to do too.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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