What they don’t tell you

My walk in the woods

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth…….Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here is what no one tells you about retirement, or semi-retirement whichever the case may be. It’s a little bit like marriage, first comes the honeymoon stage. Everything is exhilarating and exciting with a little bit of disbelief at your good fortune thrown in. Then comes the next phase where reality sets in. Things are still good, mind you, they are just more real. You realize that it takes a certain amount of work.

You realize that with most things, freedom (or bliss) isn’t free. With any kind of happiness, there is a responsibility thrown in with it.

I am finding that in many ways, retirement comes with its own kind of responsibility and that in some ways, working was easier. I didn’t say better, I just said easier. When you are under the “umbrella” of the corporate giant, pretty much everything is taken care of. The devil is in the details and you don’t have to think about them.

All of a sudden someone has just thrown you the reins to the stagecoach, or rather, you took the reins willingly and that can be scary as hell. It reminds me of how I used to feel on a stretch of Highway 87 on the way up to Payson, Arizona. There is a vista that opens up as you round the bend and it used to take my breath away just for a second. I think I’m a little bit Agoraphobic, (that’s the fear of open spaces.)

You have to be okay with owning your own destiny and taking care of all those little details you didn’t have to worry about before. You learn things about yourself. Now I am learning how to appreciate and navigate the open spaces.

I am learning that I don’t do well without a plan. My tendency is to drift. A little bit of that is okay. But then the time comes to get a rhythm going, to pick up the pace. Get the ball rolling. Like right now. I was going to wash the car and it’s already past 10. Soon it will be too hot. My list is sitting where I can see it. Blogging wasn’t on it.

And yesterday, I was in a kind of black hole. My prayer was short right before I sent myself off to sleep, “Jesus, I’m in a real fix here.” Because even though I know that He gave me the definite answer I needed when I was making the big decision, now I feel like I have to make it all work. In short, I put myself on the throne again.

Today is a new day, thankfully. And I am figuring this retirement thing out. I am still oh so very grateful and I know that I know that I know, it was the right decision. And I also know that my prayer life is more important than ever. That won’t change. Now I can start everyday with prayer and that is a great thing.

And this morning, I awoke in a good mood, a hopeful mood. I am thankful for every little thing. I know that I didn’t lift myself out of the funk, it was His grace that did. And that is cause for praise.

He’s here, and He has a plan. It’s working out.

Living and dying and everything in between

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At 3:30 AM the cat yowled to be fed. I am used to it, he is an old man with special needs. I think he might be suffering from hyperthyroidism. He wants to eat round the clock and I let him. I don’t want to put him through all kinds of tests, vet visits are traumatic for him, so at this point I will keep feeding him. After stumbling back to bed I was wide awake. Thinking about mortality. I asked God how on earth I will handle this little furry creature’s death when it comes. Then I asked how I will ever handle Mom and Dad’s when their time comes.

Then I thought, who will be alive to care when it’s my turn? And then I thought about their obituaries and what they will say……then I thought of my own.

And I wrote them all in my head, including my own.

And poor Elaine, I am celebrating her Birthday today, what a morbid post for her special day. But then writers can’t control the flow of thoughts and words that come, so I will try my best to weave all these tangled threads together somehow. She understands me, bless her.

Of course the answer to the question of how I will deal with any of it is: “With God, with God.” Well, He kind of whispered, “With me, with me.” Life is fleeting and oh so precious. People ask why I make a big deal about Birthdays, but I do it because we aren’t guaranteed another one, that’s why. So I try to remember the important ones.

So many people quietly enter and exit the stage door of life every single day. Some with much fanfare and some with barely a parting of the curtain. Like small pebbles dropped into a pond, only a ripple tells you something just happened.

But one thing I know is that God personally celebrates each life. None are more important than the next, all are equal to Him, and all equally worth celebrating.

I am thinking of a dear friend who just passed into Heaven not long ago. She was dearly loved by all who knew her. She loved life and living it. I read her obituary and everything in it was true, and although her family is deeply grieving and missing her, they know where she is and that is great cause for hope.

So today, as I celebrate my very best friend’s Birthday……”Happy Birthday, Elaine!” I am also thinking of our other friend Ginny and honoring her life and her memory. For I know she would dearly love to still be here with her friends and family, and yet even they wouldn’t ask her to leave the incredible beauty that surrounds her now.

It’s a perfectly beautiful day down here, a perfect day for a Birthday. A perfect day to love life and living it. Gotta go and do some celebrating now, and of course, a German Chocolate cake is waiting to be baked.

“Where’s my cake?” The Birthday girl just walked by and asked.

“It’s coming, it’s coming!” I said. But bloggers gotta blog.

She knows me so well.

 

 

Love is always the right answer

Weighing in on the side of Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7 The MSG

4:00 AM Prayer:

What a mess I am, God. I don’t love nearly enough or nearly the right way. I let petty things get in the way far too often. I miss way too many opportunities. I’m too critical of people and I am tired of it, I just want to love. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down because tearing down can become a habit. But so can building up. Can it be that simple? Help me to have peace and let me get a glimpse of You in this still hour while everyone else is asleep. Help me to fall asleep for just a while. Stop these thoughts, quiet my mind. Jesus……Jesus……Jesus.

Right after I prayed that prayer I allowed my mind to fill with a vision of what life would be like if we all truly lived by the Spirit and allowed Him to control our words, our deeds, our plans. And while I was still pondering that I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke with an indescribable feeling of what could only be described as a “golden peace.” It was as if my heart was lit from the inside out, and I felt the peace that I recognized as the one only God can give.

I write this as if it happened just this morning but it didn’t. It happened as I lay awake on my brother’s couch last week the 17th of May. And I am still trying to piece together just what I dreamed because I can’t remember a thing, only that wonderful peace when I awoke. We get those gifts sometimes and when we do we are always amazed. I am anyway.

I never got a WWJD bracelet when they came out, but in any given situation should we not ask ourselves that question? More importantly maybe we should ask: “How would Jesus love in this situation?” This culture we are in, it’s not a culture of love. All we have to do is look at the headlines. Really, has any culture ever been about love?

Peter sliced a guy’s ear off when they came to arrest Jesus. But somewhere between that time and when he died (tradition says by crucifixion upside down) he learned how to love like Jesus did. I can’t even get my mind wrapped around that kind of love. I have a very long way to go.

But that peace I experienced that morning, and the joy and wonder and grace I experience so often tell me that Jesus still loves me this I know.

We’re all broken and in need of healing. If only we would let down our walls long enough to turn towards each other and help each other mend. That’s the Spirit of reconciliation God wants and desires for each one of us. Especially in the church.

Too much of what we take part in here in our modern world is unnatural–that’s why we don’t have peace. We don’t even know how to get it. In reading the Psalms, praying in the quiet hours and spending time outdoors we can begin to relearn what we have forgotten.

Teach me to love, God. Teach me to love. And thank you for loving me.

I Stand Amazed

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Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

To those for whom Mother’s Day is painful

Something Worth Singing About

This is for those who for one reason or another, can’t wait for Mother’s Day to be over. I am not saying Mothers shouldn’t be honored, what I am saying is that Mothers everywhere, well good Mothers anyway, should be honored every single day. I also believe non-Mothers and those who wish to be Mothers, and those who may not have their own kids, but are Mothers to other Mother’s kids every single day should be honored every single day.

Don’t get me wrong. My own Mom made celebrating it easy, but I believe I am in the minority. My Grandmother, on the other hand, made my Mom dread Mother’s Day. Picking a card was always a nightmare. It’s all so complicated, this relationship we have right from the beginning. My Grandma lost a child and something makes me think that marked her for life. Maybe she felt that if she showed affection to her other kids that meant she was forgetting Annie.

Here is something you should never say to a woman who has not physically borne a child. “You don’t understand, you’ve never had children.” This is a barb that sinks deep, for it makes someone feel diminished, less than. It seeks to lift oneself over another, even if it’s unintentional. That very same woman you just wounded may just be the first to step out in front of a car for your child. That very same woman may have put herself in the path of physical jeopardy for the sake of saving a child, you just never know. I have seen women literally shrink, fold into themselves after comments such as these, I know, I have felt it myself.

This, of course, is not to minimize the importance of parenting. I believe it’s one of the hardest jobs anyone will ever do. Believe me, I believe good Moms and Dads are the hallmark of a healthy society. All of us single and childless people, divorced people, widowed people support you, we really do.

Last night, we were sitting around the fire and out of the blue Elaine looked at me pointedly and said,”I am not going to go to church tomorrow and watch all the Mothers be recognized and parade around like peacocks.” This will be her first Mother’s Day without her Mom.

To this I said jokingly, “Maybe they should have whips in the corners of the church for us non-Mothers who wish to self-flagellate.” Well, actually I got it wrong the first time, I said self-flatulate. We had a little laugh about that, after I explained the history of self-flagellation in the church.

Anyway, all this to say, be mindful and pray for all those who may be hurting this Mother’s Dad. And celebrate, yes……go out to lunch, make the most of you, let yourself be honored. I sent my Mom flowers and wish I could have seen her face when they came.

I will pray for all the Mothers (and Dads) out there, for your job is hard and it never really ends. I will also pray for those who prayed and cried and wished for kids who never came. And those who raised Nephews or took on Foster kids and never were honored enough.

I pray for those who lived through the unspeakable pain of having a child take their own life. I pray for special strength and grace for that, for it’s the worst thing I can imagine.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Treasure her if you still have her. If you are a Mom, bask in your day. And know this, that even neglectful, careless, disconnected, emotionally unavailable Mom’s may have been doing the very best they knew how to do at the time.

Today is an opportunity for us all to extend Grace to each other.

 

Hope in every morning.

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God is still in control, in case your’re wondering. The morning bird’s hopeful song ushers in the day, not questioning whether to sing. In joyful exultation, he sings because God made him to sing. He finds reason enough in the birth of the new day.

God put the song there so who am I to doubt? The evening bird assures me as well, with his solitary song at dusk. This small fact astounds me. One bird and one only to bring in the sunrise, and one only to close out the day.

The Master Creator unfurls His sunrise and sunset like a banner across the sky. Genesis repeats itself, it is finished and it is very good. Who am I to say God isn’t in control?

Who am I to say there is no hope?

Lori A. Heyd

And here is a little nugget of truth I found in Proverbs today, I don’t remember ever reading it before:

The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:5-9

Winds of Change

 

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I laid in bed listening to the hum of traffic out on the road. I wanted to revel in the sameness of things the way they’ve been for the last 11 or so years for a few more minutes. To let the cocoon of the wonderful comfortable rhythm of days the way they’ve been wrap itself around me for a little while longer. I am aware that today is different. Today my retirement may be accelerated. The plan might be kicked up a notch. 

Today is the day the email will drop, the one everyone at work has been waiting for. The one that will announce the changes and what if anything it means for us here in Arizona. What it might mean for me. My work phone is on the charge by my bed. Usually I shut it off all weekend. But this morning, I wanted to see the message first thing.

Funny isn’t it? How you can pray and pray for something and then when it comes down to maybe actually having it answered, you dig your heels in at the last and a little part of you is afraid that it may not happen and also afraid that it will.

This is what I saw when I finally opened it:

“You are eligible to participate in the Enhanced Retirement Program (ERP).” And then a long explanation about restructuring and reinvesting and growth in the company.

All I kept thinking is how amazing God is. Just when I decided to retire at the end of year, this comes in. And it’s a good offer. The timing leaves me in awe once again of how He works. All the times I prayed, and cried and wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying. And later, in prayer in my little shed, this is what my devotional said:

“Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.” Jesus Calling April 25

All day long the wind howled between the houses as if to mimic change blowing in. It picked up strength mid-morning and never wavered. My allergies kicked up something fierce. Elaine came home looking like she’d been in a war. She said driving the bus was like wrestling all day. And then she had to wipe boogers off the seat and window…….

At the end of the day, the wind finally stopped. I sat out for a little while on the little deck, wondering about the road ahead. I can relate to Mary in Scripture when it says, she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I spend a lot of time pondering things in my heart. I guess that’s what writers do before the words make it to the page.

Today, I stand amazed at all He’s done and continues to do in our lives. I may not know all the ins and outs of how it’s all gonna play out, but I know He’s with us. And I know He’ll never leave us. And He won’t leave you either, my friend.

He’s in it for the long haul.