Monday, May 20, 2013

Bad Days and Tough Seasons

I woke up today after a nice long sleep and told myself that I'd find something to do to be productive.  My original plans have changed somewhat and so here I sit with a few extra hours and a whole lot going on in my head.  It is a quiet morning, with the exception of the fact that Riley, my shih tzu male, who is not even a year old acting like a belligerent teenager.  He's been picking on Dixie, my shih tzu female who is nine...who is being amazingly patient with him.  But I know what she's capable I just let them both out so that he can learn a lesson in what happens when you are a jerk.

Dixie really needs to school a whole lot of people, too, while she's at it.

I have the capacity to be a bit of a jerk myself.  I'm fairly certain that most everyone does.  Mostly when I am beyond a line that can get crossed.  A line that I cannot tell you the exact location of...but can tell you when you're over it.  I suppose that everyone has that line...some of us just go from "annoyance" to "sending out the flying monkeys" a lot faster than others.

From a faith perspective...we are to be long-suffering.  We are to not retaliate.  We are to let our grievances go.  We are to not give people the power over us that a bitter root or resentment will most certainly bring.  I know all of these things.  I've lived all of these things.  I've prayed Romans 12:17-21 over people and saw that it freed me from the desire to kick them in the throat or wish plagues of locusts on their houses.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That "heap burning coals" thing?  I'll be happens.  And as much as you think you'll enjoy seeing won't.  In fact, after praying blessings on someone you detest for a long period of time, you'll feel bad that you ever disliked them in the first place.  But I'm human, and sometimes I forget.  And sometimes someone is there to remind me.

I've spent the last 24 hours being a little bit enraged about something.  There are a few groups of people that I will defend to the point of being irrational...and my children, parents, and those who are being picked on...are at the top of that list.  But apparently, the moratorium on being enraged is a mere 24 hours...because this morning I've been reminded that hurting people hurt people...and in that context...I'm pretty much already over it...and really don't want to rehash it all again.

Not that I won't go all ninja on them if it comes up again.  Because that will totally happen.  

I think that we all have to stop and remember that life has its moments that are amazing and also its moments of pain.  But while we are living those moments, we have to remember that some people would trade our moments of angst for the seasons of heartache that they find themselves in.  It is one thing to have a bad night.  It is another thing entirely to have a bad year.  To get bad news on an almost daily basis...and to try to manage all of that while being strong for others.

I have a sweet friend who is in a season right now.  She is dealing with the needs of ailing parents and she is also working to care for her children who are in high school and college.  She has had so much pain flooding into her house that it is about to shut her down.  I've had friends with critically ill children, marriage issues, business failures, children with addiction problems, terminally ill parents, premature loss of their life mates, and the aftermath of accidental death and suicide to work through.  Those seasons seem to go on forever.  Sometimes you can take over a casserole, lend an ear, mow their front yard, or keep their kids for a few hours.  Other times, you can send a card, a gift card for food or a service, sit with them and hold their hand, or take them away for a weekend.  But more often than can only pray for them.  And that "only pray" part is extremely powerful.  Don't underestimate its impact.  That "only pray" can put the wheels in motion to have the people who are meant to serve them feel a stirring to do so.  That "only pray" can be the difference between a "handling it okay" morning and despair.  That "only pray" can open their eyes to the lessons that God is trying to teach them through it.  That "only pray" can be the balm that their raw hearts need as they take one painful step after another.

And then one day...they'll begin to heal.  A ray of sunshine will peek through the clouds.  A giggle will bubble forth.  A spring of joy will make its way to the surface.  Of course, sometimes, the healing seems to take forever.  But keep looking for the rainbow in the clouds.  It's just can't see it yet.

I hope that those of you walking through seasons won't let whatever difficulty it is define you.  I hope that you will ask yourself what it is that God is teaching you through it.  That you will grab the hands of comfort that are being offered you and say "yes" to whatever kindness someone can do for you instead of being too worried about accepting help or putting people off by being sad, depressed, or worried all of the time.  I believe that sometimes seasons are prolonged because people do not understand that it is at times like these that you need more people...not less.  Sure, you need some time to process and yes, it is faster and easier to do some things yourself.  But when you accept a gesture of love and support from someone gives that person some hope that they have done something to lighten your burden.  Eventually, you'll begin to feel a little lighter in the process.

But for those who are dealing with the days of something awful instead of a season...don't feel like you can't express yourself.  Take that rich soil of resentment away so that the bitter root has no soil in which to sprout.  I have found that it is far easier to get it out than to find a spiritual machete at some future point in time when the vegetation sprouted by that bitter root is in full bloom.

It kind of reminds me of that innocuous bamboo that a neighbor of my grandmother's planted to build a hedge between her backyard and his side yard.  I don't know if you know anything about bamboo...but it easily gets out of control...and it takes a whole lot of effort to keep it at bay.  During my growing up years, it would be cut back every so often...but as my grandmother got older...getting that managed in the backyard was less and less of a priority.  Until the day when those living in that neighbor's house complained to the City and action had to be taken.  

"A massive undertaking" would be an understatement.

So, if you are reading this today and you are fed up, sick of, mad about, done with, way beyond, past your point, or have exhausted your last nerve...hang in there.  Write a letter that you don't mail.  Give yourself some space to get over it.  Find someone who knows nothing of the situation and be irrational when you tell them what happened.  And after you do?  Get over it.

I am fortunate that I have a special friend who has no problem with me being in the irrational zone.  In fact, she enjoys seeing me riled up because it reminds her that she is not alone and that we are all bothered by things we cannot control.  Likewise, I will take her calls or e-mails as she vents about something that is going on...and we just "get" each other.  Usually, we end up cracking each other up...probably because she is one of the most hilarious people on the planet to me.  In fact, I got a text from her in yet another "fun" situation with our "codeword" at the end so that I know how much (not) she is enjoying whatever it is.  By the way, having a friend like that is really rare...and I'm very appreciative of her friendship for this reason...among others.  I don't have to pretend to be anything that I'm not...and I trust her.  I'm pretty certain that she would say the same about me.

Which is pretty great, by the way.

But I have other friends for companionship, shared interests, because we have kids the same age, those that we attend church with or Sunday school, or just because we've known each other forever.  That's all pretty great, too.  When you are going through a season of'll find that you have a few friends who cross over to be more than you would ever expect them to be...and others who seem to fade into the woodwork.  Don't feel defeated or angry with them if they do.  Just know that God is providing you with the people that He wants to serve you through that difficult time.  More often than won't be the ones you expect.  Some of us are either too overwhelmed with our own lives, too afraid to do or say the wrong thing, or dealing with our own "stuff."  But the right people will be there for you.  Don't resent those who aren't or break up a perfectly good friendship over it.  Just know that there are different shades of friendship just as there are different shades of pink.  

Some are deep and clear and vibrant...and others are pale and soft and subtle.  But both are pink as we define that word.  Friendships are just like that.  The person who won't visit you in the hospital will be the one who will have your back when you go through your divorce.  The person who won't know what to say as you go through your divorce will be the one who gets you to the gym and out of hibernation.  The one who won't darken the door of the gym because they would rather have a gynocological visit or a root canal instead will be the one who will bring food to your house.  The one who won't bring food to your house will be the one who will visit you in the hospital. seems to work like that.  

To all of you going through a day of angst...just pray about it and it will pass.  For those of you going through a season...know that help is on the way.  In fact, when I've gone through my seasons...I have prayed the following over and over...and it helps...(Philippians 4:6-7):

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Just don't forget the "with thanksgiving" part.  Praise Him for all that He has done for you and expect that peace.  And it will come.

It really will.

Now that I've done a little "bitter root" gardening this morning...I'm off to do the other 4,938 things on my "to do" list.  Have a great - and blessed - day.  

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