Last week was a tough one for me. I woke up on Monday morning with a sense of foreboding that just would not go away. By the time I tripped over [and cursed to high heaven] the dog for the umpteenth time, I knew something was up. The shower didn’t wash away my funk. A steaming cappuccino should have done the trick, but just managed to upset my stomach. And so, as the train took me away from the beach, into the City for another work day, I found not much more than a sigh as I watched LA life fly past the windows that separated my insanity from the real world.
Why is it that just when you think things can’t get worse, they invariably do? I made it through Monday and Tuesday and was almost through Wednesday when I got the call that the little one was acting out at school and had been threatened with suspension. I’m a fixer by nature and with that completely insane notion comes the responsibility of figuring out why something broke in the first place. And so I stressed about why he was doing what he was doing. Was it because he’s a statistic of a broken home? Am I a bad parent? Does he not get enough discipline? Does he get too much discipline? I fell into bed before eating, too stressed to care about food. Thursday seemed as though it would be a better day, but by that evening, even worse news hit. SUSPENDED! Great! On top of that came the news that my insurance company had decided to cancel my auto insurance. I couldn’t deal with anything more! It really was too much! I climbed into bed.
Friday dawned a dreary, rainy day which is weird for Los Angeles. Something was afoot! I knew it! I had known it all week in fact. As I peeked out on the soggy landscape, it all came back to me! I was a screw up! My doldrums were in full swing when the phone rang, announcing a number I did not recognize. The number, it turned out, of a friend! A friend I really don’t even know but a friend none-the-less who reminded me that I’m not alone; that things aren’t completely falling apart and that I’m surrounded by the grace of God. I wasn’t able to really spend any quality time on the phone with this friend, but the comments stayed with me throughout the day. As the day thankfully drew to a close and I climbed into bed, the words of I Peter 5:7 wrapped themselves around me like a warm blanket –
Live carefree before God, he is most careful with you!
Over the weekend, I began to feel my mood lifted. The sun peeked through the clouds and danced on the waves off my front porch. The wind whispered a fragrant song through the orange trees in my backyard. Somewhere or somehow, I quit feeling as if I was standing on the precipice looking down into a dark, bottomless ravine. I began to feel warmth again and a sense of hope. And at some point I realized that I had been given a gift! I had been given the gift of peace. Peace of spirit in the midst of trouble. Peace of mind in the middle of stress. Peace of heart in when it felt like it wanted to break. When had it managed to sneak up on me? I don’t remember accepting the gift of grace that Ephesians 4:7 says is given to each of us according to Christ’s generosity. Grace is a funny thing in that when we accept it into our lives, it rather permeates everything and it shows up in some really interesting ways. When I forget to live in that grace, I find that I’m less than gracious to others, I have less peace in my life and my tolerance for other people and their struggles goes out the window. We are told to pursue peace with all people and yet, how can I do that when I’m not at peace in my own life?
I am reminded that when things get tough, it is really easy for me to focus on the negative. The more I focused on the garbage happening all around me, the more debilitated I became, in fact, I became fatalistic in my thinking, expecting the sky to really cave in at any blasted moment. After I hung up from that unexpected phone call, I made conscious effort to quit focusing on the negative [the handicap] and to begin appreciating the gift [II Corinthians 12:9]. Sometimes all it takes to change my world is the conscious effort of taking my mind away from the negative (where it loves to stay apparently) and shifting it over to an acknowledgment of, and an appreciation for, the gift of grace from God, and the gifts of love, prayer and support from family and friends. Already this week, I’ve been reminded that there will be those who choose to build their lives around single issues filled with negativity, seemingly quick to forget the gift. I choose to appreciate the gift!