Once again Mike Ridenour at New Hope For Dry Bones addresses one of my personal frailties, and hits it out of the park.
Roo’s feature image courtesy ABSFreePic.com
I like to flow through my days thinking I control all the amazing things I do, that the astounding things happening in and around me are actually all about me. This fantasy is cheap entertainment, it rarely runs into overtime, and when it occasionally results in a rude thud into reality, it becomes blog fodder…
‘Fact is only God is that amazing. Were I indeed all that today, I wouldn’t be scary beyond all reason, especially to the livestock – hollering unprovoked – random bursts of upset – all day long. Today.
Genius that I am, in 2009, I nonchalantly lit a nice cigar. It was during an event, a rare occasion so I did’t think twice.
Weeks later my story was, smoking eased my pain better than the opiates my doctors prescribed and was cheaper than 75 year-old Oban. If I hadn’t grown up in rooms filled with Cuban cigar smoke (and sworn to secrecy), I’d still loathe cheap cigars. But in 2009 the embargo hadn’t been lifted yet, so that alone would keep me from forming a habit. “Yeah, that’ll work…”
But wait, there’s more: Thirty-two years ago I told my doctor, “I don’t have time to be sick…” Doctor replied very matter-of-factly, “Roo, you’ve had acute chronic bronchitis for ten months, been hospitalized twice. Now you can either keep smoking or keep breathing. Your call.” Quick as ever, a year later I finally stopped smoking.
In truth, if I were as amazing as I like to sometimes think, In 2009 I would never have toyed with lighting a cigar 25 years AFTER winning the battle of my life; stopping an 18 year, 3-pack/day smoking habit.
Yeah, that was me; sharp as a marble.
In a year I was smoking a pack of organic, sans additives cigarettes a week (because nicotine isn’t addictive). A few years later I was torching 12 – 14 packs a month.
Then I began vaping instead. “Seriously”, I told myself “this is best for everyone”, including my three new chain-smoking roommates (2 were siblings). Like most other bad habits, vaping began cheaply enough but grew to a roaring $76-plus a month habit – after purchasing the equipment – which breaks and wears out. Often. Seriously for real; that’s airfare and a nice hotel with the kids every year!
The reason they call it a Sin Tax; we will pay for the indulgences we convince ourselves we need: tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, soda pop, gambling… ‘Fact is we actually live better without them.
This morning I stopped vaping. Once again my pillow and the treadmill are my best friends. As I become overwhelmed with confusion or disorientation, I scream into my pillow (so much better on the sweet, but lately very nervous chickens). If I come up for air soon, I then jog for a few minutes. Or I stay put and nap.
Hard as it seems in the present, this trauma actually only lasts for a few hours. Fine. A couple of days at worst. God has already brought me through far, far worse than this.
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NLT)
And each time I fight I win.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12, 13 (NLT)
The Emperors New Groove video clip courtesy YouTube
The Mask video clip courtesy YouTube
Rachel Platten Fight Song (Official Video) Courtesy YouTube
I’ve been home here in the northwest, without cable and reliable internet for a few months now. It’s taken some adjusting, forcing me out of habits and especially my comfort zones. With the local library, a $10 antenna, new cell device, changing my cell service carrier and careful timing, it’s working – at least until the landscape melts. I’m not gonna lie, I miss spending hours a week interacting with my family, friends and fellow bloggers on line.
And with the exceptionally hard winter I’ve taken some hits. Falls, colds, joint aches, some tendinitis, bursitis on top of my new, stylish gait from fracturing my coccyx (Hey! I got to say it again). At one point I considered what being trapped in an avalanche felt like. The next morning I realized I was complaining, aloud, actually whining at my mirror, “Really? Aren’t we done with this crazy cold yet?”
Was it me I recall saying, “I adore the four equal seasons here. Just about the time we wonder if the heat or the cold will ever let up, Bam! it does?” Yeah. I said it. Often. Coming home to the old, familiar climate that suits me best was what I looked forward to most. Not. This. Winter.
“Do everything without complaining and arguing,”*
Convicted, I was more determined to 1) stop whining, and then look for new ways to get through challenges. As I groaned zipping my jeans I thought about eating better. I’m kinda big on eating well, so this would take more than merely adjusting my diet.
I began by turning off the TV, radio, Kindle, CDs, setting aside books, newspapers and all other distractions at mealtime and while dining. Immediately I not only spared myself the smells and waste from scorching or burning my food while multitasking, but I honestly became more fully aware of my many blessings. I enjoy the challenges of “saving” a recipe, but not needing to is way better.
After a few days I noticed I ate less and enjoy food more. Soon, my jeans fit more comfortably again; remarkable after weeks without power walks and workouts while I heal. Okay, that’s mostly to avoid treacherous snowbanks, snow and ice avalanching from the rooftops.
We’re not actually snowbound – now. Despite dark, overcast skies for days on end, the sun teases now and then lighting up the sparkling, pastoral scenery surrounding me. Life is indeed beautiful. After months of frozen white everywhere I’m determined to enjoy the beautiful quiet. And be very ready for spring.
Excuse me a minute while I check the
furnace wood stove.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
*Philippians 2:3 (NLT)
Hopi is our dog. As I understand she came from Champion Golden Retriever and Grand Champion Australian Shepherd breeding lines. Regardless of her lineage, with her natural instincts, devotion to the pack and sweet disposition she is the best herd dog I’ve ever known. The offspring of two work breeds, to say she naturally has high energy levels is an understatement. To keep her calm, happy and fit she needs lots of exercise daily.
After we moved from our rural home to a suburban condo, many of our habits changed; for one, from a third floor apartment Hopi became a house dog. In inclement weather we could no longer simply open a door and turn Hopi loose outside. So, more than ever before, daily walks became as important to me as to Hopi.
The harsher Midwest winter weather interrupting our daily routines brought even more change. After couple of weeks of ice storms and weeks of deep snow we discovered a change in Hopi. Instead of getting right down to business outdoors, she would sniff the snow and get so obsessed doing that, she began ignoring my commands. One evening instead of walking at my side as usual, Hopi bolted out the door ahead of me to meet another smaller dog, frightening the dog’s walker. This was radically different from her usual behavior which all the new neighbors had initially enjoyed.
For the first time in years I had to harness and leash Hopi to protect her and other tenants, reinforce her training, and keep her attention on me, which had previously been her second nature. We became more careful to exercise Hopi as much as possible and continually work her through her paces regardless of the weather. Now we enjoy happy adventures most every day again and during inclement weather we explore the indoor hallways and stairs, visiting with the neighbors on the way.
There’s a noteworthy parallel between Hopi’s first winter in the suburbs and the Christian walk. When circumstances cause us to change our routines it is very easy to become distracted to a degree that is not always best for us. An exciting television series can lead to the set being on habitually and valuable attention to other tasks can gradually be lost. Skipping an exercise routine to have coffee with friends can become the rule rather than the exception, or enjoying one extra snack after doing some extra running one day and then another the next day too, and before we realize it we’ve put on a couple of pounds.
Regardless of one’s faith base, daily meditation, devotional time, prayer, reading Scriptures or attending worship services can slip away into oblivion after rearranging schedules to include other tasks too. Whenever I did any of that, I soon noticed I was not as patient or content with my life as I typically am. Even after identifying what changed, it took strict personal discipline and help from God just to get back in the habit of putting everything aside for foundational enrichment.
Like Hopi, we all need exercise and socializing as well as discipline and spiritual nourishment to be well balanced individuals. Variety is good – provided it doesn’t undermine the groundwork of our purpose in life. With so many choices and distractions in our world pulling us in many different directions, routine discipline can be a mainstay to keeping that balance. Without it we could all be chasing rabbits and scaring the neighbors!
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11 (NLT)
Preceding is a slightly edited repost of an original Roo’s Ruse Blogspot post from 2009. Much has changed in my world since I wrote the article; Hopi and the rest of the fur kids have gone on to await us at the Rainbow Bridge and I now live with Roan and Opal in North Texas. However, like The Scriptures the message still rings true.
Writing and Not Writing
I read today’s assignment immediately upon release and then slept on it. In the morning I wanted to mill the idea around before sitting down to work and put it off.
Rather than risk forgetting what is predominantly important to me now, I write every day. While my values haven’t changed much, my perspectives have definitely broadened over the years.
Within the first minutes of writing in my journal, I realized the text was stale and comparatively lifeless. Even my thoughts seemed to need a break.
I closed the book, called a friend, and left the house to run some errands. We met for coffee and scones and then shopped a little. Perhaps because it was spontaneous (for me anyway), I returned amazingly refreshed!
Once settled back home I checked in on classmates, what they are doing and then wound up critiquing my blog.
Basically ennui over my theme, I also realized my About page was wrong. Fortunately, my friend quickly texted me some valuable insight, and nailed exactly what I disliked.
An hour later I cut and pasted new text, making the message say what readers want to know about my blog – and less about silly, old me.
Resigned to keep my theme until my next Blogging U course, I’m now onto soliciting other bloggers and journalist friends for today’s secondary assignment.
Whether or not anyone reads the new About edition, it’s more direct, so I feel more distinctive, and more accomplished.
We’ll see how long the feeling lasts. Never mind that; it’s not about my feelings (okay, not primarily); I’ll leave it on faith* and the comfort of knowing it’s better now.
*The Voice, 2 Corinthians 5:7, “The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.”
The Voice Bible Copyright (c) 2012 THomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice tm translation (c) 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.
"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal
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