Hunched and scowling, chin-in-hand and toes tapping, I glared out the passenger-side window, as the cotton fields of Texas rolled by. On this October morning, the cotton was long gone, and something else was planted, but what did I care? My day was ruined before it even began.
My husband was having a boisterous conversation with a buddy from work on his cell phone beside me as he drove, and the conversation lasted the entire drive to Dallas. We were on our way to the State Fair of Texas, for our yearly family trip. I looked forward to the trip for months, and the rare drive with my husband, no…the rare TRIP with my husband, instead of being filled with longed-for conversation, was filled with the endless blabbing beside me, sounding just like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Wah, wah-WAH, wah-WAAAH…
Charming, wasn’t I? And you only know the half of it. My emotional state was ugly, to say the least. I could explain this situation further, using my gift of gab, and my knack for tying ribbons around anger and passing it off for sadness, and honestly, you would probably say I was justified. Poor, poor me.
Now, there’s more to this story, but I’m not allowed to explain any further, for various reasons, the biggest of which is an understanding that God and I have. I will merely say at this point that I was going over and over my misery in my mind, feeling more and more morose by the minute, whipping sadness up like egg whites. My enduring thought was what a pity it was that now the whole day at the Fair would be filled with an icy discomfort, and yes, ruined.
Tossing these thoughts about in my mind like so much salad, I was busy picturing a day filled with stony silence and tension all around, and thinking that enduring thought of what a pity it all was, when suddenly, as gently as a baby chick pecking its way out of the egg shell, a tiny, tiny thought tapped me on the shoulder.
I could look at this differently if I wanted to.
Silently, I froze, and contemplated this thought. Yes, I could, and in one fell swoop (in one decision) the day could be redeemed, and all could be happy again. How wonderful would that be? Well, wonderful if I could find the strength to let go of my bedraggled anger. I pondered, literally shaking my head yes as I went over the ways I could look at this situation differently:
- I could be thankful that my socially shy husband made friends at work, and that he had found a way to make conversation, normally so hard for him. (In other words, I could be happy for him, instead of mad. After all, it’s not always about me.)
- I could be thankful that my homebody guy decided to devote a day to us and go with us this year, when he could have spent the day working on one of countless undone projects he had to do. (In other words, I could choose to enjoy him, no matter what.)
- I could refuse to rehearse my grievances over and over in my mind. (In other words, I could stop this, right now.)
- I COULD forgive him, and let all of this go…
So, after reflecting for a minute, and after a bit of a tug-of-war, I decided to.
I literally made a conscious decision to look at this situation differently, to forgive my husband, to let it all go, and to get happy. In one instant, I decided to.
Some will say this is too simple, but I can only tell you what happened to me. And I didn’t say it was easy. The result was that we had a happy day at the fair, starting that very minute, and we enjoyed each other. It is now a pleasant memory.
Looking back over my tragedy-filled life, I see a pattern of deciding to look at things differently, and the freedom and protection those decisions brought me.
- When my beautiful mother’s brilliant life was stolen from her by mental illness, after some mind battles of my own, I decided not to question why, or I would go crazy myself. I accepted the fact that there are certain things we will not understand this side of heaven, and I let it go, like dropping petals into a quiet stream, and peacefully watching them float away. I decided to love my mother as she was, to be proud of her, and to enjoy her as much as I could for as long as I had her. Her life was eventually snuffed out at the age of 47 by metastatic breast cancer, and she died in a deplorable condition in the medical ward of a state mental hospital, and still, I stood firm. In that decision not to question, I was kept free from the torment that hounded my sister until the day she died.
- When my sister’s life was ended at the age of 37 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after some more mind battles of my own, and after being slapped around by God a little bit (something I desperately needed), I eventually decided to have a thankful heart, counting the blessings I did have. If not for that decision, I literally might not have survived the grief of losing her.
There are more examples, and I could go on, but I’ve written too much. The bottom line is that a pattern in my life has been, at key junctures, the process of deciding to, in one way or anther—conscious decisions to let things go, to trust, to forgive, to never give up, to believe in the face of adversity, great and small. How did I do it? I don’t know. I am pitifully weak, and I have no special tools, aside from a friendship with God.
Too simple? Maybe. But for me, the deciding to was life-changing. Oh, how I hope you can somehow decide to yourself.
God Bless you, dear friends, in 2011, and always. I leave you with two nuggets of gold, to help you on your way. We can do this thing, I promise.
3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:3, NKJV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)
Here are some photos from that day at the Fair, things added one by one to my Gratitude List for 2010 (2011 list started Jan 1, and growing already):
#1764: A hot, fresh Fletcher’s corny dog.
#1765: That my beloved husband, (thankfully) was oblivious to his wife’s inner turmoil that day, and enjoyed a day he never realized had to be redeemed.
#1766: Our oldest and our youngest, side by side, strolling the Midway as friends.
#1767: Funnel cakes.
#1768: That my oldest son’s wife is one of my dearest friends.
#1769: A shadow photo of Gracie and me.
#1770: Our photographer son, getting to shoot the fair.
#1772: Pumpkins, carved and otherwise.
#1774: Clowning around on the fake grass, right in the middle of the Midway.
#1775: Cell phone photos, snapped by giggling grand-daughters.
#1776: This FACE!
#1777: He doesn’t let being a guy stop him from joining the amusement.
#1778: Fun house mirrors.
#1779: Uncles and nieces can be friends.
#1780: Loud, tacky rock music, wild colors, and two blurs that I’m related to.
#1781: Live, jazz music, at no extra charge.
#1782: Bumper cars.
Can you believe that I almost ruined this day?