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Archive for the ‘stress’ Category

Puzzle Pieces

In Bible, Christ, focus, Jesus, purpose, Scripture, stress, Truth on August 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

puzle de un corazon roto

It was complicated. Three hundred pieces cut in the oddest shapes I’d ever seen for a puzzle. Some I swore were edge pieces and for a while was frustrated that they weren’t fitting into the frame with the other edge pieces. If you’re like me, you put the edges together first, then work on the various sections that appear to go together, carefully studying the full image to navigate through the picture. But not everyone does it that way.

One puzzle friend of mine never looks at the picture on the box. She believes that’s cheating and so she constructs puzzles solely by their shapes. I nearly laughed out loud when she told me her strategy. To me, her method is ridiculous, especially when she grabs a piece that is totally unrelated in color then turns it round and round to try to make it fit. I watch this and think what a waste of time that is; to not even consider the colors, their patterns, direction or curvatures seems crazy and frustrating to say the least. Yet, after completing over a dozen puzzles with her, I have learned that her technique works well for her; it’s what she knows and her trained eye is like radar, zeroing in on just the right piece. (Need I mention that her patience level is higher than mine?)

Still, I derive no satisfaction from her methodology. I prefer studying the image on the box top, absorbing its wholeness, beauty and nuances. I hold pieces up to it, attempt to match the color and then estimate the piece’s location in the enlarged frame on the table. I relish the mounting anticipation of accomplishment as each piece clicks perfectly into its proper place, revealing increasingly more of the final picture.

This particular puzzle, however, was disturbing. As I said, pieces were not cut in the traditional shapes and so it wasn’t as enjoyable. Many pieces simply rested next to each other without hooking. And, when I’d match up those non-hooked pieces, I didn’t feel the same satisfaction. It was almost as if I was worried they would fall apart or shift; I couldn’t rest until their surrounding pieces held them securely in place.

As I do with everything, I contemplated how this puzzle compared to life. The Holy Bible has always been the picture on the box for me and each event of my life a piece to the picture. At a very young age, I learned to hold up each piece of my life against God’s Word, studying its pattern, nuance and color to see where it fits in His final image of who I should be. In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” Paul taught in all the churches he visited that Jesus is the picture of what we should work to create from our lives; that all the pieces of our life should fit together to reflect Him.

That being said, I think it is a colossal waste of time to sit and stare only at the shape of an event or circumstance in our life, continually turning it round and round to make it fit with the other pieces in our life without even looking at the big picture to see where it should go. Instead, unless we have great patience, we get frustrated and walk away, leaving the pieces in a pile for someone else to figure out.

I realize this may be a simplified metaphor of living a life that pleases God, but I believe that living the life God planned for us is easier than we make it. I believe we complicate the puzzle by refusing to look at the Creator’s final image: His Son, Jesus Christ. Instead of holding up each of our pieces against the model He gave in Jesus’ life on earth, we frustrate ourselves by turning the circumstance round and round, trying to force it to fit where we want it to fit—where it was not created to fit.

Yes, it’s tempting to get angry and give up when life’s puzzle pieces aren’t traditionally cut; when they don’t fit nicely together the way other puzzle pieces fit. And yes, it’s tempting to look at a piece and think, I know this one doesn’t go with this puzzle. But if it came out of the box, it goes with the puzzle; it’s just a matter of effort and patience to find its place in the big picture.

Are you struggling with a piece of your life? Trust me, it fits in God’s final picture for your life. In His sovereignty He allowed it to happen. It has a place somewhere amongst all the other pieces and from His perspective, it’s beautiful.

~CCS

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Author’s Note: I dedicate this article to my wonderful Editor, Debbie Adlof, who, over the 14 years she has owned, edited and published the Community Word has become a dear friend. Debbie, thank you for letting me write this column in the Community Word and never once censoring my content, despite the mounting public outcry against God’s Word in public venues. Even if you disagreed with my articles, you never let me know and printed them in full. You have always been wonderful to me, though I have been chronically late with my submissions (even on your last issue!). Thank you for your kindness, respect and friendship. May God bless you richly as you focus your attention on your family and any other pursuits He has for you. Believe me, your puzzle, when complete, will be a beautiful picture God created out of beautiful you!

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 8

In choices, divorce, fiction, judging, lessons, marriage, office, plans, relationships, stress on October 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel walks to the elevator with Mrs. Stone’s journal in her hand. It is 8:45 AM.

I don’t remember walking to the elevator. In fact, I don’t remember anything from the moment Mrs. Stone handed me her journal until I opened it and began reading.

“Read this before you go to court,” she had said.

You must know that I am a very private person. In fact, the only reason I’m writing all of this down is because—well, you’ll figure that out soon enough. What I’m saying is, only my assistant knew of my court date. On my watch, gossip is grounds for immediate termination, so I’m quite sure Kevin wouldn’t risk losing his cushy paycheck just to indulge in a few morsels of that nonsense. So how did Mrs. Stone know I was due in court by nine?

I always maintain a professional distance from our patients and their families—most especially with the Russell’s. Her connections to our Board, her national renown as a poet and Mr. Russell’s condition all combined into a big red flag. When Mr. Stone was admitted, I held a mandatory powwow to explain that his time with us would require extreme discretion, not only with the patient’s personal information, but with the staff sharing their personal information in idle chit chat to him. Be kind, compassionate, attend to his needs and that’s all, were my instructions.

Until Angie got her panties in a bunch over Mr. Stone, all was well. Somewhere along the line she took it upon herself to play judge and jury over him and if I hadn’t addressed that when I did, we would now be facing repercussions of a most unpleasant sort. I hope she’s grateful I spared her a pink slip. Regardless, I’m confident she didn’t let spill any info on me to the Stone’s either—even if she does know about my divorce.

I put that aside and focused on the journal. I had 15 minutes to get to the courthouse so I knew I couldn’t possibly read it all before then. I gathered some work and stuffed it into my briefcase then thought I could take the journal with me.

I picked it up and turned it in my hands. It was made of leather, smooth on the outside, though worn from years of use. Inside was the rough hide, unfinished, with thick sections of ivory pages folded and sewn into the spine by some kind of heavy-duty thread. Its construction was definitely crafted by an artist and felt priceless, like it had been given to a mortal by a Greek god or goddess and held magic powers … to preserve for my eyes only, centuries later. Okay, so I watch a bit too much sci-fi.

The cover page was all blank with only Mrs. Stone’s handwriting: “This book belongs to Margaret Lynette Stone,” it read. Below her name was what looked like a proverb, but I couldn’t place it: By your patience possess your souls.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to peek. It was 8:50 AM, just one page …

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 4

In death, divorce, fear, fiction, healing, marriage, office, relationships, stress on May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

A Novelette

By Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel is on the hunt to find out who called Mrs. Stone. Somehow, Mrs. Stone had learned of her husband’s death before Rachel called, which normally wouldn’t be an issue, but in the case of the Stone’s, it is far more than an issue.

My anger rose to another level by the time I reached the first floor. I determined that whoever made that call will feel its full force.

“Hi Ms. Cox, is everything okay?” Tina, our facility receptionist, popped out of her chair at the sound of my heels grinding across the lobby’s ceramic tile.

“No, Tina, it is not,” I shot back as I marched past her desk toward Mr. Stone’s nursing unit. Angie would be my first victim. I heard Tina pick-up her phone as I rounded the corner, undoubtedly to warn the unit that I was on my way.

I spotted Angie on the phone when I approached the unit desk and knew by her stance that she had in fact been alerted.

“Hi Rachel,” she said coolly as she set the phone back on the hook. “Everything okay?”

“Who called Mrs. Stone?”

“No one here called her. Kevin said you would,” she answered. For some reason, I believed her.

“I did,” I snapped, “but she already knew. Now, how do you suppose she knew if I’m the only one who called her?” I didn’t wait for an answer. I swallowed my rage and decided it could simmer while I focused on my own crisis. I checked my watch, 7:45 AM. Angie knew me well enough to know that this discussion was so not over and quickly caught up with me.

“Rachel, I’m sorry, I know you think I hate the Stones, but I am telling you the truth, I didn’t call her!”

“I believe you, Angie” I told her, but held my pace. The Stone saga had seeped too far into my mind and I no longer cared. “Just get back to your shift.”  Angie stopped and stood in the hall. No telling what was going through her mind, and I didn’t care about that either. I had a death report to fill out and file before I left for the courthouse; the rest could wait.

Tina picked up the phone as I appeared in the lobby and pretended to have a legitimate conversation; do they think I’m stupid? I know it’s Angie reporting back. I crossed the reception desk and there at the front door was Mrs. Stone.

“Rachel,” she said, her voice merely a breath.

“Mrs. Stone!” I embraced her and offered my condolences for her loss.

“Rachel, may I see him?”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I had been so wrapped up in finding out who called her that I had no idea whether or not his body had been placed in our Afterglow room for viewing.

“Honestly, I’m not sure, why don’t you sit here in the lobby and I’ll go find out.”

“May I wait in his room?” she asked

“Oh, of course, yes, please,” I took her by the arm and led her back to her husband’s room. Tina was still on the phone and I made out enough of her statements to know that another warning had been sent to the unit of approaching doom.

Mrs. Stone had a peculiar look on her face, a calmness about her that was puzzling for someone who had just lost their beloved spouse. I brushed it off and left her alone in the late Mr. Stone’s room while I searched for answers on his whereabouts.

At 8 AM, I ushered Mrs. Stone to the Afterglow room where our staff had laid the body of the deceased and lit candles all around the room; soft, ethereal music welcomed the grieving widow. What happened next shocked me so profoundly I still can’t shake the image from my mind.

Read Parts 1 – 3

Plan B

In God, moving, plans, prayer, stress on August 28, 2009 at 11:38 am

There is no Plan B.

1966 Plymouth Fury VIP - #4(3)

It was 4:15 p.m. and the cables had been hooked to the ’66 for an hour to no avail.  My heart sank.  The old girl just wouldn’t stay running.

I assessed all the possibilities of not getting involved, but the marching clock was a cruel dictator and we were just about out of time.

I left my packing frenzy in the office and started down the stairs.  At the landing, I looked out at my husband, Pete, sitting in his 1966 Plymouth Fury VIP which he named after his Mother, Morine. I could tell by the expression on his face that he too was disappointed. His buddy was bent over the engine searching in earnest for the solution.

The Fury hadn’t run in a year. It’s an asset, by way of its age, a classic car, a sweet ride, but since we couldn’t drive her to our new home, we had to haul her up on a trailer. The dilemma at 4:15 was how do we get her on the trailer?

At 3200 lbs., Morine wasn’t going to get there by our brute strength. She had to stay running.

I walked down our gravel drive and said what no one wanted to say. It’s time for Plan B.  What the plan was no one knew but Plan A didn’t work.  The guys looked at me as if I had delivered a eulogy. I left them to mourn and headed back to my mess.

I had no sooner sat down in the chair to finish packing the box I had abandoned when I heard Morine – running!

I ran to the window and looked down at the driveway.  There she was on the trailer! I ran down the stairs, out the back door, down the driveway screaming and jumping like a crazed sports fan whose team had just won the pennant, praising God at the top of my lungs – Plan A WORKED!

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Within two hours of that blessed, victorious, divine moment, we were packed up and ready to drive away from our precious little House of Grace in Peoria, Illinois. I snapped this picture on my cell phone as a constant reminder to me that God is with us and has great things waiting for us in our new home.

But, Plan A was only half over. Would Morine start and run long enough to drive her off the trailer at the condo?  Of course, that wasn’t the only question. Would there be a ‘VISITOR’ parking space for her?  If she wouldn’t run, who will help us push her?  Certainly I couldn’t push her!

I started formulating another Plan B.

The three-and-a-half hour drive went off without a hitch and we arrived at midnight. My hubby parked the truck with Morine in tow on the street and we crashed hard.

The next day we drug our aching bodies out the door and discussed how the parking of Morine was going down. Thankfully, there was a ‘VISITOR’ space in perfect alignment with the path he planned to get her off the trailer. So far so good.

When Pete turned the key she roared like a lion, commanding the applause of a half-dozen bored kids from several balconies. He was in heaven. So he revved her again, well, a couple more times, just for the kids.

He put her in reverse and she obediently rolled off the trailer, then died.  Plan B was now in force.  But there was no Plan B.  We were stuck.  I had zero strength to push her, though the path to the parking space was downhill.  I guess Plan A was for me to push!

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Nope.  Plan A was walking up to us!  A man from around the corner who came out to throw out his trash, got distracted by the purring lion and when she died he said, ‘I can help you!’ and pushed her right snug into her little cage.  Isn’t she pretty sittin’ there?

I stood there with my mouth hanging open.  There was no Plan B!  God had a perfect Plan A the whole time.  We asked for His help and he gave it – all the way to the very last minute.  Yes, our hope was that she would run and stay running, but he gave us what we needed.  She ran up onto the trailer in Peoria – that’s what we needed.  She ran off the trailer at the condo – that’s what we needed.

End of Plan A.  No Plan B.  God wins. I learn.

Rubbish

In change, exhaustion, Jesus, moving, stress on July 27, 2009 at 8:57 am

I got to church at the last worship song and joined the throng still in the throne room.  I was exhausted, smelly and very late, but I just had to be there.

iStock-SuitcaseStairsXSmall

The previous four days took us three hours away to clean, purge and pack up our house to make what we thought would be our final move.  Our venture ended late Saturday night and when we dropped in bed we weren’t sure if we’d make it to church.  We got up late and I hadn’t showered, but I just had to get there.

Settling in my seat, I hushed my mind and calmed my heart in preparation to receive God’s word from the pulpit when a song lyric caught my ear during the offertory.

Take everything I have until all I have is You, You Lord Jesus.

I chuckled to myself. Yes, please take it all! I had no desire to see another thing, another box, another piece of furniture for the rest of my life.  I never want to own a house again, I thought, I never want to see another basement!

All I want is You, Lord, I prayed in my aching heart as the soloist sang. Take everything.

My mind went back to Friday at the landfill where things from the last 15 years of my life has by now been shredded under the compactor’s teeth and thrust into the earth. Why did I save it all?  Why did I hold on to it for so long only to watch it be tossed out of the back of a truck?  I was so humbled and engulfed with shame as we bumped along the dusty road away from the most putrid smell I have ever experienced.

It’s all rubbish!  Now I understood what the Apostle Paul meant when he said that all he was – all he is and has is just garbage compared to Christ.

Take everything I have, Lord, until all I have is You.