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Breathing Expectation

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November 2015

A New Thankfulness

You are 15. This is the first hunting season you have been allowed in the woods by yourself. You know this is because you have shown your parents you are responsible, careful, resourceful, and have a respect for firearms. You are pleased that you are one step closer to manhood.

For the past 3 weeks, your buddies at school have either shot a deer or talked about the many, many deer they have seen. You have seen none. Except after dark when hunting is over. You believe the animals are taunting you.

It is the last day of hunting season. Your mom drops you off at your grandparents and you begin the walk out to “the big stand.” It’s cold, but you are prepared in your military long underwear, extra layers of warmth and, of course, blaze orange outerwear. You like walking in the woods. You enjoy the silence that you hope will be interrupted by the sound of a buck snorting or a doe tiptoeing her way through the dry leaves.

You think nothing of it when you come to the creek with the beaver dam. You have crossed dozens of uneventful times before. You can see the first stepping stone just below the water and you hop onto it. You can’t see the second or third or additional rocks, but you know they are there because you have done this before. So you take your next step. And that’s when you discover there either is no second stone or you have misjudged its location and you are in t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Your feet swipe out from under you toward the sky, but like any good hunter you have the presence of mind to throw your rifle on the creek bank before the lower two-thirds of your body goes underwater. You freeze. Not quite literally, but the cold water sucks the possibility of moving out of you. But you have to move, so you make yourself. You slowly pull yourself out of the water.

Suddenly, 26 degrees doesn’t feel very temperate any more. Your feet feel like a thousand knives are stabbing up through their soles all the way to your armpits. You know you have to move, but you aren’t sure you can. You fire 3 shots into the air–a known signal for help. Then you remember no one you know is in the woods with you, but you hope someone else notices or that your mom and grandparents can hear the 3 shots in the house. After a few  minutes you realize that no one is coming. You get up, shoulder your gun (of course), and try to start walking. But you can’t. Your boots are too heavy.

Somehow your frozen fingers manage to untie your cold, heavy boots, and you pull your sopping wet feet out of them. You have no choice but to start running. And so you do. In wet socks, pants, and jacket you run toward the house. Without the boot protection, the thousand knives in your feet are increasing. Every step drives another stick, another rock, or simply another piece of lumpy ground into your cold, cold feet.

Just as you wonder if you can make it all the way, you finally see the house. It’s been only 1/2 a mile or more but feels like you have run a nightmare marathon. You fling open the door, sit down on the bench, and unwanted tears drop from your eyes. Your mom asks what is wrong, but you can’t answer because you don’t have any breath or feeling left in your body. You can tell by her eyes that she thinks you have shot someone or that you yourself have been shot. You answer only, “I can’t feel my feet or legs.” This time when she asks if something happened with the gun, you are able to speak and say, “No I fell into the creek.” You can see she is relieved and she immediately enters into “mom mode” by turning on grandma’s shower and telling you to take off your wet things.

Later when you are warm and dry, she can see you are not yourself. When she asks you what is wrong, you tell her that you are only 15, you don’t even  have your permit yet, and you could have died if things had turned out differently.

This is what happened at our house today. Cherished Middle Son went routinely into the woods and struggled to come out. We talked about how when bad things happen we have an opportunity to go deeper into our thankfulness. I could see the wheels ticking behind his eyeballs as he counted his blessings. Which I’m sure today includes dry socks. I’m pretty certain he has never had reason to be thankful for socks before.

He is also thankful he ran Cross Country this year. At the time, it was a hard decision to decide to run long distance instead of playing football. Today he is glad he did and credits his ability to make his freezing run in wet socks to his cross country training. He says he will thank his coach tomorrow.

As for me, I am so grateful that he knew what to do. I could not care less if his weapon hadn’t made it home today, although it did–safe and dry in fact. I don’t care that his soggy boots are still out by the beaver dam and I don’t care if they never come home. I wonder whether the removal of them was in fact the best course of action, but since he made it back to safety, I’m going with his decision to take them off as the right thing.

I share this story with you because I for one take the people in my life way too much for granted. Had Middle Son not made it back to the house at full dark, I am confident he would have been found, but I am not certain he wouldn’t have suffered frostbite or possibly worse.

You could question why a good God lets bad things happen, but I’d rather focus on the fact that Middle Son was in God’s hands today as he is every day and that provision for his well-being and safety was made ahead of time. Because he was prepared and protected, we have a happy ending.

Every Thanksgiving I reflect on my gratefulness for people, things, and circumstances. This year, the depth of feeling for the people in  my life definitely goes deeper.

buck

Wasted Anger (Subtitled: All the Not So Pretty Little Ponies)

I just spent the better part of 4 hours being angry. Angry because I felt unappreciated, slighted, and misunderstood. Add the emotion of feeling like a failure to the anger because when I tried to put words to the situation, I didn’t do an adequate job of explaining the problem or standing up for what I meant.

I was right. I am absolutely confident of that. So why do I feel so, well, yucky? Part of it is simply letting my emotions overwhelm me and run away with my attitude. I sometimes forget that my emotions are like a pack of wild horses. I have to break them, tame them, and put them back in the barn. (Okay, for you true horsey people, I maybe didn’t get that quite right but I’ll believe you’ll accept the analogy.) Tonight I didn’t tame anything. I reacted. I let my emotions run wild. Unfortunately when I let that happen, the outcome affects my thoughts, my words, sometimes my actions, and definitely other people. Not my best self for sure.

The other reason I feel yucky? The time spent letting my “hate mustangs” run my life was a complete waste of time. I was in the company of others and while I didn’t complain or even hint anything was amiss, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I could have. I was preoccupied with thoughts of . . . well . . . me. Ick. Yup. True.

And then I was pulled out of myself. Someone I care about shared news of a struggle they are currently enmeshed in. It’s a true difficulty with no set outcome but is likely to be disappointing and create some ongoing hardship.

Suddenly the fact that I had been misunderstood and perhaps misused on one day of my life wasn’t such a big deal anymore. In fact, I feel a little silly. Again, the issue was real. The problem was in how I dealt with it.

When I finished the conversation with my saddened friend, it didn’t require a bit, bridle, or lasso to get my horses back in the barn. They trotted in willingly, heads down, well aware of their emotional overreaction.

So now what? I get to start over. That’s the only good part of messing up. But it is a promise – 

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

One thing about that? I’m not going to wait until morning to hit my reset button.

  

but compared to the things in life that really matter, the event was small potatoes. My emotions were quickly put back in perspective when I was reminded of the things in life that are really difficult and the people who really matter. People, if you are angry, feeling slighted, unappreciated, let go!

Of Locusts and Asian Beetles

Honestly the only downer of our late autumn warm weather is the plethora of Asian beetles that seem to spring from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Hard to enjoy a few quiet moments on the porch with them landing in the cuffs of my sweahirt and climbing on my shoes–let alone alighting in my hair.

A few Sundays ago it was another unseasonably warm day. Despite my best efforts and prevention, the spotted creatures drove me from my porch again. That particular day was the thickest I have ever seen them. Asian beetles to the left, the right, before, behind, above, and below. And all trying (and succeeding!) to gain entry to my home. I joked to one of my friends that the experience was reminiscent of the plagues of locusts and flies in Exodus.

The return of those sorry little bugs today reminded me again of the plagues. I thought about what awful experiences those must have been. Take my beetle troubles and multiply them by 10,000 and you might get the start of the picture.  As an aside, I’m fairly certain they didn’t have screens in those days.

The word “locusts” also reminds me of two other verses in the bible. Two truths that I am seeing come true in this present day:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.

My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you and my people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:25-26

When I started this blog in 2013 it was during a time I categorize as a great trial for me and my immediate family. I wrote through (and sometimes because of) that pain and misunderstanding and truly wondered if life would ever be the same again. 

It isn’t. A person can’t go through a tremendously difficult situation and come out the same. In the midst of it all, I struggled. And out of that struggle came shape. Not one I’m entirely comfortable with because I am warier and more suspicious. But what I gained from the experience is worth my life.

I learned to trust God. To really trust that I am not random, forgotten or uncared for. I have a purpose, a mission, and a method. And when the winds of doubt blow hard, I can think back to those really difficult days and know the truth.

Today I see and stand on the truth of Joel 2:25-26. The years the locusts have eaten are being restored day by day, moment by moment, step by step. Not all has been restored as it was, but we have plenty, we are satisfied, and we praise and glorify God for holding us steady in trial and blessing us in ways we could not have foreseen.

We are not put to shame. The restoration continues and I am awed.

  

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