In the old prairie days, prior to modern day electronics, people worked an honest day, plowed the field, put in crops, fed children, slept on beds made of ropes and ate bread they formed and baked themselves. Life was simple and although not always kind, it was easily decided. And consequently, each day was much like the one before…you rose, you worked, you ate, you laughed and loved, you slept, and you arose to do it all over again. Any tragic circumstance, baby born, marriage, death or other life point was often told farm to farm, house to house, mouth to mouth, person to person, until it would reach those living on the outskirts. News didn’t travel like lightning, it came slow and easy and many times much after the fact. The news, while still life changing, was accepted more readily and quickly because the hearer knew it was a done deal. There was no ” I gotta get over there and fix that” or “Man, if I go talk to her she will not marry that bum”. Nope, it was all about hearing the news, then accepting it, even if it was not news you wanted to hear. You listened, you considered, then you moved forward in the life you were living before you heard the news.
But these days, news travel is much different. All we have to do is click on the TV to see all kinds of devastation and tumult in real time.We see hostage situations work out over hours and days right before our eyes. We see train wrecks recorded and replayed again and again. Storm chasers’ cameras allow us up close and personal, a bare mile from the churning winds and tail of a tornado. Thousands of miles might separate us from the other side of the world, but we stare as floods swallow up homes, and cities, and residents. In prairie days, we were forced to accept what we didn’t see, only what was told to us. But now, we are forced to accept what we see happening at the moment it is happening. I cannot help but think that this is much more damaging to our own psyche because we know it is playing out now behind a huge piece of glass…and there is not a darn thing we can do about it but watch horrified. And the most unnerving part is we watch it over and over and over until we cannot watch it anymore, or until the next televised tragedy begins to unfold and it drags our attention to a new scene of hurt and turmoil.
There have been so many moments in my own life like that. I have stood idly by and watched it in real time as a non-participant, a spectator. Poor choices played themselves out as if I had been watching another person’s life like an approaching earthquake. I see a tremor here, swaying tree there, falling debris and crumbling, and I find myself shouting out in my mind “Stop! Don’t you see what’s happening, look behind you, it is gaining on you. You are going to get overtaken…hurry, hurry…”. Then, watching still, I see the life quake split the foundation of earth underneath, it opens up, and with a huge groan swallows the running soul, and closes in over her head. And as fast as it came, it was gone, and as I try to take in the scene I have just witnessed, I suddenly remember the running soul is me. But in all reality, if I had realized the danger ahead of time and the ultimate results of my decisions, would I have changed anything just because I knew the end result? Would I have gone a different direction, or done a different thing? Or would I have seen the signs, known the probable result, then assigned myself the job of savior of my own destiny? I think most of us would say we would start looking for a shovel to furiously fill in the cracks as we saw them appear in the ground where we were standing rather than taking a different path, away from the quake center.
When was the last time you felt like everything in your life was quaking? We have all been there, probably numerous times if we have lived a very long life. During childhood we felt little tremors when someone didn’t share their toy because we thought they weren’t our friend anymore. Our insides shook when we experienced our parents’ wrath over a lie we told or the inevitable talking back that took place in our teenage years. Growing into an adult, there were other life life quakes. Sometimes a child is wayward, a husband leaves his responsibilities at home for a new single life, a wife takes prescription drugs to “get by”. Jobs are lost, health is compromised, we grow old and can’t do what we once could, companies fail and we have to find a new vocation at mid-life…and on and on.
Over the last several years, I have experienced a lion’s share of life quakes. Some I saw coming and participated in willingly. In other circumstances, I grabbed a shovel and tried to fill in the cracks I saw appearing. Both those types quakes were nothing but harbors of grief because I didn’t see the wisdom of stepping away from the quake area. I tried to fix the splits, the bumps, I overlooked the growing damage, and I pretty much thought I was superhuman and could do whatever it took to make the quake just disappear. Looking back, I can see the best choice would have been to move away from the quake, just let it happen, and not be affected by it at all. I would have been like the prairie folks, just knowing about it, sad to hear, but moving on with my own life.
Today, I am in a bit of a life quake. My cleaning company is on the wane and has been for a while through a series of life events. Some are attributed to the economy, some are my letting the company scale down to a manageable point for a small staff. My second company dealing with estates and buying and reselling vintage items is moving forward slowly, but not at the point yet of doing it full time, although this is my real desire. If I had not gone through a few life quakes in the past, I would have grabbed that shovel and started throwing dirt in the hole, and believed I could “save” my cleaning company. And this is kind of how that estate thing started. I was buying and reselling items to help pay the bills for the cleaning company because the work just wasn’t there. But something happened that made me start leaving the quake area.
I have a book by Beth Moore that my daughter gave me. It is filled with daily devotions, each one page long, and I had started reading it this time last year. It is dated so I turned to the page on May 2nd and read “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8). I had been praying that morning, pleading with the Lord to let me know what to do. I was seeing a company I had sweated and toiled over reduced by 2/3rds in 18 months due to the economy and some former employees poaching customers, I was going through a divorce and would be solely responsible for my own household income, my physical situation was not great due to arthritis, and I was about to turn 52 which is not the ideal age to look for a job in the work place, especially since I have no skills “on paper” to speak of. I had had a few small sales and sold some things I pulled off the road that were toss-aways, some things I had cleaned out of my own home, some items that I could live without although I really didn’t want to have to sell them. I had earned a bit of money, loved meeting people and holding the sales were easy for me to organize.
Later that same day, I was reading a blog posting that I frequented and the author had written “What you have is enough. Don’t waste your haves, concentrating on your wants.” I knew God was speaking to me directly. I had been trying to fill in the cracks of a company that God wanted to move me out of. He had plans for me, I may not know what they were, where I was going, or what I would be doing, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a plan. And for months, I had been inhibiting that plan and wearing myself out shoveling in the holes rather than taking my resources, my time, my mental peace and applying it toward what I felt I was supposed to do with my future.
It is a year later, and yesterday I was reading the same devotion book and came across the same verse. I smiled when I read it and am glad I had this life quake when I did, and the wisdom to put the shovel down. I still have questions about my forward path today. I don’t know if I should look to open a store, sell online only, do shows or events or a combo of all of it. Over the last year, I didn’t always know what to do next…should I hire only one or two folks or a slew of staffing to aid me, or just do whatever I need to do myself? Should I put a sign on the cleaning company and walk away? Should I try and sell it to someone who could take the ball and run with it? But each time the opportunity has risen for me to make a choice, the answer has always been there, even if I feel a little shifting going on under my feet. Another estate sale possibility for me to host comes along. I find a perfect item for someone and a sale is made. Shoot, I even had a storm take down a tree and my fence in the fall last year and I got a whole new roof out of it when I was looking at replacing my 20 year roof this spring with money I knew I may not have. I am moving, ever so slowly, away from the quake area and learning to put my shovel down.
The next big area of possible quakes is right around the corner. It always is, and I hope and pray each day I will see it and avoid what I need to as I continue on a good journey to a new vocation. Yes, that has been decided…the how and when maybe not so decided. The last several months I have known what I want to do, what I feel called to do, but just like all human beings I wonder how I will pay the bills, will I get enough business and at the right time, will my health hold out to do the physical part of the work, will I have good folks to work with me in building something for my future, and hopefully for the future of my kids and grandchildren? If I sell or walk away from the very thing that is paying at least most of the bills, how will I make it? Will I make it?
After I read my devotion yesterday, I pulled out my Bible and did what I often do when I am struggling with a decision of which way to go. It was 5/2, so I chose Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible and chapter two. The caption was “The Desert Years”, and I had to grin to myself a little. I started to read of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, walking around the mountain for days and days but getting nowhere. Then I read ” The Lord spoke to me, saying ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough, turn northward. For the Lord has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord has been with you, you have lacked nothing.’ ”
Um, I think I just heard a shovel fall…