Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
The great American dream is to have a successful career, a perfect family, a home in the country with a white picket fence, and a care-free retirement to be enjoyed for many years. Right. Reality says that work can be very gratifying but is also long and arduous, and before you know it, retirement is staring you in the face. Retirement is supposed to be relaxing, a time of contemplation and tranquility where our time is finally our own. However, to be honest, this is actually the reality for many. I am not in that select group. I am in the other group. You know, the group that wants to stay relevant and still believes we have skill sets acquired during a lifetime of experience that can be beneficial. The good news in retirement is that we can now volunteer for noteworthy causes. The challenge is to know when not to over-stretch ourselves in these endeavors. All of the sudden, much of that cherished free time is now taken up with meetings, planning, and events. Don't get me wrong – it's all good. It's just an exercise on how to not only serve but also make time for yourself. Otherwise, you can easily find yourself busier than when working full-time.
And so it was that I found myself with some free time last week. That can present a problem itself in deciding what to do to relax. Woodworking? Reading? Organizing workshops for the upcoming season of projects? I decided to walk the dog and consider further my options. And there was where this saga begins. With the recent, unseasonably warm temperatures came the melt and at night the inevitable re-freeze on a large scale. There were large patches of ice around the entrance to the house. As I was coming down the hill to the door. I was gingerly taking my time on the ice to avoid any mishaps – to no avail. The dog pulled on the leash. I tried to maintain control and lost. I went horizontal and splayed out on the ice with my head making a distinctly loud connection with the ice. A caveat is needed here. No ice was damaged in the occurrence of this event. I was laid out for a good five minutes until I could get myself up and into the house. My head was throbbing and my elbow was hurting to the point where I wanted to scream…just a little. Cathy dutifully and lovingly provided for my injuries. But we were not done quite yet.
This time of year also the annual exercise in anxiety and trepidation, commonly referred to as tax season. For years we have used a renowned online service for tax submission. What could be easier than just entering data from the comfort of your home and letting the tax experts' computer program do the rest? What planet was I born on? Just to enter the required data was a two-hour exercise in answering more questions than when I joined the military. It seems you need an interpreter who speaks "taxese" to just understand what is being asked. Finally, the evil deed was done and the sun immediately shone through the dark clouds of uncertainty – we were getting a refund! Now, all we had to do was to hit the submit button. Success! Not so fast. Ten minutes later was the dreaded notification that the submission was not accepted due to more “taxese” jargon. Short story – after five more rejections we were able to connect with a real person. Real meaning someone to exchange texts with who was as frustrated with their own system as much as we were. What worked finally? We entered 0 into fields requiring numbers and the computer accepted everything. I could just scream at the futility of having contributed three-hours of our lives that we can never recuperate. Still, we are getting refunds. Ok, the scream was a bit more muted to be classified as a whine.
And finally, the last straw to complete the saga. Coming down the shoreline to go into town I rounded the corner where you can see the current gas price at the Holiday station. Now I readily admit that I am peculiar in that I actually have a happy point regarding gas prices when they are under a certain amount. Imagine my reaction to being unprepared for the price to have gone up over 20 cents per gallon – eight percent – in one week. Ostensibly this is to reflect an improving economy. As I was in my truck and the windows were up, I finally gave in and vented for about three seconds. After all – what are you going to do? Yep, I pulled in and gassed up. Sometimes it is difficult to not be able to express frustration about circumstances, particularly those we have no control over. You know, like falling on the ice, tax preparation, and gas prices. But there is comfort in the certainty that God does care about our frustrations and trials and wants to not only hear about them, but he also offers to help. We have to be willing to tell him and then also to let him help. Now I feel better.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
“ God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
May you be blessed by God's word.