Time To Let Go: How I Stopped Buzzing At The Window

Van loaded with boxes and crates windows open

We shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

From C.S. Lewis, Poems

Writing on the Wall

So is that what everyone thinks I should do? I should switch schools? That’s the best solution?

It was already the second week of school. The kids were in the buildings. I’d met parents and prepped my new room.

But as I looked at my boss and eight colleagues sitting around the table, I knew. Some bowed their heads. A few nodded, ever so slightly. Two looked me in the eye and grimaced in symathy.

After 20 years working at the same school building with trusted co-workers, some treasured friends and, I’ll admit, a precious window —recall, I stalk natural light— it was time to go.

Buzzing at the Window

I can make this work, I buzzed to myself. I can handle all the trouble if I can stay here with the people I know and the room with a window.

It’s humbling to say. But if you know me, you already know I do this: I buzz.

I see a way and stay the course and sometimes to a fault. I’m loyal and steady. It makes marriage and marathon training easier and helps keep book club and dinner group going strong for so long.

Keeping commitments matters. Faithfulness is a virtue. It’s a fruit of the Spirit and a good and godly way to be.

But could it be that sometimes I disguise my selfishness or stubbornness as faithfulness?

I might have done that with the little red dress that I would not give away. And I might have done it last week—and died on the window sill. I might have withered at the old job site. Buzzing at that window stole my sleep and made me sick.

Faithfulness is a good thing. But this was not about keeping a commitment. This was about selfish refusal to change.

Those honest faces around the table told me the truth, they instructed me in the way: Now was the time to go.

Ripping off the BAND-AID

Abigail, it’s the best way to do this. It’s ripping off the Band-Aid, my colleague Kay, said. Now you can heal.

Or, I shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

With help from Kay and other kind colleague, we loaded and tossed and packed and hauled and unloaded and tossed and unpacked 20 years of desk entrails and materials in two hours—flat. The picture above is my van all packed. It took Kay and Tracy’s trunks, too, to pack up those 20 years.

I got watery saying a few unavoidable good-byes. The propped door set off the school alarm and, alas, I had to explain. As I crammed the van, I lamented. I grieved lunch walks with Kathy (this kindness post started with Kathy) and camaraderie with Jess and Michelle.

I’m not too proud to admit it I mourned the big new window with light and breeze and Jiminy cricket singing to me. The new school building had no Kathy, Michelle or Jess and the new room had no windows.

But, as God would have it, I went to work Wednesday morning and sat down beside the window. I left for home that afternoon from a windowless room. Just like that.

Moving twenty years in two hours is ripping off the BAND-AID. The day shook out the bee in me.

Shaking out the Bee

Abigail, you might want to transfer after this year. I think you might be happier and it will be easier that way. But it’s up to you.

That, I sheepishly add, came during a rare after-hours phone call from Kay last May. Kay is the most senior in our department and she knew. Kay saw the writing on the wall.

But I buzzed on through the summer and into school’s first week. I wearied my wings and bruised my head. Anxiety was like a load of bricks on my chest all night.

‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,

‘And tell her, “Not that way! All, all in vain

You weary out wings and bruise your head,”

Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,

“Let queens and mystics and religious bees

Talk of such inconceivables as glass;

the blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,

Look there – ahead, ahead – the flowers, the grass!

”We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows

What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)

And shake her out – and gaily out she goes

Where quivering flowers and thick in summer air,

To drink their hearts. But left to her own will

She would have died upon the window-sill.

– C.S. Lewis, Poems, 1964. p. 127

Until I heard my Doctor speak to me, in those looks around the table on Wednesday. He made the way plain. There was no more buzzing at the window pane.

I knew the move was right.

But left to my own

Freeing up You and Me

My JoyPrO’s don’t always have bows tied. But this one kind of does. My new workplace is a delight. One week in, there’s so much to enjoy that I seldom miss the light, the breeze, and life outside my window.

Are you a bee like me sometimes? Do you buzz hard at the window thinking through it only is the way to life’s laden flowers? Do you hunker down and “faithfully” stay the course when God’s good way is to turn?

If you do, you are not alone. But I’m here to tell you that God is good. He instructs us buzzing sinners in the way—us humble, buzzing sinners.

And if we don’t let go, our faithful LORD might lovingly shake us free.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness…

Psalm 25:8-10a

Don’t Be Scared: He Holds Your Hand

Uncle Kev, God holds his hand
Uncle Kevin, 8/26/60-2/19/12

Note: A version of this post appeared in February 2012, the month Uncle Kevin went home. That post—I Hold Your Hand—was the first post written for JoyfullyPressingOn.

Firm Hold

No, Mom —no! It’s very scary. I don’t want to go. Pleeeeease—nooooo!

Waterpark guests stared. Lifeguards raised their brows. I tightened my grip on the four year-old’s hand.

Gabe’s four-year old cousin and his six year-old brother couldn’t get up the stairs fast enough. So yes, by golly, Gabe would try it once.

Onward, then—his screaming and squirming matched by my firm hold.

Very Scary

You’ll love it Bud. It’s not very scary. It’s very fun.

But the boy didn’t buy it.

No, Mom. I’m too scared. The green slide is too dark and too steep and it goes outside. Pleeeease. No!”

For a split second, wavered. But then I envisaged Gabe’s goggled grinning face bursting from the chute and toward the stairway I strode, struggling boy in tow.

By the first landing, his body had stopped protesting, a couple landings ahead of his mouth. So I lowered him, but to prevent retreat, I did not relax my hold. Hand in hand, we climbed, whine-singing, “Why Mom? It’s too scary. (x2) Please don’t make me go down.”

You can sing it to the tune of “Skip to my Lou.”

Please No

One hundred-twelve steps up we hit the summit, a relentless, omniscient mom and her reluctant, scared-to-death son.

At the sight of the gaping green mouth, Gabe made one loud, last stand.

No, Mom. Please, no.

It passed and I plopped us square on the blue tube, and wrapped him tight.

You’ll be back ten more times, assured the sage teen who pushed us off.

Let’s Go

There we were. Together on our tube, sliding along through the seafoam tunnel, awash in mid-morning sun. No longer did Gabe project fear. He broadcasted joy.

And as the tube splashed into the pool, he burst with those words I hoped to hear,

That was so fun! Let’s go again.

In the course of the next hour, with help from Grandpa (2 runs), Grandma (2 runs), Aunt Charissa (1 run), Aunt Danielle (1 run) and mom (the remaining 4 runs), Gabe enjoyed not one, not two, but ten runs down the feared and dreaded, once very scary green waterslide.

Not Strong Enough

What’s your very scary?

Is it fear of that your pain or the heartache will never away? That the grief and loneliness will always stay? That your prodigal won’t come home, that you love is in vain, or even that your faith will fail?

Rest assured: Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). He will hold you fast.

From the first run down the green chute to the last breath on this green earth, the Lord takes his children by the hand and walks us through every very scary.

His Unseen Hand

This post was written in memory of my generous, joking, winking, eye-twinkling, and fearless Uncle Kevin. On Sunday, February 19th, 2012, God took hold of Uncle Kev’s hand and walked him home.

In the nearly ten years since, the truth of God’s unseen hand gripping mine means immeasurably more now than it did then. Then, I felt it as a parent clinging to a scared child and as an observer of a dear soul fading into glory.

Now, I feel it more as a fragile parent-child whose hand is gripped by the Everlasting Father. I feel it more as a servant looking to the hand of her master, waiting for mercy (Psalm 123:2). Now I know what that I only cling to him because his hand upholds me.

Speaking of holding, had he been here Uncle Kev would have held his first grandchild, little dark-haired, rosy-cheeked Ellie last month. I know there are no tears in heaven. I hope there is a beaming Grandpa Kevin amazed by the wonder of Ellie.

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; it is I who say to you. ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’

I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 

Isaiah 41:13-14

Happiness Is Not An Entitlement: Work For Joy

The “disease model” of mental health asserts that good feelings come effortlessly to “normal” people, so bad feelings are evidence of a disease…Here is an alternative: Happiness is a skill that must be learned…

Refuse to see happiness as an entitlement.

Loretta G. Breuning, “The Therapy-Industrial Complex,” THE EPOCH TIMES, 8/25-8/31/2021

Work For Your Joy

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

2 Corinthians 1:24

Did you catch that? We work, Paul wrote, with you for your your joy.

Which means, we’re not entitled to joy and happiness is not a right. I don’t want the point to get lost in my words: You’ve got to work for joy.

And I mean that as 100% encouragement. Because too many of us have bought into the lie that says if we’re normal and healthy we’ll never feel flat, lonely or blue. And, while we might not say it this way, that we have a right to be happy.

But that’s wrong.

Happiness Is Not A Right

Pursue it, as our Founding Fathers said. Work for it with all your might. Fight for it. But please don’t say it’s your right.

You’re not entitled to it. Joy is a gift. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, meaning it’s given by God. Joy happens. We can’t command it. But we can work for. We can work to place ourselves where joy is more likely to be found. I can’t command a splendid sunset, but I can get out of this hickory woods in the evening and face west toward an open field.

I’m more likely to enjoy a drop-dead sunset there that facing east in my forest. But if I do get to savor that sun, I didn’t earn it. I worked to get where it’s found. But I don’t deserve it. Sun like that is sheer gift.

Count It All Joy

James wrote, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

I’m not an accountant by trade, but my work this Labor Day and every other day is to count it all joy.

The Greek word for translated as count is an accounting sort of word. It means to evaluate our trials somehow not on the debit but on the blessing side.

Learning to retrain my brain to reframe pain, and to count trials as joy is a mighty work. It takes effort to learn to count that way. Yes, happiness is a skill to be learned.

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

(Maybe) Abraham Lincoln

Fighters For Joy

These three have helped teach me not to take unhappiness sitting down. They teach me to work for joy.

Flannery O’Connor

A decade ago I read a quote about stalking joy. I think of it today.

Flannery O’Connor wrote,

Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy—fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest. The other day I ran up on a wonderful quotation: “The dragon is at the side of the road watching those who pass. Take care lest he devour you! You are going to the Father of souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”

I love this image. I live this image. My ground teeth and furrowed brow, out I stalk joy. I dare the joy-stealing dragon to breathe his fire as I pass—my eyes set on the city that is to come.

Because I know there is full joy in the presence of my Father, I press on.

George Mueller

George Mueller ran orphanages in England in the 1800’s. He was a joy crusader. You may have read this quote before. I return to it again and again,

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. 

My primary business each morning is the same. And I assure you, many days it takes a fight. It takes a prayer and verse and another prayer and a verse and forcing myself to give thanks for five things before I roll out of bed to, many days, tasks I dread.

Happy making is a great business.

John Piper

John Piper is all about finding joy in Jesus. And all about fighting for it relentlessly. In fact, “Every Morning There’s War in the Piper Household,”

The fight of faith is the fight for joy. I wake up every morning and fight that fight. Am I wanting to look at Twitter before I look at Jesus? It sounds stupid. That’s how stupid sin is. Every morning there’s war in the Piper household, and it’s not against my family; it’s against me.

Every day, Piper does what David did (Psalm 101:8), Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land.

We stalk joy to get our souls happy in Jesus every single day. When we feel blue, we neither fear we are diseased, nor give up the fight. We grind our teeth and stalk our way past the ancient serpent that would forever steal our joy.

Because we know joy is not a given and happiness is not our right. Joy is a gift of God and a Spirit-fruit that grows as we fight the good fight of faith. We labor to be happy in Jesus until the day we die.

But then again, like Lewis wrote, Joy is the serious business of heaven.

Fight the good fight of the faith.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

Afterward: But what about?

When asked about the disconnect between “steady state joy” and the fight for it, John Piper offered three reasons for the disconnect:

  1. Personality. Cheerfulness comes more naturally to some. It’s not the same thing as joy, but it’s a head start.
  2. Sin in in our lives. Indwelling sin precludes joy in the Christ follower. God intended that.
  3. Life in a broken world. Pain, weeping people, and perishing people stifle joy. We are sorrowful and rejoicing.

This wasn’t a how-to post. I wrote this JoyPrO to persuade you that happiness isn’t your right, so you’re not discouraged when it’s absent and you go after it with a fight. But if you want “15 Tactics For Joy,” look here. For one described in detail look here.

Stone, Bronze, Rock & Gold: Finding Strength To Hope

Man standing in strength atop massive rock in ocean.

From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: 

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2

I had no strength to hope and my mind wouldn’t rest. The tension from work wouldn’t let go when I fell into bed. After 20 years on the job, this kind of conflict is new, complex, and unique.

Hopeless And Sleepless

But I rest my head on the soft pillow of providence. So I should still able to sleep, right?

Because compared to Afghanistan and New Orleans and a friend who can’t eat because of radiation rampaging her mouth, my troubles are nothing. Because I believe to my core that my times are in his hands. And because I trust that in this messiness God is working for good.

But my anxious mind wouldn’t let my tired flesh sleep. Despite casting my cares and reciting a verse, two days in a row I awoke by a mind awash, weary and weak.

Then sometime in the third watch of the third night, totally unprompted, stones and a rock entered and settled me.

Strength Of Stones

I can’t explain how they came except to say, if you put God’s Word in your heart, the Spirit pulls it out.

He brought stones to mind first: What is my strength that I should hope? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?  (Job 6:10-11)

Job was my man. He felt my pain and I felt his. He was strong. I was strong.

I’ve been strong. My sisters and cousins and I joke about our strong genes and high tolerance for pain. After all, we milked kicky goats and weeded field gardens and bailed August hay. We Considine girls are strong.

Depending Strength

My flesh is strong, but it is not the durable strength of bronze. My heart is strong, but it it is not the staunch strength of a stone. It’s true: my flesh and my heart fail me. That happens when my hope dims, like it did in the dark this week when I couldn’t solve my way out of the tension at work. The truth is, I still don’t see the way out.

But I’m not alone. Centuries ago the Puritan Matthew Henry was also taken up by Job’s words.

He noted,

What is my strength, that I should hope? You see how I am weakened and brought low, how unable I am to grapple with my [moods], and therefore what reason have I to hope that I should outlive them, and see better days?

Is my strength the strength of stones? Are my muscles brass and my sinews steel? No, they are not, and therefore I … sink under the load […]

What is our strength? It is depending strength. We have no more strength than God gives us; for in him we live and move. 

The only real strength that we stones have is a depending strength. That is not a bug. It is a design feature.

Because, as Paul Tripp says, It is not your weakness that will get in the way of God’s working through you, but your delusions of strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

God created us weak and needy, not with the unyielding strength of stones.

Strong Enough To Stay Upon

The truth is, I still don’t see a way out of the conflict at work. But my perspective is changing. This depending strength is giving me hope. I know He will be with me with the tension is high. Trusting Him for that brings peace.

Which is the second truth God sent in third watch of the third night. It was Isaiah 26:3-4,

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Stayed upon means my mind is fixed on, focused on, stayed upon Jehovah. That is the only way to perfect peace. The Hebrew word sawmak comes from the root “to prop.” A Bible dictionary says it has the idea of “to lean upon or take hold of … lay, lean, lie hard, put, rest self, set self, stand fast, stay (self), sustain.”

No sugarcoating: staying our minds takes work. It means first we press on to know God. Because we won’t trust what we don’t know. And we certainly won’t focus and fix and lean and stay our minds on what we do not trust.

But I’m here to tell you that there is perfect peace when this dependent stone stays her mind on the everlasting Rock.

Come Forth As Gold

I actually started this post nine years ago when as I first pondered those “strength of stone” words of Job. Infertility wearied me then. It took massive depending strength that I didn’t always have to hope in God’s goodness—whether it came through a third child (it didn’t) or by knowing Him more (it did).

To tell you the truth, most of my adult life feels like a series of tests. Maybe yours does too. And maybe that’s normal for every believer. Maybe it’s God’s way of testing us lumps of gold.

I’ve got some theology for that too. It didn’t come in the third watch of the night like the Rock and stones. But I know what Job knew (23:10): that he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

No, my flesh is not bronze and my strength is not the strength of stones. But as I trust in the Everlasting Rock, I gain perfect peace and strength to hope.

And when he has tested us, we will come forth as gold.
 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26