Today’s Trouble, Today’s Joy

Since getting married and leaving my fulltime job as a paramedic and becoming a fulltime wife, I have found my days to be fuller than they ever used to be, busier, richer, and amazingly productive. It is a largely unplanned sort of busyness. Oftentimes it is a busyness brought about by what to other people might be considered inconveniences. It isn’t the kind of productive that puts dollars in the bank, but rather the kind of productive that leads to a happy marriage, healthy relationships, a clean and welcoming and beautified home, a vibrant church and community life, a productive little homestead, and plenty to share with family and friends. It is the kind of productive that leads to life, truly living and experiencing and feeling and tasting and cultivating and nurturing and creating and being.

One of the most beautiful passages of the New Testament is from Matthew 6:25-34, in which Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount spells out the cure for worry. He admonishes His listeners against the futility of worrying. What does worry accomplish for you? You work yourself to death trying to secure your future, but can you really change tomorrow? Do you trust God to provide? Can you make your life longer by worrying? Can you even add an hour to your existence? He reminds His hearers of God’s provision. God clothes the lilies and God feeds the birds. They don’t toil, and yet He provides. It really is a beautiful passage. Jesus concludes this admonition with this well-known statement: “Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.”

How true that is! But I would also say that sufficient for the day are its own joys. In fact, I would actually say that those troubles are often its joy. Trouble and joy are twins.

I think people miss out on a lot of joy because they are trying to stave off trouble (think inconvenience, nuisance, discomfort, changes in plans, something unwanted happening, etc.), or they are trying to manipulate their way into joy without any associated “trouble”. It strikes me that those “troubles” which to a self-occupied or career-centric person would be a nuisance or would be impossible demands to meet (such as one’s day getting turned topsy-turvy by someone else’s needs), those “troubles,” to a person whose life is shaped by spouse, family, and community, are also that person’s joys.

We wake up in the morning and make a plan, and give our attention to what is required of us today. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. Obviously we have things on our schedule, weeks in advance, but the real question isn’t how best to use my time tomorrow, but how best to use my time today. Who or what needs my attention today? What joy there is in being able to live with an emphasis on those daily tasks that give life shape and meaning, allowing for the flexibility to meet spontaneous demands on my time, building those ties with my spouse, my family, and my community. Maybe it is going with my husband to find those cows that crawled into a neighbor’s pasture. Maybe it is helping with errands or being available to help with babysitting. It might be a spur of the moment picking fruit with my father-in-law, or canning tomatoes. Or jumping into our little fire rig and going to a grassfire across the highway with my husband. Or helping a neighbor work cows. Or a walk with my mom. Or helping shuttle my husband from the stack yards out in the hayfield up to the house after a load of hay was delivered. Or spontaneous coffee with my mother-in-law when taking her a couple dozen eggs on my way into town. Or doctoring an injured or sick animal, a process that always takes longer than anticipated.

We run into trouble when we spend so much time focusing on tomorrow’s troubles and trying to manipulate tomorrow’s joys that we don’t or can’t even experience what is right in front of us.

So I thank God for today’s troubles, and all of its joys.

Nothin’ more fun on dirt

DSCN0782.1“150 pounds of cowboy, 2000 pounds of hulking, stock-bucking bull.” And with that, the bucking shoot bursts open and out cracks the bull like a bolt of greased lightning, the lean cowboy clinging to its back by one rosin-gloved hand.

Bull-riding–Some couple dozen cowboys from South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado gathered at the Custer County Fairgrounds this evening to give their best at riding 2000 pounds of sheer strength for a mere eight seconds. Sound easy? Not so much. Sarah and I joined a crowd of cowboy-hat-wearing, freedom-loving, patriotic Americans for an evening of a dangerous sport, the most dangerous eight seconds in rodeo, and an amazing thing to watch. Those are some crazy cowboys. The excitement, the patriotism, the love of country, the community, the upholding of manliness in an increasingly emasculated society, the daring of the bull riders, the sportsmanship, the bravery of the bull fighters, the physical strength of the bulls. If you want some clean, country fun, go to a rodeo.

And in spite of increasing pressure against Christians, a rodeo announcer will still offer an unapologetic prayer to our Heavenly Father. I’m sure there were some there who didn’t appreciate that, but no one walked out.

Nothing has ever interested me about sports–The normal sports, that is. Baseball, basketball, football…golf. I understand that it takes skill, physical strength, stamina, precision, etc., to participate in those sports and to do it professionally. But at the end of the day, who cares if the ball went through the basket? What good does it do the players that the ball made it to the end zone? Why does it matter that the athlete made a home run? Does it change anything?

DSCN0779.1But then there’s rodeo. I also understand that some may have the same opinion of saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, and bull riding, but there is an innate practicality about those events for the cowboys participating. Those events are a display of skills that those individuals use on a day to day basis (except maybe not during haying). That cowboy who can sit the bronc or wrestle that steer–no, the cowboy who will sit the bronc or wrestle the steer. In case you were wondering, natural self-preservation doesn’t lead a man to hurtle himself from a running horse onto the head of a rangy steer. Or sit himself down on the back of a bull bred to buck, for that matter. But the man who does? He’s a tough man, a tough man to beat. Maybe crazy, but tough as nails.

“There’s nothin’ more American than riding bulls in South Dakota,” the arena announcer claimed. “Nothin’ more fun on dirt.”

I think I just might agree with him.
Laura Elizabeth