Sometimes a Good Laugh Is What’s Needed

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

When was the last time your day…or week…was turned completely upside down? I mean…totally. That was my experience this week, and it was a good reminder to be patient and hang onto (okay, clutch tightly) a peaceful spirit. After all, God is in control, right?

Those words can roll off our lips so easily, especially when we’re using them to encourage someone else. But I soon became aware the rubber would meet the road for me this week. I was sensing that gentle nudge to express patience and a joyful spirit, genuinely. In so doing it would honor God and everyone else with whom I’d be interacting. Can you relate to this kind of experience in your Umbrella_Screen-shot-2013-12-06-at-11.35.37-AMwriting life?

I usually spend time Friday afternoon and again Sunday evening planning the coming week. I had a long list of things I looked forward to accomplishing. (Are you tracking with me?) Then Monday hit. And then Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon I was chuckling. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Here is a sampling of incidents God used to get my attention:

  1. Monday and Tuesday: unexpected opportunity for client requiring immediate and urgent attention to put plan in motion.
  2. Tuesday: spent seven hours at emergency room with husband; turned out that extreme dizziness was related to his recent sinus infection. Tuesday evening: participated in online event.
  3. Wednesday morning: important conversation with client; determined future publishing direction for client’s career in light of lack of interest from editors. Wednesday afternoon: received a request for the client’s full manuscript from an editor at a Christian publisher to whom I sent the proposal eight months ago; at that time, editor didn’t think client’s book was right for them.

And now it’s Thursday, and the only thing I could think to blog about is learning to respond well to God’s adjustments of our to-do lists. I found that “holy”laughter released tension, not to mention those helpful endorphins, allowing me to go with the flow when my best-laid plans turned topsy-turvy.

It took deliberate effort to make sure my responses to further circumstances would resemble grace. Patience and a peaceful heart don’t come naturally under stress. But I recognized it was God’s agenda for my spiritual practice this week, so it had to be top priority on my list too.

Looking back, I actually got many items on my list accomplished too. My training exercise reminded me that somehow, when we really put feet to our words, God is in control, he blesses. I laughed, amazed.

And there are still two days left in the week.

When was the last time your agenda was turned upside down? Can you relate to this kind of training in your writing life? What do you do that helps you respond positively and productively?

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58 Comments

  • The last time my agenda was turned upside down? How about the 12-18 inches of snow now in progress? The unexpected gift of a full day (maybe more?) at home.

    Do I use these hours to write, or do I work my way through the undone items on my to-do list? Of course, a substantial block of time will be devoted to the snow relocation that will let me get back to the agenda.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      To shovel or not to shovel, that is the question. The weather reports I’m hearing encourage people to stay home. But either way, the agenda or the gift of a day for writing, it sounds like you’re going with the flow, Shirlee.

  • Interesting, in that rather a lot of effort was expended in training me to turn others’ agendas upside-down, in a very kinetic manner.

    And, of course, one learned how to avoid the disruption of one’s own plans…and that is summed up in two words:

    Focus and engagement.

    Life is a kinetic process; focus and engagement are the gyroscopes that keep us stable. The faster they turn – the more focused and engaged (and thus motivated) we are, the less susceptible we are to the “imp of the perverse” in life.

    Disruptions in my life? Having he bank accounts hacked and being left with $7 last year may count…plus finding a dog with a broken back, abandoned in a ditch, a few days later(she’s learning to walk again).

    Losing my academic job, having my career wrecked, and some annoying health issues might be another.

    And then there was the “don’t put your OP on the enemy’s small-arms range” story, but we’ll leave that one alone today.

    • You’re so sublime. “Annoying health issues”?

      And brilliant. “Life is a kinetic process; focus and engagement are the gyroscopes that keep us stable. The faster they turn – the more focused and engaged (and thus motivated) we are, the less susceptible we are to the “imp of the perverse” in life.”

      Amazing.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      “Life is a kinetic process; focus and engagement are the gyroscopes that keep us stable.” Wow, Andrew, you have an honorary masters in focus and engagement when personal agendas are turned inside out. You must be very thankful for that training, which has helped you handle those other agendas–and now may be serving you well in your writing life.

  • This is so minor … but after just finishing my MS, doing some minor editing … I noticed that my tense wasn’t consistent. In my descriptions, I had past and present. Ugh. How did I not notice that before? Back to the drawing board …

    I noticed last night … late … and tried to lie down, but knew it would press heavily on my heart … so I got up and got to work.

    It’s minor, but it surely wasn’t on my agenda today.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      We’re all in training, aren’t we, Shelli. Whether in the minor things or major things that change our personal plans, they are opportunities to grow in patience. I was reminded of that yesterday.

  • Oh my word! 7 hours in the ER?! I’m SO thankful he’s okay!
    And Wednesday turned out pretty swell, after all!

    Life turning upside down? Almost literally…

    On January 11th, mid-afternoon, I was out of town at a hockey tournament, slipped on some ice and landed on my chin.
    My shoulder hurt so bad I couldn’t move my arm. My chin felt like Rocky had gotten mad. The other hockey parents were bringing me ice and we all enjoyed a laugh because it WAS a funny way to wipe out. Even I laughed. It was classic physical comedy. But, then, hmmmm. My eyes got really tired and I had a hard time paying attention.

    My friend Renee took me to the ER and stayed in touch with my husband all through our 4 hour hospital visit, my 35 x-rays, a CT scan and then back to the team hotel.Then I finally got to talk to him, privately, that night. Then after I spoke with hubby? I did what any normal person does in that situation.

    I sent an email to my agent. ;)

    ” hi, am typing left handed
    things will have to wait, i fell in some ice today. Smashed chin, tore right rotator cuff , hurts bad.
    35 x rays, 1 cat scan. in sling for 2 weeks and collar for 2 weeks
    everything hurts, landed on chin and knees, c3 and c4 vertabrae out of alignment

    ow. :(

    And what did she say? Amongst other very sweet and concerned things? “…Don’t even think about your manuscript for now. God knew all about this beforehand; his timing is perfect. Just rest and let yourself mend…”

    Aww. Sniff.

    So, all worries in limbo, I slept like it was my job, (turned out that I did have a mild concussion) my kids learned a lot about taking care of Mom and I mastered left handed mousing. And forced patience. And writing plot notes left handed.

    I was upset that I’d hurt myself so badly, and yet, it could have been WAY worse. I was carrying two take out cups of tea and I’ve been told by just about everyone that because of the way I was holding the cups, I saved myself from 2 broken wrists, and very likely, two broken arms.

    God knew it was going to happen, and I can see His provision in those cups. If I’d broken both arthritic wrists? I’d be out for months. MONTHS.

    And my poor husband may have gone out of his minding typing the edits on my MS. Although, I could have totally misbehaved/had fun and made him re-write the kissing scenes…maybe act them out, too.

    What?

  • Mary, Sorry to hear about your week and the events of those who commented. Ever happen to me? Sure–sometimes in such rapid succession that I wondered if they were re-filming the Book of Job via Candid Camera.
    An example of God’s direction? How about the sudden death of my wife of 40 years, an event that brought my world to a screeching halt? That ultimately led me to write a non-fiction book on the loss of a spouse, which led me to try my hand at fiction, which led to contracts for six–soon to be seven–novels of medical suspense. Wonder what’s next.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Oh, Mary! So thankful your husband is okay! Praise!

    How I loved this nitty, gritty, get-real post. :)Sometimes, I think we feel like we’re the lone duck until others begin to share.

    Let’s see…when was my day/week completely turned upside down? *giggle* Literally– that would be about two weeks ago. I blogged about it here: http://authorcynthiaherron.com/two-words-folks-need-to-say-more

    I can laugh (kinda) now. But I really struggled then.

    Hugs to you, dear Mary! (And I pray your day is stupendous!)

  • Oh wow, Mary, what a week! So glad your husband’s issue wasn’t anything more serious.

    With the crazy winter we’ve had, I’ve found laughter to be good medicine in the midst of unending school delays and cancellations. I think moms everywhere would agree — Bring on spring! :)

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Sarah, I had to laugh with you. Yes, this year’s weather related school closings are affecting moms in a big way. I’m sure it has altered your writing schedule, as it has my daughter too. Enjoy the extra time God has provided with your children.

  • Michelle Ule Michelle Ule says:

    We call those divine interventions and just go with the flow.

    Sometimes we end up in eddies, whirlpools or white water rapids, but just as often: the beach with a colorful drink and an umbrella! :-)

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Michelle, you are a master at going with the flow! Three book releases, son and family buying and moving in to your house before you found one to purchase, moving, being available to so many…all in one year. Did I forget anything?

      Thanks for bringing a balanced view of “divine interventions.”

  • Wow, Mary, you HAVE had a week. :) And I was relieved to read things weren’t more serious with your hubby. Those ER visits can be all sorts of scary.

    I don’t have any big stories to share beyond those plans that were long term (like becoming a mom on my time frame—yeah, I’m pretty sure I heard God laugh at that one), but my most recent was probably last week when my kiddos were home two days in a row for snow/extreme cold days. And I was sick. And I have things I must get completed in the next week.

    Pretty much no writing got done. But it’s in God’s hands, and in His timing.

    I don’t remember this every day, but I try to ask God what He wants for my day and be open to changing the plans I have written down on paper. Yes, some days, He erases my plans and replaces them with His. :)

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Jeanne, thanks for your spiritually mature examples of flowing with God’s plans for you. Your words radiate a peaceful spirit. Thanks for sharing your practice of starting the day by surrendering it to God’s plans.

  • Jaime Wright says:

    I’ve had this happen recently–at least the week turned upside down thing (not the ER visit :( )
    My daughter provided the comic the 4 yr old comic relief after “Daddy” attempted to talk me down and I went off on an emotional rampage. When I paused for breath, my Co-Co stopped, palm out and said in her motherly voice: “Mommy, you just need to RELAX–and LISTEN to Daddy.”
    Needless to say, it brought laughter to a hectic and overblown emotional week…and I did end up listening to Daddy after my little voice of reason snapped me back into attention. :)

  • Mary, you hooked me with “seven hours at the emergency room.” I’m so glad it wasn’t something more serious!

    Agenda? What’s that? :) If there’s just one thing I’ve learned homeschooling six children, it’s flexibility. What a crash course in handing my desired down-to-the-minute schedule over to God! And yet, if I wasn’t at home with my children, I probably never would have started writing again. I have found myself, in recent months, focusing more on my priorities. I’ve written a list and keep it in my Notes app on my iPad where I can refer to it as needed. I used to smile when I would see those cute images on social media of writers and readers choosing writing or reading over cleaning house. But it’s true! If we’re about to run out of diapers, then I have to go out. But the laundry can stay in the basket for the afternoon so I can write during nap time. Like you mentioned, it’s usually not nearly as dire as it seems. I look back over my lists, see that I did get some important things done, and life moves on.

    Thanks for the encouragement today, in your post and the comments!

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Meghan, you are a go-with-the-flow overachiever. I can see why a list on your iPad helps to keep your priorities in order–and remembered–when you are so busy keeping up with six children’s agendas. I’m cheering you on that you prioritize your writing during naps. The laundry can wait.

  • As an addendum that I would have preferred not to add…but one which the events of my day have made relevant –

    When one is physically tried and found wanting, one might do worse than to ask the Almighty for the strength to carry on in one’s duties, with compassion, honor, and fortitude.

  • The end of last week and start of this week wrecked my work schedule with FIVE kids + friends home on snow days. Every 10-20 minutes a new child was coming in or going out. Of course they waited until they were so cold that they were unable to move their gloved fingers to untie boots or pull off the snow pants …

    Was so looking forward to getting back into the swing of it with them at school. Then terror struck my heart with the worst four-letter word in the English language:

    LICE!

  • Mary, I’m sorry to hear about your week! We had that happen two weeks ago when we got a call that my father-in-law had a heart attack. My mother-in-law had a total knee replacement surgery two weeks before, so my husband and I spent a week driving her back and forth to the hospital (thirty miles away) for the three surgeries he had to have. We were in the process of redecorating our bedroom (new carpet, painting, etc.) Thankfully, my FIL is doing much better and his heart has no permanent damage.

    Thank you for offering me some of your encouragement this week! I appreciated your email yesterday, but now I appreciate it even more, knowing the week you’ve had. Here’s praying that God will double your accomplishments next week!

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Gabrielle, what a blessing you and your husband were to your in-laws. The timing of these apparent intrusions on our agenda can be a mystery. But who knows in what ways it might be fodder for one of your stories.

      Thanks for your prayers.

  • This morning…I feel like the mom version of Stretch Armstrong…and then I got a ticket while driving the kids to school. Totally my fault. I saw someone getting a ticket and thought..wow..what a bad way to start the day and that is when I rolled through the stop sign, right in front of another motorcycle cop .. thinking about selling a kidney to pay for the infraction.

    I guess it could be worse… LICE or a kidney stone..

  • Anna Labno says:

    Mary,

    I started writing my blog post about the same subject today. And I asked God today this morning if he’s laughing at me?
    This morning when I picked up a bowl of hot milk from the microwave, my older son without any warning started laughing so loud from something he was watching, I dropped the bowl. The bowl landed on the stove. It didn’t break, but you guessed it right. The milk spilled everywhere, wetting my yoga pants, the stove, countertops, cabinet doors, and floor. And everything happened just before I had to get kids out the door to get them to school.
    As I removed my sticky slippers and was careful not to make more footprints, God made sure I woke up this morning.

  • Anna Labno says:

    We all plan, but God has a way to laugh at us and stop us from planning ahead of time.

  • Mary, my life interruptions seem to pile up all at once and they usually involve multiple things going wrong at my home. The furnace breaks down, the opener won’t close the garage door and the dishwasher quits. It doesn’t help when the contractor says, “You shouldn’t be having these problems with a house of this age (6 years). I often feel as if I’m being tested to see just how much I can take before I totally blow my Christian witness. Like you, I’m learning to keep it light and *chuckle* during trying times. Thanks for your post. It helps to be reminded we’re all in the same boat.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Susi, I think we’re all in the same boat because we’re all in training to better reflect Christ…a life-long process. I hope you get a satisfying resolution to your furnace-opener-dishwasher problems.

  • Thanks for this post! I’m just now coming out of two weeks of having two very sick 18-month-olds. Needless to say, it devastated my writing schedule. I had to constantly remind myself to stay thankful and that God knew all about my writing obligations and would help me through…and He did. :)

  • Lori Benton says:

    Long ago it was a year of cancer treatment. More recently, December was “one of those” months. Life as I prefer to live it pretty much stopped for that month. I took a deep breath and reminded myself (more than once no doubt) that God is in control and nothing had spiraled out of His hands. It never does, whether it’s little foxes in the grapes or giants in the land.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Lori, I read about God’s multiplied gift of your trip to your father’s memorial service. God conquered the giant in the land for you. Many blessings and care after a difficult December.

  • Today. Today was that day. It was dizzying and heart-thumping but made me giddy as I watched the Lord turn my initial panic into shake-a-hip-loose joy over the course of the day as He worked HIS plan in me.

  • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

    Rejoicing with you, Cynthia!

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