autumn mistAlthough I was not scheduled to work, the day started out at 4:30 a.m. with 5:30 barn chores just like every other day – no time to sleep in. It had been a long and busy week with wedding clean-up and company – in fact, the past three months had been overwhelmingly busy and stressful and I could not wait for things to slow down so I could catch my breath. By Friday everyone was gone and I was exhausted. I had only four hours sleep Thursday night and not much more all week, so I was eagerly anticipating a slower day and some much needed rest.

I was just about to sit down with a cup of coffee when I got the text, “Can you work for me?”  I looked at my watch; it was almost 9:00. Surely she doesn’t mean today, but I texted back, “today?” just for clarity. I was dismayed when the answer came back, “yes, if you can. I don’t feel well.”  For a moment I hesitated, I felt dangerously tired and this was a route I hadn’t run since last summer but I knew I would not have been asked if there was anyone else available, so despite my fatigue I replied, “OK. Give me thirty minutes and I’ll be there.”

As I headed to the Post Office I prayed, “Lord, please give me the strength to do this route. Help me to think clearly and to work efficiently. Once at the post office I tried to orient myself to the carrier’s system. Every rural mail carrier has their own system of organizing letters, magazines and catalogs, ads, and packages. As a substitute carrier, I often have to modify my own methods to adapt to each route. Although the mail had already been sorted and organized, I felt flustered and disorganized. This particular route had a much heavier mail volume and was carried a little differently than most of the other routes. I knew it would be a long day and I felt pressed for time as I tried to quickly load my car and get out on the road.

Finally out on the route, I had not gone far when I realized I had forgotten my scanner. Perturbed, I turned around and headed back to the post office. Once more I started out. The first part of the route went smoothly and although I was running about an hour late, I was beginning to relax and fall into a steady rhythm when I arrived at the cluster boxes on the far side of town. Almost every route has a set of cluster boxes and I have a habit of carrying the keys in my pocket, but when I reached into my pocket there were no keys. I frantically searched my pockets thinking surely I didn’t leave the keys at the Post Office, but when my search came up empty, I called and sure enough, the keys were still at the Post Office. As I hurried back, I cried out in defeat, “Lord, I asked for your help and all I’ve had is trouble. Please help me do my job and do it well.”

The rest of the day I was tired and disheartened. Not trusting my own judgment, I checked and rechecked the mail for each box. By the time I reached the last portion of the route, I knew most of the carriers would be back at the Post Office. The last section normally takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, but I thought if I hurried, perhaps I could do it in an hour. Already late, I called the Post Office to let them know what time I hoped to be back. Then like a runner who sprints the last lap, I put renewed energy into the task at hand. However, just when I thought the day could not get any worse, I realized I had a tire that was almost flat. Not wanting to take the time to change it or even air it up completely, I stopped at a box and using my portable air tank filled it just enough to keep it from going completely flat. A little while later, I had to repeat the procedure – costing me valuable minutes. When I finally finished, I was late and they were waiting on me. I left the Post Office exhausted and depressed.

Outside of town I once again aired up my tire and headed home.  I called my mother on the way home and discovered she had cleaned my house because she knew how overwhelming my week had been. Overcome with the anxiety of the day and discouraged because I felt I could not keep up with even daily household duties, I could no longer talk or hold back bitter tears of frustration. The lump in my throat threatened to choke me and tears suddenly blurred my vision.

I hung up and drove on in silence for a few minutes struggling to control my overwhelmed emotions when a line from the movie Facing the Giants came to mind. “If we win, we praise Him; and if we lose, we praise Him.” I was reminded how often I forget to praise Him in the midst of a busy life.

If we win, we praise Him; and if we lose, we praise Him.” 

“Lord, if the day goes well help me to remember to praise you. I spoke the words aloud. When my day flows smoothly and I am abundantly blessed with those little everyday victories that I so often take for granted or claim as my own, I forget that I am His, my day is His, and all that it brings is for His glory.

“And Lord, if the day is difficult, I will still praise you.” I felt defeated by the stress of the day, but despite my despair I began to thank the Lord for my job and the regular work with which I am blessed; I thanked Him for my sweet mother who so willingly gives of her time and resources; I thanked Him for the physical strength to keep going even with very little sleep. The more I thanked Him the more I found to be thankful for, and as I prayed my tears dried, my heart lightened, and peace and contentment replaced my despair as I borrowed from a football coach a new motto for good days as well as the bad.