Stress, Milestones and Pillars of Cloud

This is a view of the main street in Peitermar...
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I have been away from here for far too long.

My colleague was asked how he manages to de-stress from our demanding and rather over-crowded days in Human Resources management.  His answer was easy; he pounds the pavements.  He’s a Comrades Marathon runner (six finishes so far).  And me?  Well, my best method of de-stressing is to write.  You can imagine therefore, since writing hasn’t happened this last month, that things are rather frantic.  But this blog doesn’t usually require parental guidance so I shall refrain from listing the frenzied activities crowding our diaries at the moment.  One good thing, however, is that we have reached a settlement with our recognised union over wages, thus averting a strike that appeared imminent.  Now THAT would have pushed up the stress levels.

In spite of all the fun and games, on 1 July I made it to 15 years working in Human Resources management at the local newspaper. That was celebrated with a gift which helped me buy the laptop I’m using to type this post.  A more important milestone reached on 7 July was Jen and I celebrating 20 years of marriage.  Quite a milestone; it seems more like ten but we won’t ask Jen how long it seems to her.  Dinner at Porcelli’s last night, a wonderful Pacific-rim-cuisine restaurant here in Pietermaritzburg.  John Porcelli is an Aussie who had restaurants in Sydney and elsewhere but has settled here, much to our delight.   And on 21 June my grandson celebrated his first birthday in the rather wobbly city of Christchurch.  Well, to be strictly correct, everyone else celebrated; he simply enjoyed the fuss and the fun things happening around him.

Milestones such as these help remind us of our roots and of our journey.  We celebrate the journey and remember people and places along the way.  We remind each other of what it has taken to get here and encourage each other for what lies ahead.  The danger of course, one that Israel faced in the desert, is that we remember the past with rose-coloured spectacles and wish ourselves back to a distant time and a different place; we become dissatisfied with who we are, where we are, and who we are with.  “If only…” becomes our watchword; the Promised Land is a threat rather than a gift, and Egypt is where we want to be.

I may not have an Egypt I want to go back to but I don’t find myself marching into the future with confident strides either.  A pillar of cloud as a guide during the day and a pillar of fire in the night sounds like a pretty good deal (Exodus 13:21).  I feel pretty sure that I would wait patiently or march forward in confident faith if it were only that easy.  But the fact that the Israelites struggled, even with those advantages, makes me realise that things are never quite that simple.  Is that really God’s fire, or is it Moses messing up the braai (barbecue) again?  Are you sure that’s God’s cloud telling us to move on?  Perhaps it’s just the early morning mist?

Meanwhile I write.  This is where I can (sometimes) distinguish the mist from the cloud and the fire of God from the braai.

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