Synergy

syn·er·gy

(snr-j)

n. pl. syn·er·gies

1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.

This is one of my favorite words.  It’s fun to say.  Sin-er-gy.  It’s even greater to see in action.  This, my friends, is the ultimate in teamwork.  This is the beauty of one flesh.

Jonathon and I talked for a while last night about his upcoming first day with the Administrative District of the Courts, or AOC for short.  Yes, that’s what it’s called and it’s a mouthful.  It was a tough but good season, him being unemployed for 9 months.  He mentioned that he wished he’d worked harder on landscaping the yard and finishing the kitchen cabinets, which have been repainted and refaced but still need some final tweaking.  He also said he should’ve helped with chores more.  Yeah.  It would’ve been nice.  But I didn’t expect that.

When you’re out of work, it’s like all the air got squee-e-zed out of your spirit-balloon.  Now, I’m not going all weird on you.  Hear me out.  You don’t have any drive.  You – being a man- might feel worthless and ineffective.  You might think you will never find a job or use your skills to earn a living again.  You, uh, might mope a little.  Or a lot.  It’s okay.  There’s a certain time to grieve what you lost and wonder what’s next. You are unable to move on.

But you can’t stay there.  If you’re lucky (and boy, is Jonathon EVER lucky!), your spouse or significant other won’t let you stay there.  She might kick you in the pants and say, “Get up!  Find a project or help someone.  Such-and-such company is an idiot for not hiring you.  Yes, indeed.  But the right company/person will come along in time.  For now, put your hands to good use! You can’t make it happen.”

And Jonathon did that.  He planted grass in our front yard where before it was all gravel and sand and weeds. He ripped out some ugly trees and bushes lurking in that same space. He worked on the cabinets, ousting the ugly (sorry, wood lovers!) original pine cabinets for something more updated and bright. He started giving piano lessons out of our home to raise some cash and use his ability as a teacher, something he greatly enjoys. He got further on his dissertation proposal, despite many, many obstacles to his original idea. He was around for Ruby’s first day of kindergarten.  He drove Zac to school most mornings and attended the kids’ conferences with me. 

And for his part…well, he encouraged me to start this blog.  I doubt I would’ve attempted blogging again without his encouragement.  Sometimes he even suggested ideas and was gracious enough to let me refuse them. He’s helped me navigate through the minefields that sometimes result from me speaking my mind.  He’s held me when I cried in frustration about, oh, anything.  He watched the kids so I could run during an off-time.  He took the kids to school so I could go to kettlebells class.  He has great wisdom and he was able to give me clarification and a better perspective on things when I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. He planned and cooked meals, which he likes to do but doesn’t have time to do when he’s working.  He took care of things so I could transcribe for Microsoft.  He let me get a couple of part-time jobs, sans jealousy, when he couldn’t find one decent full-time one for himself.

Together, we are a great team. Were we perfect?  Did we ever fight during this time?  Sure.  Too many bosses in the house.  The kids had a field day pitting us against each other at first. But during this time we got closer as a family.  We collaborated on the church’s Christmas play.  Jonathon’s the one who said I should write the script, which scared me.  We started to talk through and pray through some of our hang-ups.  No doubt there are more, but it’s a start.  We are not each other’s enemy.  We are on the same team, rowing the same way, reaching for the same goals.  Loving God, loving each other and our kids, loving others.

So what did we get out of this time?  The sum of two agents whose combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual parts.

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Anticipation

Tomorrow Jonathon goes back to work.  Tomorrow we get Jonathon’s last unemployment disbursement, which we really need.  The sky is overcast yet it doesn’t rain – or clear off. Such a tease! And I’m still wearing fleece. Tomorrow, I take both kids to school for the first time, a juggling act I hope to pick up easily. 

So today is…waiting.  Sigh.  Here we are again, folks! 

I went to work this morning for 3 hours to learn and input end-of-month payroll.  I cleaned the house.  Well, the downstairs anyway.  And now what?  Waiting some more.  Waiting to pick up Ruby from school. Waiting to pick Zac up from his robotics intramurals at OMS.  Waiting to start making dinner.

I hate waiting!

I think I need to change my thinking again. I need to anticipate.  Did you know there are 6 definitions of anticipate?  I am focusing on #2:  to look forward to, especially with pleasure. It’s been a long time coming on some of these.  Perhaps if I anticipate, I won’t get trapped in the “waiting” place.  I can move to the “excitement” destination instead. Kids do this so much better than we do.  I remember telling the kids about going to Disneyland 2 years ago for spring break.  We gave them a week’s notice, I think.  Plenty of time to dream and plan and get pumped about it! They talked about every part of the trip:  the plane ride, the hotel stay, the hotel pool (still a great memory!), sunny weather, eating out every day, and Disneyland itself with its intrinsic joys.

I am looking forward to later this afternoon to getting the kids back home.  I missed them today after our long weekend together.  I am looking forward to being in the black, paying the last of the bills from May and going food shopping.  I am looking forward to Jonathon scooting off to a regular job for the first time this year, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure in a new line of work. Oh, and having the house to myself on a regular basis during the day, for a couple of weeks, until school lets out for the summer.  (Wait, did I say that?!)

It’s gonna be good.

Like Riding a Bike

Today, we promised we’d take Ruby out to the library parking lot so she could spend time learning to ride her bike without training wheels.  This was contingent on her cleaning up the playroom.  Feeling put upon, she managed to make it take over 3 hours.  But she did it.  Both Jonathon and I were able to complete our projects long before she did. I put on music for her, which meant singing ensued, along with some impromptu dancing. 

Somehow, she didn’t seem to remember how to clean up.  Or at the very least, how to clean up in a timely fashion.  And why was this?

We often use the analogy of some skill long forgotten coming back to us “like riding a bicycle”.  A lot of things are like that.  Take my re-education of using QuickBooks again.  I had forgotten how to enter bills and make deposits.  Now I’m re-learning those things at Harmony Hill as well as learning how to create invoices and receive credit card payments.  I can build upon the skills I already acquired and add the new stuff on top of that.  But remembering the old stuff is crucial, for my confidence as well as context for the new information.

I believe we recall things more quickly if they engage more senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell – as well as our physical bodies.  Studies bear this out. Riding a bike has all these elements, perhaps minus taste.  Though if you crash, you might taste asphalt.  Once our senses are engaged, our mind makes a memory.  The experience then is logged and it matters to us.  Riding a bike, or using a computer program that spits out check payments, is important to remember and our mind makes a note of it. You should also know I have never tasted a check and have no plans to do so.

Ruby cleaning up her stuff is only drudgery to her, in spite of the fact that it inevitably turns into a treasure hunt.  A beaded ring!  A cool drawing she made months ago!  An ancient piece of candy!  Other senses come on board with those discoveries.  But she doesn’t enjoy it.  She acts the part of a sullen Cinderella, longing to go to the ball but not quite able to finish cleaning the draperies and tapestries.

And that’s the last ingredient:  enjoyment.  If we like to do something, we remember how to do it.  We consciously and unconsciously want to do it again; we bring it to the forefront of our minds with joy.  We scour our brains for the cute guy’s name.  We search earnestly for the recipe for lemon ice box pie, knowing full well it’s time-consuming and possibly sugar coma-inducing. 

Ruby started to learn to ride a bike today.  Jonathon worked with her, carefully holding her seat as Zac’s old too-big helmet slipped over her eyes and she pedaled furiously.  They wove back and forth across the parking lot, Ruby wobbling and Jonathon holding fast.  Pedaling and steering were tough; moving fast proved too much.  Ruby sat on the curb and cried with frustration. The bike pedal scraping her shin ended her day’s practice. Jonathon scooped her up and held her close, letting her know it’s okay to cry and be angry.  It’s all part of realizing you don’t know what in the world you’re doing. That’s the time when you think about quitting. But she’s almost there.  She has good balance and an innate ability to master thing quickly.  She also has tenacity from both sides of her family. The combination of both is what will bring success.

Once you get the hang of something, then you enjoy it.  I know that in time, Ruby will love riding her bike, the wind in her face, flying down the street with a pink princess helmet on her head.  We can take family bike rides and make new memories riding around Shelton together.  And someday when she’s older and hasn’t ridden for a long time, she’ll hop on a bike and remember her dad lovingly teaching her how to ride on Memorial Day. She won’t forget that, either.

The Power of Yes

Not the band.

 

I ran the Goldsborough Creek race route this morning, all 7 miles of it.  I still haven’t decided if I want to run it next Saturday or not.  I’ve run it 2 other times. Last year I ran it in 1:07:54.  That’s alright, I guess.  I almost threw up at the end.  I ate that banana too close to the start of the race.  The year before that, I ran it in  1:13, I think.  I lost confidence .

Today was tough. I dutifully ate my standard pre-run breakfast 2 hours before I planned to run. I drank my water. Jonathon graciously dropped me off at the start of the race at the top of Shelton Springs Road.  I looked at my watch and began.  It was just me and the lush undergrowth of damp trees.  Birds swooped around.  About 10 cars passed me in total.  It was quiet except for my feet hitting the asphalt.  A couple of slugs and snails crossed my path. 

The day was overcast but trying mightily to be sunny.  My head was not into it. I started to question whether racing, or even running, was worth it anymore.  All the other times I ran this loop before the race, to gauge time and distance and familiarize myself with the course, I’ve done it with someone else.  I’ve never done it alone.  For those who don’t know, it’s pretty rural back roads – a few houses, the 7th Day Adventist Church, and several farms dot this lovely little valley. I did see horses.  I thought, What if something happens to me?  I don’t have my phone.  What if I twist my ankle or get hit by a car?  People like to speed along in their truck and SUVs around these twisty, hummocky roads. 

Thoughts like that made me stop and walk.  I got to the 2-mile mark and hit the hill.  A sharp left onto Deegan Road West, and  back into the forest primeval.  I could not get a rhythm going.  I had no faith, no desire, no oomph to continue.  I walked and prayed.  What now, Jesus?  I know I’m about 2.5 miles from the cutoff that leads back into town.  I don’t want to walk it all, but I have nothing.  No mental strength.  No one to cheer me along this windy, wet road.

As I prayed, a thought popped into my head.  I remembered back to my first half marathon – the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Half in August 2010.  It was cold and misty, the bridge itself the first obstacle to conquer. The first 6 miles or so were fine.  Plenty of stamina and desire.  Then, somewhere around miles 8-10, things got wonky.  I found I had to think only one thing:  Yes.  That’s it.  If I thought of anything else, other than avoiding potholes and uneven pavement, I was sunk.  I had to focus and make my thoughts behave. I mean, I can command a big dog that’s trying to bite me to get lost, but I can’t get rid of these self-defeating thoughts?  Come on!

So that’s what I did for the last 4.5 miles.  Yes.  Yes to finishing well.  Yes to not giving up and proving that it’s doable and God will give me the strength.  I wound up a few more hills and as the road bent to the right again, I saw the stop sign.  Aha! Less than 2 miles to go. I hit the railroad tracks in town and walked for a minute to catch my breath.  Less than a mile to go to the post office.

Once I hit the light at 7th, I started to kick.  I didn’t think about it; my body just went there. My stomach didn’t like it but I pressed on.  I finished the run at 1:06 – 66 minutes.  Huh?  Even with all the times I walked?  What in the world? Somehow, over the course of the last couple years of fighting illness and a long-term injury, I lost that Yes.  I gave up on myself and figured maybe my time was past.  Maybe I was done racing and running and pursuing such physical goals.  I am getting older all the time. I believed the lie that I couldn’t do it and it was selfish and a waste of time to even try.

No.  It isn’t.  And perhaps this is an unorthodox way to  take every thought captive, but maybe we’ve been doing it wrong.  Maybe the idea is to *choose* what to think, not so much actively put away or rebuke the evil thoughts, but choose the “good, perfect, noble” (Phil 4:8) things. The onus is on us to do it.  I guess it’s part of that free will deal.

So…what’s next?

Fluting Around

I pulled my flute out yesterday.  For those of you who knew me in college or even high school, that probably doesn’t sound so strange. I used to practice a lot. It’s how I got by with not taking lessons for most of my school age years. I occupied most of my summers between years of junior high and high school by practicing.   This was before cable TV and Al Gore inventing the internet.  But for those of you who only know me from my adult life, 30s and beyond, it might seem odd.

I was wistfully putting a pair of shorts back in a box in the eaves, wondering when I’d get to wear them again.  My cat, Rex, scurried in behind me.  He prowled around, golden eyes glowing in the blackness, when I spied my box of sheet music sitting there.  My flute was lying on top in its padded case.

It’s been awhile since I played.  Probably close to a year, in fact, since there was wood debris on my flute and the music from last summer’s roofing project.  The eaves before then had been sort of unprotected space.  Mostly watertight but not, it seems, completely air tight.

I brushed off the debris from a book of music and my instrument.  I opened the case and looked at the shiny object.  I like shiny things.  Always have.  I plucked the tri-part silver metal tube out of each of the compartments and put them together, the metal cold in my hands.  Perhaps my actions were precipitated by seeing Ruby’s elementary school music teacher playing flute at the Shelton Elementary School Art Show on Wednesday night.  We spoke briefly, since we know each other from assisting with Lap Club every Tuesday. I mentioned that I also play, and she mentioned she wanted to get a flute choir together soon.  She played alright, but some of the songs she picked were definitely beyond her ability or cumulative practice hours.  Her keyboard accompanist seemed to have no trouble, however. I hope I didn’t think about playing again to be competitive, but I wouldn’t put it past me.

I warmed up by playing a few scales.  I started with B, just for the mental challenge of 5 sharps.  Hate sharps.  They look all innocent like number signs, but I know better.  Then I went up – A, G, F.  My hands snapped to their rightful places on the keys.  My tone was rather weak as the I made the instrument warmer with my breath. I flipped through the book, a beginner book I think I used for the 2-year period I took lessons from Phil Baldino.  He was tough.  I think I played the same warm-up, a chromatic scale starting with B-flat above the staff, going down to a C below the staff (the lowest on my student model flute) for probably 15 minutes of the first dozen lessons we had together.  He wanted me to listen to the pitches and tune as I went.  I was bored – the standard junior high attitude. I just wanted to get to the good stuff, the real music.  Once we moved on to actual pieces, he hammered on me to get the notes and expression right on songs.  When I finally nailed something, he awarded me a lead star.

I wandered through the book.  It had a lot of classical pieces in it – every little gavotte, sonata and minuet by Haydn, Handel or Bach, it seems. It was fun.  Note values came back to me; rhythms, like old friends, greeted me on the page. I remembered how to count them. I started to get warm and not just on my instrument.  I forgot how aerobic playing can be.

Rex accompanied me by meowing loudly and piteously.  He’s not a fan of flutes.  Period. He glared at me from across the room.

I only played for about 20 minutes, worn out yet satisfied.  I put my flute down for a long time, tired of being “the flute player”, my main identity in college.  That, and not having a place to use it on a regular basis.  I still don’t like warmups/etudes/finger exercises, but now that I’m older (and hopefully wiser), I can see their necessity. They get the fingers and brain in sync, like musical coffee. Yesterday, I got reacquainted with an old, shiny friend. I hope this is a new beginning.

Life of David

I got this idea awhile back, but I wanted to wait to write it until we finished reading about David’s doings in the Bible.  I wanted to make sure I got a clear picture of him, and you can learn a lot about someone by what they say and do, or leave undone. He sure got a lot of the Old Testament, didn’t he?  I suppose, being a king and all, it makes sense.  Or is there more to it than that?  God calls David “a man after my own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).  David was chosen to replace Saul for that specific reason:  he loved God with everything he had. 

I knew all about the period of David’s ascendancy; much has been written and preached about that.  The obscure shepherd boy from the tribe of Judah slays the mighty warrior Goliath with a sling and a stone.  Suddenly, he’s part of the king’s army and becomes the king’s companion, playing the harp to calm down a now-insanely jealous Saul who must’ve  been wondering exactly when he was going to be dethroned by this young upstart. He kept chucking spears at David, forcing him to run away.  Tough spot for both of them, really.

I am actually more concerned with David’s rule after Samuel is long gone and even Saul is dust in the wind.  It seems the tipping point, where things started to go awry, was when David saw Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop.  David had several wives and children at that time, including the lovely and intelligent Abigail.  But he was restless and home at a time when he should’ve been out with his army, warring against some group or other.  He is dissatisfied.  It’s seems almost like a mid-life crisis of sorts.

He sleeps with Bathsheba.  He has her husband, an army man named Uriah, set up to be killed on the front lines in battle.  His baby son by Bathsheba, his new wife,  gets very ill and dies.  David fasts and pleads with God to save the newborn’s life.  God won’t do it.  But He promises David that there will be another son – Solomon – who will rule after him.  God brought good out of that.  Nathan the prophet showed David the error of his ways and we got Psalm 51 out of the harrowing experience. David truly repented and turned from adultery and murder.

But then…

Some of David’s grown children got into trouble.  Amnon, half-brother of the beautiful Tamar, raped her to show his love for her (disclaimer:  it wasn’t really love), then she was disgraced.  David heard of it and counseled Tamar’s brother, Absalom, bent on revenge, to be quiet about it.  Not sure that was the best way to handle it, but I don’t see another precedence for this kind of rape-incest in the Bible, so there it is.  Absalom later stabbed Amnon.  David now has a double blow to deal with.

Absalom decides he wants to be king.  Deceiving the people, he wins their allegiance and routs David out of his own palace by sleeping with the concubines who were in charge of watching it.   David is bowed down with sadness now.

David, throughout the misadventures of his extended family, never loses his grace or faith.  Shimei, descendant of Saul, throws rocks at him as he’s running away from Absalom.  David stays the hand of his army from killing the infidel.  Ziba, servant of Mephibosheth, tells David the Mr. M. , as Saul’s grandson, has stayed behind to claim the kingdom!  Can anything else go wrong?!

Mephibosheth (sounds like a Hebrew curse word, don’t it?) later reveals that Ziba lied in order to get David to turn over the ancestral land to him.  Mr. M. later confesses his loyalty to David, who took him in once he became king in order to be good to any of Jonathon’s relatives who were left alive. 

David finally has to fight Absalom, something I’m sure he never expected or wanted to do (2 Sam. 18).  He tells Joab specifically to “deal gently with young Absalom” (2 Sam. 18:5).  Joab, being a bloodthirsty man who has his own agenda, kills a defenseless Absalom who somehow treed himself. David’s army prevails. Joab has the nerve to rebuke the king.  He says, “I killed someone who hated you.  Stop crying!  Go out and congratulate the troops, otherwise they’ll desert you.  Then where will we be?”  David follows his direction, showing he has heart yet to serve as king, yet broken inside.

David never cursed anyone.  He never ran away.  He didn’t go after Joab.  He didn’t even get rid of the concubines who Absalom defiled.  He put them in a separate house and took care of them all the rest of their days. 

Where in the world did he get this kind of emotional security and maturity?  It had to be from knowing his place, his identity in God. No, I don’t agree with all the decisions he made.  He probably could’ve used some deliverance or at the very least a counselor to talk out some of this junk.  But I’m not from the time period or culture, and besides, he was a man of action.  He spoke words of grace and service.  He never forgot a kindness.  He epitomized Proverbs 16:7:  When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them (NLT).  Shimei, former cursor, asked David’s forgiveness.  Under the law, he should’ve died for treason.  David spared him.  He said something like, “Who knows?  Maybe God sent him to curse me.  I will take it as from His hand.”  Wow!  I doubt he ever could’ve anticipated the incredible toll being king would take on his life. 

Despite the emotional turmoil that seemed to dog the latter years of his reign, King David’s love for God and people shine through.  His heart of worship, his love of family, and his loyalty prove him to be worthy of God’s special favor.  He is still an example for us today of what God can do through and for those who love Him with all their hearts.

Hope and a Future

The dream

It looks like Hawaii is on for our 20th anniversary.  I should get paid for all the transcription very soon. And, we should be able to do a refi on our house, which will lower our monthly payment considerably…in 60 days or so. 

Zac wore shorts to school today.  Ruby tried to scoot out the door in red patent leather red wedge sandals. Me?  I drank an iced coffee in hopeful anticipation that we will somehow regain spring.  We’ve done our part.  Now, sunshine, heat and warmth, where art thou?!  Back to fleece. I know it’s out there, though.  That spring!  Teasing and lurking behind all this wind and rain.

Jonathon’s already got work stuff scheduled for his new job – a conference in Spokane early next month.  He’s probably going to be helping with the videoconferencing and technical aspects as well as being an attendee.  He’s excited to get started.

I’m gnoshing a chocolate chip Clif bar.  It’s not bad, considering it’s not really a chocolate chip cookie, which is what I wanted.  But Hawaii looms and I’ve got 7 lbs. to lose.  God provided a way for us to pay for the tickets, a trip we planned more than a year ago! It’s fabulous. I don’t care so much what other people think about how I look at this point.  I just want to be able to look at the pictures later and be proud of how I look now  20 years from now, when I think, “Who WAS that short girl?  Oh wait, that’s me! Did I ever look that good?”

So now, I see we have a hope and a future.  We have things to look forward to, other than getting paid once a week and how to budget for the twice-monthly bill paying and other sundry expenses that come up. We are moving forward and planning ahead.  We can see our way clear to getting out of debt and thinking about college for the kids.  Maybe we can squeeze in a little family vacation this summer at the coast somewhere, too.  S’mores sound awfully good right now. Sigh.

That scripture out of Jeremiah comes to mind:  11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

This feels like exactly where we are right now, in the palm of His hand. We haven’t been exiled to another land.  Nothing that extreme has happened, but we are moving back into the place of abundance and promise.  We called, and God answered.  He is so good.  I know there are several people, good friends of mine, who can’t see that goodness right now due to some tough circumstances.  Hold on. Keep hoping and praying. His goodness is coming your way soon.  If He did it for us, He will do it for you.  He loves you so much. His love endures forever.