2013 – Year in Review

Another one bites the dust…

2013

I read through the Bible twice this year.  I did it once in 90 days (whew!) and again in 6 months. Totally doable.  I actually preferred it this way, as it gave a better rise and fall to the narrative.

Jonathon graduated this August with his phD in Education! 

I worked out 292 times.

Running:  I ran 489 miles this year .  That’s nearly 787 kilometers!

Bah.  Not happy with that total.  Especially if you remember last year.  But as I looked back over my calendar, I ran 2 days in January, none in February, and started back  real easy in March.  In point of fact, the most mileage I accumulated in a week was 19 miles.  Looking to change that this year.  I spent most of 2013 injured.  Benched.  Sidelined.  I found myself very discouraged at times. I learned about stretching and not taking my body for granted.  I learned – again – the importance of eating a little better and a little less.  I learned that I still love running, as well as walking.  This ol’ bod is pretty amazing, despite any shortcomings.  It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.  I also got to run in Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Zac grew at least 5 inches! Hence this post.

I joined a writers group!  And what a blessing that was, and still is.  I feel like I found part of my lost “tribe”.  They keep me inspired.  I get to bounce work off them and they give great input.  I get to give input, too.  Several of us contributed toward a Mason County book, published by our local library.  Amazing!  So now I’m published, too, which was one of my 2013 resolutions.

The Mason County shelter project nears completion.  I lived to see it!

This year has been all about trust.  I’m starting to get what it means to lean on God, to trust His timing and direction above my own.  I’m appreciating the value of waiting on Him.  I’m also “minding the checks” more often.  I’ve also gained perspective on being aware of what I’m dwelling on; thoughts become our reality.

Ruby discovered the (numerous) joys of the xBox!

Here are the 2013 blog stats, if you’re interested. You, kind readers, keep me inspired, too.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for reaching out to me.  Happy New Year!  May 2014 be your best year yet!

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Tough Middle

I’ve been enjoying this Christmas season and not thinking about writing much at all.

Except when Ruby and I went out for an early morning Sunday outing.  I wanted to get a couple of miles in and she liked the idea of riding her bike in her pajamas. We bundled up and headed out.

Generally, I’m a big fan of running alone.  I get time to just be.  I’m terrible at relaxing, as you all know by now, but I’m working on it.  Which seems counterproductive, but whatever.  Ruby and I needed to spend some time together. She craves time with people.  She still *likes* spending time with me.  I want to capitalize on it as long as I can.

The temp hovered just above freezing, the fog hanging down like  an uneven gauzy hemline. Nobody stirred from the surrounding houses.  Ruby pedaled and chattered.  I smiled and watched the birds.  We did a lot of hills and the library parking lot, which has some satisfying little hills of its own.

Ruby loves going down the hills.  She likes to pick up her feet and zoom, her face a picture of pure joy.

“If we go down these hills, we have to go back up.  You understand that, right?” I panted, explaining to Ruby about the quirks of topography. What go-oes up, must co-ome down…

She nodded.

“And you will need to pedal or walk your bike back up the hills.”

“I know.”

Okay, then.

We made a zigzag-y loop around our neighborhood.  She showed me an alley I’d never been down before.  We stopped at looked at the creek.  We admired the decorations in the neighbor’s yard.

Photo from the annual Christmas parade.

Photo from the annual Christmas parade.

Hey, Shelton’s nickname is “Christmastown U.S.A.”  Gotta go with it.

After about fifteen minutes of knocking out the cobwebs and getting warm in the process, I turned to Ruby.

“Time to head home,” I said.

She didn’t want to go home.  Moreover, she looked ahead of her.  Hills, and lots of ’em.

Her face fell.

“C’mon! Let’s go!  You can do it!” I tried my best to be encouraging.

She moped.  Her inner drama queen emerged.

“I don’t want to.  This is hard,” she said.

Yes.  Riding a bike uphill is much harder than downhill.  Everything works against you – gravity, friction, your own body weight, the bike’s weight.

I thought about when our lives get tough after a relatively easy season.  Even if we’ve encountered this particular obstacle before, like unforeseen expenses or illness or injury, we still stumble a bit.  We chafe at the heavy load of changed circumstances.  Life suddenly seems very unfair. Sighing, we dig in and bear the load.  Hopefully, we let God do the lifting as we put in our shoulder.  We remember we belong to Him and He takes care of us.

I’m happy to report Ruby made it home safely.  She grumbled and complained.  She pedaled some and pushed her bike some.  I decided I would wait awhile before asking her to accompany me on a run.  I want her to enjoy it as much as I do, even if it gets tough in the middle.

December 26

december 26

It’s the day after Christmas
And all through the house
The whole family’s on electronics
Some using a mouse.

The boy on the  big monitor
Parents on their laptops,
Sitting across from Zac
Had just settled down for a long winter’s chat.

And that’s it.  I have nothing more to add to this rotten parody.  It became so bad, I abandoned it yesterday.  Now it’s December 27.

We had a wonderful Christmas, filled with family and food.  Not family *as* food.  Just clarifying.

I have neglected you exceedingly, blog readers.  Please forgive me.  I’ve felt like the bionic woman (sans good hair) since last Thursday.  I got rather exhausted. Today is the first day I have very little planned.  It feels like a selah.

    Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Ruby is visiting her friends next door.  Zac plays computer games using his new 30″ monitor.  The cats doze and gaze intently out the windows.  It is quiet.  The furnace hums. All is contentment.

This Christmas season, I learned a few things.

1) Peppermint bark made with velvety, bittersweet chocolate is addictive.

2) People who work at Buckle could be my children, albeit very stylish children.

3) If I spend time drawing with Ruby, she will trump me.  For example, I drew a flower, an ocean and a castle.  What did she draw?  A griffin.  With eggs.  Hatching.  Yeah.

4) Giving really is better than receiving.  I had the best time figuring out what to do for people.  I can’t say I always nailed it, but I sure enjoyed thinking and planning to sweeten their lives a little.  Maybe I’m becoming more like my mom, the consummate gift-giver.  I sure hope so.

I do hope you had a merry Christmas.  Now, on to 2014!

Family Tree

So, as I have posted before, our church put on a Christmas program.  We selected God’s family as the theme.  We entitled it “Family Tree”.  Jesus’ natural family was so messed up.  He had an earthly stepfather and no physical father .  But wait, there’s more!  In his background, he had Gentiles, a harlot, generations of deceivers, and on and on.  I wrote up monologues those Biblical characters expressed in the program.  We interspersed them with Christmas carols in mostly fresh arrangements.  The kids sang and danced.  They, of course, brought the house down!

It truly became a collaborative effort.  My fabulous monologuers figured out clever ways to help themselves with their lines, the goal being complete memorization.   I worked with them one-on-one.  They did the rest, wrestling with their individual parts.  They got inside the heads of the characters:  Joseph (Mary’s husband), Jacob, Rahab, Ruth, a wiseman, two shepherds and Saul who became Paul. The family of God eventually became so much more than Jesus’ natural family.  The Bible states everyone who accepts Christ gets grafted in (Romans 11:17).

I drove in my car, listening  to the CD in order to practice the song portion. I found myself tearing up.  It hit me anew – over and over again –  how Jesus interrupted the continuum of human life in order to help us.  “Here I am!  See?  Peace, now.  I’m making it right.  Don’t cry.”

I will confess I woke up at 3:40 Saturday morning, the day of the first performance.  I wondered, Will this fly? A host of details needed to come together, to coagulate.  I knew I had to surrender it and let it soar on its own.  I could do no more.

By God’s grace and the best efforts of instrumentalists, singers, actors, A/V experts and kid wranglers, it did.  He breathed on it and gave it life.

And so it goes.  Exhilarating, exhausting, thrilling, tedious.  Yes, all of those.  But extremely wonderful.  Our little church contains a bunch of talented folks, as a good friend of mine pointed out.  What a privilege to work alongside them to birth a vision of hope, even for a short time.  On this Christmas Eve, I find myself grateful again to be part of God’s family.

Happy Holidays to You

Photo courtesy of renalfellow.blogspot.com.

Photo courtesy of renalfellow.blogspot.com.

Today, I have a special treat for you.  But not the chocolate kind. Our intrepid guest blogger, Jonathon, has something to share.  I promise I will update you on my doings tomorrow.  For now, enjoy!  Comments appreciated.
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This Christmas Season, I have been inundated with reminders to wish people a “Merry Christmas” instead of the politically correct “Happy Holidays” because “Jesus is the reason for the season” as if being politically correct is at odds with being a true believer of Jesus Christ or something. I get it. Religious observances are being removed from public life at an alarming rate and the insistence of government agencies that they avoid any semblance or religious favoritism by avoiding using a phrase that wishes anyone a happy religious observance this time of year is simply annoying at best and quite hypocritical at worst.
But this is not a post about the government intervention in eradicating religious observances from public life. Nor is it a rant about Jesus being the reason for the season (don’t even get me STARTED about Saturnalia and the other ‘real reasons’ for the season!). This is not even a rant about how the root word for “holiday” is “Holy Day”…like that justifies the use of the term any better for those who look down upon it because of its attachment to political correctness. This is a rant about the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” and how I get looked down upon as less of a Christian if I choose to use it.
You see, I wish people a “Happy Holidays” not because I am attempting to be politically correct, but because I truly wish that they have happy holidays. Plural. Holiday…with an S. Yes, I want them to have a Merry Christmas. I also want them to enjoy the winter solstice and the beautiful darkness it brings. Go see the stars in their glory (if you can where you live). December 21st is the shortest day of the year…a GREAT day to go stargazing and still get to bed at a decent hour.
I also want them to enjoy New Year’s Day and all the celebrations with friends and family that the promise of a new year brings. New beginnings, new possibilities. This is a great time of year to reflect on the past year and set goals and make resolutions for the New Year. I wish that everyone is able to look back on this past year with pride and joy…and look ahead with joyous expectation of things to come.
For those who do not share my faith, I wish them a happy Hannukah (although that was more around thanksgiving this year) or a happy Kwanzaa or whatever celebration they have for their faith this time of year. I do truly wish that this time of year be a happy one for them.
And since I am ranting about multiple holidays that I wish people are happy on or around, we Christians have to admit that there really are two distinct version of Christmas that are called by the same name. There is the one with Jesus and the stable and all that, and then there is the one with Santa and the tree and all the other festivities. Whichever Christmas you celebrate (or whatever combination of the two), I want yours to be a happy time.
So for those who insist that Jesus is the reason for the season and want to wish people have a Merry CHRISTmas, keep on wishing people that. I will continue to wish that people are truly happy through all of their winter observances.
Happy Holidays.

Classroom of Life

Are you here?  (Photo courtesy of positivelypresent.com)

Are you here? (Photo courtesy of positivelypresent.com)

I have been rereading Proverbs day by day.  Today, since it’s the 19th (only 6 days till Christmas!), I read Proverbs 19.  I started to find a theme as I pondered this scripture.

I see a progression here.

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes – Prov. 19:2

I find children often go at things this way.  Ruby gets stoked about a new project and sometimes runs off, half-c0cked, sans complete understanding.  I  help her pick up the mess and teach her how to do things.  Like cracking eggs so the shell doesn’t end up in the batter.

People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord – Prov. 19:3

Still a childish mindset.  Once kids are a little older, they start to make their own decisions.  They might stay up later watching videos on their phone, forgetting they have morning obligations.  They might be a bit grumpy the next morning.  Not that Zac or I know anything about this.

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper – Prov. 19:8

If you ever wanted to know what it means to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, this is part of it.  Wisdom often comes from our mistakes.  Who makes more mistakes than a teen? You’re so ungainly inside your changing body, you mess up constantly. It’s gaining insight from those missteps that matures a person.  It’s an ideal time to “acquire wisdom”.

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life – Prov. 19:20

Attending college  or moving out on our own comes next.  Learning, making mistakes and putting yourself out there is part of this season.  You’re growing into an adult, hopefully a responsible one.  Life’s lessons come cheaper when you’re younger.  You might pay for college but over time it pays for itself.

If you punish a mocker, the simple-minded will learn a lesson; if you correct the wise, they will be all the wiser – Prov. 19:25

This reminds me of interaction in a college classroom.  For certain classes, group discussion and/or debate is a percentage of your grade.  Conversation could get heated, given the topic and people involved.  You can glean  a lot from those around you.  Of course, by opening your mouth you can  look like a total ignoramus as well.  Ahem.

If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you will turn your back on knowledge – Prov. 29:27

Our lives and the people in it provide an ongoing classroom.  Once you stop learning, however, it’s a downhill slide.  We stop engaging with the world and all its wonders.  We can pick up new things every day, no matter our age.  It seems God was the first advocate of lifelong learning.

Give Me Shelter, Part 2

Shelter building

As of this morning, the new shelter/office building looks like this.  I went out there to interview some of the roofing and HVAC guys.

What a difference 6 months can make!  It looks like a real building now, with a roof and everything.  It’s not just a very large hole in the ground anymore.  Amazing!  It’s wonderful to think I get to be a part of something as important as this.  Homeless families in Shelton will have up-to-date  housing and learn skills to help transition them into better lives. I know I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.

Meanwhile, the owner of the rental Jody and his father vacated has returned.  He’s cleaning it up and repairing it for the next occupant.  Sigh.  The cycle continues.

Shelter is one of those of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Remember learning about them?  Wikipedia says:

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these “deficiency needs” are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term Metamotivation to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

Oddly, Maslow never formed them into a pyramid.  I think it’s sort of cool a pyramid is also a shelter of sorts, albeit for dead pharaohs.  Still.

Shelter falls into the orange layer: “security of body”, etc.  Frankly, looking at this list now, the lowest level seems a bit primitive.  But I guess we wouldn’t exist without the ability to breathe or water of some kind.  I’ve lived without knowing what homeostasis was for my entire life.  Think I’ll keep that streak alive.  Maslow also said we move through these needs, back and forth, all the time.  Fascinating.

As I ponder the importance of safety and security, I remember Jody and his family.  I think of the other families who won’t have to be on the street anymore.  I think my own family, snug in our house.  It’s a blessing to have a house of our own.  Sure, we complain sometimes about its foibles.  We can always fix it up.

And yet…what if it burned down? A small fire blazed on the hillside behind our house just last summer.  I heard on the news last night that a fire chief, fighting raging forest fires in Big Sur, California, was the first to lose her house to the insatiable flames.  What then?

Ultimately, the Lord is our shelter.  Always. He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He doesn’t burn down or get flooded out. He is strong and mighty to save.  He is a fortress.  Come what may.