Saturday Snafu

Photo from disney.wikia.com

          Photo from disney.wikia.com

Yesterday, I meant to run in the Goldsborough Creek Fun Run.  After, I planned to attend the parade with a bunch of friends and their kids.  I also had a birthday party/blessing ceremony in the mix.

I did none of those things.  Ruby was still sick.

I needed to be home.  Sure, I could have run the race and made it home before 9:00 a.m.  The finish line is a half mile from our house. Zac would have babysat for me, no problem. Ruby probably would have been okay sitting outside during the Forest Festival Parade.  It was only a couple of hours.  She had a cough, sniffles and mild fever. And the birthday party would have been fun for all of us. Yet I felt a check about it all.

As Ruby and I sat and watched the movie “Bolt” for the second time in 2 days, I considered all of this. Ruby laughed when Bolt bit his squeaky carrot toy. She looked over at me.  We laughed together.

Wednesday night during the worship time, a young woman brought a word about good being an enemy of the best .

“We miss God in all the good things He does.  He isn’t those things; He’s outside them,” the gal said. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. We follow the blessings instead of listening for His Spirit.  His good gifts take the place of His presence. We find ourselves sustained by them instead of living and moving and finding our being in Him (Acts 17:28).

I felt sad about missing all those fun times yesterday, though I know I chose correctly. All of this activities were good, no question.  But not for that particular day. I deep cleaned the upstairs bathroom, channeling my grumpiness into something constructive. It helped my attitude to walk and do errands,  in the sun and fresh breeze. I relaxed sitting outside while reading a funny detective novel told from a canine perspective. The scent of honeysuckle, twining through the trellis, washed over my spirit as I warmed in the spring light. Later in the afternoon, Ruby perked up. We worked in the front yard, weeding and watering. It also cheered to sit outside for dinner. Feasting on Taco Bell in the grass with both Zac and Ruby  – and Rex – made me smile.

After dinner, Ruby and I played Go fish.  She attempted magic tricks with cards.

“Pick a card.”  She held the cards out to me, splayed face down. Rex lay back on the blanket, thrilled to be of our party, though non-participatory.

I picked a card and placed it back in the deck.

“Is this your card?” she asked for the third time, brown eyes hopeful.

“No, ” I said, laughing.  Took her a fourth time to get it right, and that because she watched me put it back in the deck.

I remembered that God is with me, no matter how I feel in the moment and that this too shall pass.

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Two Day Turnaround

I’m sitting here thinking about two things:  writers group yesterday and work today.

I got some time off yesterday, courtesy of my favorite boss, to attend my old writers group.  It meets during the week, during the day. I had to give it up pretty much right away to go back to work full-time. New members had joined the group since I last attended more than 5 months ago. They each read a piece they’d written.  I fell in love with creating with words all over again.  Such vivid descriptions and great characterizations.  I won’t give away their stories here, but I got lost in them. My spirit felt restored again.  I got encouraged and inspired.

Friday dawned different. Work today has been gangbusters. Feel like I’ve got roller skate implants on my feet.  Oh, and contentious.  Had to go toe to toe with a contractor on a project.  Her certified payroll was wonky.

“You underpaid your foreman,” I wrote.  “You’ll need to resubmit revised payrolls.”

“He’s a carpenter,” the gal wrote back. “See the designation above his name?  I included an attachment.”

Never mind that it was a union number reference and said CARP.  I thought that was an acronym. Then we haggled about fringe, the extra money earned that’s sometimes paid in cash, to make up the difference in a prevailing hourly wage. Turns out it was hidden in plain sight, named something else. Good grief. I wanted to tell her I’m only a moron every other Thursday and I do okay walking and chewing gum.  But I doubt she’d believe me.

Sigh. It’s all good, now.  I thanked her for her patience.  Really, I’m the one exhibiting patience here. I could have made her redo the whole shebang, both weeks.  I have that kind of power, since the City is the client in this instance. Hey lady, we pay you, not the other way around.

But what would that serve?  It would only cause division and more contention. i don’t say this to toot my own horn; it’s painful to swallow down self-righteousness.  But it’s what’s needed. Blessed are the peacemakers applies here.

Oh, and both days – yesterday and today – are days God made.  I get to choose my attitude, again. I choose joy.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. – Matthew 5:9

In Defense of Men

Yesterday, I got a new tablet for work projects. It has Dragon Speak loaded on it, possibly the coolest name for software ever. The software has AI in it.  It dictates what you say, learning your cadences and intonation, and gets better over time.  I can hardly wait to use it while poring over boxes of records. It’ll save me a ton of typing.

As our IT guy was configuring it, we had a conversation. He mentioned he’d done a lot of research on the differences between the sexes. He found it all very fascinating.

“You women, you’re so much smarter than us,” he said.

“I don’t know about that,” I said.

“Oh, you are,” he replied. “You have better processors. You’re the more evolved version of men.”

He chuckled.

“You know, Adam was made first and Eve was taken out of Adam’s side. Women cry, ‘Not fair!’ But I say you’re the next revision of humans.”

“You mean the latest rev?” I asked.

“Right. You’re the better version.”

I sat silent for a moment while he tappity-tapped, configuring my computer to talk to the tablet.

He turned to me.

“I think eventually, men will fade away.  Women are so much better, You’re more evolved.”

Suddenly, I knew we had left this planet.  What?! How did we get here? Anyway. I quick-stepped through the Bible in my mind.  Nope.  Nothing about an annihilation of an entire sex.

“Uh,” I said, trying to be kind because he meant it in a complimentary fashion. “I don’t think so. I don’t see men disappearing any time soon.”

I understood his point.  Truly.  Men and women have different strengths.  Men have greater upper body strength; women excel at lower body work. Men, for the most part, can run faster.  Women do better at endurance running.

But it’s more than that.

Men have been getting the short straw for a long time.  I think it’s time someone cadged a defense for them.  In my limited experience, I will attempt to outline the male strengths I’ve seen displayed. This blog is by no means a perfect effort.

Those of you older than 20 will probably remember the old computer statement WYSIWYG:  what you see is what you get. For the most part, men leave out the subtext and subterfuge in relationships.  Nothing is hidden. Thank God.  I have enough of that in my female friendships. “What did she mean by that? Does she think I’m fat?” Men say what they think or they say nothing at all.  You don’t have to guess. If they didn’t say it, it isn’t there. At least, not for them.

Men have a great capacity to allow for differences. Even if you have a disagreement, they will still treat you the same. If it comes to blows, maybe not.  But by and large, if you don’t see eye to eye, they don’t take it personally. They stay rational. They will still talk to you.  Women, we’re all about taking stuff personally. We want everyone to like us and that means all our viewpoints, too. Men seem to be able to allow a bit of latitude in relationships. Unity without conformity.

Men take great risks.  They show courage. They serve, they protect, they lay down their lives and desires for others. We see this most vividly in those who enter the armed forces. They give up a chunk of their lives – possibly all of it – to preserve their country. It’s amazing. I’m not saying women don’t join up and serve as well; however, men still make up the bulk of our nation’s defense.

No sex has it all together. Men have weaknesses, too. But let’s celebrate the men in our lives today. They offer great steadiness when we women become too emotional. Thank God.

Fun Remix

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 8:15

coffee artAs I sit here nursing another half cup of coffee, I consider Solomon’s wisdom. Somewhere along the way, Solomon realized that all work and no play makes for unhappy people. I’m slowly learning the value of fun. I’m understanding that it needs to be part of my life like fiber and exercise.

Kids understand this.  They routinely goof off.  Ruby makes getting ready for school something fun, with funky hairstyles and bizarre clothing choices.  Animal print head to toe?  Why not!  Zac comes up with puns all.day.long. He thinks it’s hilarious.  To each his own. Adults, we give up this ability somewhere between graduating high school and looking for a job.

Lately, work has been a little tense.  I’m still striving to understand all that my newly mashed-up position entails. Communication breaks down sometimes. People have expectations of me that I know not of. It’s important to laugh at myself and get past mistakes made. I am not perfect, despite all the indicators. Insert snicker here.

Fun is about being in the moment.  It’s enjoying where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing. It’s tied up with gratefulness and joy and happiness.  It’s not a stand-alone thing. It oils the gears of our spirit. It’s okay to enjoy life. You don’t have to be a grownup all day, every day.

Today, I pray you have fun.  May you spot the fun opportunities that God shows you. Some of you are better at it than others. Remember, it’s only today for a little while.  Let’s make it count.

Tuesday UnFAQs

Little yippy dog
Your death is imminent and
I dance on your grave

Too harsh?

I know you wondered how I felt about the neighbor’s small dog that I’ve never seen.  Happy Tuesday haiku. Don’t even ask me about the one I *have* seen who wanders onto our property, barking at nothing and no one.

You’re welcome.

I’ve complied a list of seldom-asked questions, because, why not?

Ready?  Okay.

Does your 15-year-old son tower above you now?
Umm…next question.

Is it true that your Dad’s family used to own Thomas Jefferson’s violin?
Glad you asked that.  Yes, it’s true.  When my paternal great-grandmother’s estate was settled, it got sold along with a bunch of other things.  What can I say?  It’s a small world.

What about Thomas Jefferson’s nose flute?  What became of that?
No idea. Nor do I want to know.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what wouldn’t you want with you?
Politicians. Mosquitoes. Sunburn. Pretzels, because then I would get thirsty.

Rumor has it you and Brad Pitt almost went out on a date.
Almost is such a tricky word. 

If you put all the straws in the world end to end, what would you have?
A mighty long straw. Or maybe an ant pipeline.

A train leaves Tulsa heading north at 2:00 and another train leaves Chicago heading west at 3:00.  When and where would they intersect?
A story problem? Seriously? A better question would be “does it matter?”

Why did the pigeon cross the road?
Clean cars awaited on the other side.

And last, but not least…

Graceling

I’ve been thinking about what we’re born to do.  I just finished a book called Graceling (pub. 2008) by first-time novelist Kristin Cashore.  Ruby picked it out for me. I would have walked on by and picked up another mystery of some kind.  I loved it. This fantasy is set in a land of 7 kingdoms. The kingdoms, for the most part, fight and war constantly, never forming lasting alliances.  Born among these people, Gracelings come along.  A Graceling is someone who has a certain “grace” or innate ability to do something, far above what’s considered normal.  Every Graceling reveals their status by age 5 or so, because their eyes turn different colors from each other.  Our heroine, Katsa, has one blue and one green eye.  Once a Graceling shows him or herself, they are shipped off to the king first to see if they can be of service.

Of course, the king can’t use most kids’ abilities.  The king doesn’t find holding one’s breath for a long time particularly useful, nor excellent swimming.  Once a child’s grace reveals itself and deemed worthless to the king, he sends the children home.  But they never quite fit anywhere; the regular people shun them, for the most part. Extraordinary powers frighten others. This is the norm in every kingdom but one:  Leonid.  There those graced receive honor and special treatment.

The plot captured my interest right away.  Katsa discovers at age 8 that she can kill, quite by accident. As a niece of the king, she becomes his special enforcer, trained to fight and to torture and kill if necessary.  She doesn’t like this but feels trapped by her powerless position and her particular ability. Nearly friendless and an orphan, she forms a special Robin Hood type of council to start taking care of the other kingdoms problems, all in secret.

What attracted me was the concept of having a certain type of grace.  Because we all have something we excel at, right?  It may take some practice and training to get our facility to a place of expertise, but our skill has a sense of God-breathedness to it. It isn’t like anyone else and we know it didn’t come from us.

As the book moves along, Katsa realizes her grace isn’t killing as she’d thought.  It’s something much more valuable and helpful.  It made me think how many times we let early experiences shape our thoughts about ourselves.  “I’m just a shy person” or “I’ll always like books more than people”.  “I’m not made that way.”

In God’s economy, all our graces service a purpose and have worth. He won’t ever reject our abilities because He gave them to us. Yet maybe our graces evolve all the time. Can they stretch and bend in order to serve others and God’s plan? I started out with a love for the written word and some innate musical ability. I took up cooking and learned to love baking. I’ve cultivated athleticism and administration. What else is there? What about you? Because you are a Graceling, too.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. – I Peter 4:10

Sweaty Freedom

The morning dawned overcast and cool.  That “marine layer” our meteorologists love to chat about lingered over the town. I stepped outside for some fresh air therapy. I didn’t have time to run far and I didn’t want to run fast. I just wanted to meander, with the help of my Garmin, of course.

I turned down a gravel alley and started moving.  Birds chorused above me. Irises waved at me. The air, heavy with the scent of growing things, filled my lungs. I found myself praying for those I know who live in difficult circumstances.  None of my acquaintances lacks for any material goods; it’s the emotional stuff.  That’s the gunk that weighs us down. Relationships. Discouragement and depression.

As I pounded along, I considered how we never think we’re good enough. Ladies, we’re never pretty enough. Guys, I have no idea what you struggle with. Maybe you don’t think you’re masculine enough?  Strong enough? Moms compare themselves to other “perfect” moms, the glamorous ones with perfect hair and nails and beautiful, well-behaved children.

It’s time to put all that down.  People will always have expectations of us.  The question is, what will we do about it? Are any of them realistic or helpful? I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep people happy. Yes, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5), right? And there is a time to work at peace. But it requires discernment to know when it’s time to move on and be free.

As I approached my driveway again, panting and weary, I considered the great destiny God has planned for each of us.  Will we embrace it, or let others define how we live?