You Got Paid

payday

Today is payday in our household.  With Jonathon’s job at Concordia University, it’s the “last working day of the month”.  That always hit me as funny.  If you’re not working, what are you doing?  Then I remembered:  holidays, weekends and such.  Makes sense.

My payday at the city falls on a different day of the month. We have an option for a draw of up to 40% of our monthly salary on the 20th of each month.  I opted out of that.  I like getting the whole check on the 5th, or thereabouts.  For one shining moment, all that money sits in our account, basking in the glow of a job well done.

I’m going to say right now that if I didn’t get paid, I wouldn’t work. Sure, I get other perks from working.  I get to use my brain on a regular basis.  I mix and mingle with some of the nicest, most dedicated people I’ve met here in Shelton. They truly care about the well-being of the city.

In order to work, I updated my wardrobe.  As a stay at home mom, my clothes consisted of jeans, t-shirts, fleece and boots.  Summer time I migrated to tank tops and shorts.  I had dresses and skirts for church. Oh, and running/workout gear. That made up the bulk.  Granted, my workplace is rather casual, so I didn’t need to do terribly much. Now, I have my clown pants (thanks, Ruby!), flats, heels, cardigans, blouses, etc. I have more grown-up outfits than I had before.

I also keep to a schedule.  I do something physical before I head in to work. I have to be in by a certain time.  I take lunch at the same time every day, pretty much.  I have routine duties that come up daily, weekly and monthly.  Other duties as assigned also come into play.

All of this to say my time and effort is worth something.  I’m all in at work. I give what I have and do my best.  I’m still learning and I know I have a ways to go before I grasp the entirety of my position.  I like the challenge and I enjoy the people.

But my job, with all of its perks like a free designated parking space, wouldn’t be worth it to me if it didn’t provide monetary compensation. I left free time, kettlebells, writers group and time with my family behind in order to pursue this path. Paydays make the early mornings and missed connections all seem worth it.

It’s the same in the spiritual world.  The ultimate payday for Christians is going to heaven. I guess I consider it God’s retirement plan. The payoff of Christianity is Jesus’ presence.  Whether your circumstances change or not, He is always with you.  Investing your heart with Him yields big dividends. Meditating on His word brings peace.  Seeking God’s face adds to your understanding and often wisdom.

As I continue working, I will keep on investing there.  The money I make will go to living expenses. I will also keep investing in the Lord and His kingdom.  I will keep my eyes open to the perks God provides. I’ll keep my eyes on the first prize of someday spending eternity with Jesus.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18

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Ruby Bloom

Photo by hdwpics.com

                                             Photo by hdwpics.com

Ruby sat at the table, She slouched over her cereal bowl.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” I asked.

“I don’t have any friends.  I’m the only neighborhood kid left.  All my other friends have moved away for the summer,” she said, brown eyes sad.

I know this.  It makes me sad, too.  Growing up, I can’t ever remember not having kids to play with wherever I lived.  In Portland, it was the next-door neighbors.  In Clackamas, it was a friend across the street.  Sure, they took vacations and went away for awhile. But they didn’t move.

“Have you prayed about it? Jesus said we don’t have because we don’t ask.” A lot of times we whine and complain instead of seeking God about stuff.  Not you, of course. Just hypothetically.

She nodded.

“Lots of times,” she said. She slurped up another sludgy bite of cereal.

“Have you gotten an answer?” I asked

She shook her head.

“Are you mad at God about that?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

Well, that was easy. Now what?

“Sometimes we don’t get what we want right away.  Remember when I told you about how your dad and I wanted a baby?”

“Yeah,” she said, bored. “You prayed about it and poof! there was Zac, then poof! I came along,” she said.

It took a little more than poof, mind you, but that’s the general idea.

“God didn’t deny us children.  He just waited for the right babies to come along.  Sometimes when our prayers don’t get answered right away, it isn’t no.  It’s not yet.”

She looked at me. She didn’t like that suggestion.

“How about we pray about it?  The Bible says where two or more are gathered together, God is in the midst of them.  You and I are two.  Chloe makes three,” I said, petting the muppet-cat at our feet.

I took her small hand. We prayed.  We asked for little girls Ruby’s age, 8-10, with nice families, to move into our neck of the woods.

Now, we wait.  What to do in the meantime?  Make the most of what we have.  In Ruby’s case, that means writing stories, making up songs, playing in our “cool” tub (the unconnected hot tub), planting flowers, building with legos, drawing, riding her bike and enjoying the sunny freedom of summer. It’s time to get to know her dad and Zac better, maybe even learn to make jam. We can bloom where we’re planted even as we wait for the good things God has for us.

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20

Happiness Habitat

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you’d left open. – John Barrymore

That’s how this week has been.  I’ve found myself grinning for no reason. Something pretty amazing happened that I can’t go into here, but suffice it to say it bordered on the miraculous. It blew my mind. Anyone watching me would think me a total idiot. “She can’t stop smiling.  She must be up to something!”

Maybe I am.

In other news, I’m starting to “get” my job.  I’m beginning to fit in at work, or at least find my place.  I’m seeing the quirks and cracks in the armor of those around me, as well as my own. And it’s alright. We’re a team.

Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.– Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

Too Late to Apologize?

I’ve worked a lot of different places, as you know.  Most of them, people owned up to their mistakes and took their lumps.  Well, okay, harder to make happen when you work with engineers.  But the rest of us common folk have learned when we botch a job, we ‘fess up and move on. We learn from our mistakes.  At least, that’s what I was taught.

It seems apologies are out of fashion now. Look at our role models – professional athletes, politicians, entertainers. Which brings us to ask, what does it even mean to apologize?  People in the limelight only tend to confess when they’re caught.  Is this a true apology? Google has this to say:

a·pol·o·gize
verb
  1. express regret for something that one has done wrong.
    “I must apologize for disturbing you like this”
    synonyms: say (one is) sorry, express regret, be apologetic, make an apology, ask forgiveness, ask for pardon;

    informal eat one’s words, eat humble pie
    “please allow me to apologize for my wrongful accusations”

It’s never easy to apologize.  Nobody likes to stand up and say “I was wrong.”  We like it even less when we have to say “Please forgive me.” But it’s necessary.  It heals and repairs.  Nobody has all the answers in this life.

At one place I worked, I made a mistake.  Kind of a big one, if my recollection serves.

“I’m so sorry,” I said to my boss.

“You don’t need to apologize,” he said, squirming at my honesty.  He smiled a self-conscious smile.

I thought it strange.  Of course I needed to seek pardon.  I made the mistake.  I cost the company money, time, etc. Taking the hits is part of life, isn’t it?  You fall down.  You dust yourself off and get back up again.  Right?

Our culture has made apologizing into something of a witch hunt.  If we say we’re sorry, we admit our culpability.  And that, friends, is very bad.  The definition of culpability is “responsibility for a fault or wrong; blame”.  Yes.  We bear the blame for things.  If we get to bear the glory of our success, failure is her evil twin.

Does this mean everything is our fault if it fails?  No.  Of course not.  Many factors come into play in this life.  Weather.  Finances.  Poor decisions on the part of others.  But some things lie directly under our control.  Those responsibilities remain in our bailiwick.  Our families.  Our relationships. The bulk of our job duties.

One of the most famous Biblical apologies came from King David. As you may recall, he cheated on his wife with the lovely Bathsheba.  She conceived from that tryst.  David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to get killed. God didn’t like any of this.  Confronted by the prophet Nathan, David repented. He wrote a psalm to commemorate the occasion.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just…- Psalm 51:1-4

Did David experience true repentance?  Scripture proves that he did.  The first baby with Bathsheba died of an infant illness.  The second son they had together they named Solomon.  Solomon grew up to become a very wise king, influential and wealthy in his era.  God redeemed what started out as a bad situation.

Apologizing should be a part of our lives.  We don’t live in a bubble.  We say and do things that impact others. Let our conscience guide our interactions and let God take care of the rest. He brings beauty from ashes.

Tuesday Trivets

trivetToday, I find myself grateful.

My mom moved up to Shelton just over a year ago.  Since then, she’s found a great church to be a part of, full of friendly, caring people.  She joined Anna’s Bay Chorale, along with my husband, and has been able to find her musical soulmates up here on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m proud of her.

Today, I took a short walk out in the fresh morning air.  My calf hurts less and less.  But I won’t push it. Through a Google search, I found a website that made the most sense to me.  Gonna follow his lead. I’ll be up and running in no time.

Rex, bless his heart, has taken to bringing me his fresh kills.

Rex's catch.

Rex’s catch.

Rex also captured an empty water bottle last night. It’s possible he might need medical intervention, since he moved away from killing members of the rodent family.  Perhaps Rex and the rodent kingdom reached some sort of detente.  Not sure why he’s taken to bringing me cylindrical objects, though, of late, but I try to be appreciative. The PVC pipe scraps bring him much joy. Maybe it’s some sort of geometry lesson.

Sometimes life is like that.  You don’t know what gifts will come your way.  Maybe you can’t even construe them as gifts at the time you receive them. They might even masquerade as challenges, complete with frustration and angst. It’s only later that you see their potential. Sometimes, it’s a gift to not get what you wanted right away. Waiting and surrender enter your everyday vocabulary. Then, when it happens, straight out of the blue, it’s like the heavens opened up and you find yourself soaring above the clouds.  Your onetime insurmountable obstacle gave you wings.

Hallelujah!

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. – James 1:17

Patient Palanquin

You’ll be happy to know I haven’t been running.  Done plenty of kettlebell swings, high pulls, and situps, among the favorites. I’ve taken a few walks, some rather strenuous for the ol’ calf.  I’m feeling it today. But the weather has been perfect, sunny and breezy and 75. I just miss being outside, with the wind in my face, tongue hanging out…Oh wait.  That’s my neighbor’s dog.

Anyway.

I’ve iced the sore muscle.  I’ve elevated it.  I’ve rubbed it and talked to it.  It’s a bit stiff and swollen. I’m sure I’d get better much faster if I had one of these babies:

Image by m.inmagine.com.

                         Image by m.inmagine.com.

Imagine the possibilities!  What a grand entrance I would make, liveried servants toting me upon their sturdy shoulders.  I’d definitely need some shinier duds to pull it off.  Can’t wear Dockers and a knit top if you’re arriving in that kind of style. I suppose it might get rather tight, maneuvering the palanquin between the narrow gray cubicle passageways at work. Going up and down the stairs at city hall would prove rather grand, don’t you think?  I’d definitely need some sort of envoy in front, calling out, “Make way for Susan! She who has injured her leg needs perfect rest!” Even more dicey to try it at home, I reckon.  I can hear the laughter now.

This pipe dream brought to you by coffee, the movie “Lucy” and pizza.  Thank you.

But life doesn’t work that way, at least not out here in the U.S. of A. We don’t have potentates or despots or even kingdoms in any official capacity.  Nobody I know owns even a rickshaw. I’ll just keep taking my meloxicam (Gesundheit!), praying and doing the eeny stretches laid out for me by Dr. D. I’ll have to exercise and grow the virtue patience – a fruit of the Spirit –  even as I don’t exercise my legs.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! – Galatians 5:22-23

Hurts So Good

arnold & slyHappy Friday, everyone!

There’s a principle in body building that gets a lot of press.  You have to work the muscle, essentially tear it down from the inside, in order to strengthen it.  Your body was designed with amazing self-healing powers.  The workout that kills you actually does make you stronger.  Because you won’t die for real. Not today.  But you might ache all over.  Sitting could prove challenging; standing up makes you yelp out loud. Wearing your purse on your shoulder – either shoulder – causes you to rethink why you carry a purse at all.  And really, ladies, why *do* we? Sigh.

From bodybuilding.comResearch has shown that in order to increase muscle mass, stress must be put on the body, leading to increased hormone release, and increased flow of nutrients into the muscle, and with rest, muscles will grow.

So, the great thing about all of this is that as you continue to push yourself, you gain physical strength. You increase stamina as you run longer distances.  Your body acquires efficiency in utilizing oxygen. The heart reaps fabulous benefits from aerobic stress.  See, the human machine learns as it goes. It adapts to what we teach it.  It’s interdisciplinary at the cellular level.  Yet it’s little by little.  You don’t wake up one day and run a marathon.  Unless you’re Dean Karnazes. Just trust me, you’re not.

As I look at this minor running setback, I’m reminded that the potential for greater wholeness often comes out of breaking. It applies in the spiritual world as well.  God can make something new out of our brokenness. In fact, God shapes us all the time:  But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand – Isaiah 64:8. We learn as we go.  Sometimes, our entire paradigm changes. Hopefully, we gain wisdom and greater faith, line upon line, truth upon truth. In the vernacular, we “work smarter, not harder” due to knowledge gleaned from painful experience. I look forward to the good things the Lord will bring out of this season.