The Yell

Screaming-girl

I felt a flood of excitement as I woke up this morning. Payday.

Yes, I hear you say.  Paydays rock, Susan.  No argument there.

I freely admit my nerd status.  I love paying bills.  I love seeing the money we’ve worked hard to earn going to pay for our needs and some of our wants.  I love to give, too, as needs and opportunities arise.

But today’s not just any payday.  THE payday. We paid off a debt we’ve had for 15+ years.  As of January 2015, we overcame $12,000.

Still in shock.

I pulled out the paperwork to figure out how much dough actually put out this year.  I found credit card statements from 2007 from Capital One and Providian. We finished those up long ago.  We crossed PayPal Credit off in April of this year, a holdover of a down payment from our timeshare company. Oh man.  Memories, of too much month and not enough money flooded over me.  Christmas on credit.  Playing catchup on bills, in and endless cycle. Let’s not forget the condemnation associated with it all.

I’m so grateful for my full-time job. That’s what kicked it into high gear.  Between that extra income and the other side gigs Jonathon and I have, we were able to make some mondo payments.  At first, we just added a little here and a little here. We cut cable. We made a budget. Reading The Non-Consumer Advocate blog helped us choose how and where the dollars went. Then we got excited. We caught the vision.  Truly, it’s Dave Ramsey’s fault.  He started us off. I guess others have put out the same material on how to manage your money, budgets, etc., but we heard it first from from Mr. Ramsey in a class our church coordinated.

I can’t believe it.  We did it. I’m dancing in my chair as I write this.

Now, onto the house and Dr. Isham’s school loans.

Huzzah! Thank you, Jesus.

Advertisements

Super Blood Moon

Photo by digitaltrends.com

                  Photo by digitaltrends.com

“It’s surreal,” Jonathon said, gazing out the window.

It felt like something out of a sci-fi flick.

I grabbed Ruby from her room to show her.

“I’m still awake,”she called from her curtained enclave.  Don’t ask.

We walked to the study window.
“Oooh!  That orange is creepy,” Ruby said, eyes wide. The angry red circle eyed us from space.

“The next one will be in 2033,” Jonathon told her.

Ruby turned and looked at us.

“Your dad and I will be dead by then,” I said.

“Sue.  Do the math,” Jonathon admonished.

Oh, right. Sheesh!

“Ruby, by the time the blood moon comes back, you’ll likely be grown with kids of your own,” he said.

Okay.  Better.

Later, we tore Zac away from his computer to view the super moon.

Image by ktla.com

                     Image by ktla.com

“Cool,” he said.  “It’s really bright.  But I wouldn’t call it super.”

Um. Thanks.

We’d watched the blood moon last night. It was definitely creepy, an orange-red mass on the rise.  Then the super moon arrived.  Bigger, brighter, and better than before!

Today, I’m on the comeback trail from the cold.  I’m left with a cough and a lounge singer voice.  I thought I’d try easing back into running.  The super moon, still white-hot bright, made the pre-dawn darkness almost like daylight.  The streetlights with their bluish glow competed with the intensity of the enormous orb in the sky.

I thought about the fleeting nature of time.  In 18 years, when the blood moon revisits, where will we be?  Zac will be 34, hopefully a grown, responsible adult.  Ruby will be 27, probably doing something artistic.  I hope to be a grandma by then.

Many have written about the blood moons signifying the end of days. However, I have no idea of the spiritual significance of blood moons or super moons.  I just think they’re fascinating. And they don’t last.  They only come around, well, once in a blue moon. Gazing at the moon as a family might seem a frivolous pastime.  But it seemed like a chance to mark an occasion to me. We will not pass this way again.

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. – Psalm 103:15

The Last Shall Be First

I’m home sick today with a fever and aches.  Yet I just ate the last one of Jonathon’s monster brownies. Why? Read on.

Growing up at Dad’s, nobody ate the last of anything. If you did, you’d end up an old maid.  Blame it on Grumpa, my stepmom’s dad.  He told us the naked truth.  So, in a house with three daughters, there’d be leftover single slices of pizza.  This in spite of our great familial love of the cheesy pie. You’d find the last serving of apple crisp.  A cookie. A nub of cheese. A glance in our family refrigerator looked like a buffet of last rites nourishment.

“What is up here?  Why doesn’t anyone finish anything?” Jonathon asked me once when he stayed over for a visit, his head in the chill box.

Ever helpful, I explained  the state of the union to him. None of us girls wanted to end up alone. We took precautions.

He looked ferhoodled. The entire feminist movement, thwarted by a single ingested superstition.

He looked at me, questions all over his face, but no judgment. Then Jonathon made up his mind.

“Huh.  Guess I’ll eat it then.”

pepperoni pizzaWhat a guy.  Taking one for the team since 1990.

Fast forward a bit. Now, I’ve been married since 1992 and have two children, I think it’s safe – finally –  to eat the final whatever.

But the whole thing reminds me of this parable of Jesus out of Matthew 20:

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.  When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage.  When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.  Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” – Matthew 20:1-16

I remember getting picked last for kickball games.  I was tentative at best, stepping up to the pitch.  When kicking, I usually lifted the ball up with my foot.  This guaranteed a fly ball.  Translation:  an easy out. My comrades caught on. Hence, a lot of time hugging the chain link fence at recess.

Our culture defines last as the worst.  Last place.  Last choice.  Last resort, as in “if no other alternatives present themselves, we’ll go to Estacada for vacation”. My devouring of the last brownie was, in part, a pity decision.  I knew the kids wouldn’t touch it.  They’d think it stale.  Being of a riskier palate, I took a chance.  I received a reward of chocolatey goodness for my efforts. Feeling as icky as I do, the brownie hit the spot. It tasted just as good, if not better, than the very first one.

See, last doesn’t have to be bad.   We have another saying in American culture:  “He saved the best for last”.    People are never last  in a negative sense in God’s mind. In fact, they constitute the Lord’s highest priority, his greatest joy. However in God’s economy, he sometimes does save the best for last (think water into wine at the wedding in Cana). Jesus’ parable sums it up nicely.  He loves us all the same, whether we’ve served 50 years or 5 minutes.

Jam Day

I didn’t write much last week for a number of reasons.

Here’s one

Not for the squeamish.

Not for the squeamish.

And another is that the week got crazy. As in, “Lunch hour, where art thou?” Between meetings and anti-harassment training, I was licked. So many protected classes these days, and Washington state is the leader in protecting the picked-on.  I figure pretty soon we’ll only be able to use sign language because our words will be considered too offensive.  Then again, perhaps we should stick to everyone’s health and the weather.

You might be wondering why my knee got all bunged up.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I was running in the early a.m. under cover of night.  I cut through a parking lot in order to avoid construction area and I fell.  Scraped my shoulder and jammed two fingers on my left hand

As I got up, I thought about quitting.  But I had a great pace going.  And I want to do well in the half marathon next month.  Which means line upon line, day after day of faithfully increasing by increments. I looked at my right hand. Blood oozed from a small abrasion on the palm. My pants had a hole in them where my right knee hit the pavement. Nothing broken.

I went on. Turns out the motor still ran and I finished well.

I contemplated going to the doctor.  I called but no appointments were available.

“You can always go to our walk-in clinic.  It opens at 11:00,” said the helpful scheduler.

Sitting around and waiting.  Hmm.  No thanks.

“Your finger’s not broken,” my engineering co-worker scoffed.

“You know what I’d do?

He smiled.

“I’ve got some duct tape in the back. I’ll tape your fingers together.  That’ll fix it.”

Uh, no thanks, MacGyver.

Now, 5 days later, my finger’s a little stiff but not swollen.  It took some time and patience.

Because even when you fall down, you can get back up.  I love running, and I believe it’s something I was born to do. Even if I mess up or get hurt, the gifts and abilities given to me remain the same. As much as I’d like to be perfect all the time, it’s simply not possible. I get discouraged.  It’s alright.  God’s purpose and love for me haven’t changed.

I will say the same to you:  get out and do what you were born to do.  If you fall, get back up.  Your Father will help you. You won’t even need duct tape.

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. – Romans 11:29

Rockaway Treasure

twinrocksclouds  cousinsinsurf joy&isaacmermaids

On Thursday of last week, we drove down to Oregon for a late summer getaway.

It was great to go away and spend time with family.  My brother and his family came.  My dad and stepmom came.  We rented a house in Rockaway a few feet from the beach.  We could see and hear the ocean from the house.

beach&sun cousinsinsurftwinrockssun

We dug our toes in the sand and chased the chilly surf.  We strolled among the shops, searching for treasures. We ate pizza and bridge mix and stuffed French toast. We talked about WWII (Dad) and played cards. I did a 6-mile run along Hwy. 101 just before dawn.

As we hung out, talking and laughing, I realized again that the real treasure worth seeking was right in front me – nieces and nephews, Dad and his wife, brother and sister-in-law, my own little family.

Jesus Sighed

coloring pageBut the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear? Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said. “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.– Mark 8:14-21

I think it’s fair to say I would have been among the puzzled in this passage. This has always seemed like a math problem to me, a sort of equation. “Five loaves of bread feeds 5,000 and yields 12 baskets of leftovers, so six loaves should feed…? Anyone? C’mon, guys. We covered this…” Flashback to every high school math class I ever took. Jesus and the loaves, the ultimate of Mr. Dowdy’s Challenge Problems.

Can’t you hear the disciples now?

Andrew, resigned: “This is because we forgot to bring food again.”

Nathaniel, pointing a finger:  “It was Peter’s turn!”

James, confused: “Wait…what about that Pharisee’s yeast?”

Huh? Remember all those extra bits to a math word problem that give you pause yet add nothing to the solution. They merely distract from the answer. If John’s hair is green and Mabel has freckles, how many cats does it take to climb a flag pole?

In the two chapters I read today, Mark 7 and 8, Jesus sighed once in each chapter.  I have to wonder if another sigh didn’t escape him after this exchange with his disciples. I’m sighing even now.

Because, after all this time, I can see it’s never been an algebra problem.  X times Y does not equal Z. This is not about Jesus’ ability to exponentially multiply whatever is given to Him, although He does it all the time.  No.  It’s about trusting with what you have, surrendering it to Him.  It’s about believing your little bit multiplied by God’s omnipotence equals more than enough.  In fact, your little bit doesn’t really matter in the material sense.  The greatest factor in the equation has always been your heart.

Dead Distraction

My phone died yesterday. Just as work drew to a close, the shiny hot pink poseur kacked. I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s more than 2 years old. I think Verizon has a small time bomb of sorts inside each phone, configured to each device’s unique setup, ready to go off sometime after reaching the 2-year mark.

It’s a strange feeling. My purse doesn’t vibrate. Facebook doesn’t ding, alerting me to a new message. I’m wondering if having a phone on me 99% of every day has contributed to an onset of ADD. I find my concentration isn’t what it used to be. Or maybe never was.

Reality is that I’ll need to get a new one. I’ve become accustomed to texting. I like the fact that Jonathon and I and chosen few can stay in contact, almost all the time. In fact, I now have entire friendships sustained by the texted phrase. Truly, it’s the best way to get in touch with my son. He doesn’t check his email; most millennials, it seems, have left old timey phone calls and even email behind in favor of more immediate applications – texting, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc.

I keep reaching out for it, not unlike amputees who still sense their long lost limb. But my phone’s not there. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch. I keep thinking of things I want to say to people…only I can’t. I’m finding it a little lonely, out in the world alone. I feel twitchy, unsettled. Wait. Am I addicted to my phone?!

Not all two-way conversations are like this. Prayer, aka communication with the Lord, is a different story. I am so glad talking to God is as easy as opening up my mouth or heart. I don’t need a mechanical doohickey to make it happen. I don’t even need to close my eyes. I can talk to him, right here and now. No intermediary required. Checking in is easy and free. Seems like I might have time for more of it, now that I’m not so distracted.

It’s a good thing.