Camp Beaver

Happy Friday!

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I took this photo yesterday. Today, it’s even more flooded, with wave patterns and practically its own weather system. The guys’ trucks plow through 6-8 inches of water at the deepest place. It’s been raining and raining. We’ve logged nearly 10 inches of rain for January.

Did you know Shelton has beavers? I didn’t, though in hindsight it makes sense. Growing up in “the beaver state” (Oregon), beavers got a lot of press. Especially OSU Beavers. Though salmon reached a near-saintly status beavers could never hope to attain.

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Meet Hazel the beaver, of Point Defiance Zoo.

The reason I mention beavers is that we have at least one beaver who blocks the Shelton Creek culverts. He dams them. I guess the idea is to slow down the water’s flow and have a little quiet pond to call home. He can build his lodge there and his abode won’t wash away.

Unfortunately, this beaver activity stopped up the drains in the Shop parking lot. It’s made the pond out back, a salmon-bearing, duck-paddling, woodpecker-drawing pond, nearly overflow its banks. The beaver has made other wildlife – and not so wild creatures – lives a bit unbearable.

One can’t really fault the beaver. He – or she – is only doing what they know to do to protect themselves. But it makes me think about how we camp on things, like a job, or a church, or relationship, that maybe we should move on from. It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. Trying to preserve circumstances causes us to miss out on other great things that might be just down river, if we let the current of God’s direction carry us to new adventures.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

 

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How To Be Royal

prince ferdinand & pattiBut you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Can I confess something? I have a guilty pleasure show. It’s Millionaire Matchmaker, all about the business of finding true love, run by Patti Stanger, matchmaker to the uber wealthy. Ever watched it?Patti-Stanger

Anyway, I like Patti because she speaks her mind. She tells people what to do to find love and usually gets them on the right path to finding it, if not bringing the person directly into their path. Sometimes she can be a little too straightforward, even crass. I have turned it off when it got too crude. But Patti doesn’t dance around the issues.

Like with Prince Ferdinand. See the above picture.

“My name is Prince Maximilian Ferdinand Von Anhault,” he said in his intro spot. “I am a prince of Germany.”

An attorney by trade, Prince Ferdinand often sported his bright green sash and medals, even on dates. He also liked pink. A lot.

“You need to butch up,” she said to him. “You’re in America now. No girl wants to date someone they think is gay.” She told him to get rid of his pink pants. No pink! She gave him a new identity as Max from New Jersey. Never mind that he still had his distinctive German accent and no one paying attention would mistake a European for a New Jersey tough. Good thing the girl he picked didn’t question Max too closely.

Prince Ferdinand, as he called himself, drove sporty, expensive cars. Did I mention Zsa Zsa Gabor was his stepmom? He had a private yacht with a personal chef. He wore designer clothes (some of them pink). He employed a manager. Ferdinand, by all accounting, oozed royalty.

I’ve struggled with what royal means in today’s world. Is it all about the bling and the privilege? I think there must be more. When I think of royal lived out by today’s terms I think of Queen Elizabeth. Proper behavior and following protocol define her existence, right? Do this, not that. Keep to the life script handed down to you at birth.

But it’s more than that. If you’re royal, you’re called to rise above. You set the example for your kingdom, whether you rule it anymore or not. You’re the gold standard. You have honor. Your contemporaries are the ruling class of other nations. You hobnob with dukes and duchesses, diplomats and dignitaries. You have impeccable manners. You dress in an age-appropriate but modest style. Your influence – good or bad – can move millions. People look up to you.

The point is that to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). People of royal descent, whether adopted or born into the system, have a lot to live up to. They have an obligation. They don’t need to behave perfectly. Yet they must use their power and prestige with discretion.

And so must we, as believers. We’re God’s children, a holy nation of the redeemed. We have an obligation to be the best versions of ourselves we can be. We’ve been given the best gift of all:  Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. All the talents, gifts and abilities put within our grasp make us people of influence. May we use them wisely, sans sashes and pink pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuna Loaf

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(source)

I came home from work the other day and saw a barely touched can of tuna sitting on the floor. What you need to know is that Zac is a tuna freak. He will eat tuna sandwiches, tricked out with mayonnaise, lemon juice and toasted bread any day of the week. He’s trained our cats to suck out the last bits of juicy fish and lick up the watery residue in the can. They come running when they hear the can opener motor start up.

When I spotted the can on the floor, I figured Ruby opened a can for the cats as a treat. I guess they didn’t approve.

“Hey Ruby,” I called. “Please don’t put full cans of tuna on the floor. The cats don’t appreciate it. They’ll never finish it.” I pointed to the can lurking near the entryway.

“Oh, Diego gave that can to me. I thought the kitties would like it,” Ruby said, walking in from the family room.

Diego is a school friend Ruby’s had since kindergarten. He and his family used to live next door. He cut her bangs once with orange safety scissors, leaving her with teeny  yet raggedy bangs. This resulted in a corrective bob haircut she wore for several years. He also gave her a stuffed animal and chocolates the day after Valentine’s Day a couple years ago, too.

“Why did Diego give you a can of tuna?” I asked, flummoxed. Is there some 4th grade going-steady ritual I’m missing here? Does tuna plus bread equal a kind of dowry?

“I don’t know. He also gave me a loaf of bread. He asked if I liked bread, so I said yes and took it.” Her brown eyes, all innocence, looked up at me. Nothing out of the ordinary in my world here, Mom.

I let it pass as one of life’s inexplicable moments, possibly out of an alternate universe. Then it happened again yesterday. I found an unlabeled tuna-sized can on the counter.

“Oh, Diego gave me tuna gain. He also gave me another loaf of bread,” she said. “I pulled out some slices, put hot sauce on them and ate it all out of a bowl. It was good.”

It must be love.

Got Milk?

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I’ve never really understood what the phrase “the milk of human kindness” means. Perhaps it has something to do with how babies survive on milk as their first sustenance. Milk would be primary in relationships, then, the grease that keeps the wheels moving. If anyone has insight on this, feel free to share. I confess I have it in short supply today. This week has been rough.

In my devotional yesterday, I encountered a quote from Henry James:

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

At the time I thought, yeah yeah. Whatever. We emphasize kindness with our kids, very important. True. Moving on. Then today’s devotional hammered it home. It centered on this passage in 2 Timothy 2:24:

The servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.

Okay, Lord. I’m listening, Lately, it seems my world is populated with difficult people and difficult situations. Any milk of human kindness I may have possessed in the past has dried up. Misunderstandings and disappointments abound. For example, I’ve hit a roadblock with a contractor. It’s like they’re speaking Portuguese to my English. I will have to start over and explain 1) the parameters of the project, and 2) what their legal requirements are according to the contract they signed. Other conflicts hit within the office, trying to defend myself on things I’m not familiar with.

Sometimes, hanging out with Ruby and watching cartoons can be a great relief. The good guys and the bad guys don’t overlap, and everything works out in 23 minutes. Simple explanations to problems, huzzah! Why doesn’t everyday stuff resolve easily? But life isn’t like that. It’s messy and gray and complicated.

Last night after dinner, I hopped on the treadmill. I also ate a handful of chocolate chips, but you don’t need to know that. I realized I needed to escape the chocolate cure and let the feelings go. I walked for 30 minutes and put in 2 miles. Afterward, I felt better. I surrendered the painful decisions and frustrating interchanges. This is why I enjoy working out so much. It’s like the rough parts of the day get sanded off through sweat or something. Sweaty prayer is real.

If I call myself a servant of the Lord, kindness needs to rule my words and deeds. I know I can’t do it on my own. Today marks a new start. I want that milk Jesus provides to nourish those around me. Let it flow from my mouth and my hands. Help, Lord.

 

 

 

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Perfect Legacy

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I’m starting to come out of the cold I’ve been fighting since last week. Apologies for not blogging, but my head felt two sizes too big most days, and not from pride.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. All of us are home on holiday in honor of the man’s legacy. I’ve written about him before.

The latest significant figure to come under fire is Abraham Lincoln. Poor Honest Abe. Now the recently discovered historical documents seem to point to the fact that he struggled with homosexuality. He had several lovers, some within the Union army, during the course of his marriage. What will we do with all these men? We can’t escape their scandalous back stories.

I pondered all these things as I walked in our neighborhood. The sun, stuff of myth and legend in these parts, poured its golden light down on us. The trees held droplets of water, suspended in time. A squirrel crossed my path, in a hurry to get to safety. As I walked down the sidewalk, side streets revealed gulls and crows squabbling over garbage. Life continues to be worth living and caring about, every day. Peace settled on me.

I considered the things I’ve struggled with in my own life. I have my own scandalous back stories. I’m not proud of how I’ve felt jealous at times. I’m ashamed of my own bouts of lust. I should have kept my mouth shut more often instead of spewing poison on others. I’ve battled gluttony. Maybe my  problems haven’t manifested in the same public ways that other people’s problems have. I doubt the day-to-day meanderings of my life will end up in a historical tome. Yet the turmoil, the human tug-of-war, remains the same, for me and for you. We’re not so different under this layer of skin.

Looking back, the MLK post seems a bit harsh. I’ve discovered as I age that perfect, golden legacies don’t exist. Despite my best efforts, I won’t leave behind a spotless life for my kids to emulate. Too late for that! I keep on getting up every morning. Apparently, I should have been birthed into a fairy tale or fable to achieve perfection. Because truly, that’s the only place where upright, flawlessly moral folks live.

It’s time for some mercy, for me and for you. Our shortcomings don’t negate the good things we’ve done, the impact we’ve made on this world. God’s love for us continues, every day. His mercies are new every morning; and they’re for us. Amazing! Only God is without sin. Jesus died to wash us clean. We can receive forgiveness. His blood is the great equalizer. We all need Him, every day.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:23

Agnes

The Public Works shop has a cat. I call her Agnes.

She’s a good cat, from what I can see. One of the guys (or maybe more) feeds her and waters her. She has a litter box. She lives in the insulation in an upper storage area over the extra street signs (who knew we had ’em?) and stop signs.

When I first saw her while getting a tour of the shop, the head mechanic told me, “She doesn’t like anybody.”

Curious, I called to her. She came right out, chirping a little. She let me pet her soft head. She purred and drooled. She pushed her round head into my hand. She doesn’t come down to floor level, at least not that I’ve seen. She hangs out on the heights. She traipses a support bar and spies when she hears people down on the garage floor. She’s like a furry yet wingless barn owl, stealth killer of invading rodents.

Agnes is just one of many surprises I’ve encountered down at the shop. I doubt she’ll ever let me pet her fully, or come down to my level. I call to her and try to lure her closer, but no dice. She’s got a feral edge to her that shines out of her orange eyes. She doesn’t trust us humans to treat her right due to bad past experiences.

She reminds me of some people I’ve met. People tell me, “I believe in God. But church is full of hypocrites.” Or “I’m a spiritual person. God and I are A-Okay.” Truly, often these statements mask a deep fear of rejection and pain. We got hurt before, and it stung. In fact, it stunk! Now we believe we can hold God and His people at arm’s length and He’s fine with it. Right? He’s not. He longs to hold you close and comfort you, and whisper His myriad good thoughts about you into your spirit.

I’d love to hold Agnes and pet her, feel her warm small body tucked into my arms. I would never hurt her.  I want to tell her, people do dumb things sometimes. We’re not all jerks. Keep giving out love and you will get it. People right here in this shop take care of you. Won’t you trust them?

Agnes feels safe up high, out of reach, though. She’d have to let down her guard to get the attention she craves. I see her head turn. Her eyes lock onto mine. She wants to come down. She won’t let herself take the risk of getting hurt again.

Will you?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –  Psalm 34:18

 

 

Work Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of when I started working for the city.

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I’m surprised at how quickly time went by. I’d like to take a moment to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned this past year.

  • The front counter gal on the planning side makes a mean cup of coffee. Thank God.
  • And…I don’t ever want to do her job. She interacts with the public every day, yet keeps all the cogs of the planning and permitting department running. She’s a rock star.
  • It’s possible to get promoted twice in one year and never leave your cubicle.
  • Engineers don’t change:  no news is good news.
  • Everyone has a story. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell it to you.
  • Engineers still have the corniest sense of humor on the planet.
  • Even if you put meetings on an Outlook calendar, people might miss it.
  • Passion for excellence and doing it right inspires.
  • Shelton’s department directors accept walk-in appointments. They remain accessible.
  • Dressing up too much makes you look suspicious. See below…

Coworker, smiling: “You look really nice today.”
Me, smiling:  “Thanks!”
Coworker:  “Do you have a job interview or something?”
Me, stifling an inner sigh: “No, I only wanted to feel like a grownup today.

  • Everyone wears multiple hats and covers at least one other job. Don’t undervalue employees. Small cities create mighty workers.
  • Both kinds of milk containers are recyclable.
  • Just because someone says they know the winning Powerball numbers doesn’t mean they do.

Thank you, Shelton, for an opportunity that turned into a great adventure. Here’s to many more!