July Thanksgiving

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I ran 3 miles out in the cool the other day. It had rained the night before, so the air blew fresh on me. The moon played peekaboo with the thick, shifting clouds. I felt good, despite a full workout at kettlebells the night before. I moved along, strong but loose. I could have run forever.

My mind, ever agile, strayed ahead to work and the weekend. I couldn’t keep thinking about nothing, could I?! I find it hard to stay in the moment. I’m always in the next moment, or the one after that. Or even into next week. Mindfulness, or being in the moment, they call it. I lack it. We talk about it writer’s group all the time. It all comes down to enjoying where you are and when you are.

I think Paul nailed it when he said:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13

I’m still learning to be present. However, I’m almost always grateful for mornings. I’m glad about new beginnings every day. I’m content with and celebrate the numerous blessings of this life.

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Clouds Like Mercy

We’ve had a string of warm days here. But most mornings start out foggy. A heavy marine layer traps in the humidity and cool breezes out of the west. I run along the road, high on the petunia fragrance, and pretend I won’t be baking later. Tra-la!

Clouds make me think of mercy. Remember the cloud in the Old Testament?

The LORD went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. – Exodus 13:21

Where I come from, clouds most often present as rain, except in the summer. These summertime hazes burn off in the early afternoon. But they’ve taken the zing out of the sun. The sun experiences a certain amount of stunting in its regular orbit. The day doesn’t get nearly as hot if the sun spent the morning thwarted by the marine layer.

In the blazing heat of the desert, the Lord presented Himself as a cloud. I see the Lord shielding the Israelites, providing some shade in a burning land. He blocked some of the dry, debilitating heat only deserts provide. Plus, the cloud would be easy to see in a sun-drenched land. Blue sky, golden sand and a towering gray cloud.”One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

Clouds also obscure the sky. They can make it hard to see and sometimes they depress us. Their grayness, day after day, wearies us. We long to see the sunshine again. Knowing the Israelites, they probably had some complaints of this variety. “Oh, to see the sky again! Why don’t God’s clouds every make it rain?” And so on.

And yet I pray you experience some of this “cloud action” in your life. Clouds serve a purpose. They’re part of the plan, just like the seasons. God’s clouds protect us (Psalm 84), and then, at the right time, the payoff.

Walker Park

 

 

 

 

The Dance

bride and groom

My shop coworker mentioned something the other day. He said he didn’t always like working for the city. The person he spoke with had a different take on it.

“I work for God,” he said.

I liked that. It made me wonder: am I working for God at my job?

But then I had another thought. What if it isn’t so much supervisor-employee, but more like a partnership? What if working for God looks more like working *with* God?

I picture working with God like a dance. We take God’s hands and we float across the floor, going here and there to accomplish His will in this earth through our lives. Saying one thing and not another, pursuing different paths as He directs. Twirls, dips, throws and catches intertwine with steps forward and retreating. Some steps bear repeating.

I think as we surrender our lives it turns into a dance. Wouldn’t you rather dance than work any day of the week? He leads and we follow. Though we are following, our part matters. Our hands and feet play into the choreography. The music changes as our life’s seasons change. Some of the dances resemble a waltz. Some might look like a quickstep. Some might look like simply being held. I recall Ecclesiastes

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.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

We pick up new steps to the new rhythm. The dance moves morph but the couple, you and me in Jesus’ arms , remains the same. How else will we know what to do as the Lord’s Bride at the end of time if we don’t start dancing with Him now?

 

 

Smooth Sailing?

sailboat on rough seas

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I’ve been navigating choppy waters lately. Sometimes, when you try to help someone, you botch it. Sometimes people end up thinking badly of you. Your integrity comes under scrutiny. Sometimes you make mistakes. You fail. You lose at whatever you went after. You did your best and it didn’t work out.

It’s a little painful. It makes me want to run, to lash out, to defend myself and maybe retaliate. It also makes me want to tell God, “I’ll take it from here. You didn’t do so hot back there. I’m the captain now.”

Don’t worry: this matter, in the larger scheme of things, results in small potatoes. It just blindsided me, like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. You know that saying “no good deed goes unpunished”? It fits here.

But God never leaves us. He never forsakes us. Hebrews 13:5 says so. The great thing about it all is that even when (not if) I deliberately rebel, God remains with me. I can repent and come back. He forgives and forgets. I can let Him have control, especially when the outcome looks uncertain. This safety net of love and care keeps me buoyed up on the rough seas of this life. I can stay the course, guided by the star of His eternal faithfulness.

What are you facing today that makes you want to go rogue?

 

Back in the Saddle

Back to work. It’s not been easy, getting my head around that reality. We had such a great vacation. I hated to leave that close-knit family, relaxed vibe. But laundry. But bills. But church obligations. Real life came knocking and wouldn’t leave.

I spent quite a bit of time praying this morning. I couldn’t shake the let-down feeling. My bosses deserve a 100% Susan, not one who keeps looking back. I found a piece of God’s peace and kept it close. I went back to the office.  I waded through the piles of invoices and work orders that waited, patient for me to return.

And I ended the running streak yesterday. I ran for 50 days straight. The streak served its purpose, giving everyone the benefit of the nice Susan while on the trip. I stopped it yesterday because my hip hurt. My back ached and my brain screamed “Rest!” I didn’t want to do it. I’m terrible at resting, at quitting, at letting stuff go.

Today, I’m back at it. I got out in the cool, gray-helmeted morning and reveled in the freshness of it all. The flowers cheered me with their sunny faces. I breathed in their scent. I needed the mental and physical break from running, just like I needed the vacation we took.

It’s okay to step off the rutted trail for a minute and get your bearings. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, we need to step back for a minute. Taking a selah is not a sin. In fact, you might come back to your regularly scheduled life with a bit more pep in your step and some new life.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name. – Psalm 23:1-3

 

 

 

Vacation Finale

I started this yesterday, but ran out of time and steam to complete it. Enjoy!

Today, we fly home. We hit SeaTac just after 3:00 p.m. local time.

It’s bittersweet. This was the best vacation we’ve had as a family, not to mention the longest.

I ran 47 miles over 14 days in 3 different states. We got to see most of Jonathon’s immediate family and some of our dearest friends. We cooled off in lakes and at a water park. We ate s’mores around a campfire. We played Apples to Apples.

It was a blast.

Here are some photos that didn’t make the blog.

From Mall of America in Minneapolis:

The above two pictures feature creations made of Legos. The bottom has rollercoasters and the back of Zac’s head.

From Lake Superior:

Spunky wonder dog Pepper and black-eyed Susans, both of Texas.

A rare Zac sighting.

Zac at Cedar Creek

Our friends’ kids, Rebekah and Tabitha. Aren’t they darling?! They cooked a fantastic lasagna, olive cheese balls, garlic-infused green beans and Italian cream cake. Diet? What diet?!

We visited the East Texas Arboretum yesterday morning.

We recommend visiting the arboretum. Admission is a suggested $4 donation.

We ate our last lunch in Texas at a bed and breakfast plus lunch place in Athens called The Geranium House. Oddly enough, not a single geranium graced the property. But we saw several ceramic cats, music boxes, tea pots and flamboyant hats.

The cat (far right) was the only live cat we saw while we visited Texas. Perhaps it ate all the others. (Mis)quote of the day, while the owner and server took our lunch order: “Is that Jonathon with a J?”

We thank God for His traveling mercies. Thanks for all who spent time with us. We look forward to seeing our local family and friends again, but will never forget this trip.

 

 

Swimming with Snakes

Yesterday, we visited Cedar Creek Lake, a shallow but very large lake in Texas. Our host’s aunt owns a lovely home out there. She offered to let us hang out and enjoy the lake.

We got there just before noon. The sun blazed down. We had packed sandwich fixings for lunch. We ate our cold cut sandwiches and chips out on the deck, taking in the view. Hummingbirds fed right in front of us. A stiff breeze blew in from the west. Zac and I finished first. The lake, brown and choppy, beckoned.

“Wanna go out, Mom?” Zac asked.

“Sure,” I said, standing up.

Our host looked up.

“Oh,” he said. “Watch out for snakes.”

The bottom dropped out. What?!

“What kind of snakes?” I asked.

“Water moccasins,” he said.

Gulp.

texas water moccasins

As in, poisonous. As in, bites can be fatal.

“Well,” he backpedaled. “They hang out by the dock, mostly.”

Suddenly, swimming fell off the agenda. Dorothy, we’re not in Washington anymore. I spent a few minutes wondering if they were punking us, pulling a fast one. They ate their lunches, seemingly unconcerned about imminent doom.

“They won’t come out today. The water’s too choppy.”

Ruby freaked. Zac was hesitant as well. And me? I didn’t really want to get in at all. But I knew I had to brave it. Otherwise, my kids would miss out. We’d be okay, right?

I walked down to the water. The kids trailed behind me. The rough water lapped against the metal ladder. Foam and tree branches knocked together. It looked uninviting.We could just walk away.

“I don’t want to get in there,” Zac said.

“And…snakes!” Ruby said with a shiver.

I stepped down into the water. Fearful, I took slow steps. I prayed. Oh faith, where had you flown? One, two, three steps and the silty bottom. The water felt like a bath. A murky bath, but a warm one.

“Come on in!” I called. “We’ll be fine.”

Ruby stepped in first, then Zac. Everything that brushed us caused us to jump. Lots of fish in the lake, we heard. A few pieces of driftwood rolled around with us. Little by little, we relaxed. We rode jet skis. We swam and floated and splashed.We took turns riding the jet skis, provided for our use by the generous aunt. We tore up the waves. We laughed as the spray hit our faces.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to alarm you,” our host said later. “But I thought you should be aware.”

He’s right. It’s important to be aware. Living life means danger lurks near us all the time. Electricity. Driving in cars. Heck, even while walking outside something could fall on your head. You have to stay alert. Life involves risk.  But it shouldn’t keep us from exploring and trying new things.

“…they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; …” – Mark 16:18