The New Normal

nice-normal-family

“Mom, I have a mock interview on Wednesday,” Zac announced on Monday. “I need some dress clothes.”

Awesome. My son, most days resplendent in t-shirts, shorts and a dark blue hoodie, needed to represent for his marketing class. Jonathon took him shopping Tuesday after school.

“Zac got pants. Can’t believe he’s in an adult size,” he texted me.

“Did you get him a shirt?” I texted back.

“No. He says he has one.”

“But does it fit?” I asked.

“He says it does.”

Hmm.

Zac tried on the shirt for me when he got home. A pale blue, it hugged his near-grown self. The buttons on the sleeves hit just before his wrists.

“It’s almost too small,” I commented.

He shrugged.

“Yeah.”

We rolled with it.

Yesterday morning, he put on the khaki pants and the blue button-down shirt. He tucked in his shirt tails. I realized I was looking at someone who was almost a full grown man. And a handsome one, at that.

“So, what kinds of questions do you think they’ll ask you?” I put to Zac.

“I don’t know.”

“OK. So what’s your greatest strength?”

He humored me as I peppered him with more practice questions. As I dropped him off that rainy morning, I realized something. Very soon, this Zac, dressed up like a professional, will be the new normal. Just like Zac is rapidly outgrowing  his dress shirt, he’s also leaving childhood behind. Next year, he’ll attend college in Portland.

Gulp.

What do you do when what you know disappears? You find a way to embrace the change and celebrate the new reality. Our boy is growing up.

 

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Vashti, Revisited

veggietales-queen-esther

My morning devotional was from the book of Esther. Esther, hero of the faith, champion of justice.

Right?

According to Esther 1, King Xerxes had a 6-month long banquet for all his nobles and officials. Then he had a week long banquet for all his house. The queen, Vashti, held a banquet for the women as well. This is where it gets interesting:

 On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was in high spirits because of the wine, he told the seven eunuchs who attended him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas— to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted the nobles and all the other men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman.  But when they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. This made the king furious, and he burned with anger. – Esther 1:10-12

Vashti refused to come. Probably she had her own safety in mind. These men had been drinking nonstop for at least 7 days. What would she be asked – or forced – to do?! It speaks volumes to the relationship between Vashti and Xerxes that she didn’t feel safe, that her husband and king wouldn’t protect her.

King X consulted his trusted advisors. They said Queen V set a bad precedent. “All the wives in the kingdom will rebel if you let her get away with this!” they trumpeted. So the king banished Vashti. Then the post-Exilic Miss Universe pageant began.

What happened to Vashti? Where did she go? Did she remain a shamed woman for the rest of her days? The narrative stops following her after her eviction. But didn’t she do a brave thing? I had never considered this point of view before. From the pulpit, the focus has always been on her lack of submission. She didn’t come when her husband called. While submission and headship have their place, this story brings out another theme: when standing on your convictions costs you. Later on, Esther faces the same issue. She has to go into the king’s throne room without a summons. She risks death for her presumption. But she does it anyway, and the rest is a happy ending.

Sometimes, doing what we know to be right costs us. But I have to believe God knew the outcome before we ever opened our mouths, or refused to walk into a room with rowdy drunks. He still holds the future.  I like to think even Vashti found peace.

 

 

Wednesday Reset

Reset button on white background

I’m finally kicking this strep/cold/cough. I went outside for a short run in the darkness. A nearly full moon glowed underneath the blanket of cloud cover. A light fog hovered in the middle air. The rain had stopped, for now.

I put all the stuff floating around in my head out for the duration. I concentrated on the wet leaves underfoot. I took in the slick sidewalks and streets. The sky glowed orange where streetlights bled onto them. I breathed in the damp fall air.

I made a decision the other day. I’m not running the half marathon in Portland this Sunday. I’ve been sick and unable to put in the miles. My head isn’t there, either; too much going on in every area of my life right now.  The timing is all wrong. In the past, this concession would have devastated me. I would have felt like all the training and planning amounted to nothing. But I’m not giving up running. I may be sidelined. As my dad likes to say, “Nothing is ever wasted.” It’s a temporary setback.

As I ran through downtown, I thanked God for getting me up this morning. I praised Him that each day is a chance for a new beginning, a fresh start. Today, I’m hitting the reset button.

It’s not over yet.

Stormy Season

quinalt

We’ve had a few storms blow over the West Coast this weekend.  I heard it was remnants of a typhoon, which sounded very exotic. Nothing happened like the Columbus Day storm of 1962, as originally predicted. The closer you lived to the sea, the more damage you sustained. But here…no need for water jugs or generators. Locally, A few tree branches knocked out fences. Some experienced short power outages. And rain, as in about 10 inches. I took a walk this afternoon to survey the neighborhood damage.

The rain had paused. But everything dripped. Red, gold, green and brown leaves – tree currency – littered the ground. Some stuck to the pavement from the damp adhesive. Nearly translucent, they clung with tenacity, like stamps to envelopes. Squirrels scurried up trees. Their gray poufy tails twitched as they gathered acorns. Birds chirped and hopped about, catching up on socializing. The hazel-eyed creek, swollen with runoff, curled and swirled around downtown with swiftness.

I breathed in the fresh scrubbed air. The relentless rain makes me restless. It creates a sort of barrier with its wet silver curtain. Nobody wants to go outside, or go anywhere, really. We all hibernate, dashing out into the damp to gather groceries or pump gas. It’s the season for getting lost in a book and drinking hot beverages.

I packed up my summer wardrobe yesterday as the rain drummed down. I boxed up all my sandals, shorts, lightweight dresses and capri pants. So long, summer. This year, it’s taken me awhile to get around to doing it. Oh, I had a couple of pieces on standby as the weather turned cooler. But I couldn’t quite surrender. Usually we have a last-ditch effort on the part of the dry season. A couple of freak hot days sneak onto the calendar and we all flip back to sleeveless mode. But summer is truly gone now.

I pulled out my knee-length boots and corduroys. I folded the sweaters and placed them on the shelf. I hung up skirts and blouses. I unpacked long-sleeved pajamas and fleece pants. I even dusted off the clown pants. Hey, you never know.

So I’m ready. Seasons change. I can’t hold onto summer like those soaked leaves stuck to the sidewalk. There’s a natural progression to the seasons and to this life. More storms will come, I’m sure. It’s time to move on.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”– Genesis 8:22

Sleep of Change

I attended a work breakfast the other day. As I sat down with my coffee, I chatted up the other gals at the table. It’s nice to be with other women, since I spend the majority of my days around men. The gals talked about prepping the food and other work happenings.

“I have to ask this.” She put her hand on my arm and looked deep into my eyes.

“Susan, do you ever sleep?” She laughed at her own joke.

Dear readers, this was not a query on my early-to-bed, early-t0-rise philosophy.

“It’s the Nyquil,” I replied. One of the lesser-known side effects is Nyquil’s ability to drain color from your face. True story. It helps you sleep. Yet when you arise, you look like death. Seems a fair trade off. I had tried to mitigate the damage with cover-up and extra blush. Guess it didn’t take. I should mention a couple of other coworkers made similar comments throughout the week. Yes, I let them all live.

I’m getting over this sickness. It simply takes awhile. Every day I feel a little better. I can breathe through my nose. That should count for something. I have a lingering cough. I need rest, which work and training for a half marathon takes away from.  I plan on getting some this weekend.

Changing takes time. I didn’t become a runner overnight. It took time and practice and sweating and sometimes days off. I didn’t learn to play the flute in a day. That took years of blowing into a metal tube, fighting dizziness, and memorizing fingering charts. I learned notes and dynamic markings and rhythms. Well, I’m still working on the rhythm piece. But I’m decent.

The point is that moving from one state of being to another usually isn’t instantaneous. Unless you’re Spider-Man, which I’m not. I will employ patience and give my body what it needs as I transition to a healthier place. Maybe, given enough time, and if I spin around, I can become…

wonder-woman

 

 

 

First Frost

I like to wait until November to turn the heat back on. But our seasons have been all messed up, with hot summer-like days hitting last April. I turned the heat off then, despite colder days after, so technically it’s been off in the house for about 6 months. Yesterday, Shelton had the first frost of the season. When I came downstairs this morning, the house felt cold. Then I looked at the thermostat. It read 58 degrees.

Time for drastic action. I flipped that little plastic switch to “heat”.

Ruby sits across from me. Between bites of tomato soup, she tells me about the cats.

“Oh, and thanks for turning the heat on, Mom!”

Zac is camped out on the heat vent in front of the garbage can.

“You know, this might be a good day to wear pants,” I say to him.

“I have no clothing on my lower half,” he tells me with a smile. In other words, Not today, Mother!

I went upstairs to finish getting ready. Boy, guys have it easy. No makeup, little hair maintenance, or even accessorizing.

“Mom, come quick!” Ruby stood at the door.

Sighing, I followed her to her room.

Outside her window, I saw this

sunrise

Firsts are good, all the way around.

 

 

 

Born Gifted

gift-wrapped-box4lr

This past Saturday, we spent time skating around a rink. Ruby and her older cousin celebrated their birthdays together there. We had ice cream cake. We pushed our bodies around on 8 tiny wheels and fought to stay upright. It was fun.

While traipsing back and forth from the party area to the restroom, I noticed a little boy. He rollerbladed along sporting a white T-shirt that said “Born Gifted”. Immediately, all the entitlement issues the younger generation struggles with came to mind. My hackles rose, but on the inside so nobody could see them. You want special treatment, right?!

Then I had another thought.

Yeah, buddy. You are born gifted. But so am I. And so is she, and everyone else in this room. We’ve all got gifts. Each gift is different than the one the person next to you has. Yet we all have gifts. If there are gifts, there must be a giver. The giver is God. You have God-given gifts waiting to be opened.

I watched one of my nieces fly around the ancient rink, hair flying, a grin plastered on her face. She has great athletic ability. I watched my youngest nephew charm everyone he passed. My sister-in-law skates with great grace, seeming to float over the boards. Ruby sews dolls and cares for stray animals. Zac understands politics and argues his stance with great passion. Jonathon can teach anyone anything with kindness and humor, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks for people to digest.

We all have something. What gifts have you left unopened, their bright shiny paper beckoning to you from the table? It’s what we do with them and how we develop those gifts that counts. What are your gifts and what are you doing with them?

Whatever is good and perfect comes 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