Lays His Glory By

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We attended a local Christmas Eve service last night – thankfully, no bats in the sanctuary –  and sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Not the first time we’ve sung it, and probably won’t be the last. You know the song:

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king…

Now you have the Charlie Brown Christmas version in your head, right? Admit it.

The team last night, either on purpose or by mistake, changed the words. The third verse says:

Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn King!”

But we sang “mild he lays his glory by” for the second verse, too. It bothered me. Not just because the words were wrong, though for the life of me I couldn’t remember the right ones. Just an old Episcopalian here, folks, singing hymns and carols for most of her natural-born life. Anyway, then it hit me in the gut.

Mild he lays his glory by…

We don’t lay our glory by in any mild fashion. No. When we run the 100-yard dash in 6 flat, everyone knows. If we sing for the queen, Instagram lights up. If we get all As, it’s the biggest news since the moon landing. We celebrate our successes, and well. And that’s not all bad.

That wasn’t Jesus’ path. He let his deity rest in human flesh. It was enough. He didn’t strive. He didn’t self-promote. No paparazzi lined up for shots of the manger or the bewildered parents. He let his life unfold into being the King of kings and Lord of lords. It was enough to be humble and join us in our humanity.

Today, I am grateful. All 4 of us are home and soon the house will be filled with family and friends. It’s weird to be home on a Wednesday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not going to lie. But maybe Jesus was born in the middle of the week, too, awkward for everyone in the short-term. Yet what an eternal blessing to us all.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  – Isaiah 9:6

 

Scoping San Antonio

So. I’ve heard a lot of good things about San Antonio. The weather is good. The people are nice. It’s a good place to raise kids, etc. I can’t speak to community or the emotional context of ‘nice’. But, the *weather* was nice while we were there. It was sunny every day. The temps ranged from mid 30s in the a.m. to 80s in the afternoon. Plus, no humidity. It’s December, y’all. I didn’t expect any. I did wear sandals. I got warm.

A full moon rose Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. Friday night, it was orange. Outstanding. Sunsets were also amazing. My camera could not capture the gradients of pink and gold fading into midnight.

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On Friday, after graduation, we took Zac to the River Walk in San Antonio. The entire walk is below grade along the San Antonio River. Ducks push along down there, fed with diners’ dinner scraps. Cute restaurants and boutiques line the walk as well.

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It rivaled Portland for the cool factor. Okay, maybe it eclipsed Portland. Don’t tell anyone. City decorations featured Christmas wreaths and live planter boxes with live plants. That was so wrong. It is almost winter.

You can also get around other ways.

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We visited the Alamo, which is right downtown.

Alamo

The 200 men who died there did not die in vain. They paved the way for Texas to become independent from Mexico. Although, for 10 years, Texas was its own nation. Which explains a lot.

Some of the trees at the Alamo date back from the original church.

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Beautiful hungry koi, too. Not quite as old.

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We ate at Whataburger, founded in Texas in 1950. The burgers were huge and delicious. They come with mustard and you are free to add ketchup, spicy ketchup or other condiments from the caddy served to you by a hostess-type of person, adding a personal touch and possibly cutting down on waste. Funky.

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Driving around San Antonio is about as enjoyable as getting a tooth pulled. Every 5th person is seemingly rushing to the hospital to have a baby. They pull in front of you with two blinks – if that – of their turn signal. Then they ride the person in front of them. Speed limits are mere suggestions. The highways in town are spaghetti.

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What is *not* on this map is all the exits that appear and disappear with no signage. Thank God for bossy GPS lady. “Take the next left onto 410 access road”. My favorite: “In a quarter mile take the second lane from the left and keep left at the fork.” Then 2 more times “Keep left a the fork”. Okay, lady, we got it! Geez.

Churches abound in San Antonio. We saw signs for Church Unlimited. Okay. Then there was Friendship Church. I like that. Then…Rebel Church. What the what?! You can’t have it all.

This was my favorite billboard.

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It was everywhere.

We flew out yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m. We have been back home for more than 24 hours now. I miss Zac.

This morning, I threw a ball for Dakota in the early morning dark. The damp air made 32 degrees seem colder. A half moon shone down on me. The same moon looked down on us in Texas, where I ran around the resort and dodged deer. The same moon looks down on Zac, who is still in Texas after an 8-hour bus ride to Sheppard Air Force Base. Zac flies home for Christmas on Sunday. I am so glad we went to Texas, but am just as happy to be home now.

Texas Time

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We’ve been in Texas for 3 days now. I would have written sooner but it’s been go, go, go since we arrived. This is our view from the balcony. We are staying in Canyon Lake, a little more than an hour outside San Antonio.

Because we’re here for….drumroll, please….Zac’s basic military training graduation at Lackland AFB. Yes, he made it! He did very well. Passed his PT test in the 3rd week and was named a student leader. He got his Airman’s coin. He is officially an Airman and no longer a trainee.

Air Force coin

The coin ceremony was amazing. We nearly missed the Airman’s Run, the first event that started at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Traffic was horrific and has been pretty much every day. Washington’s construction season ends sometime in November, generally. Not here. Zac said the humidity just eased off a couple of weeks ago. Back to the coin ceremony. Each flight – and Zac is in 037 of the 320th squadron – marched out.

can't stop the rock 320

They sang the Air Force Song. The (sad) drum and bugle corps played the National Anthem and all the other music. I felt bad for them. Hard to keep your instrument warm and play in tune when it’s 40 degrees outside. Each flight’s MTI (training instructor, like a drill sergeant) handed out the coins to the individual airmen. Zac’s flight was facing us. Ruby was able to pick him out.

“He’s on the end, Mom. Over there.” She pointed to the second from last in the second to last row. Ah yes, the jawline. Each airman stood at attention, then put out his hand. He received the coin. As each row finished, that row took a step forward in unison to allow for more room behind them. It was beautiful. The coordination, the esprit de corps.

Afterward, all the proud parents and families streamed onto the field. No running allowed, though we wanted to. He stood at attention until we mobbed him. They practiced that ceremony for 5 weeks, he told us. Five weeks. Five weeks to get in sync and know each other and cover and anticipate the end. Wow.

He is a man now. He got his debit card and bank account working. He purchased his plane ticket home for Christmas. He volunteered to pay for it.

“I don’t care what we do today, it’s so good to be with you guys,” he said multiple times. We felt the same.

He admitted the 8.5 week training wasn’t that hard.

“I just had it easy.”

Yes. You did.

He looks people in the eye and says “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”. He speaks up for himself in a respectful and kind manner. He wants us to go to church with him tomorrow, and he’ll go with us to ours when we’re home. I love the changes, but I struggle to know this new, full-grown Zac. He knows all the rules. Has to cross in the crosswalk. Has to wear his hat outside. Has to greet and salute any ranked officer he encounters. No swimming. My favorite? Can’t walk and talk on the phone at the same time. Not that his flight got their cell phones back. The last graduating flights ruined it for them. More people should adopt that standard, methinks.

Zac spent quite a bit of time wondering what to do next. He didn’t like college and came home. He worked a construction job, then lost it. He wandered. He waited. We all wondered. What of the smart little boy, reading at age 4, curious about the world and the people in it? But God is faithful, and His timing is perfect. Many of you joined us in praying for him. Thank you, because it worked.

Despite being one of the shortest guys in the flight (sorry, son!) and eating in the last element of his flight for every meal, he came out of himself and found his people. He made a lot of friends in BMT. Early Monday morning, he leaves for tech school at Sheppard AFB to study avionics; many of his new friends will also be on that 2:00 a.m. bus ride. His new-found confidence is palpable and I am so proud. He is a man.

Zac dress blues

 

 

Twenty-Seven Months

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Thurston County hired me and I started work August 1, 2017. That was 27 months ago. Not only that, but as you probably already know, I was hired in a project position, aka temporary. It was a 2.5 year assignment to be project support on a jail expansion project for the ARC, now renamed the Thurston County Corrections Facility.

The last 27 months (or 1,182,600 minutes) have been meetings with stakeholders old and a few new ones. We have met with the architect. We have met with County commissioners and leadership. Many times.

We have discussed stormwater issues on the property. We need to dig up the galleries onsite because the as-builts, the drawings of what was actually installed underground, are wrong. We have discussed adding a courtroom to the expansion in order to have hearings for those in custody. We have toured other jails, including SCORE, the Four Seasons of local jails. Incidentally, its lobby looks more like an airport gate than a waiting room for anxious friends and family.

But I digress.

The square table in the meeting room held commissioners, county leadership, project management, and corrections. Corrections provided a full court press with Sheriff, Chief, captains and later, the Undersheriff. Yesterday, at the third working session meeting with the county commissioners, we discussed options. Again. We could remodel juvie. Only 8 kids in there now. What if we moved all the female inmates there and built another facility for juveniles? What about renovating the old jail in the basement of Building 3? Never mind that all its systems were failing when the old jail closed in 2015.

The architect of record sussed out two options, at leadership’s direction: what can the County get for $12 million, the original project budget, and what would the full buildout of 118 beds cost? The full buildout is something like $50 million. The 40-bed option is $19 million. Both are over budget. Thus, the working sessions. The commissioners had a lot of questions. The biggest problem is holding max female offenders and mentally ill in intake and transfer spaces, a single-cell spaces are full. These temporary spaces have no bathroom nor bed. The guards have to take the inmates to the bathroom and inmates use a sort of a portable bed called a boat. The watchdog group for human rights violations has threatened to sue. The County does not want a lawsuit, nor does it want to send a message that it doesn’t care about those incarcerated. Human dignity matters. The jail has empty beds but only in the dorm spaces for low-level offenders.

I sat in the meeting and took notes. The current chair of the commissioners is my favorite. We’ll call him A. A liked the 40-bed with shell option. He said so. To his left, B couldn’t see spending any money at all.

“It looks irresponsible. We can’t spend taxpayer money when we have empty space at juvie.”

C, on A’s right, had a different take. A former public defender, he cared about balancing the budget and taking care of people.

“I can’t see spending the money when we don’t know where the rest of it will come from. I am terrified. Also, we need to treat people in jail with fairness.” He paused.

“But operating 2 spaces is expensive. Can’t we compromise? We aren’t so far apart.”

And that is where the meeting became rainbows and sunshine. Because C an A did find a compromise…with B. They voted and approved the 40-bed option with shell. Just like that. Just 27 months after starting this whole process, and two project managers later.

I was gobsmacked. The new PM, a former federal employee with loads of project management experience, did it. His experience and straightforward manner earned corrections’ trust, not a small feat. I truly thought we would never go anywhere and the project would get mothballed. Again. But now we have momentum. Next stop: design.

 

 

Prayers Take Flight

 

Bald Eagle Flying

We got a letter from Zac. Yay! That was a week ago Saturday. To greatly summarize, he said he had made a huge mistake.

Uh oh.

We prayed for him a lot. For me, almost all day every day. He had training instructors who were out to get him. He couldn’t do any of his assigned tasks. The food was – is – lousy. The second letter talked about how he couldn’t see himself fitting into the military machinery, but his flight’s (like an army platoon) esprit de corps was wonderful. We kept on praying.

But then…yesterday. We received 3 letters in the mail. Each was more positive than the last. From October 27: “I think it’s finally coming together”.

“You’d think 46 guys in a room would be a madhouse – it’s not even that bad!”

Introvert, where art thou?

“We do what we’re told better than the other flights”. Translation: less supervision! Also, no infighting in their group, unlike the other flights.

Then October 28:

“BMT (basic military training) really ain’t that bad… ” This, despite 26-minute sessions of running 3 days a week. Who IS this??

“I get a 15-minute phone call next week. It’s my guiding star.”

Then October 29-30:

“Tell John Doe thanks for the letter” (name omitted to protect the awesome).

“Entry controller duty is trash…my shift tonight is 4:00-6:00 a.m., up in the wee hours protecting a dorm in the middle of an incredibly well-guarded air base.”

He mentioned a Facebook page, which I will investigate. Finally! Good news. He is finding his people and this week he has career counseling.

“I *might* be able to come home for Christmas…”

Thanks be to God.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. – Philippians 4:6-7

 

Wild Blue Yonder

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Three days ago, Zac entered the Air Force.

Oh, my heart!

He’s been wanting to do this for about 18 months. He had to get his braces off first, as the military wouldn’t take him otherwise. That was in June. Then he had to get a recruiter to meet with him. That took a while. Then, the ASVAB. Then MEPS. Then another test, the EDPT, for really smart people. Zac tested so high he qualified for it. After MEPS, they gave him a ship out date of October 15, unless one of his top job choices came open sooner.

But nothing came up.

The time dragged. He played video games. He did one-off chores when we asked, like mowing the lawn and emptying the dishwasher. He played with Dakota every day, tossing the ball up and down the yard. He teased Ruby. He cooked dinner on Thursday nights.

This past weekend, it all hit. Friday came and the weekend felt like this great gulf to get over. Ruby turned 14 on October 13th. Zac would go to the recruiter for the last time on the 14th, then take a shuttle to the hotel. He would leave for Lackland AFB on Tuesday.

Oh, my heart!

I took half of Monday off so we could drive up to Lacey together and say goodbye. The day was cloudy but dry. I pounded the pavement for 3 miles that morning in order to release the emotions.

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Parking lot sculpture, filled with little birds.

Zac had his own methods.
“Mom, look at this rash,” he said. His hands had some dry spots on the knuckles and the back of his other hand.

“Just dry skin,” I said. I gave him some lotion.

“This could keep me out,” he said, worried the checkup would disqualify him.

Then he wandered around. We all did, making laps in our house. I couldn’t concentrate on school. Jonathon couldn’t grade discussion posts. We felt the weight of waiting.

I asked Zac to clean his room before he left. I told him to bag up anything he didn’t want. He started on Saturday, putting out 3 bags of college bedding, jeans, clothes he no longer liked, which included a rainbow-colored windbreaker (don’t ask), and sundry papers.

Then he took it all out and put it in the trash can.

I forgot that Zac is a very literal person. I didn’t think I’d need to say something like “sort it”, but I guess I did. Jonathon fished out the bedding and a pair of jeans. The rest got buried under kitchen trash bags filled with food scraps. Nobody had the energy to dig more out.

“Hey, Mom! I found twenty bucks!” Zac hadn’t really paid attention to his birthday card from last year. So at least he didn’t throw that away.

He did three loads of laundry. He stripped his bed, kinda. I could see the floor when I checked on him. He paced back and forth, looking at his phone. Then he stood still.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish,” he said, crestfallen.

“Let me help,” I said. I folded his clothes, organizing into categories as I went. I gave him tasks to do. Throw this out. Put this in the dishwasher. I asked him which clothes left on the floor were dirty. He regained his sassy attitude.

I peered into his carry on, partially full. He was only allowed 3 changes of clothes.

“You need a pair of pants,” I said.

“I have pants. See?” He pointed to his joggers, which, for your edification, are glorified sweat pants with cuffs at the bottom.

“You need a pair of jeans at least,” I said.

“No, I’m good.”

When we got to the office, the recruiter, also named Zac, asked if he had pants.

“I’m wearing pants,” Zac stated.

The recruiter looked at me.

“Can you go across the street and buy him some pants? He’ll need them for the swearing-in,” the recruiter said.

We bought pants.

As we waited, an airman in fatigues entered the office. He was over 6 feet tall, all arms and legs. He sat down next to Jonathon. He asked a couple of questions of the recruiters (two in the space), then found out Zac was leaving for boot camp.

He told us how he enlisted. His dad, very ill, wanted to see him in uniform before he died. The guy had a full ride to St. Martin’s. He enlisted and was gone within a month. He gave Zac all the lowdown on boot camp.

“Don’t drink the water from the hose. There’s better water at the end of the line. Trust me.”

“There will be a shark attack your first night. They will bang on lockers in the middle of the night, yelling and screaming, to freak you out. Count on it.”

“Make sure your uniform fits. Don’t be afraid to ask for another size.” He pointed to his pants, which were definitely high waters.

“Stay mentally strong. Be friendly. These will be your companions when you have free time on Sundays. I’m still in contact with guys from my flight” (Air Force term for squad, battalion, etc.).

“Go to church.” This from the recruiter. I liked this other Zac more and more.

“It’s 2 hours off, and some groups give out candy and let you nap.”

Oh.

The young man spoke again.

“You know what got me through? Millions of people have done this before. I can make it. The first 3 weeks are the hardest, then you know the routine.”

Zac listened intently, glad to have such direct input from someone who had been there only 8 months ago. He breathed in all the encouragement and advice.

The young man went on.

“I cried really hard at graduation. I was so proud of myself. And my dad was there, too.”

He was in intelligence and couldn’t reveal his job. Zac will probably go that route as well. I started to realize this airman was a God-incidence.

Finally, the shuttle arrived. Zac and another young man going to MEPS loaded up. We gave our final hugs and I tried not to sob, so proud of him and yet feeling lost.

He texted me as his last flight to Texas took off.

Ok we’re taking off, love you mom

Love you, too, Zac.

When we see Zac again, he will not be the same. He will be well on his way to adulthood, to manhood. He’s been in the cocoon of change for some time, shedding the caterpillar, sprouting wings. Soon he will soar on his own.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

 

 

 

Update and Pine Cone Killer

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I ran 3 miles today in the subfreezing temps. Yes, we have had at least 2 mornings where the weather was below 32 degrees, very cold for October. The stars sparkled up above me. Decked out in fleece, Wonder Woman socks (don’t judge) and as much speed as possible, I shaved 2 minutes off the time. And, drumroll, please, that makes 10 miles total run for the week. It has taken a long time to get back to running consistently. I sort of hate that it’s happening now, when the weather will be turning to straight rain pretty much next week. But it happened! I am grateful.

I am onto the next quarter for school. This time, I have 2 project management electives, one for basic project management overview and the other for project execution. Taking anything having to do with project management, my emphasis, feels like a foretaste of glory divine. The overview class has a good mix of men and women; the second is almost all women, which surprised me. In fact, both PM 5331 and PM 5332 are taught by the same woman. Even better, her requirements for posts and papers are less stringent than past courses. No word limit, no page limit, no 6-8 references required. Wow. It’s like…we need to think for ourselves and converse intelligently with others. I might have a wee bit of excitement about this quarter, complete with girlie squeals. But don’t tell anyone.

In other news, Rex, our 20-lb. American Bombay cat, has been busy. The photo above shows his latest accumulation of kills. Before dinner last night, he jumped into the red porch swing, making it sway back and forth with gusto. As the sun set, I carefully stacked the accumulated pine cones from the past several twilights. His yellow eyes watched me play with his catch. I watched the mountain turn from white to pink to lavender to purple, then disappeared. A full moon rose over the mountain. Rex slept.

Rex is a hunter. Despite our encouragement to concentrate on killing furry things – rats, squirrels, mice, rats, voles – pine cones remain his newest prey of choice. He likes to sneak up on the unsuspecting pine cones. I can only imagine the violent struggle that ensues, the pine cone filled with sudden rage and fear. Then, once subdued, they sit securely in his maw. He meows. “M-WAO! M-WAO!” You can hear it all over the house. The pine cone sitting apart in the photo died last night, probably a stray. The weak ones get picked off first, I reckon.

I don’t see the appeal, frankly. They don’t run away, as they lack legs. Pine cones are inedible. I think. I haven’t seen Rex chowing down on any, despite their crunchy consistency. So why the cones? The only theory I can come up with is they’re easy. Rex expends little effort in capturing a pine cone. They lie on the ground and only move if pushed or blown by the wind. Rex gets the glory of a kill without even getting dirty.

Aren’t we the same? We want things to be easy. We like commutes to run smoothly. We try to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. We plan ahead as much as we can in order to reduce road blocks or friction in our lives. But life doesn’t always oblige. Car tires go flat. Hair, though dead, refuses to cooperate. Our closet, somehow, is filled with unflattering clothes. What then? We make do. We change the tire and get to work a little late. We wear a hat or come up with a unique hairstyle. We cobble together an outfit that makes us look semi-respectable, or at least like we made an effort. And that’s okay. We are more than all these things, as is Rex. My affection for Rex is not diminished at all by his lazy hunting skills. In fact, it makes me laugh. Because we didn’t pick Rex to keep us vermin-free; we picked him to love. God made us to love and to love Him as well, even with wacky hair, strange clothes and car trouble. Performing is not necessary.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. – I John 4:16