Adulting

When did you know you were grown up?

I heard this question on the radio this morning. The concept of “adulting” has been popular lately. As in, paying bills, cooking dinner, going to work, etc. The regular stuff of life once you hit a certain phase.

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The two DJs talked about it, when they first knew they had grown up.

“I knew when I got a new washer and dryer and I was over the moon,” the female DJ gushed. “Now I want to get a new refrigerator.”

Totally understand that. Because I’m an adult now.

“I knew when I bought my first car. I got an ’88 Dodge Charger. I bought it for $10,000. That was based on the money I was making at the time,” the male DJ chimed in.

I started thinking about it for myself. You’d think it would be when I went off to college. I left home to live in a dorm in California. I found odd jobs to support my laundry habit. But that wasn’t it. You’d think it would be when I signed on the dotted line for my school loans. But paying those off was years away. I’d think about that tomorrow. You’d think it was when Jonathon and I got engaged. Nope. Still had another year of college to go. College and dorm life can insulate you from the real world. Was it when I got my first car, a 1974 orange VW beetle? No. Car maintenance and insurance didn’t do it, either.

I don’t think I felt like an adult until we moved out and got our first apartment after we got married. We paid rent. I commuted to my job in downtown Portland, a real job with an engineering firm. Jonathon worked as a caterer for Tektronix, may it rest in peace. I felt the weight of working and supporting ourselves, paying utilities and buying groceries. We had to plan a bit more.

I did an informal poll of some of my nearest and dearest. When did you feel like a grown up? One friend said when he had to have back surgery. That made him feel old. Jonathon says he still feels like a kid most days. My new co-worker, F., said she got her first job at age 12. She worked in a factory making plastic kite string holders. She poured plastic into the molds, cleaned them up and put them in a box.

What about you? Was it when you had your first child, and you looked down into that trusting face and realized you held the well-being of another, completely helpless human being in your hands? Was it when you got your paper route? Maybe you saved money to earn a bicycle of your own.

Perhaps you still don’t feel like an adult, despite having a mortgage and many decades under your belt. Rest assured, young’ un. Your time will come.

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The Long Goodbye

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This will probably be my last full-time week at the prairie office. I can look out the front windows and see a piece of blue sky, the sun shining on the top of a cloud. I’ll miss the quiet. It’s been a healing place. Peaceful and serene, my walks have contained elements of a wildlife preserve. Tall grass. Trees. A rare deer sighting. The usual bird crowds of cocky crows and seagulls. Woodpeckers. Hummingbirds, even in winter. Canadian geese resting in the open grass in front of juvie. Red-winged blackbirds singing atop light poles. Frogs croaking from the boggy meadow. Only missing aquatic life.

I’ll start training my replacement, F., today. She’ll spend the morning at the courthouse. She’ll pick up her badge. She’ll meet and greet the main players over there, our immediate supervisor, the receptionist, project support, and the department director. She’ll start to figure out who does what and how to find the information she needs. With her background in project management, she’ll do just fine.

I’ve been out here through 3 seasons now – summer, fall and winter. I’ve picked wild blackberries, warmed by the sun. I’ve seen the prairie in a blanket of snow. I’ve seen rainfall collect in the strategically placed retention ponds on the property. Ducks commandeer them for a bit of a swim and a snack. The smell of burnt toast, aka cremation from the coroner’s office, sometimes wafts over me as I walk the loop.

I will miss this place. It’s provided a haven for me. I’ve had time to reflect and to learn. I’ve found great joy here in this light-filled, open office. I even managed to keep the plants alive. This expansion project will provide much-needed relief for a jail that is at capacity. I know the stakeholders in corrections and facilities as well as the project management team will work to meet the inmates’ and jail staff’s needs. I’m leaving it all in good hands.

By the end of January, I should be full-time at the courthouse complex. This is the beginning of a long goodbye. I’ll be back and forth for awhile, working with F. and the project manager. But soon, I’ll move on. I thank God for this time. So long, prairie. I will miss you.

Call Me Ishmael

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I’m getting configured to work at the other office. The new hire for the jail expansion project starts Tuesday. I brought my laptop to the courthouse complex and met up with the IT Tech. I logged in and he started to work his magic.

My coworker and I, the other project support staff whom I’ll call Lisa, chatted about this and that. She’s worked for the county for almost 27 years. She knows everyone and has proved a great resource for this newbie.

“Raven, how is that working? Can you listen to me tell a story while you work?” Lisa asked.

I had no idea who Raven was. Did someone else come into the room? I craned my neck. The tech’s name was Jim.

“Who’s Raven?” I asked.

“Oh, Jenny (Jim’s boss) told me he likes to go by Raven. His given name is Jim, though. I thought it was cool because I love crows.” True story. Lisa feeds the crows around the courthouse when she walks on her break. They flock to her.

Raven, aka Jim, shifted on his feet, a little uncomfortable at this revelation.

I looked at him for explanation.

“When I’m with my friends, I’m Raven. I identify as Raven. That’s who I really am. That’s what I go by.”

Pause.

“Oh, okay. Got it. Well, that’s cool.”

I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t want to make the situation more awkward.

Names have always fascinated me. People name their kids all kinds of things, and sometimes people change when they become adults. They’ll choose to be identified by their middle name, or a nickname. Shakespeare said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” in “Romeo and Juliet”, right? Does changing our name change who we are?

I remember wanting to change my name when I was little. I fancied something a little prettier, like Marie, or fancier like Nichole. Susan is serviceable and has a timeless quality, my mom says. I like the name, generally, but in French class I was Janine. I liked the soft “j” sound on the French tongue. 

I don’t know why he chose a raven. Does he like their omnivorous diet? Or their gregarious nature, and the fact that they have few natural predators? Maybe their intelligence? They have proven problem-solving skills. Some cultures have regarded ravens as spiritual figures or gods. Jesus mentioned a raven in a parable, showing how people should rely on God for sustenance like the ravens do (Luke 12:24).

Sometimes, we seek a new identity, one not tainted by past mistakes or painful memories. Jesus said he will give us a new name at the end of time:

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it…” – Revelation 2:17

The search for identity and belonging via a name is universal. I pray Raven/Jim finds what he’s looking for.

Commit It

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It’s drizzy and gray today. A half moon winked at me behind the fast-moving cloud cover as I drove into work. Every day, it’s a little brighter when I drive in. I relish it. I can see the eagles soaring overhead and the kitten fog lying between the trees.

Here we are, in the first full week of the new year. All those resolutions shine before us. What will we do with those great new goals? How do we get from here to there? I’ve been considering this.

Today’s scripture from my Bible app is out of Proverbs.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your actions will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3

Com-mit, verb:

  1. carry out or perpetrate (a mistake, crime, or immoral act):
    “he committed an uncharacteristic error”
  2. pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy:
    “they were reluctant to commit themselves to an opinion”

3. send, entrust, or consign, in particular.

The second definition applies here. To “pledge or bind” my actions to the Lord makes sense. But the third definition could fit, too. To send/entrust/consign my business to Jesus, as in transfer, could happen.

I’ve been meditating on that today. What does it mean to commit my actions? Other translations say “commit your works”. “Works” always seemed like whatever type of ministry I was participating in at the moment. It had a weightier quality, like works were more deliberate and definite, even definable. The Message version says, “Put God in charge of your work, then what you have planned will take place.”

If I put God in charge of my work, it’s not just my job, though I’d greatly appreciate His blessing in that realm. My work constitutes everything my hands find to do. Taking out the trash. Washing dishes. Driving to the store. Filing. Lord knows, *somebody* ought to bless filing. Work might include conversations with the kids. Probably covers feeding and watering the mammals every morning, too. It’s everything. All of these things fall into the NLT arena of “actions”, too. Some would say talking doesn’t fall into the category of actions. I disagree. Our words have the power to create and motivate.

This seems like this verse constitutes the “legs” to what I wrote about yesterday: surrender. Will I put my faith in action (see what I did there?) and do everything to the glory of God?

Yet it’s more than the day-to-day, of course. It’s the bigger plans. What’s the next thing for Jonathon and I? Where do we want to be in 5 years? What’s the plan for retirement? What will the kids do for careers? The burden of it needs to be transferred, though not fleshed out yet.

This verse, like so much of Proverbs, contains a seed that only grows upon meditation. It’s talking about the daily jobs we handle. It’s also talking about the next steps, the dreams and purposes and future we haven’t even begun to tackle. All of it needs to belong to God. Every little bit.

I guess the real question ends up with us. God is committed to us, day in and day out, 24/7. This commitment of ours becomes a partnering of sorts. If God is for us, how can we ever truly lose? The only question is, will we commit?

Morning Sonrise

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You’ll be happy to know I have my phone today. I’m watching a lovely sunrise outside. It’s supposed to rain nonstop today. I’ll take the break from the wet.

In fact, God’s been hammering on me about something lately. I keep waiting to be gratefyl until everything is perfect and makes sense. What if it doesn’t ever make sense like it did before? Will I stop finding the good in the now? I’m super good at complaining. I could earn myself a merit badge. But that doesn’t edify anyone, especially myself. I can’t keep trusting God and believing for the best if I’m pulling an Eeyore.

The special speaker at church yesterday had a great message about surrender. It all leads back to this. He said something like, “Maybe you’ve got circumstances that left you broken. You don’t understand what happened. You think you’ve made bad choices and God can’t fix it. You’ve prayed about it all and God hasn’t come through. You’re just…done. Will you surrender it all to God and let Him do what He wants?”

I’m heavily paraphrasing what was said, because it was all I could do to keep it together and not sob openly. Sometimes you have seasons where you patch your heart together with bungee cords and duct tape. Yet your heart breaks over and over. You hold the diced pieces in your hands, hoping you can keep going with the fractured bits. You paste on a smile. The weight of failure wearies your soul. You shove the remnants back in position and brace for the next impact. Of course, the newly formed fissure lines can’t take much. Like a surgical incision that never quite closes, even small conflicts force a new wound. You wait in the operating room for the Great Physician to reach down and stitch the patched-up bits back into something whole, something beautiful that glorifies His name.  

So, folks, that’s where I am. I’m surrendered. I’m broken. And I’m waiting. Even here, even now, I will find something to praise Him for.

 

Distraction-Free Friday

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So I left my phone at home. Plus my head feels like it’s going to explode. When the weather changes in a significant way from sunny and dry to rainy, my head acts like a barometer. I should have very few distractions today. I’m not sure I want the world to go on without me tracking it all; however, it will. Nobody will text me or initiate a Words With Friends game. I can’t text corny jokes to my son. I can’t share my witty insights on the fly, either. Pity. I won’t get any random calls from out of state that I’ll ignore because I don’t recognize the number. On the bright side, I won’t get chain missives on Facebook messenger. Thanking God for small miracles.

I’ve taken two ibuprofen and had a cup of the infamous Dr. J.’s java. The pressure is lessening. That’s good. The sun is up, but not out. The day is gray. Good news: water is back on in the office. It only took a day and a half. Good thing I had another desk to go to at the courthouse complex. See how I’m distracted already? Sigh.

This could be a good thing, living phone-less today. I should have a better attention span. It might be nice to be “off grid” today, too. Free range Susan, folks. Nobody will know where I am!

Okay. Perhaps that’s overstating it a bit. I’ll be at work, then I’ll be at home. Probably not so mysterious after all.

Hmm. I do feel lighter. I remember when I first became a mom. I realized that I would forever be “on”. Nightmare wakes up a kid? Mom to the rescue. Barf event? Mom’s on cleanup duty. No job too large. Of course, Jonathon pitched in, too, but generally, since I was home full-time, I took care of those emergencies. Having a smart phone feels that way to some degree. You’re on an invisible, yet real, leash of sorts. You can always be reached, depending on the cell coverage at your location. Some form of communication will come through. Emails. Group messages on Facebook. Your mother, calling to find out if you need more socks.

It makes me think about how God communicates with us. We get distracted pretty easily. Squirrel! It can take a while for his messages to get through. We spend time thinking about our worries and frustrations. We try to solve them, turning the problems over and over like stones, searching for a way to break the rock open. Worrying stops His hand. It blocks the signal, if you will. We move out of range as we travel on our own trajectory. The Lord coaxes us, drawing the burdens from us. He can carry them.

I expect once I stop looking for my phone, a habit developed over the last several years, I’ll calm way down. I don’t need that instant lifeline to the people in my life. However, I need to keep the line open for God’s voice. Peace and rest and trust will do that.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27

 

Water Feature

I got in to the field office today and I noticed a small crowd gathered in the parking lot. With the temperature hovering around 30 degrees, it struck me as strange. Our complex always has smokers outside, of course, yet this merited a closer look. The security guard, Dan, a gal and a bearded guy, all of Telecare, the County’s mental health triage contractor, were hovering around something. It caught my eye.

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I pulled into the lot and parked on the opposite side of the fountain.

I gathered my things and walked over to the group.

“Hey, did you do this?” a tall black man asked me, walking over and pacing with me.

“Yes, it was me,” I said, straightfaced. Why not?

“All right! Up top,” he said, laughing. I moved keys to my left hand and gave him a gloved high five.

“So we have a water feature now?” I said, addressing the gaggle.

“Yeah,” Dan said.

“One of the work release guys did it with the trailer hitch on his pickup. He didn’t see it sitting there. We called maintenance.” Dan probably saw it all happen.

“What? But she just said she did it..” The black man started laughing. I punked him but good.

“It” being the water main, sitting above ground under a metal cover. Perhaps not the best place for a crucial connection, methinks. Keep in mind the neighborhood – juvenile detention across the street, work release behind us, the jail in the next building over. Water mains and transformers sit vulnerable among such a volatile population.

The water gushed up and flowed down, tricking into the retention pond in the corner of the parking lot. That’s going to fill up fast, I thought. The ducks will love it.

“Have you met?” Dan asked the black man, referring to me.

“Yeah, we’ve met. It’s been awhile.”

He gazed down at me. Now I remembered him. We had a funky interaction about 2 months ago. Ever had someone act like they know you and you have no idea who they are? Yep. Like that.

“We’ve met, too,” said redbeard.

Suffice it to say I didn’t know anyone’s names except Dan’s.

“I’m only here a couple more weeks anyway,” I said, trying to brush off my ignorance and take the pressure off name-recalling.

“That’s what she keeps saying,” Dan replied, rolling his eyes.

“It’s true,” I protested. “They hired someone and she starts in less than 2 weeks. I’ll be over at the courthouse.”

“Well, somebody’s got to do that work,” my cohort in crime said amiably.

I walked over and unlocked the front door to the office. I sat down and logged into my computer. The water continued to gush not unlike one of  Portland’s Benson bubblers.

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More and more people wandered out to Old Faithful, smokers and lookyloos alike. Don’t they have work to do? It strikes me that smoking is a great way to get extra fresh air, albeit in a convoluted way. Great conversations take place around the water feature. Nobody is touching it. Meanwhile, wasted water rushes into the street. Sigh.

The guys called for help. The problem is bigger than their total of their skills, or maybe it’s part of the City of Tumwater’s labyrinth of pipes. They need to work their particular jurisdictional magic on it. Another truck with top lights on just pulled up. A worker from the City of Olympia got out with a long metal tool in his hands. He stuck it down in the base of the water source and turned. The water stopped flowing. That’s all it took. The latest update from the front is at least 4 hours with no water. Guess who’s moving to the main office?

Sometimes, you need an expert or experts to fix something. You can’t stick a thumb in the dike and hope it holds. You need tools. You need an assessment of the problem. You need solutions. Heck, you need to shut off the valve. Even I know that. it takes humility to seek  assistance. We don’t have all the answers. This will take the teaming of 3 municipalities to fix. Today, I’m thanking God for all the good relationships and expertise in this county, and the willingness to work together to solve problems.