Type A-

Mt. RainierThe view from our living room.

I’ve been called Type A by those who know me well. I guess, on the surface, it looks that way. I’ve barely deviated from my morning routine, except starting it a little later. I’m getting up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. instead of 4 or 4:30. I read my Bible segment for the day. I pray. Sometimes I sing a little, but not too loudly because everyone else slumbers on. I check email and Facebook. I work out with kettlebells or go running, then clean up and get going on the day’s tasks.

I like routines. I like structure. But I like it to have a purpose. Right now, it simply doesn’t. I’m looking ahead most of the time. What do I need to do later today, or tomorrow? I’m rarely fully in the moment that surrounds me.

I was praying about this very thing the other day. What’s next, God? Where am I headed? I didn’t hear anything. To be completely honest, sometimes the answer doesn’t straightaway. Guidance comes in the form of nudges, a subtle suggestion of sorts. If I heed them – whether that be while I’m leading worship, or just talking to a friend – they get clearer. If I don’t, well, they’ll probably come up again. It’ll just take longer to get where I’m supposed to go. God is merciful and patient.

It seems this is a lesson I have to relearn. I’ve gone around this mountain many times before. It all comes back to surrender. It’s finding the beauty in the now. We’re all still living in the house, my parents and our immediate family. God knows my dad and stepmom need their own place. It’s been 4 months. But you know what? This time won’t come again, where we’re this close, in each other’s business, rubbing each other wrong sometimes and figuring out what truly blesses each other. None of us are perfect yet we can love and communicate better. God knows that, too.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Advertisements

Shifting Standards

I’ve been thinking about how our standards have changed over time. For instance, Twiggy emerged as the beauty standard in the 1960s.

Twiggy.jpg

A lovely gal, yet her dimensions set off a chain reaction in women everywhere: how can I look like that? Her iconic slenderness changed the course of modeling. Models used to look like this:

1950s-model

Where did the curves go?!

Anyway.

Skinny jeans still rule the fashion world. I even have a couple of pairs, though they have yet to make me any skinnier. Right now, boots are everywhere. Living in the Pacific Northwest, cute little Audrey Hepburn-style flats prove impractical except for about a month a year. Boots make sense. You can wear them at least 7 months of the year.

One of my friends informed me leggings have fallen out of vogue. His wife tried to wear them and his daughter, a high school senior, told her to go change. “Mom, leggings are so last year.” I’ll let you imagine the sigh and eye roll accompanying that announcement.

Granted, I don’t live in the fashion capital of the world. People still wear pajamas to the store upon occasion. But I look around, and the changes don’t only apply to beauty standards. Spanking lost favor long ago. Timeouts and “safe places” are in. The popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs has been superseded by more economical cars as the price of gas and political correctness pressure continues to rise. Just peek at reality TV to see who and what we admire now. I won’t even mention the Kardashians.

So many things change on a regular basis. It’s hard to keep up. Heck, even our scale weighs me 8 lbs. heavier if I move it out of its sweet spot. But Jesus doesn’t vary. He is who He says He is, every day of the year. I find peace and comfort in the fact that His word never changes. His love is unfailing, even when everything around me spins out of control. Meanwhile I’ll hold onto the earrings I wore in high school. Hey, they still fit me! Maybe they’ll be cool again someday.

For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth. – Psalm 33:4-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines

One of Zac’s favorite shows from long ago.

The other morning, I had a conversation with a little friend of mine.

We started talking about reading the Bible.  This child rolled her eyes.

“I already know Jesus died for me,” the omniscient child said.

I smiled at the dramatics. “Oh, sure. But that’s only the beginning.” And it is. Salvation is the jumping-off point for a life of surrender and great adventure with the Lord.

The babe wasn’t finished.

“There are so many words I don’t know. I’m like, ‘What’s that mean?'”

The Bible has a lot of words. Some nearly unpronounceable, like Mephibosheth. Some of their meanings still elude us,with words like holy, sanctified and justified. Mystery surrounds “washed in the blood”. I wondered which word – or words – gave pause. I should mention how much I love words. I settled in my chair, coffee in hand, ready for a great discussion on one of my favorite subjects.

“Like constipated. What does *that* mean?”

I kept coffee from squirting out my nose. Only barely.

“Uh, I don’t think that word’s in the Bible.” I outlined the meaning of constipation. The kid laughed, too. I said the main way I learn the meaning of words was, well, *is*,  to read. A lot. You can pick up a word’s intent by the context, or words surrounding a certain term.

Which made me wonder about how I come across in daily life. Can people tell I’m a Christian by reading between the lines – picking up the context – of my actions and words? Or do they get hung up on a bad word I said about someone or to someone? Am I eroding the meaning of following Christ by the context of my life, which provides a poor setting?

I hope not. I pray not. I hope people keep reading, and the goodness of the gospel becomes clearer day by day. Let the continual surrender bring God glory.

 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? – James 3:9-11

 

Thursday Trust

“Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in relieving tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring.” – Jimmy Carter

Is it Friday yet?! This week has seemed to have some extra days between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

I did my last 3-mile run of the week today. I’ll do my long run on Saturday. We’re topping 90 degrees again today, so the cool morning air was welcoming. A few stars twinkled in the sky next to a glowing half moon. I paced down city streets, with streetlights and porchlights to guide me. It made me think of this:

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105

I’ve been doing some more attitude work this week. Things haven’t gone according to plan. And by plan I mean *my* plan. I’ve struggled to remember I’m not in charge and I don’t have to solve everything. Running helps, but isn’t the cure. I can’t solve everything, in point of fact. Otherwise, why would I need Jesus?

Remembering this, as I pray minute by minute about things large and small, helps me to stay in the trusting place. My fallback is here:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take – Proverbs 3:5-6

What’s fascinating to me is that He speaks in so many ways. Yes, through the Bible – our standard for testing direction. But also through perfect strangers and our closest family members. We only need to listen and know that He will guide.

2015: Year in Review

Welcome, 2016! I’m ready for you. I think. But first, let’s look back.

I had no idea going into 2015 how many changes lay ahead. I got a new job, full-time, with the City of Shelton. Old skill sets, long shelved and back-burnered, revived and thrived. I got to work with a friend of mine and make the acquaintance of others. Not only that, but budget cuts forced me into a new position. God’s favor has proved amazing. My new job won’t be cut from the budget any time soon.

Because of this new job, and all the budgeting skills we’ve learned since moving to Shelton, we paid off a 14-year-old debt. We purchased a timeshare back in 2001 (which has forced us to take vacations over the years), and paid it off  few months back. The extra income from my job will also allow us to take a month-long trip around the U.S. this year, a longtime dream of my husband.

In June, after his first season of singing in the choir, Jonathon got offered the artistic directorship of Anna’s Bay Chorale. He took it! He gave up directing as a regular gig when he got out of teaching in 2005. The choir loves him, and he loves them. He lights up when he steps on the podium. God restored something we thought gone forever.

One of my oldest dreams received new life this year. I believe the seed got planted more than 20 years ago. This year, Father’s Day Sunday, it bloomed.

This year also brought out many challenges. Mainly, turning our old routines upside down. Jonathon took over the household duties, well, most of them. He took Ruby to school, shopped, cooked, budgeted and ran things from home since he telecommutes. I left for work every day, dropping Zac off at the high school on the way.

Which was the other battle:  Zac out of homeschooling, for good. He went back to school in January of 2015. He’s doing well. He’s learning to plan ahead and that homework matters. He’s even made some friends.

For me, time is my most precious commodity. I dropped kettlebells and writer’s group. My social circle and free time shrank. I struggled with feeling lonely, trying to find the new purpose in this season. I felt guilty about the lack of time I had to spend with kids, especially Ruby. I couldn’t work out as long as I wanted to and still get quality sleep. Running suffered. Writing suffered, too.

And yet, I ran another half marathon back in October. I tried a gluten-free and mostly sugar-free diet. I participated in NaNoWriMo. I got to attend a Prophetic Conference in Bellingham in July. I read through the Bible in a year again.

At the very beginning of 2015, the Lord impressed the word restoration on my heart. I thought it centered around relationships. In fact, I prayed that way. It turned out to be way more than that. He’s restoring the imago dei  in us.

So I ask you, what does 2016 hold for you? What are your dreams, long trammeled in discouragement and disappointment? What will live again in your life in the new year?

 

 

 

Three-Day Joy

joy-297113

(source)

I just finished the year-long Bible reading plan with daily psalm. Well, I didn’t *just* finish it.  I ended on Christmas Day. Without warning, poof! All done. I read it on my iPad. Suddenly, the screen said, Good job! A picture of a full cup of coffee next to an open book popped up. What?! Nooo! I still have another full week left in 2015! What now?

I know. First world Christian problems. I took a day to think about it. Then, I found a short plan lasting only 3 days. It contains random scriptures about joy. Three the first day, four the second day. I’m supposed to memorize them.

Like this one…

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. – John 10:10

That’s a good one, actually. But this one…

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Eh. Okay.

Nothing wrong with these scriptures. Joy is an important component of the Christian life. It helps you stay afloat when all around you is sinking. However, what I’ve learned about joy came into play today, the last day of the mini-study:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Yes! Joy and thankfulness come as a package deal. Also this:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. – James 1:2-4

Joy has a purpose and a focus. We fix our eyes on what is good, noble, true, right, etc. (Philippians 4). Through turning to Jesus, we can keep gazing at those things and not the overwhelming circumstances. The great engine of the faith, endurance, is fueled by joy. Like the old story of the boy, cheerfully mucking out a stable full of poo. “There’s a pony in here somewhere!” he pants, all smiles.

And so there is, if we keep on. We don’t have to settle for short-term joy. We can have a lifetime supply.

 

 

The Beauty of Habit

whatwerepeatedlydo-@allielefevere

This morning, I got up and read my Bible, swishing coconut oil as per usual.  I prayed.  I looked at the weather forecast (pouring down rain for the foreseeable future:  check). I checked email and Facebook, and posted a verse on my page.  I found a kettlebell workout on YouTube and sweated in a new way. I did not clean up cat vomit. That’s nearly become an everyday thing, thanks to Chloe.

All of these things have become habit for me.  I don’t think about them. I just do them.  They flow together into a seamless whole for the morning. I alternate between running and weight workouts to keep things interesting.

You might criticize my habits and say, Well, Susan.  Facebook?  At 5:00 a.m.?  Is that necessary?  Maybe not.  Since I’ve started working full-time, I don’t check Facebook as often.  No time, plus the city’s computers track all the websites I touch.  Gulp.

The word habit has a bad reputation.  When we think about habit, it’s usually in the context of breaking a bad habit.  Habit means:

  • a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up:  “this can develop into a bad habit
  • an addictive practice, especially one of taking drugs.”a cocaine habit”
  • general shape or mode of growth, especially of a plant or a mineral
    a shrub of spreading habit”
  • a long, loose garment worn by a member of a religious order or congregation.

Leaving out the clothing angle, you can see even in the definition, it garners a negative connotation. But habits aren’t all bad.  In fact, if something has morphed into a habit, it means somewhere along the way, you mustered up enough discipline to make it  permanent part of your life.  Perhaps it happened unconsciously, like drinking coffee or petting your cat.  The cat rubbed your leg, you sat down and he/she/it curled up in your lap. Cozy habit formed! If you worked at something with a will, like setting a goal of some kind, it took effort on your part. Or maybe you surrendered to the inevitability of biannual dental checkups or eating an apple a day.

As they days grow shorter – and wetter – I find myself examining some of my previously ignored habits.  Should I keep doing that?  What about this?  Can I crowd out some lingering baddies with new good things? Life is fleeting. I’m getting older, and I want to do things that propel me forward in Christ, further good relationships, good health and foster continuous growth both in my life and in those whom I get to encourage.  I want to jettison any flotsam or detritus I’ve picked up over the decades. You can teach an old(er) dog new tricks.  I’m ready.

This post inspired by lonestarrungirl.  Thanks!