Friday Wineskins

Spring is coming. This morning started ABOVE freezing. It’s supposed to hit 59 degrees today. Keep in mind last Friday it snowed, blizzard-like. Jonathon had to shovel me out of the driveway as it just kept coming down. I considered staying home but I had an 8:00 meeting plus sundry other work.

As of yesterday, I finished my first class in the MPA program. It looks like I passed it. I can’t believe it. I haven’t been in school in more than 20 years. Doing papers, using APA, figuring out what “scholarly tone” means has all been a learning curve. Jonathon asked me what my takeaways were from this first class. Well, first, that I can do it. I can get this degree. Second, that I can write. Academic folks outside my sphere recognized it and encouraged me to continue.

On another note, God keeps prompting me with two words: new wineskins. Wineskins are what the ancients used to put their wine in before bottles existed.



This is an old one (above). The words tie back to this scripture:  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22. That’s Jesus talking. The context is the question the people posed to him: “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” Jesus responded by saying that guests at a wedding don’t fast while celebrating with the groom, nor does one patch an old garment with new cloth. It leaves a greater tear because the cloths are not compatible. Their ages differ, their seasons of existence don’t match.

Since 2017, nearly everything has changed for our family. We sold the house we lived in for 10 years. We moved into and purchased my dad’s house. Zac graduated from high school and did a year of college. Ruby entered middle school. We got a dog. I started a new job in another city. Jonathon got promoted. I began the master’s program this past January. So.Many.Things.

The trouble is I keep trying to find my back to the old life, the old Susan. I think God is trying to let me know she’s gone. Oh, I’m still me in a lot of ways. Still short. But I won’t be a stay-at-home mom again. That season is over. I seriously doubt I will work in Shelton again, despite Herculean efforts to find a position closer to home. I probably won’t run a lot of miles like I used to; time and priorities don’t allow it. I’m not the main disciplinarian at home anymore, either. The kids won’t regress to little guys again. They continue to grow up, darn it!

Confession: leaving Shelton felt like a punishment. Where did I fail? What could I have done differently? I didn’t want to leave. Great people befriended me and I felt connected to the town and the church. I felt like I mattered and I could be of service. I got “planted”. The connection now feels different, more open-ended. Maybe that’s okay.

I’ve been trying to listen on this point as the perception is I gave up way more than I received in return. Yet our lives have seasons, like winter changing to spring. I can’t put the new wine into the old wineskins of my former life. If this life encompasses the “new wineskins”, what is the new wine? I need to find the joy and direction in the now. I learned to choose to do this when I was home with the kids for about 10 years. What’s the purpose now? Even after all this time, I still don’t really know.  But I do know letting go of the old is the first step to receiving what’s new.

And maybe that’s okay, too.




2017: Year in Review

sea sunset

This was a strange year. No getting around it.

  • We moved in to our new house President’s Day weekend of 2017. My dad and stepmom still lived in it. We boxed along, house-sharing until they found a place in town, until August. Then we helped them move out as we moved our stuff in. Two for the price of one! Thanks to all who assisted with that endeavor. And this is a great party house. Look out! 
  • Zac graduated from high school in June. He now attends Concordia University in Portland. Way to go, Zac!
  • Jonathon’s parents came and visited us to celebrate both Zac’s graduation and the 10th anniversary of Anna’s Bay Chorale, which included both a wonderful concert and a gala dinner with dancing. Jonathon is the artistic director.
  • I left the City of Shelton in May and started a position with Thurston County in August.
  • At the end of June, Jonathon and I travelled to Cozumel, Mexico, to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Can I just say that was the highlight of the year? We swam and snorkeled in the warm Pacific. I scuba dived for the first time. Scuba dove? We tried new foods. We goofed off and saw iguanas on the street. It was a grand adventure. 
  • We got Dakota from Adopt-A-Pet.
  • Ruby started middle school.
  • Jonathon got a long-awaited promotion just this month. He’s now Director of Instructional Design for Concordia University. Huzzah! This will bring some adjustments of its own.
  • I posted more than 80 times this year.
  • I ran 410 miles.
  • It rained over 174 inches in Shelton this past year. That’s more than 14 feet. We swam in the deep end, people!

There are a lot of good things on this list. But as you can see, it’s been a series of transitions and changes throughout the year. (Hmm…sense a theme, anyone?!) It’s not been mellow or relaxed. In fact, some of it has turned out incredibly painful. I felt like this, only less graceful.

Gumby stretching

But through it all, I know God had it in His hands. He knew exactly how this year would go down. He wasn’t surprised by the changes or plot twists. He didn’t freak out. In fact, I know He’s still working it out. This year is over, but the story continues.

Thank you, readers, for your kind support and friendship. You made the year special.

And now darling 2017, I bid you adieu. Thanks for the memories.



Nothing Stays the Same

2017 oregon wildfire

The smoke from all the regional wildfires has lingered in the air for weeks now. A haze, not our customary marine layer, hovers over us. The sun rises, a fiery salmon ball in the sky. The moon sets, an orange eye in the charcoal dawn. Is this what it means that the “moon will turn into blood” out of the book of Revelation (6:12)?

Ash falls from the sky. It’s light, lighter than snowflakes descending. But it coats everything. Hills and buildings in the middle distance seem fogged in. Our lack of rain most of the summer has confused the trees. They’re turning red and yellow. Leaves drift down. Shelton and surrounding areas have an air quality alert. People suffering respiratory problems and small children should stay indoors as much as possible.

I hate to think of the acres of forests and surrounding residential neighborhoods burning uncontrollably. So much beauty destroyed in moments. So many brave men and women risking their lives to keep us all safe. This, in the wake of massive Hurricane Harvey and the impending devastation of Hurricane Irma right behind for Florida. I could blame climate change. I could say we did this to ourselves. It’s probably at least partially true. But I know it’s Biblical as well. Isaiah says the earth shall wear out like a garment. Does this mean we don’t take care of those who weathered significant loss from the storms and fires? Of course not. We grieve with and for them, and send whatever help we can. But we need to get ready for more. We can’t stand around, confused and asking why. We need to be prepared, like Boy Scouts. We must band together and plan ahead, not point fingers. We need each other now more than ever.

The Pacific Northwest is poised for a massive earthquake anytime now. We’re overdue, in fact. We seem somewhat removed, at times, from horrible acts of God. We live in a bucolic world of mountains, forests and nearby sea. Yet what lies beneath can change everything. In big and small ways, the only constant is change. 

I started writing this yesterday, which was Thursday. Now it’s Friday.  It started raining a little last night. Showers fall now, off and on. It’s wonderful. The air smells green and alive, even though it’s muggy. I put on closed-toe shoes to wear to work for the first time since the end of May. It feels strange.

August 1, I started driving to Thurston County for my new job. The drive takes about 25-30 minutes. As I cruise along 101, keeping a steady pace as best I can, people inevitably push me up the road. Trucks. Sedans. Motorcycles. You might think I drive like a grandma (no offense to grandmas out there). I do not. All I can think is, why are you in a hurry to get to work? It’s not going anywhere. It will wait for you.

I got my last paycheck from the City today. It’s all done. Finished. Nothing left to see here, folks. This makes the last of the major transitions in my life. For now.

Now I’m ready. God has been faithful through it all. Help me to be ready for whatever comes next. 

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  – John 16:33

Stress Test

Zac grad

Zac graduated from high school 3 days ago. I am still processing it. He’s going headlong into adulthood. Where did the time go?! We’re so proud of his achievement and drive to finish.

I went for a short run today. I’d planned to swing some bells, but the sunrise with Mt. Rainier backlit and peeking above a cloud ring lured me outside. With the gibbous moon somewhere behind my left shoulder, I took off. The pale blue sky held a few clouds to both east and west. We’re supposed to get rain tomorrow. But that’s a day away. Today, the sun shines in the treetops and the birds sing.

As I plodded along, I considered the last 4 months. We sold our house. We moved. I quit working. Zac graduated. Other changes not listed in this blog have impacted us as well.  Curious, I looked up the Homes-Rahe Stress Inventory List. For those not in the know, it ranks major life events and gives them a point value, i.e., a stress level. I perused the list and added up the changes in the last year, with some yet to come. I’m smack dab in the second tier at 254 points.

As I read the list, I noticed that good things cause stress, too. Everyone experiences major holidays, right? Those merited 12 points altogether. The creators had listed “vacation” and “pregnancy” and “marriage”. Even “outstanding personal achievement” can cause strain on us. Thank God pregnancy isn’t on my list.

With my coveted position in the second tier, they forecast a 50% chance of a health breakdown in the next 2 years. Isn’t it great to have something to look forward to? Geez. I have no intention of letting it all get to me. That’s what time in prayer, worship and the word, plus running and good fun with friends and family will help to mitigate. Oh, and chocolate. God is fully aware of all these changes and knew about them long before they ever appeared on the horizon. Soon enough, all these variations will simply be the reality. I can’t wait to see the good coming out of them all. Jesus remains our constant in a sea of change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  – Hebrews 13:8


Spring Change

life change


I apologize. It’s like I fell off the face of the earth.  I didn’t. I needed some time to think…and run. Last week, I resigned from my position with the City. It was a tough decision. I love those people. Shelton has many dedicated, talented public servants. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t the best fit for the job. Someone else will be.

It’s felt like a free-fall, because I don’t know what’s next. I want to thank all of those who have supported me. Most of them won’t see this. But you have no idea how your texts, phone calls, emails and real time conversations have encouraged me and helped me to dream again. I keep running into ladies I haven’t seen in months, or really talked to in years. It’s like God has been saying, “See? You are loved. I’ve got you.”

The threads of my old life beckon. Writer’s group. Kettlebells. Blogging. Coffees and lunches with friends, no time limit attached to them. I relish the opportunity to breathe and reconnect with my kids and husband. I’ve missed them so much. Both of the kids will transition into new phases of life come fall. Zac heads off to college in August. Ruby will enter middle school in September. I’m savoring these moments before it all changes.

For now, I’m downshifting into home life. I thank God He holds the future and knows all the bends in the road. Right now, I can see all the way to the horizon. I’m looking forward to what’s next.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams. – Psalm 23:1-2

Little by Little



Anticipation hovers in the air as Christmas approaches. The days grow shorter. The sun dies around 4:30 every day, leaving burnt ribbons of light on the horizon. The rest of the time, the sky stays gray. But what hit me this year is that lots of trees and plants stay green. Heck, evergreens surround us – cedar, Douglas fir, Ponderosa Pine, hemlock. It’s so easy to focus on the dismal. Why not gaze on the vibrant that remains?

I guess it’s like how we age. I’ve got gray hairs marching onto my head on a minute-by-minute basis, despite Clairol’s tricks. Wrinkles congregate on my forehead and at the corners of my eyes and mouth. Certain body parts are, ahem, migrating south permanently, probably to Florida.

What’s a girl – or boy -to do in the face of inevitable change? Well, celebrate who you are, of course, aside from your physical attributes.  This earthly body will pass away. Take care of yourself with kindness, and make the most of your good features. Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made, no matter what the mirror says. And be thankful. Because nothing makes a person more beautiful than pure joy and gratitude.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8

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…