Dead Things

Rex’s latest kill. It was a bloodbath.

I’m home today. I took the day off to write a 15-page paper, all part and parcel of the  glamorous life of a master’s student. I already wrote a 10-page paper. This weekend got exceptionally packed with events and I didn’t think I could finish it all. Wednesday we celebrated Zac’s braces removal with dinner at Olive Garden – “no photos, Mom”. Last night was worship practice and all team meeting. Saturday is supposed to be Wild Waves with Ruby and extended family and Sunday is church. And by church, I mean 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

I tossed Dakota her lucky ball in the fresh morning air. The pale blue sky held golden clouds pushed along by a slight breeze. We tromped up and down, back and forth. The green Douglas firs sheltered a wealth of birds and their songs.

A couple of weekends ago, we purchased plants for the yard. We picked up several tomato plants. It has been raining off and on for a couple of days. It’s spring in the Pacific Northwest, so one minute it’s blinding sun and the next it’s pouring rain. Dress accordingly. I looked at the plants. Petunias in their cozy white planters looked good. Jonathon’s red and white roses bloomed out, fragrance wafting in the air. Even the blackberries in their blue planters seemed content. But 2 of the smaller tomato plants wilted in their pots. I wondered at this. Yesterday it dumped down rain. We stepped out after rehearsal last night and a pale rainbow arced across the sky. Then it rained some more. How did those 2 plants remain unwatered?

I grabbed the hose and gave them a little liquid. To be fair, I watered most of the plants a bit. I even filled up the bird bath, carefully scraping out the leaf debris. A smaller potted tree rested on the ground next to the bird bath, brown and twiggy. It’s dead, Jim. Has been for awhile, just haven’t gotten around to dumping it. I did not water it. I heard God say, “Don’t water the dead things.”

I felt like that was a word for me and maybe others. Don’t keep putting effort into things that no longer live. Some things will be resurrected and brought back to life, resuscitated into breathing, thriving existence again. Some will not, like the trees. We had hoped they would sprout again after winter; they didn’t. It’s important to know the difference. Discernment is key. As I age, finiteness stares me down. I only have so much time on this earth to do the tasks and love the people assigned to me. I plan on loving as best I can, no matter the response. But I can’t keep hoping and praying and wishing and striving for now fossilized relationships, opportunities and seasons to return. I need to know the season I’m in and celebrate it, make the most of it. It’s all down to surrendering, abiding and letting God bring growth. Not a pretty acronym – SAG – but true nonetheless. Even better, if we clear out the dead things, we can make room for new growth, new pathways and exciting possibilities.

Shooting Star

This morning, I wasn’t feeling it. I took Dakota out for her playtime. The birds chirped, even though it was still dark. Chirp chirp chirp chirp. Be quiet, I thought. Everyone else is still asleep. You can save it for daylight.

You can tell my attitude was rather poor.

I had a bunch of chores to take care of this morning before work. Cleaning the cat box, dishes, refilling the soap dispenser: all the trappings of adulthood, pet ownership and home ownership. Sometimes it’s the mundane things that can get you down.

I needed to run but wasn’t excited about it. My right foot ached a little bit. I didn’t want to push too hard. But it wasn’t raining. And the road has been completed enough for 90% of the new sidewalk to be in and the streetlights are working. Working! They are two-fers. One arm at a lower level shines over the sidewalk. The other is at the top of the pole and shines down on the street. It’s like daytime. I love it. It wasn’t raining and I knew I should at least take a walk.

Dakota followed me out onto the vacant street. It’s still blocked at the top. Only residents and their visitors have access and that’s from the bottom. The lights left no stone obscured. I walked up the hill. Dakota trotted ahead of me, leading the way, tail wagging. She dropped her ball somewhere along the way. Tongue hanging out, she sniffed piles of temporary rubber fencing. I kept walking, only my shadow for company. I planned to stop at the top of the street where the sidewalk ended. Thanks, Shel Silverstein. I breathed in and out. The air smelled sweet and still.

Then something caught my eye. I saw a plane flying overhead, winging east. Then I saw a shooting star.

meteor

Well, at least, that’s what I thought it was. Later, I discovered it was probably a meteor hitting our atmosphere.  It sparkled, separated into 3 separate dazzling pieces, and dropped. Amazing. I couldn’t decide what to wish for, because I was still under the impression it was a shooting star. A million ideas passed through my mind. How to choose? I couldn’t.

So I let it go.  I smiled all the way home. Because there’s a big, fantastic world out there and it’s not all about me.

Thanks, Jesus.

Under Construction

You may remember our road is getting a makeover. It’s been in a state of disrepair since June 2018. It’s now March 2019. It’s not done. In fact, the road is closed. It will be closed until April 1, which somehow seems appropriate. They completely barricaded the top of the road from C Street down. B Street, which splits off of Olympic Hwy. North, is torn up, too. There was a backhoe sitting in the middle of that street last I checked. The only way in or out is at the bottom of Olympic Hwy. North, past the erstwhile light at 7th. The construction company put out cones and a “Road Closed” sign. Just before Pine Street, there are 2 cones spaced slightly far enough apart to let a car drive through. That’s where we enter and exit. Beware, dear reader. Cops randomly patrol the street. Ask me how I know.

Every day, I drive up and down the street. It’s been graded and ground down, layered with gravel. The swale is dug out against the concrete curbs which were poured last summer. They smoothed the pedestrian path. Saturday morning, Dakota and I took a walk to explore. It was 20-something degrees.

Dakota photobombed many pictures, picking up random pieces of construction debris in her mouth. Birds sang above us. I couldn’t resist how lovely the sky looked, so snapped a few of it. I saw no one. As I crunched along the gravel, I observed the progress made so far. I thought about the rather large hassle this has been to everyone who uses this road or lives along it.

And then I considered that we as people are all under construction. We don’t wear signs on our forehead. But we really should, because we’re all in different stages of being remade. Frankly, it’s a hassle to engage with someone who is in the middle of a crisis. They drain your energy, time and good humor. They flake out. They cast about for anything or anyone stable to keep them from drowning in the moment. They have good days and bad days, sometimes seemingly put together and others like they fell into a well and barely escaped.

I resemble all of those. I’ve had good days and bad days, and that includes with hair. I’ve caused the people I love most to tap out emotionally. I’ve flaked out. I’m learning to extend more grace to others, but especially myself. Looking perfect and acting perfect when your heart resembles chewed-up asphalt is exhausting.

The street is going to be great when it’s all finished. So are we. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be a work in progress. In fact, as long as we’re alive, that’s the state we’re in. If we can hold on and trust the process to God, letting ourselves learn from mistakes and course corrections, we will eventually emerge as complete and finished. In time.

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

 

Snow Business

It started snowing in earnest yesterday afternoon. The project team was out to lunch. We watched it fall outside the window. It blew in, white like the sky. It didn’t stick. The temperature hovered around 34 degrees. We drove back to work, a little excited, like gradeschool kids hoping for a reprieve from school, watching and waiting.

I dug back into editing a Board briefing. I’ve been working with the newest interim director for our department. The old one lasted about 6 weeks. He wanted to retire for real.

“Hey, you need to look outside,” my co-worker said, poking her head in the door. “The flakes have changed.”

We know rain up in here. We know the difference between showers, drizzle,  downpours, sprinkles, mist and my personal favorite “mizzle”. Snow is a whole different animal. We get a little giddy. Snow is like the cute boy we crushed on in high school, but never dated. He was out of our league. So when he shows up on our doorstep, all white and dazzling, we swoon a little. It’s magical.

I stepped to the back door. Peering out the window, the flakes were monstrous. And piling up.  The state, also located in Olympia, closed its campus at noon to let workers get home before the roads got too dangerous. I wondered what to do. Our department director cancelled our monthly cross-divisional meeting and said we could go home if we liked. But we’d have to use our leave time to cover it. The County would remain open.

back door snowy at work.jpg

(“Doot, doot, doot, lookin’ out my back door…” Methinks the garbage cans only add to the back-door ambiance.)

“You should go home, Susan,” one of the project managers urged. “You have a long commute.” His face mirrored his concern.

I sort of love these people. I only live about 23 miles away from Olympia. It’s not that bad. Others drive all the way from Tacoma, near the storm’s epicenter. I didn’t really have enough leave time to justify going. I said as much.

“I will talk to our director. I will donate some of my time,” the project manager volunteered. He strode out the door.

I was touched. He wasn’t able to do it, as I didn’t qualify for shared leave, as a snowstorm isn’t considered an illness or injury. I loved the sentiment, however.

I peered outside again. At least an inch covered the parking lot. Olympia was getting slammed. The toughest part would be getting out of the residential areas and onto the highway. I figured 101 would still be okay due to steady traffic.

I decided to leave. I would take the vacation hour hit and get out of Dodge. Hiking out to the 2 inches of snow already down, I found this.

Pepper car snowy.jpg

The parking lot only held about 1/3 of the usual amount of cars. I brushed the snow off the windows and doors and climbed in. I gingerly made my way to the parking lot exit, sliding a little. I eased out onto the road. Up ahead, cars blocked the intersection. Bumper to bumper, they lined the entire street. I inched along, trying to be patient. It took 45 minutes to get to the first light, about 7/10 of a mile away. Cars moved aside for those entering or exiting the main drag. It heartened me, the grace and kindness showed by my fellow commuters. We all had the same hive goal: get home in one piece.

Once I reached the highway, it was smooth sailing. I breathed a prayer of thanks as I motored home. Just before Mason County, a bright spot in the sky appeared to my left. The sun was trying to burn through the cloud-cloth covering. As I continued to drive northwest, the snow turned to light rain. Just after entering Mason County, it turned into blowing snow again. Shelton had less snow than Olympia. Seems it had started up again when I hit town.

Today, it continues. We’re up to 2-3 inches, with more on the way until late this afternoon.

I threw balls to Dakota this morning in the darkness. City grit trucks powered up and down the road. The snow cast an eerie glow. Flakes danced and glittered under the streetlights as they floated to earth. Drifts sparkled under porchlights. We lost balls, then found them again. Snow caked on the tennis balls. Dakota couldn’t grip them well. She ate the snow, licking it off, then mouthed them again.

It’s been an emotional week, a rollercoaster. Right now, though, it’s very quiet. It’s time to switch gears. Time to spend time with family, doing things around the house. Ruby returns from a youth conference later today. Praying for the safety of all those people, and a continued infilling of the Holy Spirit. I know the Lord will use this time for the best. Even as plans get cancelled and our immediate options dwindle, He is still good. He still makes beautiful things. Let this enforced rest restore us for what comes next.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

 

 

Doggedly Running

Dakota today

This morning, the air was warmer. Instead of subzero, it was 44 degrees. No rain, but the ground was wet from yesterday’s showers. The trees dripped sporadically. I tossed the ball to Dakota and breathed in the clean air.

It felt like a great day for a run.

But I should mention I still live in a construction zone. Well, to clarify, the construction part lies dormant during the winter. Should pick back up in the spring-summer. For now, the much-vaunted pedestrian path is compacted pebbles and is supposedly closed to foot traffic. Tell that to the people from all walks of life I see out…walking it. Less than before the construction, of course, but still using it.

I didn’t want to drive to a place to run. I’m kinda over it. Though I know I will probably have to get re-over it right quick if I want to run longer. I considered walking up the path to familiar, flat neighborhoods. But it’s dark to walk that way and the path is uneven.

I got an idea.

Why couldn’t I just run along our little crescent-shaped access road? It’s not very long, and if the rain started up in earnest, I wouldn’t be far from shelter. Plus Dakota could run with me off-leash. I have always wanted to run with her.

So I cleaned up the kitchen, took out the trash and took myself out, too. I walked to the top of the driveway. I turned left and ran until it got too dark to see. Dakota followed. Then I turned around and ran the other direction. Dakota got the hint. She raced alongside me. I giggled. The end of the road on this side got brighter as we headed towards the lamp post. It gave us enough light to see a black, funnel-shaped puddle near the end. I leapt over the skinny part because I dislike wet feet. Dakota jumped straight in and rolled her ball in it. I laughed. To each her own.

We ran back and forth, back and forth on the road. I walked a bit. I guess I’m trying out intuitive running. The streetlights shone down. A young man walked by above us, hood up and burdened with a large pack. He shot us a half smile as we ran by.

I didn’t run long. Maybe put in a little over a mile. I walked back down the driveway and spotted a star twinkling in the east. It wasn’t the sign of a newborn heavenly king but it gave me hope nonetheless.

 

The Moment

fall sunset.jpg

(source)

It’s Friday. Well, okay, it’s actually Wednesday. But tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it’s the end of the work week after 5:00 p.m. today.

So much to say. Jonathon’s getting more opportunities to make money. He will start teaching, a master’s degree course, on December 3. He also proofread a an algebra textbook and made some bank there. He’s really taking off. God is so good.

I worked for Microsoft last week, taking notes at the fall PAC. It went well, if a little long. Ended up with 105 pages. I wrote a novel, folks. Not a good novel, but a novel. Over 40,000 words. Wow. Crazy.

We headed home a day early. Thursday morning, we packed up. I got settled in to work at the dining room table. Suddenly, I had company.

“Mom, can I sit here?” Ruby looked at me. She wanted to draw at the table.

“Sure,” I thought. But I wondered if I could keep concentrating with someone else sharing the space.

“Mom, I’m gonna make a beat,” Zac announced. He set up camp at the table, too. He opened his laptop and laid out his mini keyboard and speakers. He flipped on the fake fire and started sampling melodies. Aloud.

Alrighty then. How would THIS work? With all those pages to edit, I wondered if I’d be able to focus. I had already done the autocorrects for the partner comments and a little of the overall spell check.

I sighed inwardly. Then I got down to it.

“Mom, what do you think of this?” Zac played a melody in a minor key. It sounded like an old player piano.

“Creepy,” I offered. I continued fixing all the contractions that looked like don’t’. You can run a macro for that. Huzzah.

I hummed along. Rex sauntered in and lay down by the fire. I knew it wouldn’t take long. He loves to be warm. Dakota started barking. She could see me through the rotunda’s glass door. I let her in. She trotted into the dining room. Rex hissed at her but didn’t move. Dakota sighed and laid herself down on the other side of me. I should have taken roll call.

I peeked over at Ruby’s drawing. She was coloring in the dress on a little girl she had drawn. Pink. Nice.
“Looks good, Ruby,” I said.

She smiled.

A peace washed over me. The fire sparkled. The kids chatted back and forth, ribbing each other. Rex passed out. Dakota wandered in and out, sniffing each of us, looking for treats.

It felt magical. Could I someday have a telecommuting job? I soaked up every minute of it. (Yes, I finished the editing.) I know how rare these moments are. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for this life, for now. We can’t relive moments. We can only live in them.

 

Washed

This morning I woke up before I usually do. I laid in bed, trying to find a place between resting and not oversleeping. No dice. I got up and started on the day. Why not?

After I fed the furry hordes, Dakota and I stepped out in the dark to toss a ball around. A half moon shone down. I spotted the Little Dipper through a crack in the trees. The indigo sky looked fresh scrubbed. Last night’s rain had sent down a shower of pine needles and sweetened the air. The Douglas firs and cedars, scraping the heavens, swayed in the breeze. The beauty of the scene caught my heart.

Driving in to work later on, clouds of all shapes and sizes filled the sky. Big ones. Little ones. Most shone edged with gold as they powered past, sky-boats boosted by wind. A mist rose off the shorelands, a creeping, mysterious shroud. 

mist on shore

We have many names for rain in this region. Like…rain. Drizzle. Mist. Sprinkles, which sound delicious right now (think: cupcake). And my person favorite, “mizzle”, the unique combination of mist+drizzle. Haven’t seen that anywhere but in Shelton. The rain here, it can soak you in a matter of minutes. It rains with a purpose. We can get a dozen inches of rain in a month and sometimes more. It rains and doesn’t stop, pretty much for months, typically starting in earnest during November. Even October can be iffy. We’ve had just over 3 inches this month. As of today, we stand at nearly 35.5 inches of rain for 2018. You can bet that total will increase greatly before December 31.

Washingtonians have a love-hate relationship with rain. It enables the state to grow great crops of apples, berries, Christmas trees, you name it. And rivers flood. Sinkholes appear. It’s a nasty business, all this precipitation. Mud abounds. Ladies, wear flats at your peril. But rain also cleanses. It purifies the air. It removes dead bugs and leaves and dirt off windshields. It quenches the earth’s thirst. It keeps the green going all year long. So many shades of green! I could never count them all.

It makes me think of salvation. We can be washed in Christ’s blood, again and again. We can come to Him every day and ask for forgiveness. We can seek and find healing. We can be cleansed. The fountain of Jesus’ blood, our holy source, doesn’t run dry. Our thirst for wholeness will never be quenched this side of heaven. Yet we only have to ask to be fresh-scrubbed again.

Matthew 26:28 – “This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.