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

 

 

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”.

Aside

Tuesday Life

douglas firs

(source)

I’m sitting here on our side deck. The sun warms my back. The wind sways the hanging baskets, releasing the intoxicating fragrance of yellow, purple, white and pink-striped petunias. Rex lounges on the porch at my side, soaking up the sunshine and the company.

It’s pretty great.

Part of me doesn’t want to go back to work. Ever. This summer, home with the kids, Jonathon and my folks, has been lovely. I only want to play and have fun, like a female version of Peter Pan. The other part of me, the practical big sister-mom part, longs to do something constructive and lucrative. Those don’t necessarily go together, mind you, but it would be nice.

I walked down to the bank earlier today to deposit a birthday check. I ran into someone I used to work with.

“I miss seeing your smiling face every morning!” she exclaimed upon seeing me.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love those people who work at the City? I miss them. But I know I’m in the right place for now.

I’ve applied for at least a dozen different positions. I had an interview last week for a job that sounds promising. They’re checking my references now, and the references of the other possible candidates.

I hate waiting.

I’m trying to keep busy. I clean. I do laundry. I bake. I shop. I meet up with friends (thank you, by the way). We attend church and serve in the worship ministry. These all help keep hope alive and to focus on other things.

But I detest limbo. It makes me squirm. What’s next? What now?

I can hear the bell tower in Evergreen Square tolling the hour. I can see the blue mirror of Oakland Bay shimmering in the distance. Our house sits above the city, and I can see a bit of Loop Field, Railroad Avenue, and the edge of City Hall.

It’s strange to be outside of it all.

All around me, the tall Douglas firs testify of God’s faithfulness. Running into friends reminds me of God’s goodness in all circumstances. Sitting out here in the fresh air, just breathing, helps me to find peace. I don’t have to be in the thick of it all right now. I don’t have to know all the answers. Instead, I can embrace what is.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.” – Psalm 46:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hacking

blackeberries overgrown.jpg

I’ve been walking Ruby to and sometimes from school lately. The weather has been gorgeous for us, temps in the 70s and low 80s, sunshine, a nice breeze. I guess it’s what southern California has most of the time. Lucky stiffs. We Washingtonians know how all-too-brief nice weather can be, so we get out in it as much as possible.

Our journey usually goes something like this:

Ruby: (stops walking) “Wait, are we walking?” (facial expression of pure torture)

Me: (stops walking to keep pace) “Yes,” followed by a big smile. “We can use the exercise. Besides, this way I get to spend more time with you.”

Ruby: (head down) “Okay,” shuffling her feet.

I should mention it’s about .7 miles each way, all paved. Mean Mommy!

The other day I dropped her off in front of the school and headed back home. As I trudged up the hill, I happened to peek over the left side. The hill rises and you can look down on to backyards of houses below. A woman, clad in a t-shirt and leggings, stood in her fenced yard. She wore her dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. Nothing distinctive there, except she was striking out at some blackberry feelers. I say “striking out”, because she had a carving knife in her right hand. She used the knife to beat back the brambles. She brought it down like a machete, slicing at the thorny intruder poking through the fence slats.

Not wanting to pry, I kept moving. But I haven’t been able to get the image out of my head. This woman had poor success due to her tool choice. I remember thinking, why doesn’t she at least grab a pair of scissors and cut the offending growth? Even safety scissors would do. It seemed half-hearted and futile. The hunch of her shoulders said, “I’ll never win. They’re going to keep pressing through. I’ll be doing this for the entire summer.” Which is probably true.

It made me think of the tools we use. For example, I’m looking for a new job. How am I making this mission a success? I could just sit at home and wait for someone to refer me to someone else. One might say that’s rather passive and could prove futile. But I have online searches, word of mouth and daily emails to follow up on. I’m listed on a couple of websites with a full profile. I’ve got references and an updated resume. I’m utilizing the best tools in my kit. I may even add more.

I’ve never believed in the adage “God helps those who help themselves”, yet it’s in our best interests to work with the best we have every day. We’re not helping God at all; we’re simply making ourselves available for an answer. I wouldn’t use a spoon to spread butter on toast. Okay, maybe if all the knives were dirty. I wouldn’t wear flip flops in the mud, though they technically pass as shoes. What’s the best solution(s) for the problem in front of us? Let’s seek it and do that.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-12

 

 

 

Good Friday Sully

I’ve done a lot of running this week. When things get crazy, run. It helps.

Sully running

We watched the movie “Sully” with Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart the other night. He was stuck in New York as the FAA investigated him. He couldn’t sleep. So he ran. A lot. Sometimes with his co-pilot and sometimes alone. During the day. At night, by the bright lights of the city. I had to laugh, despite the heavy content of the movie. Runners know. Burn off some of that anxiety and stress instead of eating a whole pie, or drinking yourself into a stupor. Get your head in a good place.

Running, it seems, can be a type of prayer. You pour out your concerns and frustrations to God as your feet hit the pavement. I know it’s been like that for me. I can hear the Lord once I come to the end of my homemade solutions.

I’m thinking about pouring out frustrations today as it’s Good Friday. How it must have hurt Jesus to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. Of course, He knew it all would happen. But I doubt that made it any easier.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” –  Matthew 26:36-39

He felt fear. He understood the weight of what came next, the suffering and pain awaiting him. Judas led the group of men with clubs and swords who came and arrested him, a citizens’ arrest. Then, the betrayal, mock trial before Pilate, beating and crucifixion.

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – Matthew 27:46

We all have seasons where we feel abandoned or lost or completely alone. Jesus knows. He went through it all. We remember what He did for us today, and what it cost.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:15-16

It’s Personal

toothbrush

No sharing.

“Now, today, try this personal hair removal system! Only $19.99, plus shipping and handling!”

“Wanted: personal assistant. Must pick up dry cleaning and love dogs.”

I’ve been thinking about the word personal lately. I found this definition:

per·son·al
ˈpərs(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: personal
  1. 1.
    of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person rather than to anyone else.
    “her personal fortune was recently estimated at $37 million”

    direct, empirical, firsthand, immediate, experiential

    “I have personal knowledge of the family”
    • done or made by a particular person; involving the actual presence or action of a particular individual.
      “the president and his wife made personal appearances for the re-election of the state governor”
    2.

    of or concerning one’s private life, relationships, and emotions rather than matters connected with one’s public or professional career.

    To me, personal has always been, well, personal. It’s about a person. It’s meant their private thoughts, attitudes, emotions and dramas. If I tell someone, “It’s personal”, that means butt out. It means I’m not ready to share it now, if ever. It has to do with things better left unsaid except to the chosen, vetted few.

    And by default, personal denotes belonging to someone. Like my personal hairbrush – not that I own one anymore, with this mane. Toothbrushes are personal; we don’t share. Ideally.

    So when I hear an altar call that says, “Do you want to make Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?”, I get antsy. Jesus can be everyone and anyone’s Lord and Savior. In fact, that’s the goal for us Christians here on earth. The Great Commission from Jesus states: Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20). Jesus doesn’t belong to me alone. He belongs to millions of believers around the globe, and to any potential believers as well.

    The other part of this that sits wrong with me is “personal” anything usually points to a tool. Remember the hairbrush example? The hairbrush serves to smooth my hair, or would, if such a tool could work on curly tresses. The toothbrush cleans my teeth. It works for me. So, a personal savior would…take care of all my messes? “See that spot Jesus? Right back there? Could you tidy that up, make it spotless? That’s it. Put your back into it.”

    Jesus doesn’t exist to do my bidding. I exist to worship Him and do HIS bidding. I hear you say, “Susan, this is all semantics. Nobody means anything by it.” Probably true. I have nothing against people who use this phrase. But maybe I need to think differently of “personal”, give it another chance. Because choosing to follow Christ, it will get personal, real fast. He changes lives.

     

     

The Early Bird

early bird

“Mom, we need to get snake food.”

I looked up to see Ruby standing over me, clad in her watermelon nightgown.

“I’m not going to the store to get snake food.”

It was 5:40 a.m.

“Besides, you didn’t ask if you could keep the snake, you just put it in your room.”

Yesterday, Ruby found a baby garter snake curled up on the sidewalk. She scooped it up and named it Stormy. Enchanted, Ruby found a small jar to put it in. An entire afternoon of reptilian pampering ensued.

“She’s dying,”Ruby said. “We need to feed her.”

We? When did I enter this equation?

“Look, I need to talk to your dad about you having a pet. You need to go back to bed. I’m not getting snake food.”

Ruby turned on her heel and marched back upstairs.

I sighed. I regretted coming across so harsh. Ruby loves to care for animals and people. I don’t want to curtail that. But I don’t think very many people would like to go to a house showing and find a snake in the closet, either.

Sighing, I came up with an alternative. I went to her room.

“Ruby, I’m sorry for being so harsh with you. You can dig up some worms – that’s what baby garter snakes eat – and your dad and I will talk about you keeping Stormy.”

Ruby considered this.

“Will you help me dig for worms?”

What else would I be doing at 6:00 a.m. on a Tuesday?

We trooped outside, her in her pajamas plus a fleece sweatshirt and me in Zac’s sneakers. I grabbed the shovel and started digging. I should mention our soil out here is mostly small rocks, and sandy. I didn’t find any worms and neither did Ruby. Rex trotted around behind us, curious about why we were on his turf so early in the morning.

Ruby didn’t give up.

“Look, here’s a roly-poly!”

She promptly brought it to the snake. Stormy no like.

As I write this, she’s huffed back outside. Ruby, not the snake. She’s looking under rocks and figuring out other food sources for her scaly friend. I have no doubt she will find a tasty morsel for Stormy.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7