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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Bird Consciousness

western blue jay.png

source

“Mom, look out the window!”

I shuffled to the living room. Outside, perched on a cherry tree branch sat a blue jay.

“I named her Micah,” Ruby said.

In truth, it was a she. No cock’s comb sprouted from her little blue head. Micah fidgeted and chirped, then flew off.

“She waits for me on the power line at the end of the street. I see her every time I walk home from the bus stop,” Ruby said.

My daughter, a Snow White in training. Soon she’ll be summoning squirrels to braid her hair and put her clean clothes away.

“Here, little birdie! Pretty birdie,” Ruby called to the bird.

It was time for a little education.

“Ruby, blue jays aren’t very nice birds. They steal other birds’ nests and kick out their babies,” I said.

Ruby thought for a moment.

“I don’t care,” she said. “She’s blue and she’s pretty.”

Which illustrates how pretty people have gotten away with outrageous things through the ages. However, scrub jays show great intelligence, according to Wikipedia. They think about the future and store food in caches. They even steal other jays’ acorns and the like. They even, it appears, feel guilt.

Really?

“They even seem aware of their guilt: some scrub-jays steal acorns they’ve watched other jays hide. When these birds go to hide their own acorns, they check first that no other jays are watching.”  from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Scrub-Jay/lifehistory

Wow. Birds with a conscience. Do they seek absolution or forgiveness? Is there a bird confessional somewhere?

I doubt it. Jays, like every other creature, operate out of survival. Doesn’t matter what it takes, be it stealing, deception or brute force. Don’t hold your breath on them offering restitution. But I see a little glimpse of the Maker in the fact that they comprehend the treachery of their actions. There’s hope for the rest of us.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? – Matthew 6:26

 

 

 

 

Easy Yoke

yoke

 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The guest speaker at church yesterday spoke about this. A pastor and prophet in his early 80s, he’s been there and done that. He’s seen it and lived it. He talked about how we’re often tied to inferior yokes in this life – depression, addiction, rejection, to name a few – and those produce destruction. Why not be yoked with Jesus instead? Yoked to Jesus. What does that mean?

Yokes, from my extensive perusing of  the Little House on the Prairie book series, entail two beast of burden type animals pulling together towards a common goal. I remember Almanzo’s oxen from Farmer Boy (Ruby’s favorite of the series), Star and Bright, and how Almanzo had to train them to pull together and in a straight line. Somehow, methinks hanging in a tandem rig with Jesus would make Jesus the wiser of us two “beasts”. He would patiently guide us onto the right path, drawing us along at times.  I like this image, Jesus and I walking a path or pulling a plow in unison. It puts me in mind of the passage in Ecclesiastes talking about how two are better than one, for they can protect each other and keep warm together (Ecclesiastes 4).

Again, I struggled with finding meaning in this passage. Frankly, the idea of any yoke at all sounds oppressive to me. Yokes are for dumb animals who don’t know how to work well with others. They create a harness, with limited movement and directional choices. Hey! Doesn’t a yoke imply we’re all just dumb creatures?!

Wait a minute. Is it possible Jesus is saying, given the chance, we choose poorly every.single.time? If we pick up and put on our own yokes, be it chasing after the perfect body, the perfect man, the perfect job or just perfection in general, we are under the yoke of that belief system. Maybe we’re goal-oriented, and we only pursue noble goals. We strive to be debt-free. We raise our kids with good character and manners straight out of the 1950s (you know, the good old days before Woodstock). These targets and plans, good though they may be, pale in comparison to the great things God has for us. A classic case of good as the enemy of the great.

On second thought, living under Jesus’ yoke doesn’t sound half bad. After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is humble and gentle at heart, and we will find rest for our souls.