Dakota Love

Dakota sleeps

You may remember we acquired a dog back in August. She’s a black German 4-year-old shepherd named Dakota. She’s got a ton of energy. A few issues have cropped up. She doesn’t like new people much. Like, at all. She barks at them, teeth bared, a ridge of black fur standing up in the middle of her back. She’s 60 pounds of protective rage. Men get her unvarnished wrath, especially if they’re wearing ball caps and hoodies, which covers 90% of Shelton males. We propose someone, long ago, beat her regularly. This mystery man shaded his visage with a ball cap and wore hoodies as a staple in a damp climate.

Zac, who collects hoodies, received a villain’s welcome when Dakota first met him. He didn’t want to be around her. She guarded us from Zac, the interloper. I passed Zac a hot dog and he was able to dilute her hatred, one fleshy chunk at a time. Now, she loves him. Her joy to see him – or any of us of the inner sanctum – is genuine. She wags her tail, jumps around and rubs against us, seeking hugs and pets.

“I love how happy she is,” Zac commented the other day, rubbing Dakota’s back as she wriggled in ecstasy, amber eyes filled with adoration.

It’s rather beautiful, and has made our house feel like a home. I want to be like that. You see the bumper stickers:

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It sounds like…

Do everything without complaining or arguing – Philippians 2:14

Is Dakota perfect? No. She finds stray Kleenex and shreds it. This creates a random sort of indoor snowfall. She fishes, ahem, kitty roca out of the cat box. She loses her cool with Rex, who hisses and takes swipes at her every chance he gets. She drops her muddy, sopping tennis ball wherever she pleases. This leaves a round, grungy splatter on the carpet or wood floor. Or better yet, she loses all of her baker’s dozen of balls in the yard. Someone has to go help her hunt up at least 2 in order to keep her calm.

But we don’t love her any less for all these transgressions. We’re working on the “meeting new people part, letting her know *we* decide who is initiated and who is excluded. Rex is a goober and I’m not getting in the middle of that relationship. We can keep things picked up better so she doesn’t form her own weather pattern. Her joy in everyday living inspires us to see the world with gratefulness.

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When the Smoke Clears

I feel like myself today. That’s rather huge, as it’s been probably the better part of a year since I’ve been able to say that. The work drama/reorg of late 2016 sapped a lot of joy and confidence from me, frankly, and it’s only been since I started working at Thurston County that I feel a sense of peace and distance from it all. Who knew driving 23 miles south would take me to such a different world? I am so grateful for new beginnings.

I know my blogging – well, any writing – has suffered because of it. I don’t want to write downer posts as a general rule. In fact, I considered shuttering this blog. Why keep the pressure on myself to find a topic and time to write for public consumption? I keep a journal (sort of). Isn’t that enough?

I’ve spent a bit of time asking the Lord about it, and praying. It has seemed a trivial request. So many horrible things going on in our world right now – devastating hurricanes, mass shootings, hatred rising from every corner. I do pray about those things as well.

Maybe you’re in a similar season. You’re beat up, tired, ready to lie down on the couch and eat circus peanuts while watching Matlock reruns.

circus peanutsNot that I know anything about that.

So…where to now? No thunderbolts tore open the sky. No answer dropped on me via passenger pigeon. But I do feel a peace. I’m not done here yet. God’s not done in your life either, friend. I hope to write more, and more often. Thanks for sticking with me.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. – Philippians 1:6

Taking Flight

Today, we take Zac to college. How did we get here?!

We’re still unpacking from the complete move-in last weekend. As Jonathon sorted through boxes, he came across this

Toddler Zac

 

Zac’s about 18 months old in this photo. Those chubby red cheeks produced darling dimples. His blue eyes filled with wonder at each new discovery. “Mom! The moon!” How many times did we go to Alberta Park and chase everyone else’s balls (even slimy doggie ones), or attempt science experiments, or talk about video games and politics? Where is the boy whose favorite color was red and had a need for speed?

In this last year of high school, he made some good friends. They’ve hung out a few times this summer. Zac, a non-driver, pitched in on expenses. “Mom, food is expensive!” They drove to Ocean Shores and played mini-golf. They bowled. His two friends will attend community college. Zac is the only one going away.

I’m plagued with all the parenting baggage. Did we do enough? Will Zac be able to make it on his own? He can do his own laundry, but what about time and money management? And holding down a regular job? All of that remains to be seen.

But maybe it’s as it should be. Baby bird won’t know if it can fly until it takes to the air. It can’t know ahead of time if it will make it. Mama bird must stand aside while pushing her baby out of the comfort of the nest. There is no shortcut to growing up.

And so I will stand aside, praying and encouraging. I know Zac has it in him. We’re so proud of him. He only needs to unfurl his wings.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. – Philippians 1:6

Getting Clear

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The weather has finally turned cold. I went for a short walk yesterday afternoon, just before 4 p.m. The sun was already in its descent. I smelled wood smoke from the neighborhoods around me. A low-lying fog hung in the middle air, causing light obscurity. The temperature hung just above freezing. I wanted to celebrate getting out into the shortest day of the year. Not only because, according to the Mayan calendar craze of 2012, we shouldn’t even be here at all. I simply needed to get outside.

Same with this morning. I needed to run and clear my head. The gravel under my feet sparkled with frost and gave off extra crunch wherever I stepped. I left the pepper spray at home. I knew I wouldn’t see anyone out and about on this sub-freezing morning. Okay, I did see one guy running on the other side of the street. He wore an orange ski cap and shorts as part of his ensemble. Bet his kneecaps were blue.

I ran along the flat streets and considered the state of my life. Things are still churning at work, though less violently. The new normal is emerging. Frankly, I am not a fan of some of it. At all. I might even have had a bratty attitude  heated discussion  or two about it. Not proud moments, any of them.

But sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. It’s call being an adult. I am a fan of that, because that’s maturity. Don’t we love hanging out with those people, whom we call grown ups? They make unloading the dishwasher or matching socks a fun game. Their life’s joy runs on, untethered from inevitable quirky and tedious circumstances.  Mature people grease the wheels of this life with their love and kindness. I want to be the person who does unpleasant, onerous tasks without whining or complaining. Suffice it to say I’m still working on it. Have no fear, dear readers. Jesus isn’t finished with me yet.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.– Philippians 2:14-15

 

 

 

Little by Little

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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

July Thanksgiving

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I ran 3 miles out in the cool the other day. It had rained the night before, so the air blew fresh on me. The moon played peekaboo with the thick, shifting clouds. I felt good, despite a full workout at kettlebells the night before. I moved along, strong but loose. I could have run forever.

My mind, ever agile, strayed ahead to work and the weekend. I couldn’t keep thinking about nothing, could I?! I find it hard to stay in the moment. I’m always in the next moment, or the one after that. Or even into next week. Mindfulness, or being in the moment, they call it. I lack it. We talk about it writer’s group all the time. It all comes down to enjoying where you are and when you are.

I think Paul nailed it when he said:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13

I’m still learning to be present. However, I’m almost always grateful for mornings. I’m glad about new beginnings every day. I’m content with and celebrate the numerous blessings of this life.

Friday Sandwich

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I ran 3 miles this morning in the cool yet humid air. The sky threatened rain at any moment. I tried to talk myself out of the distance but did it anyway. I’m working towards a mileage goal for the week. Two miles tomorrow, and I’ll have it.

I’ve been meditating on this scripture lately – Proverbs 10:22. A good friend of mine gave it to me months ago when I asked her to pray about us moving and all.

Proverbs 10:22 – The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

I had lunch with a different friend and I mentioned it. I told her about the scripture.

“You know, the one from Proverbs that says ‘The blessing of the Lord….'” I trailed off. And I completely blanked. I shook my head. Really? Granted, often I find Proverbs a dusty book, but still.

She looked at me, waiting, her lips quirked up.

“The blessing of the Lord…blah blah blah…?” she queried. Her eyes sparkled with mirth.

I had to laugh. Someone had taken the time to give me confirmation of our dreams and I hadn’t taken the time to actually *look* up the reference. Sigh.

I can see God’s blessing on our lives. We’ve got a couple of great kids and live in a nice town. Our church lets us serve in ways we love. Jonathon and I have good jobs with great people. Financially, we’re doing well. We have limited debt. We can live within our means. We can give as opportunities arise. We’re already rich in so many ways.

This verse out of Proverbs has helped me stay the course. Living in the middle of renovation and working full-tilt throughout makes for weary folks. I’ll admit,  I questioned all of this. I couldn’t see the end. Would we recoup our investment? Did we do the right thing? Would it ever end?

Yes, it will. Because God planned this from start to finish. He never leaves us halfway.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. –  Philippians 1:6

Those two verses together make something that resembles a faith sandwich. The blessing of the Lord initiated this work, and the Lord will finish it. The verses apply to the house circumstances as well as running. Can’t give up now. I need to take a big bite out of that reality today.