Needful Light

light bulb

This morning, Dakota and I rooted around for a ball. We walked here and there, searching high and low. We hadn’t had a chance to clean up all the downed limbs and twigs from Saturday’s windstorm. That made it more challenging. The dearth of daylight at 5:00 a.m. was a huge detriment. The ball hid well. Olly olly oxen free! I wanted to yell.  I did find one inside, however, and frolicking ensued. Well, on Dakota’s part. I trudged up and down the driveway, breathing in the cold, clear air. It felt great to be outside and dry for a few minutes.

I put Dakota inside and headed out.

This morning, I ran. I haven’t run in a while because I was trying something new. It’s not really working. I need running. I feel it like an amputee feels her missing leg. I mean, it’s worked in the sense that I feel better and I’m eating less carbs. It’s not working in the sense that I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, but it’s a jumping off place. More on that later.

So…running. The moon shone down from a mackerel sky with a silvery glow that lit up all the surrounding clouds. It hung there, nearly full and enormous, eclipsing all but the brightest stars. It stayed on my left as I ran. Two of the streetlights were out along the main drag. I walked during that stretch, as the darkness was nearly total. I should have brought a flashlight, I suppose, but I didn’t anticipate needing one.

I noticed something I’ve mentioned before. As cars passed me, I used their headlights to guide my steps. Sure, they only stayed within vision for a half minute. But it was enough to get me up the road. Then another car would come along. Their lights helped me, too. The cumulative effect of the mobile lights allowed me to see where I needed to go.

It got me thinking about how the light of other believers helps us. Someone will have a word of encouragement, or a correction and that propels us forward. Someone else will cause us to remember a worship song or a Bible verse. We take another step or two, tentative, but progress.

With the gleam of temporary radiance, I moved along at a good clip, despite the lack of constant light. I reached the top of the street. An overhead streetlight led me to the next area. I didn’t need the passing cars’ brilliance anymore.

We all have seasons where we simply have no direction. We wander in the dark until a helpful lamp appears. We can’t see the destination just yet. But the light, the extra illumination, is most welcome. Then we can continue on the path set before us. We may even be able to run.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

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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.

 

 

Neighbor Dog

Pastor Adam preached on the Good Samaritan yesterday, a parable from Luke 10:30-37. The question always becomes: who is my neighbor? To whom do I owe loyalty, kindness, love and friendship? The Jews he spoke to believed it was to the chosen people only. And the parable made it sound like only if the person in question didn’t require too much time and effort on their part. Can’t be dead, either, because…unclean.

This past Saturday, as I finished running, I saw a black dog walking down Olympic Highway North. It was raining, and getting heavier. Thinking it was Dakota, I called her.

“Dakota! Come here!”

The dog turned its shaggy head, woebegone and bedraggled. It wasn’t Dakota. But it was going to get hit on the busy road if it didn’t move. I stopped and called it. It started forward tentatively, then stopped. By this time, cars had halted. I walked out into the road and took the dog’s collar. I hoped it wouldn’t bite me. I thought about rabies, too. Amenable to some human leadership, the dog – all 100 lbs. of him – trotted alongside me. Well, I figured, let’s get him out of the rain. I’ve got dog food and a dry place.

I opened the gate and Mr. Dog and I entered the yard. He seemed right at home, until Dakota bolted out of nowhere, barking her head off. Her fur stood on end as she gave the intruder what for. I stood still so Dakota and the newcomer could sniff each other. The interloper stopped as Dakota checked him out. Only his eyes betrayed his anxiety. She nipped at him, but he didn’t bite back. We proceeded into the house. I left the dog outside for a moment while I got him some food and water. I put Dakota in the basement where she could bark to her heart’s content. After all, it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. No one else stirred.

The dog, whom I temporarily named Bo, walked into the house as if he owned it. He wolfed down the kibble and slurped up the water. I got a towel and dried him off. By this time, Ruby was awake. She fell in love with him on sight.

“Ooh! He’s so cute! What happened?”

I relayed the story and went to get a shower. As I mounted the stairs, I had a momentary qualm about leaving Ruby alone with a strange dog. But he was tame, with a grizzled muzzle and a calm demeanor. The cats might not like him, but he had no beef with anyone. He was Zen.

He laid his bulk down on the floor in the dining room, content to be warm and dry. His back left leg hurt him and he had a tough time getting comfortable. I got a few photos and posted them on Facebook in order to try and locate his owners. Then, he promptly fell asleep.

Around 9:00, I woke Jonathon up. He heard the story, too.

“So there’s another dog downstairs?” he asked, blinking.

Yes.

He ambled downstairs and took a look at the dog that Ruby named Bear.

“He’s very mellow,” he noted. “What’s his name?”

I shrugged. He had no tag. He was very old, and I hoped no one had simply dumped him.

We talked about next steps. I emailed the animal shelter…in Shelton, Connecticut. Friends shared Bo/Bear’s photo on different websites. A friend texted me, alerting me to the possibility that it might be her neighbor’s dog. It wasn’t.

Meanwhile, we kept rotating the dogs around. If Bo-Bear didn’t find his way home, we would gladly keep him. Both Ruby and Jonathon were all for him. They liked his mellowness and thought it might rub off on hyper-vigilant Dakota. We put Bo in the basement, and Dakota stormed through the house, smelling all the places he’d been. When it was his turn to be in the house, he wandered and sought out Dakota’s scent. Hey, it’s what I read to do on the Internet, in order for dogs to get acquainted. A “let’s be friends” type of gesture.

Yeah. I know the cats appreciated it. Chloe marked a pile of Ruby’s dirty clothes to show her appreciation.

By around 12:20 p.m., we got a hit. Somebody knew the dog’s owner. The owner messaged me, and told me about some specifics. He’s 16 and his name is Spencer. He likes to get out and wander. In fact, he’d moseyed over from my parents’ neighborhood on the other side of town. He’d been out all night and probably got disoriented. No slam on them. Pets do crazy stuff. Look at my dog, who thinks anyone in a hoodie and baseball cap is an enemy. And the garbage man? Don’t even get me started.

The couple came and picked him up, grateful someone had taken their old gentleman in. It’s the least I could do. The least we could do, frankly. We’re no heroes. We saw a need and we offered the help we had. Isn’t that what being a neighbor is all about? I’d want someone to take Dakota in, though they’d probably pay a bit for it, at least at first. Because: who is my neighbor? It’s whomever is in my life, right here and now.

Tree Timing

fall trees.jpg

I ran 3 miles today after Dakota and I tossed a tennis ball around. I prepared for rain, as it’s November and every day’s forecast for the next 10 lists at least “chance of rain”. But it didn’t rain. The night sky held a few stars but no moon. The ground was damp. Fallen leaves, downed by last week’s wind, muddled into a slurry under my feet. I took deep breaths of the chilly air.

As I passed the fast food restaurant across from Denny’s, I noticed the 4 trees standing at attention in a grassy strip. Most of the other deciduous trees in town stand dark and bare, leafy cover long gone. This quartet of trees has nearly full coverage. But the colors! Green shot through with red and gold and flame. Each tree has a slightly different palette. Under the street lights and the ambient glow of the restaurant’s signage, they stand tall and beautiful. They’re in no rush to divest their foliage. They patiently wait for their time to let go and enter the next season.

Frankly, they put me to shame. Can I stand in the season that I’m in, with patience and faith? Can I continue to keep on keeping on? Surely, I can reflect God’s grace while waiting. I don’t have to weep and gnash my teeth. All that orthodontia work from my teenage years shouldn’t go to waste, after all. I can see so very little from my finite perspective. God’s perfect timing is worth waiting for.

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

 

Extra Effort?

It’s gray today. Hard to believe just last week we had sun and temps in the 60s. It’s 43 right now, up from 41 degrees. Rain is imminent. The bruised sky foretells it. 

I’m up to running for 30 minutes straight now. I’ve completed the first part of the Amby Burfoot training. I started all over to baby my calves back into shape. As long as I remember to stretch, and try not to sit too much, it seems to work fine. I can feel the “stuff” falling off as I run – old ways of thinking, worries, what-ifs, etc.

I have a beautiful commute. I pass over sections of the Sound as I drive. I pass tidal flats. I drove up and down hills, fog nestling in the evergreens. I get to see the sunrise, either before the drive or during. I think of 101 as kind of a baby highway. Not to be condescending, one doesn’t encounter lot of traffic on this portion of it. It does get clogged up at the merge. Yet it isn’t I-5 or any of the California something-80 freeways, with 7 lanes in the same direction and an announcing sign 1/4 mile before you hit your exit. 

Sometimes, I wonder if the effort we put into things is really worth it. Is running worth it? I get up pretty early to put in the mileage. I could get more sleep and stay warm. But I find I feel better after I’ve sweated and pounded the pavement, pushing myself. I have energy and a new attitude. Is it worth it to drive a half hour every day to a new job? Well, I need the job, as it helps us stay afloat financially. Yet the possibilities are greater here as well. Anything can happen. 

When Jonathon taught choir in a small Oregon school district that shall remain nameless, their motto was “Excellence Through Extra Effort”. Because, somehow, regular effort simply wouldn’t cut it. It was both hilarious and insulting at the same time. You can’t get there in your own strength, punk. Don’t even try. 

Life has those seasons. We give it our best go and nothing happens. We fall and get back up again. We try. The only one I know who gives us something more is Jesus. No extra effort required, only grace. No more punishing levels of work, only surrender. We do our part, and let Him do His. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

Random Friday

I blended up a blueberry and spinach smoothie this morning. Too bad the protein powder tastes like halitosis. Why are there only 2 decent protein powders at the supermarket? The rest taste nasty. It would help, of course, if I could remember which was which.

This song was in my head today.

Had a division meeting yesterday. The county’s mailroom is in our group. One of the workers recovered a Fed Ex package delivered to Issaquah instead of the Olympia courthouse complex. The box contained over $5,000 worth of merchandise. What was in the box? Two K-9 bulletproof vests. I bet the person opened the box and thought, Hmm. These aren’t my size. When did I order them?

k-9 vest

It looks cozy. I wonder if Dakota would like one for Christmas. She can be hard to fit.

Today, we hold interviews for the Flex Unit project. Hope to come out with a winner. Otherwise, we have to start all over with advertising, etc.

The Flex Unit office has had a couple of holes in the ceiling. This meant where I sit, in the open by the front door, has been chilly. All the heat flies up to the attic. The project manager would roast in his office full of windows and I would freeze. It’s fixed now. I can leave the earmuffs at home.

It’s interesting that both out here, near the ARC, and at the main buildings near the courthouse, there are “Tobacco Free Campus” signs plastered everywhere, and people smoke right next to them. Illiteracy is rampant in Thurston County.

Running is going well. The trees along Olympic Highway North glow golden, even under the streetlights’ ambient output. I’ve been tempted to run longer than the paper tells me to, but I hold back. I’m going to trust the process.

I have a friend who loves crows. Feeds them every chance she gets. Did you know crows remember faces, and can hold a grudge? Makes you think twice about shooing them away, doesn’t it?

the birds

And that’s all I have to say about that. Happy Friday!

 

 

Fall Finish

fall leaves

It’s fall now. The rain has come, gentle at first, but will push its advantage as time goes on. I ran outside in the on again/off again drizzle. Even by the light of the street lamp, I could tell the trees were turning crimson. Their tie-dyed leaves, red-green-gold, made me smile. At one point, I pulled the earpiece from my ear. You know the season has changed when the rustle of the wind in the trees cuts through the music pouring in through your earphones. 

I’m up to 8 minute running/two minute walking intervals, three times through. It’s good. I stretch any cranky calf muscles that tighten up, and we keep on going. I ran past the graveyard. Funny how there are no lights down there, not even along the street. The graves lie in shadowy darkness behind the wrought iron fence and pillared gate.

I have an acquaintance who works for the cemetery. He doesn’t make corny jokes like “People are dying to get in!” or anything. But he says it’s steady work. It’s honest work, too, digging rectangular holes in the ground for the dearly departed. Lately, business has picked up. “Otherwise,” he says with a smile and nod to the change of season, “it’s just blowing fallen leaves around. That gets old. Time goes by faster when you’re digging.”

I guess I’d never thought about making time go quicker when you’re working in a dead-end job. Get it? Even cemetery workers need to keep busy. 

I suppose it’s a bit gruesome, but I like running past the graveyard. It reminds me to keep the main thing the main thing. Burial – or cremation – is the period on the end of the sentence of your life. As I keep aging, I realize how short this life is. We don’t know how many years we’ll get. I want to make them count. I want to be about the Father’s business, as my particular job description in the kingdom requires. For now, it includes loving people wherever I am, with a smattering of running, writing and worshiping thrown in. Personally, I want to have as much fun as possible along the way. Every breath is a gift, another day to live in the light and share it with the world.

P.S. I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday, but it was the 7th anniversary of this blog. I know I haven’t been as regular as in the past. I appreciate all of you who read and comment and keep hanging in there with me. Things are changing again. Yay! Mostly for the good this time. I’ll keep you posted as I have more details. 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever. – Psalm 136:1-3