Change as a Constant

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:7


This is where we stand today.  School starts in about a week.  Job situations are in flux.

I’ll be unemployed after next week.  The final public hearing for the shelter is scheduled for September 15.   I can hardly believe it, after working on the project for 2 years and nearly 9 months.  It will take awhile to get my head around that fact.  Meanwhile, the newly created full-time position at the city I applied for and hoped to interview for got cut in the budget reorg.  Such is life. Things change.

Zac will start his sophomore year of online schooling September 3. Eek! Ruby starts 3rd grade the same day.

I’ve done 5 loads of laundry.  The sixth load rotates in the dryer as I type. I’ve folded all I’ve washed so far.  At least clean laundry remains a regular need in the universe.

I’m filled with anticipation and a little bit of dread.  How will this new year go?  What challenges will we confront?

I don’t know.  I can’t see into the future. My personal crystal ball looks cloudy today. As the Magic 8 Ball would say :  Try again later. But know the one who makes paths in the desert. He holds the future.

 

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The Politics of Dancing

We got audited at the city last week.  Well, the project did.  Out of nowhere, though we knew it would happen sometime before the project closed.  I felt incredibly anxious.  I mean, what if I missed some of the payroll issues?  Why didn’t I implement a subcontractor tracking system to know when they’d be onsite?  Why didn’t my predecessors?  Where is that CFDA number anyway?! Aaugh!

It got me thinking.  We try so hard to always do the right thing and make no mistakes.  Yet we do make mistakes.  Sometimes they happen very publicly, in fact.  All we can do is put in our best good faith effort and stay positive, trusting we’ve done enough.  I figured I could do no more, so I surrendered the whole mess to God.  I cooperated with the auditor. I withheld nothing, I gave honest appraisals of myself and the circumstances.  My boss did the same.

But…we passed!  The auditor had no findings.  In the common vernacular, it’s the equivalent of “no news is good news”. The good report still makes me a little giddy.  I am thankful the original grant administrator set up the files so well, and the interim gal before me took care of a few missing items from the monitoring visit. They put their time and expertise in, too. As for me,  I plan to finish well. This put a little pep in my step, I must say.  Hence the the song.

I wanted to dance on the spot – just a teensy jig – but it seemed politically incorrect. Or maybe just goofy. Plus I don’t know any jigs, anyway. God came through.  Hallelujah!  I’m dancing now.

 

Thursday Time-Out

I ran 3 miles in the foggy early morning.  I headed down my street and up the road to the shelter.  I wanted to take a last look at it, plus it meant running partway up a hill.  Couldn’t resist either challenge.  My old brain, the one that lived on Nike’s “just do it” motto, has reemerged.  I like me this way.

Today, the Mason County Shelter held it’s grand opening.  The new facility’s name is Crossroads Housing.  A community choir sang songs about home and finding your place.  The sun shone down on workers and local dignitaries.  Even the landscaper, standing in the back of a dump truck filled with bark dust, stopped to listen to the speeches and songs.

We got to tour the finished building and eat snacks.  The finishes and paint colors melded into a welcoming whole. The now-occupied studios, filled with furniture and food in the kitchens, feel homey.  I’m glad I got to help out with the project.  It feels good to have served the community in some way.

My devotional reading today revolved around this scripture:  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself.  You are not that important. – Galatians 6:3. 

Joyce Meyer sums it up nicely:  When we think too highly of ourselves, it causes us to value others less, forget to trust God, and ignore the truth that we’re really nothing without God…

It’s important to understand that whenever we excel in any area, it is only because God has given us the gift of grace to do it.  The moment we think we’ve accomplished great things in our own strength, we’re getting into pride. 

Remember, we belong to God.  Instead of having exaggerated opinions of ourselves, let’s focus on God’s greatness and His love for us.  It’s by His grace alone that we can succeed in doing whatever he’s calling us to do.

I’ll say it’s not my favorite scripture.  It does, however, apply to all of us. Today, it hit me right between the eyes.  Rereading this now, I can see God was trying to clue me in to something.  But I missed it until I stepped in it.  So now, I’m leaning on Him and seeking His forgiveness.  Thanks, Joyce, for the wake up call.  Time for me to find *my* place.  My identity is in Christ alone, not anything I can do.

 

Time and Money

IMG_20140416_110904_548Rock puppy is watching you. This picture has nothing to do with the blog.

I met all the other people in the office today.  Several of them are contractors.  Everyone seems nice and relatively normal.  For now.I spent the day reviewing payroll.  Don’t be jelly.  I’ve got a copy of the federal wage rates and the state wage rates.  I flip between them like a woman possessed. Contractors must pay the higher of the two rates.  On this particular type of project, Davis-Bacon rules apply.  Now, I want bacon.

What I discovered is that it’s okay to pay *above* the required rate.  Most contractors do.  They keep the good workers that way. Paying below posted highest rates requires making up the difference.  And paperwork for me.

As a parent, I remember some of our kid friends babysitting for us.  A little nervous, we talked payment up front as much as possible.

“Pay me whatever”, they inevitably said, accompanied by a shrug.

Nuh-uh.  That’s no good.  Everyone needs to be on the same page right away.  I used to babysit for $1/hr.  It sucked.  I hated babysitting and the pay did not make it more palatable.  Especially the one time I watched 5 kids for 8 hours.  Getting $40 to keep the middle kid off the roof and the youngest from jumping off the top of the swing set did not cover the hazard pay.

“Your time is worth something,” I told them, both boys and girls.  They allow me to be off the clock for a couple hours. I think somehow in the Christian community especially we tend to want to serve.  We talk serving up as a desirable quality.  “He has a servant heart.” Serving is a good thing.  But getting paid for actual work blesses the server.  As a musician, getting paid for a gig made me very happy.  It happened so rarely.  Someone thought my talent merited monetary compensation!  I have writer and artist friends who speak in giddy tones about selling their first piece.  It’s a big deal.

I get paid for working at the city.  I got paid working for the shelter.  My expertise, attention to detail and ability to communicate and prioritize make me a team player.  I have other skills, too, but it’s the sum total of what I know and who I am that brings home the paycheck.

So say the same to you.  You’re worth paying.  Your experiences and abilities matter in this world.  Your time, something we can only spend once and never get back, is worth something.  Don’t sell yourself short.

Bend in the Road

The view keeps changing.  Photo by travellersphotoblog.blogspot.com

The view keeps changing. Photo by travelersphotoblog.blogspot.com

This morning, I turned in my very last timesheet for the shelter project.  As of this week, I am done being the CDBG Grant Compliance Coordinator.

I’m a little sad.  I’ve grown  attached to these crazy people, putting up a building during the rainiest season of the year.  I’ve learned so many new words (glacial spall!). I gained a greater appreciation for the way good communication facilitates cooperation. My boss treated me well and I learned a lot from her. Insert moment of silence here.

Okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the city employee who was managing the project got a new job. Her last day was April 8.  Due to some severe budget cuts, nobody else was able to pick the project up.  My boss at the shelter put forward my name to finish it, like she has for the entire project.  She thinks I’m the bee’s knees.  Which I am.  If bees had knees.

Well, the big supervisor at the city listened.  He asked me in person if I’d like it.  I told him I have no background in contracts like the other gal had.  I did have to think about, though I must confess I’m always highly flattered to be offered any job.  Yes, I’m *that* kind of girl. I dropped off my updated resume. We emailed back and forth about responsibilities and salary.  Starting Monday, I’m the one who will be directing the shelter project closeout procedures.  I am a city employee now, for the short-term. I got (nearly) a 1% raise, too. Woot!

Gulp.  I really, really, really don’t want to screw this up.

I’ve got a few key weapons in my arsenal.  I have the 4″ manual handy.  I can contact the project manager at COMMERCE any time with questions or concerns.  I get my own computer and all the old e-files I might need to revisit. I will have access to all the city’s notebooks containing subcontractor information as well as the original plans and specifications.  Kinda like an old IDC project, I guess, but slightly less paperwork.  Instead of  the standard 4,000 drawings on those building projects, I think we’re around 100.

I will work one full-time day a week.  I probably will pick up a few other duties like archiving old projects.  Nobody has done that in a long time, either.  Not my favorite thing to do but I can hang for one day per week.  Who knows what will happen?  I can see God’s timing in all of it.  His favor opened doors for me.

I would really like my life to be more linear. I want explanation and purpose front and center.  I’d like to see what’s coming up next, straight to the horizon.  But life doesn’t happen that way, at least not for me.  It opens up before me like a road.  Some of it is familiar and well-traveled.  Some of it I’ve never seen before, like this portion in front of me now.  I’m at another juncture, and I’m ready to go around the bend, in a good way.

As of this morning, this blog has 200 subscribers.  Thank you, thank you, readers!  Some of you have been with me from the very beginning in October 2011, when I had no idea what I was doing.  Not that I necessarily do *now*…but I appreciate you so much. You honor me with your time.  Your support means so much to me. Blessings to you all.

Give Me Shelter, Part 2

Shelter building

As of this morning, the new shelter/office building looks like this.  I went out there to interview some of the roofing and HVAC guys.

What a difference 6 months can make!  It looks like a real building now, with a roof and everything.  It’s not just a very large hole in the ground anymore.  Amazing!  It’s wonderful to think I get to be a part of something as important as this.  Homeless families in Shelton will have up-to-date  housing and learn skills to help transition them into better lives. I know I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.

Meanwhile, the owner of the rental Jody and his father vacated has returned.  He’s cleaning it up and repairing it for the next occupant.  Sigh.  The cycle continues.

Shelter is one of those of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Remember learning about them?  Wikipedia says:

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these “deficiency needs” are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term Metamotivation to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

Oddly, Maslow never formed them into a pyramid.  I think it’s sort of cool a pyramid is also a shelter of sorts, albeit for dead pharaohs.  Still.

Shelter falls into the orange layer: “security of body”, etc.  Frankly, looking at this list now, the lowest level seems a bit primitive.  But I guess we wouldn’t exist without the ability to breathe or water of some kind.  I’ve lived without knowing what homeostasis was for my entire life.  Think I’ll keep that streak alive.  Maslow also said we move through these needs, back and forth, all the time.  Fascinating.

As I ponder the importance of safety and security, I remember Jody and his family.  I think of the other families who won’t have to be on the street anymore.  I think my own family, snug in our house.  It’s a blessing to have a house of our own.  Sure, we complain sometimes about its foibles.  We can always fix it up.

And yet…what if it burned down? A small fire blazed on the hillside behind our house just last summer.  I heard on the news last night that a fire chief, fighting raging forest fires in Big Sur, California, was the first to lose her house to the insatiable flames.  What then?

Ultimately, the Lord is our shelter.  Always. He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He doesn’t burn down or get flooded out. He is strong and mighty to save.  He is a fortress.  Come what may.

No Shortcuts

shortcut sign

I am sitting in my car, 25 minutes early for a meeting.  The July sun beats down through the windshields, heating up my legs, encased in protective jeans.  The warm breeze floating through the open windows resounds with birdsong and the hum of heavy machinery.  I am, of course, at the shelter job site.  The site abuts a lumber yard and the school district facilities building.

The highway to the job site has been under construction for weeks.  Men and women toiled in the sunshine, digging into the storm drain right under the street.  This is a city project and had nothing to do with our project on the hillside. Because of the slowdown to one lane of open traffic at a time, it took me nearly a half hour to travel 2 miles.  Construction appears compete, natch.  Hence the “early” part of today.

Sitting like a coil of  a snake in bumper-to-bumper traffic seldom happens in Shelton.  A bit frustrated and muttering under my breath, last week I turned left off onto what I thought was a side road paralleling the main drag.  I quickly found railroad tracks and Simpson Lumber!  Surprise!  Turns out the shortcut I sought led right to Simpson’s parking lot, filled with bearded men in matching white hard hats and safety vests.  Go figure.  I turned around, sheepish now, and cautiously crept back to the only artery available.  A kind soul waved me into the line and I resumed my inchworm-like quest.  I squeaked into the weekly meeting right on time. No shortcuts here, sweetheart!

So it is with writing.  You need to read and write and read and write and read and write.  No substitutions. No trades.  It’s you and your muse, whatever he/she looks like and the blank page or screen.  You have to put in the time.  Anything worth having deserves your full attention.  But writing is my dream.  What is your dream, and have you found the most direct route to achieve it?  Taking shortcuts will only hurt you in the end.  If you do need to navigate a U-turn, you can still find your way back from the self-imposed detour.  I should know.