Last Word



Not this. 

Now that I have your attention…

So I still don’t have a grade for that week 4 paper that got me accused of plagiarism.

It’s now nearing the end of week 8.

I have tried to be patient. I emailed the instructor and my advisor, seeking guidance. Dr. P, the teacher, sent out an email to the class over the weekend: “I’m catching up on grading everything from weeks 1-6 and should be done by end of day Sunday, August 25. As a reminder, the last day to drop a class is Monday, August 26. Please message me if you have questions or concerns over your grades.”

I tried not to make it feel too pointed. Because ever since week 4, my class percentage for PUAD 7025, Ethics in the Public Sector, has hovered at a whopping 49%. Oh, sometimes it goes up and down a few hundredths of a decimal point, depending on the week’s discussion grades, but still, any way you slice it it’s an F.

I have checked in on the week 4 assignment now and then, to visit, and see if it got graded in stealth mode and maybe I didn’t receive one of Capella’s funky emails. But those emails always come, saying “an attempt has been graded in blah blah class”. An attempt, meaning a submitted assignment of some sort. Great vote of confidence, that.

Every time I check it, I see the 0. But it’s not just a 0, folks. It’s a -0. As if to say, “Well, you got a zero, but in case you were blasé or ambivalent about what that score means, now it has a minus attached to it. So there!” The great 0 paper of week 4 sucked my grade down into an enormous, swirling black hole of failure.

“Sue, you need to stop picking at that scab,” Jonathon admonished me. “You can’t do anything more.”

He is right, of course. I have to surrender and be patient; it’s the only place of peace. Capella doesn’t get to decide I’m a failure. And all I can think of are the words that came to mind last Sunday during worship: last word. Jesus has the last word over my life and circumstances. Not some prestigious online university. Not my employers past or present. Not friends and not family. Only Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It ain’t over yet. He gets the last word.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” Revelation 1:8-10



Ball Friday

It’s Friday, and it’s payday. Finally.

Another deep freeze day in the Pacific Northwest. It’s still below freezing, and it’s late morning. The shadows, hidden away from the light, stay cold and slippery.

People got a little testy about yesterday’s commute in. “Why didn’t we get delayed today instead of yesterday? I slipped all over the roads,” they grumbled, including yours truly. I fishtailed all over the highway. This is where we’re supposed to use our best judgment. Well, the roads in Shelton were sanded down nicely. Highway 101 didn’t get the same kind of treatment.

Dakota and I had our ball time. We hung out in the 17-degree air, chasing elusive tennis balls. I threw a brand new one to her. It was gone. Couldn’t find it again. So then the hunt began for a second ball for me to throw. She wasn’t about to surrender the ball in her mouth, her pacifier and lucky charm.


We wandered around the yard. She found one in the grass. What I love about Dakota is that she never holds it against me when I can’t find a ball. She may be disappointed, sure, but she doesn’t get mad at me. She might bark a lot, because she ends up inside sooner than she wants to be. Yet it’s never a long-standing pout. Because there’s always another time to play, another morning, another sunny stretch of afternoon light to romp in.

Eventually, she stood over something in the upper lawn. I sound ritzy saying that, don’t I? We have two patches of lawn, and an orchard out back. The orchard is 7 trees. It’s just a shorthand, not a major fruit producing parcel.

I walked over to where Dakota stood in the crunchy grass. A ball. I dipped the bright green chucker down to pick it up. God bless the person who invented this item. It has saved me many a nasty handful of ball juice/guts/dog drool. The ball, frozen like Alaskan tundra, wouldn’t go into the curved space designed for it. It felt like a frigid lead weight. Instead of a fuzzy orb with a rubber interior, it had no give. I put my foot on it and forced it into the device.

I reached my arm back and flung the ball, freeing it from its keeper. It soared over the yard – not too far – and landed with a thunk. It bounced exactly once: upon impact. The solid innards didn’t allow it any room to respond to the even harder frost-bound ground. It rolled to a stop a foot from where it hit.

How often do we refuse to surrender? The ball seemed an object lesson. We hold onto our ways so tightly, convinced we’re right. I have been in a position to be hard and unyielding about certain things in my life. I thought I had it all figured out. The way to live. The way to worship. The way to love Jonathon and the kids. But I don’t. I need to be able to bounce back when things turn out contrary to what I’d hoped for, prayed for. I need to make sure I have “give” to receive new ideas and new ways of serving, new pathways that open up. I serve the Creator, the most creative and innovative One in the universe. Shouldn’t I be open to His voice and insights? Yes, the Bible has the truth. But the “hows” can shift.   I want to be in His will in all things at all times.

“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

Morning Sonrise

Monday sunrise.jpg

You’ll be happy to know I have my phone today. I’m watching a lovely sunrise outside. It’s supposed to rain nonstop today. I’ll take the break from the wet.

In fact, God’s been hammering on me about something lately. I keep waiting to be gratefyl until everything is perfect and makes sense. What if it doesn’t ever make sense like it did before? Will I stop finding the good in the now? I’m super good at complaining. I could earn myself a merit badge. But that doesn’t edify anyone, especially myself. I can’t keep trusting God and believing for the best if I’m pulling an Eeyore.

The special speaker at church yesterday had a great message about surrender. It all leads back to this. He said something like, “Maybe you’ve got circumstances that left you broken. You don’t understand what happened. You think you’ve made bad choices and God can’t fix it. You’ve prayed about it all and God hasn’t come through. You’re just…done. Will you surrender it all to God and let Him do what He wants?”

I’m heavily paraphrasing what was said, because it was all I could do to keep it together and not sob openly. Sometimes you have seasons where you patch your heart together with bungee cords and duct tape. Yet your heart breaks over and over. You hold the diced pieces in your hands, hoping you can keep going with the fractured bits. You paste on a smile. The weight of failure wearies your soul. You shove the remnants back in position and brace for the next impact. Of course, the newly formed fissure lines can’t take much. Like a surgical incision that never quite closes, even small conflicts force a new wound. You wait in the operating room for the Great Physician to reach down and stitch the patched-up bits back into something whole, something beautiful that glorifies His name.  

So, folks, that’s where I am. I’m surrendered. I’m broken. And I’m waiting. Even here, even now, I will find something to praise Him for.


Adventure is Out There

I’m 5 months out from leaving my job. I know it was the right decision, yet the pain of it has tortured me. I wished and prayed for a different outcome, over and over. It went a different way than I’d wished.

As I drove in this morning, under a sunrise that started out with a red sky and a few silver clouds, and moved to pink and then bright salmon, I thought about how I got here. I thanked God for the growth birthed of the most excruciating times. I thanked Him for leading me to this new position. Peace fills my heart as I drive in each morning. I know have a contribution to make. Many paths lie open to me now.

adventure is out there

It’s so easy to forget the most powerful, peaceful place for a Christian is at surrender. Thy will be done. My will subsumed into Christ’s, every day, all the time.  He doesn’t waste a thing. Want to have a more adventurous, exciting life? Submit your life to Jesus and let Him guide you. You may not understand or sometimes even like the journey, but I guarantee you won’t regret it.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9

Friday Refresh

So we’re all in the house. By “all in”, I mean our stuff is in the building. We’re not unpacked, and my parents still need tomorrow to move the rest of their stuff out. Jonathon painted the living room and the master bedroom right away. They look great. Slowly but surely, we’re settling in.

I went out for a run this morning. I felt really good. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, but streetlights provided adequate light. I varied the route, turning down a side street to add more mileage. I chugged along past the cemetery and the park. I turned back onto the main route. A silver crescent moon and one star hung in the sky. I love how God decorates the sky.

Suddenly, my right calf hurt. A lot. I stopped and walked. The pain didn’t subside. I rubbed it. Still there. I tried running again, hoping it would dissipate. It didn’t. I turned around and walked towards home. Dehydration? Muscle strain? No idea. I sighed.

Instead of getting frustrated, I decided to enjoy the moment. I admired the sunrise. I thought about how great it was to be living in a house where we could host gatherings. I thanked God for my new job, filled with possibilities. By the time I reached the house, I was ready for the day.

So much of this life is not in our control. I’ve been in a long season of “what now?” I’m getting the point. I don’t have to have all the answers, but I need to listen and be open to what’s next. Because He is good, all the time.

Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. – Psalm 17:8


Running on Full

full tank gauge


I stepped out the back door onto the damp ground. The sky lightened as I turned left onto the main drag. Up, up the hill and then straight on until the road ends.

My legs kept up. The hitch in my right hip made a brief guest appearance, then bowed and left the stage. I realized, not for the first time, how fully integrated running and mental health are.

The sky to my left turned a mesmerizing shade of blush. I passed McDonald’s, Oil Can Henry’s, Happy Teriyaki. I ran up the slight hill to where the highway meets the road. I stopped for a moment to breathe and to think.

I haven’t been surrendered. I’ve wanted things my own way. I haven’t responded well to criticism, justifying my response due to its harsh delivery. But in the end, does it matter? Does someone else’s opinion of me change who I am in Christ? Does it negate the gifts He has given me? Do I trust God to keep me in the worst circumstances, or do I try to fix things? “God, I don’t like the direction we’re heading. Here, I’ll take the reins. I know a better way.”

No. I can’t do that.

Yes, I can pray for things to change. And I do that. I seek His wisdom and understanding all the time. I want to speak words of encouragement and kindness. I want to call out the good. But I can’t change people. That’s not my gig. I can’t manipulate scenarios and force people into my mold, good though that mold may be.

I let it all go – the misunderstandings, the bad attitudes, the ugly accusations. I breathed it all out. The air, laden with fragrant flowers, filled my lungs as I inhaled. Peace accompanied it. I put myself squarely in God’s hands,  the only truly safe place. I ran back down the hill to home.

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16


Too Deep For Words


Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S.

Thinking about this passage today:

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”  – Matthew 26:40

The devotional I read today talked about these verses. I mean, the disciples couldn’t stay awake for one hour?! I always thought this snippet of the story made them sound like huge wusses. Or perhaps they fell into a carb coma. But maybe, just maybe, they were prayed out. No more words to say or scriptures to claim. Nothing else to ask for or hope for. Couldn’t examine the situation from any other angle. They were simply done. They surrendered to “come what may”.

The writer suggested that this is where the Holy Spirit stepped in and prayed with “groans too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Perhaps, while they slept, their spirits prayed on. They waited for the inevitable yet dreaded the outcome.

I appreciate this gracious interpretation. It’s okay to have no more words. It’s alright to wait on God. We can receive His peace. We can trust Him when He’s made up His mind. In fact, it just might be the ticket to getting on with things.