Photos, a marathon, a trip to Victoria

I once again find myself horribly behind in blogging!

One of my goals for the summer is to take my camera out to practice taking photos. While it is a used camera I bought from a coworker, it is new to me. I’ve had it sometime. It was actually the camera I took with me to South Africa, but alas, I did not bring the correct lens so was unable to use it. I am enjoying using it.

I have been taking it with me and going on walks. I have been keeping a list of places I want to visit. So far I have been able to go to Kerry Park (I do want to go back in the evening), Volunteer Park, Pioneer Square, and just wandering about here and there on the waterfront, Capitol Hill, I.D. and Central District. You can find the pictures I took in the link below. I will do an Instagram post of some of my favorite murals from my wanderings soon. There have been so many popping up around the city.

 

https://latonjab.shutterfly.com/

Password: italia

In June, I did the Rock and Roll Seattle. It was my sixth half marathon. Next stop is the Seattle Marathon. I am still tracking to do two a year. I wouldn’t mind finding ones that are flatter though. I live in the wrong place to detest hills as much as I do. But it is part of my overall health journey: walking to witness.

 

In May, I went to Victoria for Memorial Day. My friend Alice has moved back to North America, so it was nice to see here. I was able to stay with her, and I plan on returning this summer for another visit. It was nice to have some downtime and catch up with a great friend.

I was able to drive up to the Vancouver area with Kim and Katherine to take the ferry over to Victoria. We left Friday late afternoon to catch the last ferry, but alas, we missed it. We expected the border to be crazy, but also kept running into traffic. We ended up staying the night in Vancouver. I need to go there soon because I forgot what an awesome city it is. It has such a great vibe.

 

You can photos in the same link as the Seattle photos.

I will try to get better at posting! I posted articles from the July issue of the Scroll.

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

This is a piece I wrote for the summer “Editor’s Corner” of the PCC Scroll.

I used sections from the piece I wrote earlier about Chris Cornell.

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/say-hello-to-heaven/

When I heard Chris Cornell had died, I was shocked. I had fallen in love with Grunge during my high school years when I first heard it. Pearl Jam. Sound Garden. Nirvana. Mother Love Bone. The shock of Chris Cornell’s death further increased when I learned his death had been ruled a suicide. Cornell struggled with depression and anxiety, and he was quite open about it. His death made me think long and hard about the internal battle that each of us face daily, often silently.

 

I remembered a young girl who committed suicide some years back. I remember someone saying that we should never make a “permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.” I wondered at her age if she knew that life has ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Nothing is permanent, though in the middle of some seasons it seems like the season will never end. And the sad truth is that people end up at the point where they don’t want to experience the extreme ebbs and flows anymore.

 

Internal battles and struggles can be exhausting and the temptation to give up is very real. The level of despair can get so high. High enough that family, friends and community are not enough to hold a person to this life. Regardless of where you are in life and regardless of your current trials and tests, I beseech you to endure. One of the definitions of the word endure is, “to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding.”

 

There is a quote that I love. It says, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” The saying may be a mesh of two quotes. One is attributed to author James M. Barrie that says, “Be kinder than necessary.” The other is a quote attributed to Plato that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

One thing I find beautiful is that we were designed for community. None of us are meant to walk alone. We are all fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made and there is a community that needs our unique gifts and talents.

 

At the end of the day, people are trying to cope and play the hand they were dealt. Some cope with drugs and alcohol as addicts. Some cope as functioning alcoholics and addicts in nine-to-five jobs. Some cope with sex. Some cope with food. Some cope with God. We all find ways to cope and cling to some hope. We find ways to numb ourselves and numb our pain.

 

One of the beauties of my walk with God is that I have hope. I have hope in this life and in the life to come.

 

In the end, what I am trying to say is be kind. It doesn’t matter how successful a person may seem on the outside, or how happy a person may seem on the outside. You never know what a person is dealing with or going through. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. And above all, endure. Fight because the gifts within you are valuable, sacred and needed. Fight because your life, presence and being are precious. Fight.

 

 

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

The “Word of the Quarter” section from the summer PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the Scroll, we are concluding the overarching theme of “How Do We Arm Ourselves without Giving into and Operating Out of Fear.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Changing Our Viewpoint.” In the winter issue, we continued with the theme of “Where is the Real Battle?” In the spring issue, we continued with the theme of “Get in the Fight.” In this summer issue, we complete the overarching theme with the theme of “Enduring the Fight.”

 

When the editing team met to write the “Word of the Quarter,” we discussed that to endure the fight, you needed to be equipped with the correct tools and have a strategy for endurance.

 

Imagine yourself as a boxer in a match. You must pace yourself to fight 12 rounds that will last three minutes each. It is rare that a fight is won in one blow, so you must be prepared and trained to fight the entire match. Between rounds, you will be given advice from your coach. Your coach may have noticed a weakness in your opponent they want you to exploit. In some cases, your coach may have to re-strategize because your enemy has shown moves that were not anticipated and are very effective against you. All the while a team of trainers and medical staff are tending you. They are giving you Gatorade, encouragement and treating any wounds.

 

But before you even stepped into the ring, you prepared with your coach and trainers. You watched film on your opponent. You studied their weaknesses and their strengths, and you saw their tactics. You practiced on when to advance on your opponent and when to retreat. You trained on how to block their shots and learned which of their punches had the most power. You repeatedly rehearsed doing jabs and uppercuts. You learned how to lead with your entire body to produce a powerful blow. You surrounded yourself with a team of people who gave you advice. You secured all the necessary equipment, like your mouth guard and your gloves.

 

Guess what? Your opponent also analyzed you. Your opponent also trained and secured their equipment. Your opponent learned your weaknesses because they studied you. Your opponent will attack and come after you in these areas. Just look at the example of Job. The devil attacked his wealth, family and health. You must equip yourself with the armor of God, and keep your armor on! Sharpen your awareness of the devil’s tactics, discerning when to advance and when to retreat. Sharpen your ability to recognize the voice of God so that He can direct you, and yield to His direction and lead.

 

Develop an understanding of your own personal weaknesses so that you can guard against them. Also know that you are not meant to fight alone and choose your community/team wisely. It is important to protect yourself and surround yourself with people who are praying for you, believing in you and rooting for you. Exercise spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service, giving, solitude (in the presence of the Lord), meditating on the Word, etc. Stay in shape, and stay strong in the power of His might!

 

We invite you to study the following scriptures about endurance: James 1:4, Matthew 24:13, Isaiah 40:31, Revelation 3:10-11 (NIV) and Ecclesiastes 9:11. Above all, we invite you to endure.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Paul

The Men of the Bible section from the summer newsletter.

Name: Paul

Meaning: Little

His Character: Paul had an intense, strong personality. This intensity was evident in the mercilessness of his persecution of Christians as well as the passion of his strong faith and love for Jesus Christ after his road to Damascus experience.

His Sorrow: Paul was an early persecutor of Christians, and he was a witness and approver of Stephen’s stoning. Because of his past behavior, his initial conversion was met with skepticism and suspicion.

His Triumph: After his encounter with Christ, Paul was a force in the early Christian church. He wrote most of the books of the New Testament and strongly believed that the Gospel should be preached to Gentiles.

Key Scriptures: Acts 7:58-28:31, the Pauline Epistles

The Apostle Paul was one of the key figures who shaped early Christian history. Because of his belief that salvation should be offered to the Gentiles, he is known as the Apostle of the Gentiles.

 

Paul’s story had an interesting beginning. He was born in Tarsus and trained as a Pharisee. Paul was a Jew, and he was educated in Greek culture. He was also a Roman citizen. All of this would be used later in life.

 

Then known as Saul, he was a Pharisee (and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin), and he knew the law. He felt that Christianity was a threat to Judaism, so he relentlessly set out to destroy it. Saul’s mission was to end the Christian church. He was responsible for many Christian men and women being imprisoned, persecuted and, in some cases, put to death.

 

Saul was a persecutor of Christians until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After that encounter, he had a name change from Saul to Paul. Paul’s intensity remained the same. It just shifted to telling the world about Christ. He would make three missionary journeys across the Roman Empire during his lifetime. Paul went from being the church’s greatest persecutor to the leader in spreading the Gospel, especially to the Gentiles, throughout the empire.

 

People were amazed by his transformation. Saul, who had gone to Damascus to arrest Christians, ended up preaching about Jesus after several days with Ananias and other believers in the city. He left Damascus as Paul. He had to be smuggled out of the city because Jews now sought to kill him. He went to Jerusalem where he spent time with Peter. As was to be expected, he was greeted with suspicion because of his sudden change in belief, but his transformation was true and complete.

 

God used Paul’s Roman citizenship, knowledge and weaknesses to the glory of His Kingdom. He is a great example that none are beyond the grace of God. Paul mentioned dealing with a “thorn in his flesh.” What this thorn was has been debated. What we do know is that Paul continued despite whatever it was. Paul faced his persecution with faith and courage and was an example to other Christians to do the same. He was very open about the hardships he endured as he sought to preach the Gospel. Paul was beaten, imprisoned and his life was threatened.

 

Even when imprisoned, Paul kept the faith. He wrote letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and to Philemon. He also wrote letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Romans and Thessalonians. He was also a mentor to Timothy and others. 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributed to him.

 

It is believed that Paul was beheaded during the Emperor Nero’s persecution of the church. Paul ran his race and kept his fight. He endured until his end. He is a great example of enduring the fight.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

The “Your Money Matter” section of the summer newsletter.

In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Habit 2 is “Begin with the end in mind.” The section begins by asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It goes on to ask the reader are they where they wanted to be. It makes the point that if your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, every step you are taking is getting you closer to the wrong place. This makes achievements meaningless and empty.

 

In some ways, the discipline to achieve short-term goals is easier than the discipline to achieve long-term goals. With goals that stretch out for years (like retirement planning), it can be hard to keep the end goal in sight because it seems so far away. In your twenties, retirement seems like a lifetime away.

 

Habit 2 is all about letting your imagination go and this step can help you think about how you want your life to look when you retire. The book talks about things being created twice. First things are created mentally and then they are created physically.

 

Financial planners often ask you a series of questions when they are helping you plan for retirement. At what age do you want to retire? How much money would you like to have by that age? How much money will you need in your monthly budget when you retire? What sources of income will you have when you retire? Will you have your mortgage paid off when you retire?

 

You can envision what you want to do in retirement. Do you want to travel a lot when you retire? I know that I do and that will require some extra savings. Do you want to sell your house and move into a smaller place like a condo or a retirement community? Do you want to retire overseas or in another state? Do you have any known medical conditions you need to plan for (or a family history of things that could surface)? As you answer the questions, it helps inform how much money you will need to save for your retirement.

 

The book talks about creating a Personal Mission Statement. You write down how you want things to be. You write your goals down, reaffirm them and move toward them. One reason to keep the end goal in sight is because it will motivate you to work toward it. As you are saving for retirement, keeping a picture of the vision on your bathroom mirror will keep you focused on your goal. Then, when you have a choice between putting money toward your retirement or a big money item you want to purchase and are tempted to dip into your retirement accounts, your retirement wins.

 

I was talking to an economist over a year ago. He said that people his age (late fifties) raided their 401ks and IRAs when the market fell. Although it helped in the here and now, it will impact them down the road when they retire. Many will need to retire at a later age.

 

Keeping the end in mind could also be applied to shorter-term goals like paying off your mortgage, saving for a vacation or paying off credit card debt. When temptation rears its head for short-term pleasure, it can be combatted by longer-term financial goals.

 

At the end of the day, when handling money, try to think long-term. Don’t make snap decisions. Today’s choices will have long-term consequences down the road, so keep your desired end in mind.

 

Reflections from a “free lunch” kid

When I was in elementary school, my aunt’s selection of color crayons was always a pain point for me. Each year, we would get the smallest pack, which I believe was an eight pack. To add insult to my injury, it would mostly be the generic brand. I remember staring longingly at the 64 pack Crayola that my BFF at the time always got. I would look down at my crayons and declare with a shaky internal child voice that, “When I had kids, they would always get the 64 pack.”

I was a free lunch kid from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The program eventually expanded to cover breakfast. I can remember that some years the teacher would discreetly give us “free lunch” kids our meal tickets. Other teachers made the production of calling us out to get them. Were those tickets a different color than people whose parents paid for their lunch? I would stare at the lunches Jody brought from home. They always looked so much better. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really good lunches. In elementary school, a favorite was turkey gravy over mashed potatoes with a roll and trail mix. But again that internal child voice would surface about what I would do when I had kids.

Other things stand out. If something like toilet paper was on sale with a coupon, we would all be queued up in line with our coupon, money and toilet paper, sugar or whatever the important item was. I remember government choose, beans, peanut butter, applesauce, etc. I can remember going away for sporting games in junior and high school and my aunt giving me a few dollars to buy dinner after the game. I barely had enough for a burger, and again that voice, which at that point in time had gotten resentful, would surface. I was so sure what I would do when I had kids. Even things like McDonald’s. We only got McDonald’s a handful of times when I was growing up. It was a meal that we ate so slowly and savored.

We always had new clothes for the first day of school. I think most times we got enough to last a few days with a “You’ll get more later,” fib attached. As the youngest girl, I was lucky since I had hand me downs. When I got my first job, my aunt made it very clear that I was on my own for new school clothes since I had a job. It was at this point, that I began to get it. Money didn’t grow on trees. We also had to buy stuff for the house, and like my aunt, I was looking at the sale ads for coupons. I should probably mention that my aunt raised me and my sisters and her four kids. At one point, there were seven of us kids.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized we were poor. It was when I saw my aunt making macaroni and cheese with government cheese and Top Roman noodles that I got it. My aunt had done all she could do to stretch her money. I have mentioned before that it is very weird to transition to a different socio-economic position than you grow up in. Yet and still, I still know how to stretch a dollar. Nothing gets wasted. A former roommate used to tease me how I would use the bar soap down until it was nothing, but that is what we did.

I say all of that to say this, as a child who grew up in the welfare system from free meals, food stamps, medical coupons, government food, etc., I can see the difference those services made in my life. As an adult, I realize that those services weren’t “free.” But, as an adult, I can also say that the tax dollars I pay in my adult life are a testimony to how important those services are. You can’t tell me that a child who is hungry is going to be able to do well in school. You can’t tell me that a child who is sick and without the means to go a doctor is going to get better.

Based on what I can see, the proposed healthcare and budget set forth by the current administration will do more harm than good to the poor, sick and elderly. Let’s look at the Christian Bible. The tenet of the Christian faith is pretty basic. It can be summed up in one word: Love. If you are foaming out of your mouth spreading hate and discord, you simply have not met the person who said to love your neighbor as yourself. You have not opened a Bible that is filled with scriptures about caring for those marginalized, poor and oppressed. I invite you to read the following scriptures: Proverbs 31:9, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 146:9, Psalm 82:3, Deuteronomy 14:29, James 1:27, Isaiah 1:23 and Jeremiah 22:3.

What bothers me the most is that we have people who profess to be Christians signing off on the travesty that is the Trump administration. His conduct pre- and post-election was and is abhorrent. I believe that everyone’s path to God is their own, but I do wonder who on earth some of these people met because it is not the God of love who I know.

Are there people who abuse the system? Of course, but I can tell you having grown up in the system that it isn’t glamorous with people eating steak and lobster every meal. I never went hungry, but you can bet we weren’t living high on the hog either.

“Say Hello to Heaven”

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

I love this saying. It may be a mesh of two quotes. One is attributed to author James M. Barrie that says, “Be kinder than necessary.” The other is a quote attributed to Plato that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

When I heard Chris Cornell had died, I was shocked. Growing up in Eastern Washington, my taste in music leaned toward heavy metal and hard rock. I can remember staying up on the weekends to watch the Headbangers Ball. One night, Eddie Vedder and another member of Pearl Jam were on the show, but I had not heard any of their music. I remember hearing the opening chords of “Alive” and thinking, ‘Oh yeah.’ I fell in love with Grunge. Pearl Jam. Sound Garden. Nirvana. Later I discovered Mother Love Bone and with the them a wonderment of what could have been, if.

The shock of Chris Cornell’s death increased when I learned the death had been labeled a suicide. It made me think of the internal battle that each of us face daily, often silently. And as I listened to the Temple of the Dog album, an album dedicated to the memory of Andrew Wood, I heard the songs in a different light.

As a writer, I put a little bit of myself in all my writing, and I began to wonder how much of the album was a personal cry, specifically the songs “Times of Trouble,” “Say Hello to Heaven” and “Four Walled World.” The lyrics meaning are somehow different, but I can’t find the words to adequately express why. Or I am self-censoring, not putting it into words because they sound wrong to my ears.

There was a family who attended my church. The family moved on, but what felt like a few years later, we got the news that the daughter had committed suicide. She was probably 12 or 13 at the time. I remember someone saying that we should never make a “permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.” I wondered at her age if she knew that life has ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Nothing is permanent. I began to wonder at what age do we comprehend the constant changes of season of life.

I realize that in the middle of some seasons, the end seems so far away. You silently cry out, ‘How long?’ Before any judgment, there should be compassion as to what level of despair a person must be in to take their own life. I would not call it selfishness or cowardliness. That is not my judgement to make. I have no idea of what their battle is. The level of despair would have to be high if things like family, friends and community are not enough to hold a person to this life.

Having dealt with depression, my reaction isn’t that the person should just snap out of it. I don’t know what the answer is, but for me it was learning to challenge the sometimes overwhelming thoughts that were crowded in my head. This constant challenge can be mentally exhausting, which is when I just go to sleep.

Learning to challenge my internal world changed my writing. I spent years writing out of my pain and despair. In some ways, it seemed like it was supposed to be that way. Dickinson. Poe. It just seemed that the price to write was to go through the valley to create. That has changed for me over the years in terms of writing. I was talking to my sister about drug and alcohol use in the creative process. Writing (or creating) sober, we self-censor and we hold back, as I am doing now. We also talked about the impact depression and trauma bring to the creative process. Perhaps the beauty in the rawness from writing from deep pain is that a filter is somehow removed there as well. As an artist, we become more open and more honest. For me, the urge of melancholy still exists like a shadow that follows me everywhere I go. It wants to consume me and overtake me. I find that human touch helps. The touch connects me to something/someone here.

I was thinking about Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Amy Winehouse, Scott Weiland and now Chris Cornell. All super talented and gifted. All gone way too fast. It is way too easy to dismiss their deaths and blame alcohol and drugs. We are all coping. Some cope with drugs and alcohol as addicts. Some cope as functioning alcoholics and addicts in nine-to-five jobs. Some cope with sex. Some cope with food. Some cope with God. We all just find ways to cope and cling to some hope. We find ways to numb ourselves and numb our pain.

In this current season, I find myself longing for something. Have you ever felt a yearning deep in your soul? Whatever it is sometimes feels close, but then it feels far away. The right song can bring that longing. The question becomes is that longing for something behind me or something in front of me. The yearning is enough to make me want to cry out in frustration as to what it is I am longing for. What it is that will fill the emptiness and void of whatever is missing.

In the end, what I am trying to say is be kind. It doesn’t matter how successful a person may seem on the outside, or how happy a person may seem on the outside. You never know what a person is dealing with or going through. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself.