Retirement vs. Recharging Batteries

It’s now been four months since my old job was terminated, and there have been many things happening in the interim. And some very complicated emotions.

So have I been idle? Oh-no-no-no-no… Things around the house which have been neglected are now fixed, and others are on the way to being fixed.

Am I in better shape, physically​? Unfortunately, no… My knees have restricted me from doing many things, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t ask others to help me get things done. And every one and all of you guys have my great gratitude.

And what about the Big R: Retirement? I don’t think so. At this stage of my life, it’d be like giving up. I still have this energy left in me to, as Max Lucado says, “…to make a big deal out of God”.

I think of the difference I’ve made in the places where I’ve worked, and the spark of Life is still alive and dancing within me.

On the other side of the spectrum, I was recently thinking about someone I know who had a “retirement party”, and used the opportunity to tell many stories about how he had inflicted his point of view on others, instead of listening to their life stories and putting an arm around them and accepting them for who they are.

I was saddened by the loss of opportunity: I heard someone who makes great claims about his faith, but had thrown away several chances to reflect Christ in his life by understanding people on a one-to-one basis. Yep, you go getting full of pride, watch out for what it does to you. So yeah, I lost a bunch of respect for the guy that day.

If I should ever have a ‘retirement party’, may some things be true:

  • It’s going to be some time in the future.
  • May I have made a difference in people’s lives.
  • May others be able to speak of me as a strong, quiet, and steadfast friend.
  • And may I have many more friends than I ever realized.

Let’s get back to the present: Here I am, nearing “retirement age”, and yet I still have an energy and drive to give to those things which God would wish me to do: enriching the lives of those with whom I work, making a difference every day with my work, being a friend and a deep resource for my employer, and being able to come home every day, knowing that I have made a difference in God’s world.

Meanwhile, the job hunt goes on: I have a couple opportunities: one, to East of me, and another to the North. The potential of both of these is literally exciting. Even at my age…

I know that God’s hand still rests upon me, and maybe he thinks I’m still useful.

I’m still energized. I’m still able. But most of all, I’m still God’s servant.

Let’s see where this goes.

I’m in for the ride, Lord; let’s go.

The birds have returned!

The last couple of nights, I’ve heard a Ring-Necked Pheasant in the upper meadow. Today, I saw him in the back meadow, looking along the fence, picking up seeds from the dead blackberries.

He reminds me of the ‘lot bell’ that we had where I was an Apprentice Mechanic: we had hoses strung across the lot, and the bell would ‘ding’ when a potential Customer drove in…

This particular pheasant shrieks whenever someone drives by on our dirt road. He kind of reminds me of a temperamental character who always yells, “Get off my lawn!”

Meanwhile, a couple nights ago, I saw a murder of crows, chasing an eagle. But the eagle, zooming along the edge of the Ravine, executed a powerful, graceful, and gorgeous wing-over maneuver that just took my breath away. And the murder of crows could not have a prayer of following the eagle.

Although they all objected loudly, they lost the eagle.

And tonight, the eagle came back to perch on one of our oak trees. The crows were still loudly in pursuit, trying to drive him off. You can always tell when there’s an eagle on the vicinity, from the caphocophany of the crows. Even so, I managed to grab a shot of him, waiting patiently for the crows to give him space.

He’s in the top of that spindly oak, and you can see the crows, giving him a hard time.

A few moments later, he flew off; the crows giving a half-hearted chase, as they knew they’d won. For the moment.

The cold and the rains may have finally let up, for a while. And the raptors have returned, hunting mice and voles; bringing a balance to life on the side of the mountain.

What I’m Giving up for Lent

I’m giving up ‘wrestling the 800-pound gorilla’.

Now before you start laughing at me, that “gorilla” represents my ties to my old job, my worries about getting another one, and my worries about letting-go of full-time employment and entering the tenous world of contracting work.

I feel that God is pulling on me to let go of the security afforded by a salaried job, and to REALLY start trusting him for just enough work to keep the bills paid. I am totally on-board with God that this is another time for major change in my life; just like it was to lose my job seventeen years ago. It was tough then, but maybe I’ve learned something in the intervening years.

Like trust.

When I can open my hands long enough to let go of this ‘gorilla’, I can feel a sense of liberation.

The thing is, I just have to let go long enough. But can I do it for forty days?

Socked-in Days

Our temperatures here on the side of the mountain have finally moderated to something like a year’s normal for this date. Our local weather expert notes that we’ve had roughly FIVE INCHES more precipitation / rain so for this year than normal, also.

There’s still stubborn, isolated patches of snow here and there, but I can now be outside without having to wear my heaviest coat.

Back in November, I posted a pic of our favourite local weather predictor, a wooly-bear caterpillar; his amber stripe covering most of his body. And he was right: we’ve had an unusually cold, snowy, Winter.

It’s not over yet: we have snow in the forecast for the middle of next week.

And today, we’ve been socked-in with clouds so thick you could barely see the trees across the back meadow. Rain, coming hard at times, only added to the depressing bleakness. Its cold distraction wasn’t welcome early this morning when I took a big plate of rolled-up sandwiches down to the church for a funeral in the afternoon.

The damp this afternoon drove me to our little sunroom this evening so I could sit and read, practice the presense of God, and try to listen just a bit. And look what was waiting for me…

Again in the Psalms, from Psalm 37:7…

Be still in the presence on the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

So I spent some time in sharing what was in my heart: worries about being out of work so close to retirement, health for my wife, (whom you may recall has Congestive Heart Failure), wondering if I have reached the end of my race, or if there is other service for me to gladly perform.

I laid all these concerns at the base of his throne, but I am the first to admit that my hands won’t easily let go of them.

In trying to do so, I turned to other reading, trying to ignore the inability to see anything outside.

But patience with the weather paid off! For bare moments, we got a break, and the River of Clouds was there-if just for a moment-shouting, “God IS!!”

I grabbed the closest thing that would make a picture, for this lasted only moments. (You should be able to click to enlarge.)


And it was a tremendous lift to my spirits.

May it be so for yours.

Well, the sink’s fixed…

You could subtitle this, “A Story About Admitting My Age”.

Wednesday morning, I went out to the kitchen to start a pot of tea. I’m drinking tea, in solidarity with my wife, who has to do so because of her Congestive Heart Failure. Coffee on a regular basis is no longer a possibility for her. And as I stepped up to the sink, an old problem reared its soaking wet head: a puddle in front of the sink.

Oh no, NOT again.

We’ve had problems with the sink plumbing on and off, ever since we remodeled. The root cause has always been the disposer, which I bought at the same electrical and plumbing outfit where I’ve bought all the pipe and fixtures for the house – even when we built it, some 26 years ago. The disposer was supposed to be ‘better than the InSinkErator’ that I’d installed when we built the house. But it hadn’t been. The last time, I thought I had it fixed for good, since there were no leaks for a few years.

This time it was the disposer AGAIN. Only now the housing was leaking. Time for a new one, and good riddance, you old SOB.

I mean, really. This disposer had been trouble ever since six months out of its warranty: the torque from it would cause the drain pipes to leak on a regular basis.

I went to get out from under the sink, and the agony from my old shoulder would not let me get to my feet.

After I figured out a way to stand up, my wife looked up a plumber in Angie’s List, and we called. God’s hand was on this, clearly:

They’d had a cancellation and could come out the next day.

And they normally carried InSinkErator disposers (an inexpensive one, and a good one) on the truck.

And the price was good.

And the call time would be after our Thursday Morning Men’s Breakfast.

So after I left the Breakfast a bit early, I wasted no time driving home, and found the plumbers’ truck in the driveway. They had arrived about four minutes before I did. After our ‘good mornings’, I showed them in and to the job at hand.

The disposer removal / replacement went just fine; with the guys replacing all the drain piping under the sink. Good for them – always leave a job with confidence that everything you touch is good.

So then there was this quiet voice in my ear: “Have them check EVERYTHING”.

So I asked them to check and then after a moment I was wondering aloud about the cold-water shutoff for the kitchen faucet.

It was bad, and leaking.

No problem, we have some on the truck; they’re high quality and only $12. turned out to be the cheapest thing about the service call.

So after the house’s water was off, the valve replaced, and new line run from there to the cold side of the faucet, we turned the water back on.

The faucet was leaking also. It had a pinhole in the factory part of the piping. And according to the plumbers, that particular brand, while some 20 years ago was a good brand, is not a good brand any longer. They won’t stock it on their truck.

Because they have problems like this.

I had to buy a new faucet.

But we had more than one problem: My wife had picked out that original faucet for its ‘designer-ey looks. It was in three separate parts – a mixer valve, a spout, and a hand sprayer. I’d had to order that particular faucet way ahead when we did the remodel 12 years ago, because we wanted it in an oil-rubbed-bronze finish. And that kind of finish on any kitchen or even bath faucet is rarely stocked. Here’s exactly what I mean:

price-pfister-gt26-4nuu

So then began the online hunt for a similar faucet in the area.. Depot, all stores in the area – only a couple things in oil-rubbed bronze, but they looked like they belonged in a 50’s derelict farmhouse. Lowe’s, same story, nothing that looked like it belonged in a modern kitchen, in stock. The plumber called his supplier: nothing.

I was beginning to get desperate. No kitchen sink faucet…? HOW would we manage without that?

Then the plumber remembered the name of a wholesale supplier that he’d used only a couple times before. I called, and they had some items, but nothing that sounded really promising. The problem was, the store is WAY far away, all the way across town, and about a half hour North, on top of that. And the plumber was standing idle next to me, burning time at his hourly rate.

But he had an idea: He’d go to his next call, and I’d figure out what to do in the meantime, then he’d come back and install the replacement faucet for us. My wife and I had a conversation about ‘style’,.and we concluded that we would take any faucet, any faucet at all that didn’t look like it came from a hardware store, with that finish. That settled, I began to get the feeling that I needed to take the chance to drive all the way up to the supplier’s store.

I figured it to be most of an hour’s drive, what with side streets and all.

I was on the highway, and about a third of the way to the store, and my cell rang. It was the plumber, asking if I had a faucet for him.  Uh, no. But I had a lead on one, and I needed about an hour to get it home. He said fine, they’d go to lunch, and stop by afterward.

I stepped on the gas and prayed the cops were driving the other direction that morning.

I found the store, and found something that would work okay, and even in the right finish: oil-rubbed-bronze. I used the plumber’s name (Christenson) with them and got a discount, roughly $200 off. Then back in the car and more fast driving until I got home.

I pulled in, and the guys had just pulled up. The faucet install went flawlessly.

And my service call for a leaky disposer ended up with all the plumbing for the sink being brand-new, top to bottom. Literally, the only thing left original to the sink was the sink bowl itself.

We have a guy in our Men’s Breakfast group whom we call “Chief Black Cloud”, because this kind of stuff happens to him all the time. So next week, I will have my own “Black Cloud” story.

And I’m going to sit a little farther away from him next week, in fun.

So let me tell you a bit about what I’ve learned from the plumbers, here. This is good information because these guys are working with it every day.

Currently the best faucet fixtures are made by (in order, top to bottom):

Grohe (if you can afford it)

Moen (which is what I bought)

Delta

Koheler

To avoid:

Box-store brands

Price-Pfister (which is what I had that failed, due to poor quality materials)

I’m really, REALLY, ready for the winter storms to be over…

Almost a month to the day, I wrote something similar while sitting in the home office and looking out the window.  And here I am today, feeling the same thing.

Thursday through Saturday, we watched an ice storm roll in and cover everything with cold slipperiness. All the windows on the North side of the house were turned into pebble glass, and it began to feel as if we were living an endless scene from Frozen.

Saturday brought enough thawing so that we could at least see out the windows, so the icy claustrophobia began to lift. Weather reports brought hope that perhaps today (Sunday) we might be able to go to church, and then to the store to pick up a few would-be-nice-to-haves.

That’s not happening.

This morning we have heavy snow showers, and as of the time to get up for church, about a half-inch accumulation. Remembering that there’s probably still a layer of ice underneath that, we’re staying put. Again.

Time to finish touching up my resume’ before I send it to some friends for proofing, and to begin to put together my new website. Last time I was out of work, I hand-coded my entire website; let’s see if I can avoid that, this time.

Meanwhile:
We have lots to be thankful for: the power is on, which means we have water to drink, and the heat is running, so we’re warm. It’s easy to ‘be still and know that God is’ when it’s this quiet inside and outside.

The snow has let up enough for the trees at the edge of the meadow to show themselves a bit. Those deck railings yesterday had 8″ icicles hanging from them:

Looking forward in confidence

The job hunt has begun.

Fortunately my company has excellent “outplacement resources”, and today I ‘attended’ a webinar that does the basic introduction, description of services, and so on.

There are many things opening up here with the closing of that other door of full-time employment, but I want to make sure that I seek God through all the haste and noise of the changes taking place. Many possible paths await, but I need to have the assurance that I am choosing the correct one.

My wonderful wife assures me that I will know; and she’s okay with me working freelance for a while. I see that as an opportunity to help many people; as a way to serve others and continue to use the gifts that God gave me. There is a balance between the income and the service to others.

I always felt that my job doesn’t define me, but I define my job. I choose to make it both a living and a service by how I approach it.

Service to others is the difference between sitting on your ass and waiting for stuff to come to you; and going out to find how you can be of service to others. I’ve frequently said here in this blog that we need to let others help. It is by offering this help to others that perhaps I can relieve someone of a burden that they would find tedious, but for me it’s a task to which I can apply the gifts God gave me.

This then, is the blending of talents for which God made us. We are all better when we work together.

On to prayerful seeking.