You know, one of those people who sets off their car alarm and then can’t figure out how to turn it OFF.
And I was SITTING in it at the time. Talking on the cell phone to FirstHusband – shouting over the incessant horn:
“Did you know this van had an alarm?”
“No.” (pause) “Do you need me to come help?”
“YES! I can’t figure out how to turn this thing off!”
Finally as I fumbled with the key, the key fob and the door lock, it STOPPED. And I have NO idea what I did to MAKE it stop. I do know what I did to set it off. I got out of the van at the homecoming football game, locked up with the key fob and thought, what’s that blinking red light on the dash? Curious.
I unlocked the van and the blinking light stopped. Curious. I sat down in the driver’s seat and closed the door. Still no blinking red light. hmmm. While still sitting in the van, I locked it with the key fob.
Oh! Look! The little red light on the dash is back. And oh! There’s one on the radio too! I reach for my glasses to read the little words over the blinking light on the radio.
At the exact same time I open the van driver door.
Let the gawking begin.
The little words over the blinking light on the radio?
Good to know.
So it appears there’s one MORE difference between my old van and my new van.
Seriously. Somebody teach me how to dress. Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t want to LEARN how to dress, I just want someone to pick out my clothes for me. Jewelry too, please. And I already have a haircut scheduled for Thursday.
Okay. Got that out of the way. (I’m a woman, of course I’m going to critique my appearance first.)
I had an AMAZING opportunity to deliver the message at my church this weekend for all four services (for Women’s Sunday). LOVED IT! Absolutely LOVED IT! It was a rush, such a a mountaintop high, I’m still not back down on solid ground! SOOOOO much fun! I got to lead music at three of the services too. SO. MUCH. FUN. I’m praying about more opportunities to sing and speak. Here’s about 6 minutes from the 11:00 a.m. service:
Three of the services were videotaped, providing me ample opportunity to analyze myself. I need to identify the weaknesses and work on them. I asked FirstHusband what constructive criticism he had and he said, “I can’t think of anything.”
That’s a good husband. But seriously. Stop blowing rainbows and tell me what I need to fix.
“The grey jacket adds ten pounds and the blue suit is too masculine. You shouldn’t wear pants, you should wear skirts.”
Well, that’s a start.
ADDS ten pounds? That’s all I need. I’m already fighting a battle with my badonka donk butt. I have GOT to go shopping. I wear these suits when I work on client site, usually at law firms. And they are “fine.” But seeing them in this context, FirstHusband was telling the truth.
So, I’ll be fixing that. First I have to find a “hip” (and frugal) friend and
beg them to be my personal stylist ask them to go shopping with me. I’ll buy lunch. And I’ll be following my own advice on alterations.
Now I need to objectively critique my delivery. After the services, I got a lot of positive feedback. It was really very affirming and when I said “thank you so much” and “I really enjoyed doing it” I sincerely meant it. But this is my home church, where “everybody knows your name” as the song goes. So there is a certain element of “polite.”
I think the feedback that meant the most to me were the people who approached me and told me how what I said specifically spoke to them. They told me stories about something in their life or some experience they had which, when I was speaking, was called to their mind. I LOVED hearing those stories. That’s where I got to see God work!
Overall, I’m feeling that maybe, just maybe, God is prompting me to pursue faith-based speaking more intensively. I’m praying and listening and paying attention to anything God brings into my path. I would love to pursue faith-based speaking, don’t get me wrong – BUT, it’s usually night and weekend work and I’m not willing to pursue it at the expense of my commitment to my family. Being there for my family is my top priority. They come first. I’m not saying I can’t EVER work nights or weekends, but, like everything else in life, I need balance. I’ll be making every decision to speak/sing based on whether it is in line with our family’s goals.
To expand on what I’m saying in the following clips, I’m praying that God expand my territory only as far as I can handle without the middle – the core – collapsing. I need a strong foundation in the middle. That’s God. And family.
Blessings Require Change (Part 1 of 3) 7:34 minutes (Evening Service)
Blessings Require Change (Part 2 of 3) 9:19 minutes (Evening Service)
Blessings Require Change (Part 3 of 3) 3:49 minutes (Evening Service)
This Sunday is a very specific answer to a very specific prayer. Here’s what I’ve been praying for months:
“Lord, please allow me to use my voice – speaking and singing – for your glory.”
Here’s the answer:
I’m leading praise and worship for three services at my church this Sunday. AND I’m delivering the message for four services. It’s our annual “Women’s Sunday.”
I’ve led music and spoken at meetings and retreats before. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very comfortable for me. I’ve been a teacher and trainer for over a decade. I can talk in front of people without freaking out. And I’m an extemporaneous speaker. I don’t’ use a script, I use an memorized outline. I know what I’m going to talk about and in what order, but I don’t always know exactly what words I’m going to say.
But right now I know this: I need to stay out of the way and let God work.
I’ve had a very fragmented few weeks. PinkGirl was home sick Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I had client training (online from home). I finally put my website up, spurred by impending compensated work and client inquiry. Last week was full of mini-van transfers and FirstHusband travel, and I was sick and wiped out for days. And then there was the skunk. As of yesterday, I had disjointed fragments of a message floating around in my head and no plan. No outline.
Today, I carved out three hours. The first two hours were spent reading my Bible, writing in my prayer journal and reading a few devotionals. Some might say I wasted my time. I don’t think so. The last hour was all God – filling my head with his message, flowing through my fingertips onto the keyboard. I wrote to sort it out. It’s not a script. I’ve set aside three hours again tomorrow and I’ll follow the same agenda. After it’s all written, I’ll extract an outline and memorize it.
Now, my prayer is still the same: that God will use my voice – singing and speaking – for his glory. I believe in the power of prayer.
Please pray with me?
I don’t know who is lost. Or who survived. I don’t know the name of the biggest loser. I can’t tell you the name of one “real” housewife, whether they are from Hotlanta or PoDunk, Alabama. (Is there really a PoDunk, Alabama?) I have no idea why Kim Kardashian is famous. I don’t know who can dance or what ridiculous thing Michael Scott did this week. (I had to Google Steve Carell to find that name.)
I don’t watch a lot of TV.
Yes, I read a lot. And I blog a little. But over the last six months or so, this is something else I’ve been doing for fun:
I’ve been working on my business website on and off since before my surgery, but I finally put it up on the internet yesterday. And it’s still not done. I’ve got pages missing, PDF downloads to format and upload and most importantly, more content to write. This site replaces an embarrassing predecessor, thank goodness. And if you like to view source code, no laughing. I’m an admitted hack, and I started with a template from www.allwebco.com. You’d think, starting with a template, that it wouldn’t be so much work. I use Dreamweaver, but I work on the code page because I’m such a control freak. Besides, I hate all the clicking that goes with using the mouse. I’m a keyboard girl.
So, if you have some time, I’m looking for opinions. First impressions. Feedback. Suggestions. Anyone get error messages? Did it take too long to load/display? See things that just don’t look right? Typos? Visible code? Pages too wordy? Does the organization make sense to you? What about the banners? Do the images make sense for the pages they represent? (I bought the images on www.dreamstime.com and built the banners in Photoshop.)
Be brutal (in a nice way). But be honest (I think).
So says FirstHusband. AFTER we spent nearly two hours coaxing one out of our FAMILY ROOM!!
OUR. FAMILY. ROOM.
That’s just wrong.
Remember the “squirrel in the chimney” story? All about how we dealt with extracting squirrels from our family room? Four times? Now I understand. God was just providing us with ample practice before we had to get a SKUNK out of the family room.
The facts are these:
It’s Saturday night, around ten till eleven. I’m sitting in my favorite chair, in the family room. FirstHusband is sitting on the couch to the left of me. We’re separated by a small table. And a bowl of popcorn. I’m relaxed. Watching DVR’d Grey’s Anatomy. And I hear a noise. A strange noise. A rustling noise. Next to me. So I look down at the table.
Someone is looking back.
One cat is asleep across the room. The other, asleep in PinkGirl’s bed.
This is not a cat.
I immediately lift my feet and, somehow, although I don’t think I’m breathing, I manage to whisper:
“There’s. a. wild. animal. in. the. house.”
FirstHusband looks confused. Just in case I really didn’t speak out loud and only thought I did. I repeat:
“There’s. a. wild. animal. in. the. house.”
“Under the table.”
And then it registers with me just how close this unidentified wild animal is to ME. I am SO not sitting here for one more second. I throw my legs over the right side of the chair and bolt for the kitchen chairs, inches away. I need to be up high. I don’t know what that thing is. It had a a long, pointy, black nose, beady little eyes and white stripes from it’s nose to the top of its head. This was not a squirrel. I decided it was a badger. A mean badger. A cranky, hungry badger. With rabies. FirstHusband tells me there are no badgers in Florida. I tell him he doesn’t know that. Smart man decided not to try and convince me.
As soon as I got up out of the chair, BeadyEyes took off under the couch. FirstHusband, still not sure what’s going on, gets up and W A L K S to the kitchen table. WALKS? He’s barefoot, for cryin out loud!!! So am I, but I’m standing on a kitchen chair, trying not to fall off. (Why did I ever think twirling, rolling office chairs were a good idea for the kitchen table?)
FirstHusband starts moving things off the floor. Toys. Clothes. Backpack. The adreneline rush is easing off and I’m beginning to doubt myself. Full out wishful thinking. Maybe I didn’t see anything. Maybe it was my imagination.
FirstHusband tips the couch.
“It wasn’t your imagination.”
He saw a white, bushy tail run underneath the recliner at the end of the room. So. We know where it is. I saw the front end. FirstHusband saw the back end. He Googles. I can’t see laptop monitor from my position on top of a stool.
NO. That’s not possible. no No NO. NO skunk in my house!!!! no. No. NO. NO. NO!
I climb down from my stool to look at Google images. sigh. Confirmed. This looks exactly like the face I saw under the table.
So we go through the usual set-up for squirrel extraction. This is routine. We open the sliding door. We make our usual gauntlet to the sliding door. Pool hose is used to seal the gap between the bottom of the couch and the floor. Blankets and pillows stuffed into possible escape paths. Lights dimmed. We watch. We wait. We watch some more. FirstHusband moves the recliner. Nothing. BeadyEyes must have moved. FirstHusband moves all the exercise equipment behind the recliner. Nothing. Where’d he go? We wait. We hear . . . rustling. We watch. FirstHusband says:
“Get the camera. You’re gonna want to blog this.”
Can’t see it? Let’s zooma zooma zooma zoom.
Time crawls. BeadyEyes makes about 20 false starts to crawl up onto and across the fireplace hearth. Finally he makes it. Behind the TV armoire. Which we had attempted to block off with blankets and pillows.
Time crawls. Because you don’t want to startle a skunk. You don’t want to make noises or scare him out of your house – lest he freak out.
Another 20 or so false starts out the door. But it’s COLD outside. Friday, the week before, the heat index was 106 and NOW it’s cold? Over and over again, the little guy comes out from under the TV armoire, and handstand walks all the way to the door. Handstands. Supposedly this is an aggressive posture. Here’s a Google image of it:
When a skunk handstand walks in your family room, you stay back and leave him alone.
Over and over again, he makes it right to the door, gets cold (or cold feet), drops down on all fours and scurries back under the tv armoire. Finally, he’s there. RIGHT THERE. And he comes scurrying into the middle of the room – right toward ME.
I don’t think so. I had a mop. I didn’t try to whack him, I just stuck the mop head in front of him and he did an about face. Right back under the tv armoire. We rearranged our obstacles, learning from our mistakes and . . . waited.
Finally, he peeked out far enough, and we were tired and brave enough to move in and block his return. FirstHusband never moved faster than when he closed that sliding door.
And we prayed again. Thank you God that he’s OUT. Thank you God that he didn’t spray.
The next day, we walked the exterior of the house, looking for possible entry points. Nothin. And I’ve got to wonder how long he had been in the house, because for DAYS, our male cat has been crying with that low “MaaRRoww” cat cry you fellow cat owners know. And he started spraying in the living room again. Right after we closed the door after the skunk, we let the cats out (we had locked them up in the laundry room before we opened the sliding door). Bob the cat was all over the family room, sniffing everywhere. He knew someone had been there. But how long had he known?
So. What have I learned this week? Don’t leave your doors open. And if you see a skunk doing a handstand, back off.
So says PinkGirl. This used to be her brother’s favorite show:
Cyberchase on PBS. Hacker, the villain is voiced by Christopher Lloyd and Didg is voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. I didn’t realize it was still on the air. IMDB shows it still in production through 2008!
I have no idea why I remembered this and searched for it on youtube, but I am seriously loving that PinkGirl is loving it. Very cool!!!
So, just to remind you – here’s a photo of my “old” van, a 2000 Honda Odyssey (which is now functionally repaired and dependably serving its new, growing family):
And here’s a picture of my “new” 2003 Honda Odyssey:
After the accident, I actually said that because I hate change so much, I felt like going out and buying a 2000 Honda Odyssey because I knew where all the buttons were. In reality, I’ve been praying for God to “give me the desire of my heart” when it came to finding a replacement vehicle.
Turns out, the desire of my heart is familiarity. And NO car payment.
It’s a 2003 Honda Odyssey. Red. The funny thing about that is that my 2000 Odyssey was originally white. After Hurricane Charley, it had to be COMPLETELY repainted and I changed the color to red because “If I have to drive a minivan, it should be red.” The “new” van has had one previous owner and they just so happen to live in my same little city. I bought it from a wholesale dealer in a neighboring city (it was on Craigslist). I paid my mechanic a $70 fee to give it a thorough inspection and the first thing on his list was “replace windshield wiper blades.” It’s in great shape. It’s even had the timing chain done already. It even had velcro in the EXACT place I needed it for my expressway pass.
There are few differences, however. First – the inside is CLEAN. Nothing crusty on any surface. It has 15,000 LESS miles on it than the 2000. The turn signal lights are yellow instead of red. There’s an after market tow package. It doesn’t have a 6 CD changer (but I didn’t use it anymore anyway, I used my mp3 player). There’s an ichthus (Christian fish) decal on the back door. Oh, and this one has leather seats. And seat warmers. Which is so very important here in Florida where the heat index was 106 on Friday. In October. If those things are broken, I may never know it.
It also doesn’t need to be unlocked three times before the tailgate will open (FirstHusband just resigned himself to using the key). The knob stays on the air conditioning control. The right passenger door opens without holding the lock back. The radio volume can be controlled on the radio AND the steering wheel instead of just the steering wheel. I can roll the driver’s side window down if it is wet and be confident it will go back up without pulling it with both hands. hmmm. what else?
oh. It DOESN’T have a way to play my mp3 player. I used to have a cassette player and cassette adapter which plugged right in. I’ve used the FM adapters before, but they distort. I’ll just burn CDs for now, but my van is my rehearsal studio, so I’m researching a long term solution. I’ve heard about an aftermarket auxiliary port, so I’m checking that out.
But, as I drove away from the purchase and PinkGirl asked me to turn on the radio, I subconsciously turned it on, tuned it to the right station and pushed the sound to the back of the van. When I realized what I was doing, I started laughing.
Like I said. Familiarity.
“Julie, I know you don’t want any praise for this. I understand you are telling us this to show us what can be done when we open ourselves up to opportunities that God may be placing in front of us all the time and we are too self-absorbed or other-focused to recognize.
How many opportunities have I missed because I didn’t ask the same thing?
I get it.
Stephanie – YES! YES! YES! THAT’S what I’m saying! There are no words to describe way I felt as I watched the new owners drive away from me in that van after the title transfer this afternoon.
Every day, I’ve been asking God to show me more opportunities to serve and, although none have been on this scale (yet), they have been there – EVERY day. Although, honestly, I also have to pray for the motivation and courage to be immediately obedient. When I’m not, sometimes the window of opportunity closes. I hate it when that happens.
(Yo. FirstHusband. You’re with me on the “yet” right? I know you were joking when you asked me not to pray for anyone who needs a kidney. But what about a liver? They regenerate.)
And I have been awestruck at how God has continued to work out the tiniest of details through this entire process. Yesterday, I had the Odyssey, my friends’ car and FirstHusband’s truck. Today, I transferred the Odyssey to the new owners. My friends – whose car I borrowed – were returning from their trip, so I was returning it to them. And FirstHusband was on travel.
I was supposed to purchase my “new” vehicle this afternoon, so the “loss” of all those back-up means of transportation was no big deal. Then that purchase was delayed until tomorrow. Yesterday, three vehicles. Today, not a one.
I had offered to pick my friends up from the airport – in their car. God, in his infinite wisdom and perfect timing worked it out again. I was talking on the cell to FirstHusband, thinking out loud, working through the logistics of it all and he said, “um. Julie? My truck is at the airport.”
In my defense, I am on cold medicine right now. So, I drove to the airport in my friend’s car and drove home in FirstHusband’s truck. (okay. I’m not on THAT much cold medicine.) Hopefully, I’ll be able to purchase my replacement vehicle tomorrow. If not – no big deal – I have the truck! (It’s entertaining to watch me try to PARK a Ford F250, but it gets me where I need to go.)
And my “new” vehicle? I’ll post a photo as soon as I get it. But I gotta tell you. God has a sense of humor. If you already know what it is, don’t tell, but if you don’t, wanna guess?
There are too many people telling me that I did a great thing. No, I didn’t. GOD did this.
The facts are these:
1. I know from driving undependable cars. In my younger days, I was very skilled at driving the lead tow car, pulling my dad as he rode in the dead vehicle being towed. Often, the dead car was MY car. I don’t need the Mythbusters to prove that it is plausible to drive 20 minutes with a strip of pantyhose functioning in the place of a broken fan belt in a 1973 Buick Century. I know VERY well the feeling of getting behind the wheel of a car, key in the ignition, praying “please let it start this time, Lord, PLEASE.”
2. On a Thursday night, I heard about a dad being stranded at Taco Bell with his toddler and preschooler. Stranded by an overheated car. Took me right back to the towing memories.
3. The next Friday morning, I wrote three things in my prayer journal: 1) Lord if there’s some way for me to help them get a dependable vehicle, please show me how. 2) Even if it’s my van, Lord and we end up somehow getting another vehicle. 3) I don’t know where this prayer is coming from Lord, but I’m praying it anyway.
I believe the Lord led me to pray that prayer:
(We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.) Romans 8:26b
4. That night, my husband was rear ended in my van on the Florida turnpike and no one was hurt! That wasn’t what I had in mind when I prayed that morning, but . . . okay.
5. LOTS of people gave me LOTS of advice and help over the next week.
6. THE INSURANCE COMPANY TOTALED MY VAN. THAT was it. At that moment, I had NO VEHICLE. My insurance company was telling me they would no longer insure my van in my name. No way. No how. End of story. They wanted to arrange for pick-up and they would sell it at auction for parts. At THAT moment, I had no van. It was not mine to give. It had been effectively taken away from me already. As soon as I received and deposited the insurance check, it belonged to the insurance company. Again – NOT MINE TO GIVE.
So, I didn’t just give my van away. I offered it in my prayer, not knowing why. One week later, God accepted my gift. Done deal.
7. By then, because of all the advice (see #5), I – and LOTS of other people – had already been praying for God to work this out and show me what he wanted me to do. Remember, the insurance company effectively owned the van at this point. NOT MINE TO GIVE.
8. I offered every suggestion I had learned about (again, see #5) to the insurance agent in an effort to KEEP the van and transfer the title to the family who needed it. Every suggestion was thwarted with “State of Florida won’t allow . . . ” and “Our policy doesn’t allow . . . ” Still, at that point, the van was NOT MINE TO GIVE.
9. I asked the agent if he was a Christian and when he said yes, I just told him the whole story and ended with “God has given me an opportunity to serve and I feel a responsibility to follow it through until the whole thing falls apart. So. You do this every day. How do I solve this problem?” He told me what to do. He transferred me to the adjuster who would review my appeal and while I was on hold I prayed the entire time, giving the conversation to God. God was going to have to change her mind. I was just supposed to ask. GOD was in charge. Still, at that point the van was NOT MINE TO GIVE.
10. The insurance adjuster reclassified the van from “total loss” to “completely repairable.” Technically the van belonged to me again – BUT – only for logistical reasons. The decision was changed because of my intentions for the van. I had already accepted that the van was no longer mine.
I’m just a bailor at this point. The van is still NOT MINE TO GIVE.
It’s now repaired, ready to transfer title. I’m supposed to buy my “new” vehicle tomorrow. Hopefully, I can complete both transfers by day’s end.
GOD is good. Not me. I didn’t do it. GOD did.
I’m completely open to whatever vehicle comes my way and I’m really appreciating all the suggestions and taking them into account as they relate to our budget. (I would LOVE the Honda Pilot, but eek. The price.)
So I’m perusing Craigslist today and I got my laugh of the day! Here’s the description and the BOLD text is why I’m laughing. (I bolded it.) Does this person know a selling point or WHAT?
2001 Honda Odyssey EX 77,500 miles 3.5L engine Forest Green exterior (good condition) with tan cloth interior (excellent condition). Power locks, power windows, AM/FM radio, CD player, A/C blows cold, power steering, cruise control, third row hide away bench, quad seats, power mirrors, air bags, auto. transmission, power sliding doors, rear A/C, rear defroster, ABS brakes, fold away third row, roof side rails, alloy wheels. Clean and in good condition, no accidents, non-smoker. My parents bought this car new in 2001. They are old and I never knew why they wanted a mini- van. It became mine 1 1/2 years ago. No small children have ever been in this van. It is very clean and has low miles for it’s age. I’m selling it because both of my kids are in college and I don’t need a big car.
Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve at least got to TRY get chocolate shake stain off the back seat of my van before it moves on to it’s next little family. They can create their own stains, they don’t need any “pre-existing conditions.”
(If you want to find out why I’m looking for a new vehicle, check it out!)