What time did you wake up? PinkGirl came in our room at 8:52am.
I told her the time was too weird to get up and I had to snooze for 8 minutes.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Orlando anymore. #mykindamovietheater
“Julie’s road trip driving tips:
1. If your vehicle has cruise control, it must be used.
2. If you set the cruise control on your vehicle, leave it alone. seriously.
3. If you feel compelled to constantly change the speed of the cruise control, let someone else drive.
4. If you pull in front of me and tap your brakes, my family will be forced to hear the nonsensical rant of Yosemite Sam until I can pass you. and probably for at least 60 to 90 seconds after that. #homesweethome ”
“Out with the old (1996), in with the new. I can’t believe I actually picked FLOWERS on purpose.
“I love the sound of my kids laughing together. #dontblink”
“My daughter is so lucky I only post stuff about her with her permission. so. very. very. lucky. #ilovemydaughter”
“Waiting for PinkGirl in car line. I’m gonna miss this when FavoriteSon’s classes start. I’ll only get to drive his car on Fridays.”
After the National Championship game that night:
“The Mills men will sleep soundly tonight. Eventually.”
“Setting up Outlook 2013 on my new desktop. Just Googled “Outlook 2013 ugly” #ewww”
“This just seems like a band who got tired of trying to think of a name.
Maybe there’s artistic quirkiness or deep profoundness I’m unaware of.”
“This is what PinkGirl looked like when she got in the car after school today. #ilovemydaughter”
“In my dream last night, James Garner was a drug dealer. But I think it was okay because he was the one buying the drugs from himself. And the drug turned out to be a very rare cheese. #ihavenoidea”
In a previous post, entitled “I’m not your ‘fun’ friend.” I said I didn’t have a lot of patience for “surface” conversation because I have issues and that you either get used to me or you avoid me.(CLICK HERE to read that post.)
It set me thinking about why I’m so intense about life and so overly aware of lost opportunity.
I’m skipping over #2 because I’ve been thinking a lot about #3 lately.
Death. What do I mean by that? Let me tell you a story.
On Tuesday, January 12, 1988, Lee, an attorney, went to a meeting at a doctor’s office with Roger, a potential client. Roger wanted Lee to represent him in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The case had been tried before, but Roger had lost. The consult with the doctor that afternoon was intended to help Lee determine if Roger’s claims of medical malpractice were valid. Based on the doctor’s review and opinion of Roger’s medical records, Lee would make a decision to take Roger’s case or decline.
He decided not to take the case.
The meeting concluded and the doctor later recalled hearing Lee say ”Let’s go home and see our children.” Just moments later, as Lee still sat in his chair, putting papers into his briefcase, Roger calmly and quietly pulled out a .25-caliber handgun, put it to Lee’s right temple and pulled the trigger.
Two more shots were fired before the doctor managed to wrench the gun out of Roger’s hand and when Roger tried to run away, the doctor, his body coursing with adrenaline, chased him down and tackled him, pinning him until police arrived. Roger was arrested and just a few weeks later, he tried to end his life by shoving a 6 inch ball point pen 5 inches into his chest and 3.5 inches into his heart. When they found him, he apologized for failing to kill himself.
I didn’t know Roger. I knew Lee.
I was 23 when he was murdered. He had taken a risk hiring a 21 year old college dropout with no legal experience to work as his secretary. I spent 18 months working for him before I quit to go back to school. At that time, he was a sole practitioner, so most of those 18 months, it was just the two of us working alone in a small office. He used to walk around the office in sock feet while the shoeshine guy in the lobby shined his shoes, he would forget to turn off his tape recorder after he finished dictating in the car and would accidently record himself singing to the radio and he’s the only person I ever met who actually did break a tooth by chewing ice. I washed his coffee mug every day, picked up his lunch orders, and accidently saw him in his skivvies when he walked into his garage not knowing I was in there talking to his wife. I was his house sitter, his dog sitter and his baby sitter.
For nearly 18 months, I spent five days a week working in an office alone with that man and I never, not once, shared my faith with him.
To this day, when thoughts of Lee enter my mind, they are immediately followed by this one: If that man is in Hell, I had something to do with it.
In those 18 months, I had multiple opportunities to initiate a discussion about faith. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of them. I let each and every one pass.
Because I was 22. I was undereducated compared to him. He was important and he was professional and he was intelligent. And I was intimidated. So I stayed safely silent.
When Lee left his house that Tuesday morning in 1988, it never even crossed his mind that he would be shot in the head at point-blank range by a bitter, 72 year old man. When the doctor greeted his visitors that afternoon, he had no idea that less than an hour later, he would save his own life by wrestling a gun out of someone’s hand. When the paralegal left her routine office job that afternoon to attend a simple meeting, she had no idea she would see her boss murdered right before her eyes. When Lee said goodbye to his wife that morning, she had no idea it would be the last time she ever saw him alive. When he hugged and kissed his two little girls goodnight on Monday, they had no idea it was be the last time they felt their daddy’s arms around them.
When I left that job, I had no idea that my lack of courage would later leave me filled with regret; that my choice to stay within the boundaries of my comfort zone would result in such serious or long lasting discomfort; that I would forever wish that I had said something about my faith in Jesus Christ.
But wishing don’t make it so.
Is it possible that Lee was a Christian and I just never knew it? Sure. But that’s not the point. The point is that I didn’t know. How is that possible? This wasn’t a strained, formal or awkward relationship. I was comfortable talking to him from the moment I met him. My job interview took place in his car while he made an emergency trip to the mall to rescue his wife and baby daughter after she locked her keys inside her car.
It’s just wrong that I knew he wore tighty whities but didn’t know if he knew Jesus Christ. And yes. I do know how weird that sounds, but stay with me people, I’m making a point here.
Time’s a wastin.
We all have opportunities to talk to people about how are lives are different as a result of our relationship with Christ. Every single one of us. Every. single. day. Without exception. But if we aren’t intentional about our choices, those opportunities expire.
Sometimes, we don’t get a second chance.
Life is too short to waste it. People are dying every day. People will wake up in the morning and have no idea that it will be their last day on earth – or a loved one’s last day on earth. And too many of us spend this precious gift of time focused on things that fade away. Too many of us slink away from the difficult conversations because it’s easier to talk about “surface” stuff. Too many of us are afraid to look someone directly, maybe even uncomfortably, in the eye and ask, “How are you, really?”
God gives me opportunities to serve Him EVERY day. Every day, multiple times, I choose to ignore Him or obey Him. My prayer is that I choose the latter much, much more often than the former. Because, in the end, after I’ve spent my last day on earth, I’m desperate for God to say “Well done.“
In my previous post, entitled “I’m not your “fun” friend.” I said the reason I prefer “real” conversation over “surface” conversation is because I have “issues” and that you either get used to me or you avoid me. (CLICK HERE to read that post – it’s short.)
I’ve been thinking about why I’m so intense about everything. Why do I prefer the deeper conversations? Why am I addicted to learning? What is this freakish obsession I have with setting and moving toward goals? Why does the word “can’t” challenge me to defy it? Why is good enough NOT good enough? Why am I so competitive, even with myself? Why am I so passionate about encouraging other people figure out what they want and GO AFTER IT? Why am I so relentless about being actively engaged in an intimate relationship with God – and inspiring others to do the same?
Why am I so intense about LIFE?
I’ve always been overly aware of the passing of time. Of missed opportunity. Lost opportunity.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about why and I immediately came up with four reasons:
1. Saturday mornings
2. TV Overdose
4. Preparation meets opportunity
Saturday mornings were the first thing to come to mind.
I grew up with a mom who loved to sleep.
When I was little, every Saturday was the same. I would wake up early, because, well, I was a little kid. I would crack open my bedroom door and slowly, as quietly as I possibly could, sneak into the kitchen for some cereal. It was slow progress, because the goal was to be completely, totally silent.
The goal was to NOT wake up my mother.
My dad usually worked on Saturday, and he was out of the house early. My mom’s bedroom door was between my room and the kitchen. The kitchen and her bedroom were connected by a wall. Another bedroom wall – the wall with her bedroom door on it – connected to the living room. Where the TV was.
All I wanted to do was get some cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Simple. Kid simple.
Sometimes, I pulled it off. Slowly and silently opening the normally squeaky metal bifold door of the pantry, getting the cereal box down, silently opening the cabinet for a bowl. Silently opening the fridge for the milk by prying the rubber seal open with my fingers instead of pulling the door handle which would have resulted in the sound of the vacuum being broken. Pouring the cereal was the tough part. There’s nothing silent about Lucky Charms hitting melmac. Sometimes, that would be my undoing. Other days, I got lucky and made it through.
Then came the most difficult part. I’d take my cereal bowl into the living room and sit crisscross applesauce, arm’s length from the TV. Volume controls were manual dials back then, so I could turn the volume all the way down before I even turned on the TV. Then came another tense moment. Pulling the TV power knob on made a click noise. Then the electronic hum that followed as the TV warmed up. Sometimes that was as far as I got.
Other days, I made it through. Then came the channel. The good news was that there were only three to choose from: 2, 6 and 9, so I stood a 33% chance that the channel was already tuned to the show I wanted to watch. Other days, I was paralyzed by the dilemma. Do I watch something I didn’t want to or risk turning the knob? Eventually, I got very good at stealth channel changing: a tight, full-handed grip with a s-l-o-w turn. The worst days were when the channel was on 2. Channel 6 to 9 and 9 to 6 were a breeze. But switch between channels 2 and 9? I’d just watch Heckle and Jeckle.
Once I made it to the channel I wanted, there was no sense of relief. The volume was still all the way down.
This part was something I couldn’t really control, but I still tried. I would sit, still arm’s length from the TV, and slowly turn up the volume until I could hear it. Watching a show required constant monitoring. Turn the volume up for dialog, down for music and effects. When I did get caught, it was music and effects that got me every time.
Sometimes, I got lucky. There was only a voice, calling my name. I would turn the volume all the way down and wait. Silently. Other times, I would turn the TV off and slink to the kitchen with my cereal bowl and silently – always silently – put it in the sink. Or even better, slip back into my bedroom with the bowl and shut the door. That way, if she actually got up and opened her bedroom door to look in the living room, there would be no evidence I was ever there. Unless she walked over and touched the top of the TV. If it was warm, I was discovered. More often than not, she would just look out and then go back to bed. I would wait for a while and start again.
For as many times as I made it, there were just as many times as I got caught. The consequences? Get into my mom’s bed with her and stay there until she woke up. Which – on Saturdays, never ever happened before noon.
The sun would be streaming through the window and my mom would be asleep next to me. Notice I didn’t say “sound” asleep. The slightest movement on my part would be immediately met with “be still.” In an effort to keep me safe and protected while she slept, she would reach one arm over and gently place her hand on my arm or my leg. The slightest movement on my part would wake her. I literally watched minutes tick by on a clock. Way, way, way too many minutes.
How has this manifested itself in me?
I hate sleep.
Literally. I just don’t like it. When I sleep, I feel like I’m missing stuff. Opportunities. Experiences. Life. Sometimes, I think that the only reason I can sleep at night is because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody else is sleeping, so I might as well get it over with. I don’t often nap. I have to be non-functionally exhausted or sick to intentionally take a nap.
I think this sense of missing out on life is one reason I’m so focused on “real” conversation with people. Why I can’t take too much “surface” talk before I start asking people questions about themselves. Why I crave conversations that make me think, that open my mind to perspectives other than my own.
It’s why I don’t “do nothing” well. I’ve done enough “nothing” to last me the rest of my life.
“Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.” She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped. 2 Kings 4:3-6 (The Message)
When I was a little girl, I used to pray for an unextraordinary life.
I thought that blessings were limited and were balanced with tragedy – things I feared. There was this imaginary teeter-totter in my head. All the blessings were piled on one seat while challenges and troubles were precariously stacked on the other. One blessing too much would tip the balance and God would have to step in and even things up.
I figured, if nothing really great happened to me, then nothing really bad would happen to me. So I prayed for a balanced teeter-totter.
It was safe.
Kid theology at it’s finest.
I rarely asked for blessings in my life, because in my mind, a blessing would always come with some sort of down side. And the down side wouldn’t always be in my life. If I experienced a blessing, I was always looking for where God would even it up. Who would get the trial? Would it be me? One of my parents? My siblings? Friends?
And there were degrees of blessings and trials. If I got to go to Disney World, some kid out there didn’t – because they came down with strep throat. If my family won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweeptakes? Someone. might. die.
The blessings I already experienced weren’t often recognized. “Normal” life was taken for granted. I viewed blessings like prizes. Extraordinary.
Like I said. Kid theology at its finest.
It was a long time coming, but these days, I understand that God’s grace – and his blessings – are unlimited (and that teeter-totters are only good for broken tailbones or a chin full of stitches). When I’ve experienced trials in my life, sure God might have sent them, but it’s just as likely He allowed them. Either way, He’s promised that He will work it all for good. Even when, from my own perspective, it didn’t seem like it was for my good.
Looking back at my life, I can see blessings in what I once thought were just trials. Of course, I don’t see a blessing in every trial, but I still believe God worked it for good. Maybe someone else was blessed as a result of some trial God sent or allowed in my life. That doesn’t mean they got a blessing and God evened up the teeter-totter with me.
I’m acutely aware of the truth behind the idea that we are who we are because of everything we’ve been through. Today, I’m praying that God will use the challenges I’ve lived through – and learned through – to bless someone else. I’m praying that – the relentless and exasperating optimist I am – I can be a source of hope and encouragement to someone who might need it.
Today, I’m not afraid to ask God to bless me in an extraordinary way. I don’t need an abundance of jars so God’s blessing will continue to flow. I need one life, continuously open for Him to fill with blessings. Even if the blessings are sometimes disguised as trials.
“It is our faith that fails, not his promise. He gives above what we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them—enough for all, enough for each. Was not this pot of oil exhausted as long as there were any vessels to be filled from it?” Matthew Henry
As I watched someone pour Welches grape juice into a goblet, it occurred to me – not for the first time – that I don’t get it.
What am I missing?
When the sacrament of Holy Communion begins during a church service, I begin praying. I intentionally focus my heart and mind completely on God and the examination of my life, the confession of my sins, repentance, genuine and profound thanks for the sacrifice and redeeming blood of Christ. Then an usher steps next to my pew and my focus on intimate prayer is broken. I’m supposed to get up, walk to the front of the church and eat a piece of bread and drink grape juice out of a tiny plastic cup or dip the bread into a goblet. Like an Oreo in milk.
That may sound disrespectful, but if I’m honest, that’s what I think of when I do it. God already knows that’s in my head whether I type it out loud or not.
So here’s the question: Why does the sacrament of Holy Communion feel like an interruption to that intimate prayer instead of the culmination of it?
I don’t know.
I’ve been thinking about it and this is where my mind went:
When I was in junior high (these days they call it middle school), I went through two years of confirmation classes in the Lutheran church before I was allowed to take communion for the first time. My memory tells me we went through the same curriculum twice but I’m sure I’m wrong. It just felt like it.
The best part were the snacks. Those little flower shaped butter cookies with the hole in the middle that you could stick your fingers through so you could eat your way around them in circles.
But I digress.
I remember dreading confirmation class. They used words I never understood and they didn’t explain, like “Gospel of Jesus” and sacrament and catechism and sanctification and absolution.
Okay, to be fair, it’s likely they explained some of it, but they did a poor job, because I was not the only one going through the motions waiting for snack time. Most classes, there was lecture and then they told us what words to write in the fill-in-the-blank questions in our confirmation workbooks.
Then came the day the senior pastor visited our class. He told us a detailed and moving story about twins who were born prematurely. When he got to the part about one of them dying, we were all mesmerized. He was a great storyteller. This was so much more interesting than the lectures and workbook exercises.
The pastor said that a nurse came to the parents and told them that she was able to baptize the baby before he died. The parents were so relieved. Their baby was in heaven.
I had always been cheeky, but the senior pastor had always intimidated me. So formal. Robes, suits, perfect, immovable hair, manicured fingernails. All that, combined with the fact that so many people sat in complete silence to listen to him talk every Sunday morning and waited in line to shake his hand afterward. To top it all off? His name was Pastor Abram. That was just two letters away from Abraham. He was the ultimate authority on God at that time in my young life.
Until that moment.
At that moment, he lost his credibility with me. I realized this authority figure in my life was wrong.
Out came cheeky.
I may not remember the details of 2 years of confirmation classes, but I will remember for the rest of my life what I asked him that afternoon:
“Are you saying that if the nurse hadn’t sprinkled water on the baby’s head before he died and said ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ that the baby would have gone to Hell?”
He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”
And I said, “Well, that’s stupid.”
You could have heard a pin drop. Every eye was on him.
He handled it with grace and evasiveness. He reminded me that I was young and explained that I didn’t understand. What he didn’t explain was how it wasn’t stupid. He didn’t refer me to a single Bible verse. Bibles weren’t necessary in confirmation class, just workbooks.
What was I too young to understand?
That Jesus’ death and resurrection weren’t enough to save a premature baby . . . but a nurse with tap water and the time to speak the words “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” ensured the baby would spend eternity in heaven?”
I’m older now and I DO understand. If what Pastor Abram said was true, I didn’t need Jesus Christ. All I needed was a nurse with a glass of water who had the ability to speak out loud.
I didn’t learn much in confirmation class, but I learned that the ritual of baptism was meaningless compared to what Jesus did.
We’re long time Disney freaks and I adopted this idea YEARS ago after seeing it at Walt Disney World.
I LOVE me a Disney Christmas and I’m REALLY missing Candlelight this year! But it wouldn’t be frugal. Best time EVER? Front row, smack in line with the sign language interpreter. My FAVORITE narrator is Marlee Matlin.