Seemingly Insignificant Choices, 33 Years Later

Tonight, John and I went out for Mexican food on a date night. I picked tonight specifically because July 20, 1983 was on a Wednesday and it was the night that we met. He worked at the Alpine Slide at Ski Broadmoor in the evenings and on weekends. My sister and I decided to go ride the slide that night, as I’d never been and she had gone the week before and said it was fun. John was the lift operator and the one who punched tickets and put people onto the lift. Our first conversation went like this:

John (to Susan and me): Did I punch your tickets?

Susan: No.

Me: Yes. (hides ticket behind back, flirts with cute guy in OP shorts and a polo shirt asking if he’d punched the tickets)

John: If you wanted a free ride, why didn’t you say so?

Me: Why didn’t you tell me?

John: Do I have to tell you everything?

Me: No, I guess you don’t.

broadmoor_alpineslideAnd there you have it. A seemingly random decision to go ride the Alpine Slide on a seemingly random Wednesday evening. A seemingly random and flirty conversation and 33 years later, here we are about ready to celebrate 30 years of marriage (next month) and still very much in love.

You never can tell where your choices will lead you. Some may truly be insignificant. Others might affect you forever.

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Lessons From a Bad Guy

During my quiet time, I’ve been reading the books of Ezra and Esther. In chapter 5, Queen Esther has invited the king and Haman (the bad guy) to a banquet of wine at which she invites them both to yet another banquet. At the second banquet, she intends to present a larger request to the king. Haman fancies himself as one of extreme importance. After all, back in chapter 3, the king had “advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.” Just what an arrogant man doesn’t need.

But back to chapter 5…after having been invited to the second banquet by Queen Esther, Haman is happier than a pig in slop (no, I’m not from the south nor from a farm). We catch up with him in verse 9.

So Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart;

I think that’s perfectly understandable. After all, he’s been promoted by the king and was the only other person invited to the queen’s banquets along with the king. I’d probably be feeling pretty special at that point, too. But that’s not the end of verse 9.

…but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai.

Amazing, isn’t it, how one person, one mere man, can rain on his parade so quickly? Everything was going well for him (at least as far as he knew), but because this Jewish man refused to honor Haman the way he felt he deserved, it infuriated him. So much for the joyful and glad heart.

Remarkably, Haman “restrained himself and went home.” Oftentimes, people with extreme anger aren’t very good at this. Then again, sick and diabolical people can manage some level of self-control…for a time.

Once home, he summonsed his friends and his wife Zeresh. In serious need of an ego boost, he proceeds to tell of “his great riches, the multitude of his children, all the ways in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king.” Not only that, he told them, “Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king.” (verse 12)

I’m sure his friends and wife oohed and ahhed over his position and prestige. I imagine they said all the right things to give him that boost he so desperately needed. But it still wasn’t enough. He goes on to say, “Yet all of this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (verse 13)

All the blessings he sees in his life – power in the kingdom above all others besides the king, honor of the king and queen, wealth, children, and probably much more – isn’t enough. Because he allows this one man, Mordecai the Jew, to get under his skin. He just can’t let it go and move on. Ninety-nine percent of his life looks pretty incredible. But it’s that 1% which gnaws at him and utterly diminishes everything else.

Just as many wives and friends would probably do, they want to see him happy. They want him to have what he desires. The problem is, they find a way to offer it that is sick and evil. Seeing how Zeresh’s name is listed before his friends, I assume that she came up with this twisted plan, or his friends did and nominated her to present it, or they all colluded together. Regardless, a diabolical plan was offered:

Then his wife, Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made. (verse 14)

What a wicked and tragic verse!

First of all, their only concern is that Haman isn’t happy with his 99%. Secondly, they quite willingly offer up the death of another human to appease Haman’s narcissism and even get the king’s approval of this murder. Lastly, they suggest that once this bothersome person is out of the way, Haman can “then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” Merrily? Yeah, have another man murdered and then eat, drink, and be merry.

So you may be wondering where the lesson is in all this. There are four things that God showed me as I studied this chapter.

  1. Be humble. Not like this isn’t mentioned in other places in Scripture. But pride is insidious and can creep in at any time. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
  2. Don’t allow one inconsequential person or thing to detract from all the rest of life’s blessings. This breeds seeds of discontent. We are to be grateful for what we have, not obsessed with what we don’t. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8
  3. Stay focused on the Lord, not that which is an insult to my pride. It doesn’t matter what others think or say about me. The only opinion which ought to matter is God’s. My pride is in direct contradiction to His glory. I am surely not greater than Jesus. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7
  4. Don’t influence my husband or friends towards evil or cruel behavior. I should be encouraging others to godliness, righteousness, and growth their relationship with Jesus. I need to value human lives and spur those within my sphere of influence on to love. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

It’s only as I spend time with the Lord and in His word that I can accomplish this list and keep my flesh and pride at bay. But there’s great joy that comes when I take that time and live in close connection with Him!

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People Matter More

Remember when Carl’s Jr had the milkshake commercial where the guy shook the cow? I thought it was pretty hilarious.

This says Hardee’s, but they’re the same company. It was Carl’s Jr when I saw it.

They used to have some funny commercials.

Then they decided that the “sex sells” concept was a good one. At least I assume that’s what they thought, since that’s been their M.O. for a number of years now. I stopped eating at Carl’s Jr because I don’t care to support them in their sleazy advertising. Just a personal choice.

But Zach (my youngest son) loves their food. Granted, I like some of their food, too, but I still didn’t eat there.

Now that he’s working, I have lunch with him once a week. Carl’s Jr is the closest and fastest restaurant available. And he really likes to eat there.

So I have conceded – a little – and I eat there with him. No, I still don’t care to support them. I still think their advertising is trashy and inappropriate. But even more than that, I love my son and enjoy having lunch with him. And if he wants to eat there, I’ll go there some of the time. There are still other restaurants which we can go to, and we do. It was a little conflicting at first, but I know that he’s even more important than the few dollars I could keep away from this company.

There are certainly principles that matter and are important and should be stood upon and stood up for. But we can’t lose sight of the people in the equation, either. Just like most things in life, we have to consider all the parts and then make the best decision.

In this case, Zach is my best decision.

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BTW, this picture is actually taken at Carl’s Jr. The light was amazing so I just had to.

Celebrating Life

Today is a celebration of life. One well-lived for over 69 years and another to begin within the next 8 weeks.

My Aunt Fay left her broken, failing, physical body just over a month ago. My mom and I were there when she breathed her last. Along with nearly 20 other family members and very close friends – although with Fay, everyone was really her family – crammed into a hospital room in Modesto. Fay was my dad’s youngest sister. Their middle sister passed away over 40 years ago.

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Fay clowning around with Dad last July

People were encouraged to share a story at Fay’s Celebration of Life Service today. Even for those of us who couldn’t attend, we were welcome to send stories to be shared. She was my aunt for 52 years, and I know there are a lot of wonderful and humorous stories, though I couldn’t think of anything specific. Instead, I wrote this:

I’ve been trying to come up with a story, but nothing really jumps out. However, as I began to think about the way Aunt Fay lived her life, I realized that the word LOVE encompassed everything for her. She loved her family and friends. She loved the Lord. She loved life. She was a busy woman and she probably did as much as three of me in a day. But all of her activity, all of her busyness was because of love – for someone. I doubt that there’s anyone who knew Fay who wasn’t a recipient of her tremendous love.

LOVE

It’s one word that could summarize her life. Second to that would probably be fun. Life was always fun with Aunt Fay around. She lit up the room just by being there. She welcomed EVERYONE into her life and home. I cannot even begin to imagine the incredible number of people she impacted.

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Susan (my sister) and Fay last summer

Mom and I drove to California the first wek of June to see Aunt Fay, as her condition had worsened and no one knew how long she’d be here. On the first day out, we got as far as Salt Lake City and slept for a few hours in a Microtel near the airport. The next morning, we sat beneath a TV broadcasting the latest news, at the only available table in the tiny lobby, enjoying our free breakfast with nearly two dozen Asian travelers who all seemed to know each other. As I sipped my orange juice, it occurred to me that Aunt Fay was the glue in our family. She’s the one who was always connected to everyone, always knew what was going on in the lives of the extended family, as well as where they lived. She held us all together. She planned the trips and even the two family reunions we had over 20 years ago.

“I’ll bet a lot of people don’t even know Fay’s been in the hospital,” I mentioned to Mom. After all, Fay would’ve been the one to let people know that someone was ill and had never returned home after going to the hospital nearly eight months earlier, as she had. That was a rather sobering thought. The last time we saw Fay (July 2013), she was as active as ever. Who could’ve imagined that in less than a year, she’d be gone?

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Fay’s next to me, second from the right

Our family isn’t all that large, but there are some cousins of my dad’s and Fay’s, as well as a great uncle (we visited him last year when Fay came out to Colorado; he’s in the red), who probably had no idea she was sick. We made a call to one of the cousins and his wife as we got back on the road to head west and they were going to contact whoever else they could.

It is so strange to realize that our family glue is gone. She has all the old photos, all the genealogy information, knows the stories and shares them with people. I am grateful, however, that during a couple of her visits here, I made copies of a lot of pictures, wrote down the stories and information we had time for me to write, and last year, transcribed ten cassette tapes’ worth of conversation she had with her and dad’s Uncle Howard, back while he was still alive. I enjoy genealogy and plan to pick up the baton and continue the family history as best I can. I think she always expected that I would. I hope I do her justice in this.

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This afternoon, we attended a baby shower for a dear family friend, Nikki and her husband Mike. I photographed their wedding two and a half years ago. It was gorgeous! Nikki has been a part of John’s family for pretty much her entire life.

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Diane, her mom, was a single mother and John’s mom took them in (she and Fay are a lot alike in that way – helping people out). John’s sisters babysat for Nikki and his family helped the two of them out as Diane worked to get on her feet. I’m so excited for them and this beautiful baby girl we’re all awaiting. It will be fun to see her as a newborn, watch her (via social media most likely) learn to crawl, toddle, walk, and grow up. I’m sure she’ll be a wonderful blessing for Nikki, Mike, and Diane.

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I have no real profound thoughts with which to wrap this up. I just found the juxtaposition of life celebrations worth pondering.

 

While I can’t say I developed my love of photography from Fay, it’s interesting that she’s the one who always took the family snapshots, especially when the six of us cousins were together. It would seem that I’m carrying that on, as well.