Our church is celebrating the advent season this month. With that comes a four-part series each week. Yesterday’s message centered around Waiting for God. (Not the British comedy series.)
There were several points that struck me in this first message. But one stuck out more than the others.
That point is one that shouldn’t really shock me or you. Waiting for God can be frustrating. I don’t think anyone’s ever yelled out “WELL, DUH!!” in church, but it felt really appropriate yesterday, and I was tempted to be the first one.
The key the that fact though is it’s impetus. The waiting is frustrating because we want control. Let’s face it. We’re control freaks. I know I am. If you don’t think I am, ask Jen. (Ask our Scotland leadership team! They’ll tell you. Ha!) It’s not a revelation that I like to be in control, and that’s why I get frustrated or even discouraged while we’re waiting for the Lord to show us the next step in this journey.
I like to control the means and the ends. That’s where the frustration comes in. Because I know what I need. What we need. I live this life. I must know. I know what I can do. What I’m trained for. What jives with my personality. So, of course, I know best.
I only know what I can see. And some of what I can “see” for me and for us is distorted by my fears. Looking through the lens of fear is debilitating. The lens of fear is myopic. Fear says there is only one way forward. Fear says don’t try that because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Fear says you can’t do that. Fear lies.
What I want to cling to as we wait is that I can trust the Lord to have our best interests at heart, and that He knows what is best for us and that what is best for us may not be what we think is best for us.
Man, was this a long day. (And I didn’t make it to bed last night on the postmeridian side of zero hour, either.) And I am dragging! But I don’t want to deprive you of your daily dose of my “perspective” on life. I think I only have energy to share some of the things I noticed throughout my day:
1) Fall Foliage: Fall is my favorite season. I love the crispness in the air in the mornings. I love the vibrant colors when the leaves change. And autumn is the season of college football, so what’s not to love about that? The name of this blog derives, in part, from my love of this season. I saw some great displays of fall color this morning.
2) Free internet: I had a few opportunities today to take advantage of free web access. Maybe it’s a sign of my advancing age, but I am so hesitant anymore to jump on a free internet hotspot given all the email/Facebook hacking I’ve seen over the last 24 months. I might also be tired of paying the computer nazi to de-malware my computer. (If you need a computer repair, the computer nazi that we use is great. He’s not German. He’s Asian actually, but he’s as no-nonsense as the “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld lore. Hence the name. Sue me, Seinfeld! I dare you!)
3) Club sandwich: I do not recommend the club sandwich at a lunch meeting. Especially when the woman on the other side of the table only eats half of her turkey & swiss. Clubs are good, but that extra slice of bread is problematic. No one on the other side of the table should have to see how wide I can open my mouth and count my fillings as I try to cram that thing in my pie-hole and explain how I can help her business. Even when nothing flies out of the back end of the sandwich, the stress of worrying that I’m going to have a huge dollop of mayo on the side of my face after a bite wears on you.
I am going to sleep well tonight (fingers crossed). This has been one long day. See you tomorrow.
Life is funny. The longer I live, the more I believe that the only thing about life that is certain is the uncertainty of life. We plan for things, and they don’t work out as planned. Some of us pray for certain results or opportunities or outcomes, and it doesn’t end up as we envisioned. Sometimes, we’re minding our own business and something falls into our lap.
I can look back on various times in my life before I was married and since. Before we had Keegan and since. I wanted things to turn out; I tried to set things up to work out as I wanted. And it didn’t come to fruition as I wanted or how I thought it would. I take solace in knowing that even when things didn’t work out as I might’ve hoped, I didn’t “miss out.” I enjoyed the times I had where I was and being used in the ways that I was used.
All of that sounds sort of vague. Maybe it is. The details aren’t really the important part.
Don’t get me wrong, I get disappointed when things don’t work out the way I hoped. It’s not like I’m sitting around hoping to win the lottery or some other outlandish possibility. We’re talking about job opportunities or relationships or financial situations. I tend to withhold my enthusiasm about things that I hope for. It’s nothing more than a defense mechanism to limit the pain of disappointment. But that’s a lie. You can’t limit your disappointment. You may limit the number of people who know about your disappointment, but you don’t limit your disappointment. Even when I don’t tell someone about my hopes or dreams or expectations, I still know what they are. I know what I hope for.
This isn’t the forum to share all of my hopes and dreams, but I can tell you that there are people who know what those things are. I will continue to share them with those people. I would encourage any of you to do the same. You’re going to dream and hope. I think part of being human is to dream for something different, better, grander, etc. Share those things with people who will breathe life into your hopes and dreams and who will walk along side you if certain things don’t come to be as you wanted.
So I went to the barber shop today. The same one that I’ve been going to since I was about 11. The barber shop itself has not really changed. Most of the barbers today are different from that first visit, but it’s the same barber shop for the most part because barber shops are all populated by the same characters. One barber who plays a character may move on, but he or she is replaced by the same sort of character to maintain the barber shop equilibrium.
The first thing I do as I approach the barber shop is assess how many cars are in the parking lot. The more cars, the longer I will be there. Duh. I was pleasantly surprised to see only a few cars there when I drove up. When I walked in, there were only three barbers working. Based on previous experience, I quickly assessed the situation. The closest chair to the door was open — which I thought odd, because that guy is ALWAYS there when I go in. He’s the resident racist barber. You know, the one who loves to tell jokes but whispers the racist punchline so as not to offend someone waiting who may sing in the church choir. (What about the guy whose hair you’re cutting, dude? Ever think maybe, I don’t want to be privy to your “wit?”) I stopped going to that guy years ago, so his absence was a non-starter.
The next chair was the resident woman barber. Every barber shop has one woman to cut the 2-year-old’s hair or in case Edith Bunker walks in and needs to get a trim while Archie enjoys the banter in chair no. 1. She was occupied, so I just sat and read the paper.
The last chair in the corner is reserved for the “new guy.” He remains the new guy until he quits or until someone newer comes along, and he can displace someone else to move “up” the row. I’ve been to this new guy before, but he had someone in his chair already. He’s decent, but he doesn’t have the years of experience that some of the others do.
In between the new guy and the woman is the resident old guy. He’s past his prime, but you can tell there was a time when he might’ve been the guy in a barber shop — although this old guy was never “the” guy in this shop. (I know; I’ve seen him age at this shop.) Now, he likes to talk as much as cut hair. Going with him is a crap shoot because if he’s really into talking, he loses focus on the actual hair cut.
Missing today are two folks — either of whom would be easy choices to see. One is the owner of the shop. He’s grown up here. He’s been cutting hair here about as long as I’ve been going, but he must’ve started right out of high school because he’s not 10 years older than I am. It’s Friday; the owner doesn’t work on Friday. That’s why he’s the owner.
The other missing guy is the guy I prefer when I’m there. He’s good with both the clippers and a pair of scissors. A marriage of those barber skills is not as common as one might think. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve had the same haircut for the last 25+ years (except for my mullet period(s) from various parts of 1986-90. Sue me, I played soccer in high school and college; the mullet was part of the uniform.). That cut requires the #2 blade on the clippers and a little work with the scissors to thin out the top. (At my age, I’m somewhat happy to report that I have enough hair on top to pay someone to thin it out.)
So as my luck would have it, old guy is the one who opened up first today. I just resigned myself to having to listen to whatever stream of consciousness he had to share today. Wow. Today included references to a new kitchen, a possible hunting trip this weekend, a stated preference not to bow hunt, a couple of cooking shows that he watches on the tube, his love of grilling with the underlying implication that I must as well given my maleness, and our shared dislike for driving on Barrett Parkway. I could tell as the cut went on that certain areas were not getting the requisite attention and that other areas had been clipped ad nauseum. Eventually, my time in the chair ended, and I paid the man and bid him a nice weekend.
When I got home and more closely inspected the cut, I was not surprised to see several areas where the #2 blade was not held closely enough to the side of my head to actually clip anything. Nothing I couldn’t fix with the trimmer I have at the house.
The moral of the story is to call ahead to make sure your guy is at the barber shop before you go.
I work out of the house, and my office currently is at the front of the house. There is a park across the street, so I get to watch our neighbors walk their dogs. I saw a coyote on a cold morning in February — probably the one that ended the existence of our former cat.
But one of the things that has stood out to me all year is the timing of our mailman. As most of you know, during a week absent a federal holiday, the mail is delivered 6 days per week. Five of the six days the mail comes no earlier than 5:00 p.m. On the sixth day, the mailman drops off the mail around 2:00 p.m. When mail is delivered, one would probably assume that the sixth day of mail might be Saturday. You’d be wrong. Ironically (perhaps in the Alanis Morrisette sense of irony), the sixth day is not Saturday. In fact, it’s not any one day. It’s one of three days — but not the same day each week. For some reason — that I have yet to determine — on either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, the mailman delivers the mail earlier than every other day of the week. But never the same day each week. Why? Is he just bored with the usual route, so he mixes it up once a week but never the same day to take the “mixing it up” to the next level?
I like nothing more than my routine. When routines go awry, chaos ensues. Chaos is bad — except in theoretical physics courses and summer camp games! The variable rate mail delivery schedule upsets my routine. It means that there is no routine for three days a week or that there are 2 days each week when there is an unnecessary routine. More importantly, why do I care?
I just saw a hilarious scene in the HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Larry David, the star of the show, is visiting the cemetery site where his mother is buried. His father is with him to show him the new tombstone he bought for his former wife. After he reads the tombstone, Larry notices that the inscription reads “Born – Sept 18, 1920” and “Past Away Oct 21, 2001.” Larry proceeds to chastise his father for misspelling the tombstone by using “past” instead of “passed.” The punch line isn’t that it was a mistake the widower failed to catch, but rather that it was cheaper to go with “past” over “passed” because the cost was $50 per letter. He saved $100 using the shorter word, and most people think it means the same thing anyway. To me, that’s funny. (Now you have a little insight into my personality. Feel free to block my number if you must.)
I don’t generally get into New Year’s resolutions. Not that I have anything against resolutions or people who make them every year. I think we need goals. I think we need things to keep us moving in a positive direction.
For 2009, I don’t really have a resolution per se. But I am in a different position than I was in at the beginning of 2008. It’s a different position than I was in on the last day of 2008 for that matter.
I left my position with the law firm at the end of the year. It was a long time coming. I have been tired of law firm life for a couple of years. I knew it. The firm knew it. But we both tried to make it work thinking that a switch might flip and bring me back to the fold — so to speak. Alas, that switch was stuck in the off position.
We’ve known this situation was coming for a couple of months. The firm and I worked out the transition back in mid-October. If I may, I have to thank my firm for its patience with my efforts to figure out what I wanted to do and its efforts to help me find something that better fit my personality and my desire not to sacrifice my family for my career. I only worked at one firm after law school, and I wouldn’t have wanted to work at another one. But for all the great things about that place, it just wasn’t right for me. Eventually.
There was a time when I thought I’d be there for 30 years. I loved working 60-70 hours a week and the perks that came with it. I loved being everyone’s go-to guy. Being the guy everyone knew they could call at or before 7:00 a.m. in an emergency. Being the guy who could be counted on to work 40 hours in a weekend to get a project done. Being a guy who could pull an all-nighter to get that last-minute brief written.
But all that came at the cost of less time for Jen. Less time for friends. Less time for family. Eventually, people stopped asking me to do things because they assumed I was working anyway. Who could blame them? Often when I was able to make it to things, I was either still thinking about work or too freakin‘ tired from work to be present. Even after I’d stopped working weekends, people still assumed I was working all the time.
Part of me got caught up in the idea that I should do my job with excellence, and that that meant I had to be at everyone’s beck and call. And that meant I had to not be around for everything else that I “said” was important to me.
Even before K-Man came along, I knew I needed to review what I was doing compared to what I said was important to me. I knew things had to change. I tried to step back a little. I tried to commit to less. I tried to work fewer hours. But the firm needed to see performance. Law firms measure performance by the number of billable hours an attorney completes. I understand why. That’s the economics of a law firm. I get why that is important to a law firm. But it’s a crappy way to live. That drum beat never stops.
So it was time to quit pretending. It was time to go.
I don’t know what is next, but I am enjoying exploring my options. I am looking at opportunities to work in-house as an attorney for a corporation. But I am also looking at things outside the legal world. I want to make the most of this opportunity to find something that fits me and fits what we need as a family. That may sound easy, but it’s not. We are doing a lot of praying. And we are trusting the Lord to show us what’s next.
There is a scene towards the end of K-Man’s currently favorite movie Polar Express where Santa is about to select one kid to receive the first gift of that Christmas. One of the kids (voiced by the same guy who played “Eugene Felnic” in Grease) obnoxiously tries to get Santa to bestow the honor on him with a Horshack-like chorus of “pick me! pick me! pick me!” Of course Santa doesn’t pick him. He picks the boy who is quietly taking it all in as he comes to terms with Santa’s existence. I much prefer to be that latter boy.
But I am in the midst of doing some networking that requires me to talk about how “great” I am, and I am suffering from some cognitive dissonance about the whole thing. The dissonance comes not from whether I really think I am that good. I do. It comes from a belief that going around telling everyone about how good you are (like a Big 12 South team trying to convince pollsters) is unappealing at best. It feels so fake. Rather than be the annoying guy asking to be picked, I’d prefer to let my work speak for itself and “get picked.”
But I’m told it’s not as passive a process as that. I need to actively sell what I can do and how I can benefit another organization. That’s just sort of how it works. So I guess I have no choice. But to be believable, I need to find some level of congruence on what I believe about myself and the manner in which I convey that to others in this networking process.