The Esther Difference

Today, the Bible reading plan lead me to Esther.  I read chapters one through five, leaving me hanging about Mordecai’s faith.  I’m really enjoying this plan.  The makers put a lot of thought into dividing up narratives into serial chunks.  They did it with the lives of David and Saul; that’s where I noticed it.  Even though I’ve read the Bible tons of times, it’s kind of fun to be left with a cliffhanger ending.

What got to me about Esther day is rather simple.  You know the story (Esther 2:5-8). The beautiful orphan girl raised by her Uncle Mordecai got rounded up with all the other virgin candidates as a possible replacement for rebellious Queen Vashti. Esther’s incredible beauty gave her access to a possible royal alliance.  I hear you saying, Good, good.  Nothing new to mine there.

But wait.  Esther didn’t protest the ridiculous way Vashti got banished.  Esther didn’t revolt against the cattle mentality of hundreds of girls vying for the king’s affections.  The whole “The Bachelor” setup didn’t make her stomach turn, like it might today with our modern sensibilities.  She had no plans to change the system or overthrow the king.  Yes, she fasted and prayed when the fate of the Jews came to her attention (Esther 4:7-9). Yet Esther knew she was put there “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:13-14).  Her placement allowed God to work on the Jews’ behalf.  It didn’t entitle her to special privilege, though those perks came with the job (Esther 2:12).  Esther worked within the existing paradigm to save the Jews from annihilation within King Xerxes’ realm.

Esther goes on to read that Xerxes laid heavy taxes on the people in his kingdom (Esther 10:1).  His basic nature didn’t change because Esther risked her life to save her people. Xerxes and Esther still lived together in the palace, learning each other’s natures, and adapting accordingly.  Granted, given the nature of the relationship, Esther probably did more of the adapting.  My point is that our role in the scope of history might be pivotal to the fate of entire nations.  Or it might be small, like the direction of a single person.  We can work where we are with what we have and make a difference.  Don’t miss it.

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Living on the Prayer

Image by www.wattpad.com

    Image by http://www.wattpad.com

I stepped out into the pearl-blue dawn.  The air, scented with fragrances of many flowers, flowed over me like a divine breath. Purple lilacs waved at me. Dogwoods fluttered their white blossoms in the early breeze. It felt like a prayer, one God was praying over me.

I knew my attitude needed help.  I was cranky.  This whole “being in pain” thing left me with a bit of a crusty demeanor.  Despite my shoulder feeling better, I still braced for the pain.  I’d iced it for 2 hours last night. Would it be enough?

Peace.  Be still.

I ran-stomped up the hillside.  I knew I would run out of time before I got too far. It frustrated me. Birds greeted the morning with glorious, spontaneous melodies.  I left my mp3 player at home in order to better hear them.  Not even birdsong cheered me.

Let it go.

I reached the turnaround and retied my shoe.  By this time, it was nearly full daylight.  I picked up speed.  On my right sat a stump.  I could’ve sworn it was flipping me off.

Attitude check.

After that, it was all downhill.  I found myself smirking at my own ridiculousness.  Really, Susan?!  The tree has it in for you?! The helmet of the negative mindset shattered around my feet like so much glass.  Who knew it was so fragile?

God did.

Thanks to all who prayed.  I visited the chiropractor today and he tortured me a bit in order to help speed the healing.  That is knightly, too.

Shot in the Arm

punch in the armI really didn’t want to write about this.  I’ve written several posts in the past about my back and leg pain.  That, friends, ended awhile ago.  I barely noticed.  But now, my left shoulder hurts.  Can I just say I hate getting old(er)?

The worst part is that I hurt it while dinking around.

We had just got home Friday night from our Seattle excursion.

“Let’s do back crack,” Zac suggested.

“Okay,” I said.

We turned around, our backs to each other.  We linked arms.  He swung me onto his back.

“Ow!” I cried.  My shoulder twisted in its socket.  I thought nothing of it until it didn’t stop hurting.  And hurting.

I looked up strained/sprained shoulder on the interwebs.  I searched for information on a dislocated shoulder.  I should have a bump.  I reached around with my good arm and felt my back. No bump.  No hunch either, for that matter.  I looked at separated shoulder, or in Susan-speak “seceded shoulder”.  That causes a bruise or swelling, even deformation.  I didn’t see any bruising. I eyed my shoulders in the mirror, straight on.  Am I deformed?  Meh.  Not more than usual.

Since I didn’t fall into either of those serious injuries, I breathed a sigh of relief.  All the websites say the same thing:  ice and ibuprofen.  Not a big fan of icing, as it never seems to help me. I stuck with the drugs. I’ve been on them steadily since Sunday. They take the edge off, but the dull ache remains.  If I don’t take it, my shoulder throbs its own unique rhythm.

Now, I’ve figured out the pain source.  It’s emanating from the trapezius area.  So tonight, I’m leaning on an ice pack.  It’s behind my left shoulder.  Is it helping?  No idea.  Can I feel it?  Nope.

I haven’t told anyone at work yet about my stupid injury.  I feel like a moron for getting injured in the first place.  I mean, I don’t even have bragging rights. “Yeah, I was climbing Smith Rock when my right hand slipped.  All my body weight landed on my left arm.  Dude, I hung on for dear life!” Or even better, “I did 90 pushups.  Yep.  In a minute. That’s why my shoulder gave out.”

Funny thing is, I’m learning how to cope.  I haven’t bitten anyone’s head off, though the night is young.  Pulling clothes off over my head brings tears to my eyes. I find myself calling on the Lord more and leaning on Him.  I know no other way to get through this.  How do people live with this kind of stabbing pain, day after day? My heart goes out to them. You have my respect and empathy.

Disclaimer:  if this continues, my better half informs me that a doctor’s visit will be in order.  I will go, too, because I don’t have all the answers.  Prayers for healing help. I covet those, if you’re so inclined. But doctors can help, too.

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
    and my prayer for mercy.
 Because he bends down to listen,
    I will pray as long as I have breath! – Psalm 116: 1-2

Clown Pants

Photo by mooncostumes.com

Photo by mooncostumes.com

While we were up in Seattle, we did some shopping.  Okay, *I* did some shopping.  I needed some work pants and shoes.  I enjoy shoes, but none of the pairs I had felt particularly comfortable.  Comfortable and cute became the watchwords.  I found some I liked at Nordstrom Rack.  Then I got some pants – on sale – at Macy’s.

Thrilled to find pants the right length the right size and on sale, I wore one pair at the PAC.  They passed the comfortable yet professional test.  The second pair I put on today.

Over breakfast, I showed Ruby my shoes and pants.

“What do you think?” I asked, twirling in front of her.

“I like the shoes,” she said, her eyes trained on my silhouette.

“What about the pants?” I asked.

Without taking another breath, she said, “They look like clown pants.”

What?! They’re a neutral color.  They sport clean lines.  Nothing objectionable or edgy here.  Not even any suspenders involved.  I found myself taken aback. Way back.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, choking back a laugh.

“They go all the way up to your belly button,” she informed me.  Then she took another bite of her toast.

I felt the waistband of the pants.  Well.  Maybe they do.  But they fit me in the waist, which is something low rise pants just don’t.  I won’t be hiking these babies up all day long, every time I stand up.  Besides, high-waisted pants are very retro.  Right?!  Kathryn Hepburn, Lauren Bacall?  Anybody?

I considered changing my pants.  Wait a minute.  Then I remembered who I was talking to.  This is the girl who often wears head-to-toe animal prints.  This is the girl whose theme as a young girl was “no color left behind”, aka the human rainbow.  This is the girl who wore tiaras to school daily for much of kindergarten and first grade.  This is the girl who loved a Christmas dress any time of the year.

I thought about it all. Where do you think Ruby gets her fashion sense from? It ain’t from her dad. Some things just come down through the jeans, er, genes. So, I’m still wearing the pants.  Nobody at work has commented on my trousers’ clownishness. They appear beyond reproach.  I will set a new trend in my unfunny, very normal pants.

I’m going to keep them.  Look out, Ruby.  There’s a new fashionista in town.

Sharpen the Ax

JACK NICHOLSONSo, I’m all noted out and conferenced out.  The Friday after the Microsoft conference, I had an all-day Washington Public Records Officials conference.  You know you wished you were there, with lawyers debating public records, case law and the unfortunate results of public servants using personal devices to conduct government business.

No?  Really?

Well, take a gander at this baby!

IMG_20150425_081449_825Nothing says government training like a 250-page manual.  I did learn a few things, like the importance of logging every step of fulfilling a public records request and how to implement a company-wide email capturing program. Useful information which I couldn’t discover on my own.  Which puts me in mind of pastor’s sermon this morning out of Ecclesiastes 10.  Our pastor has done a great job of making this rather dismal and sometimes caustic book come alive.  I’m thinking on verse 10 today.

Using a dull ax requires great strength,
    so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
    it helps you succeed.

It takes more energy to “do life” if you don’t think things through.  You’re constantly backtracking to fix your mistakes.  If you don’t practice, you won’t improve at any sport, musical instrument or skill.  Plan.  Get organized.  Sharpen the axe.  I know it sounds ominous, and some of you (me included) probably thought about the scene from “The Shining” (see photo).  But getting training enables you to do more with what you have.  You have more tools at your disposal, more problem-solving skills and a lot more hope for a good outcome.

You don’t have all the answers in this life, and neither do I.  I’m going to keep garnering wisdom wherever I can.  Even if it involves wrestling a 250-page tome.

Conference Post Mortem

Swag alert!

Swag alert!

Just thought I would check in.  The spring PAC (Partner Advisory Council) is over.  I’m under an NDA so I can’t say much more than that.  But perhaps you would know what lessons I gleaned this time?  Well, boys and girls, sit back, relax, and let me tell you.

You might feel invisible to your crowd, but you aren’t.  Let’s say your group schedules breaks but doesn’t ever take them.  You find yourself typing and typing and typing.  Your bladder stages a protest.  It reaches critical mass.  Reluctant to disturb the flow of the presenter and the questions, you sneak out the service entrance to find a restroom.  Unbeknownst to you, your absence causes a stir.  “Where did she go?”  They send out a posse to look for you.  They scour the bathroom.  They call your cell phone.  As if by magic, you’ve made it back to your post in 3 minutes.  Nobody thinks to look for you back at your station.  You don’t answer your cell phone because you’re taking notes again. Not my true story, but one of them.

Smaller groups rock.  Especially if you get the same group you’ve had since 2012.  Which I have been blessed to do.  I missed one PAC – the spring one last year – due to some failed electronic communication.  Other than that, I’ve covered them all with the same people.  It’s gotten so I know who pipes up the most.  I know their voices and accents.  They guy from Germany wants to discuss licensing issues.  The Dutch counterpart is all about improving the customer experience.  The Brazilian guy, well, he’s just very nice.  The very best part?  The guys like me.  They know me.  They believe in my ability and they like my work.

My PAC leader, someone who could be a brother from another mother, is a genial guy. He likes people.  His welcoming attitude sets the tone of the gathering.

He passed me in the hall during one of our infinitesimal breaks the first day.

“I left something on your desk.  A present, ” he said.

“Oh, thanks,” I said.

A present?  What?  That doesn’t happen.  I thought maybe it was a card or something.  Nothing major.

It was a box containing a brand new 7″ tablet.

The PAC leader appreciates my work.  So much so that when he passed out 7″ tablets to all the participants – 10 of them –  he gave me one, too. He didn’t have to do it.

One of the guys from the U.K. looked over at me and said, “How do you do it?”

I said around my smile, “Well, you guys are great.  You make it fun.”

He smiled back.

Doing this kind of work makes me realize the impact of an encouraging word or gesture. Even if we come from different nations, we’re rather similar on the inside.  We all want to feel like our contribution matters, like we’re important.  A couple of the regulars came and shook my hand at the end of the day yesterday.  One brought chocolate from his native country and made sure I got some, too.  I’m overwhelmed at the favor God bestowed through this experience. Now, if only someone would edit the notes for me…

Seattle Side Trip

You might be wondering what I’ve been up to today.

Well, I’ll tell you.  It’s Microsoft PAC time again. Tomorrow kicks off the two-day conference.  I’ll be in a room filled with people from around the world, taking down every word they say.  Mostly.

But today, I’ve been able to dink around in Seattle with Jonathon. We’ve done touristy things like wandered Pike Street Market and looked at the original Starbucks location.

Original-Starbucks-2This picture is much better than the one I took.  When we walked by, a guitarist serenaded coffee drinkers with his rendition of “Let it Be.”

No, we didn’t pick up Starbucks.  Every Starbucks – and there are many – had a huge line.  We went to Monorail Espresso instead.

monorail espresso menuMy short mocha was fabulous, not too bitter and not too sweet.  And a very short line!

We found this fabulous shoe store along the way – Fluevog Shoes.  They have stores in Portland, San Francisco, London, Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C. and many spots in Canada as well.

FluevogThe shoes called to us.  But we couldn’t answer.  A bit pricey at $200-300.  Yet, it’s been awhile since I found shoe love…

How can I choose just one pair?!

How can I choose just one pair?! Wouldn’t the others feel abandoned?  I’m just saying.

Another time, Fluevogians.  I hope to join your ranks.

The day turned up trumps, sunny and mid-70s.  Such a wonderful thing to happen in April. I international languages all day – Vietnamese, Chinese, Hindi, you name it, all around us today.  Kind of a nice way to get acclimated for tomorrow’s melting pot. Living in a town of less than 10,000, it’s easy to forget there’s a great big world out there.

Thanks for the reminder, Seattle.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. – Psalm 24:1