Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Dad 2011Treasures come in many forms, sometimes quite unexpected. But an old pack of cigarettes?

My father died a couple of months ago, and so I am spending time at his house sorting papers and cleaning out cupboards and drawers, in preparation for an estate sale. The process brings back many memories, as I unearth old photo albums, wall hangings I remember from childhood, and other memorabilia. It can be a bittersweet time.

Yesterday was another day of interesting finds as I began going through his desk. An envelope containing half a dozen two dollar bills. Hmm. Wonder what those are worth today? A drawer full of those address labels that charities send out, hoping you will donate. If Dad had lived another hundred years, he couldn’t have used all of the labels he had there.Galatians 5:1

Then I pulled out something different. An old pack of cigarettes that looked like someone had started to open it and then stopped. Odd. My dad used to smoke. He had tried many times to quit, but never quite succeeded. Until my mother died of lung cancer. Actually it was the kind of cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure, rather than cigarettes, but there was some speculation that secondhand smoke could have played a part. I never saw my father with a cigarette after that.

Now here was this old, yellowed pack of cigarettes. But there was something different about this package. Securely taped to both sides of the pack were Bible verses. On one side: “Galatians 5:7: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” And on the other side: “John 8:32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32This must have been the last pack of cigarettes my dad ever purchased. I could imagine him picking it up when he felt the urge to smoke, reading the verses, and then placing it back in the desk, gaining strength to resist one more time. How telling of my dad’s character that when he became determined to quit, he turned not to hypnosis or a patch, but to God. And he found what he needed to win the battle.

Treasures come in many forms, but I never expected to find one in an old pack of cigarettes.

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Our dishwasher died. The helpful neighborhood plumber said it was the motor. To repair it would cost almost as much as a new dishwasher, so we figured we might as well just get a new one. That seemed easy enough. There are lots of dishwashers out there. And therein lies the problem…

 I’m the type of person who likes to research before buying. I soon discovered there would be lots of choices to make concerning a dishwasher. What color? Stainless steel or plastic tub? Energy Star rating? Decibel level? Brand and model? (I can’t believe how many models each company produces.) And then there’s price. Do we get a cheap one to save money or a quality model that will last until we move out of this old house?

Okay, it shouldn’t be that hard. First stop, Consumer Reports. I even anted up the $5.95 for a month’s online membership so I could see the special rating lists and all. I read up on the most important features. I checked for the most reliable brands, then checked to see which models of said brands fell within our price range, and made a list. So far, so good.

Ew, this stinks.

 Next came the scouting operations. Off to Best Buy to see what they had to offer. Of course, the model the salesman recommended was nowhere on my Consumer Reports list. It had all the features the articles said it needed, but was it reliable? Back home to do more research. After reading up on that model, I was even more confused. It seems people either loved or hated it. I wavered until it went off sale. Oh, well.

More research, followed by a trip to the local family-owned appliance store. That sales person recommended yet another off-list machine. I began to realize one deficiency of my list. Models come out so frequently that there was no way any testing group could keep up. So how could I be sure of the best deal? It was a frustrating task for a perfectionist like me.

 More scouting trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot. Lowe’s was particularly empty, so I had a chance to play around with the dishwashers, opening and closing, pulling out racks, (Oops. That one tends to fall off the track. Forget it.), checking out the controls. Both places carried the one recommended by the local appliance store—and at the same price. I checked it out again: stainless steel tub, stainless steel food disposal, 55 decibels (pretty quiet), good energy ratings, a good warranty, and a rack layout that I like. I think I may have a winner! But first, one more check online. A person just can’t be too careful!

Home for sale?? Or maybe not...

The scary thing is my husband and I are thinking about moving in a few years, although we don’t know where yet. If it takes me this much effort to choose a dishwasher… Oh, dear. Probably best not to think about that right now…

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Pushing my cart through the grocery store, I approached the rack of greeting cards. First came the largest section: birthday. Apparently people send lots of birthday cards. Next came baby, followed by wedding. (Perhaps a comment on our current culture?) This was logically followed by anniversary, then thank you, perhaps to be used by those receiving wedding and anniversary gifts. Toward the end came get well, and last, sympathy—for the families of those who did not get well. Our whole life span was summarized by the labels on the greeting card rack.

Sadly, I came to choose from the last category. The older brother of a childhood friend had died. His life had held, as most of ours do, both moments of loss and discouragement and moments of triumph and joy. The ending, however, came closer to the tragic than the triumphant. The family had shared few details, but I knew that they had tried to help, with little success. A combination of events and decisions had contributed to the shortening of a life that might have ended differently.

Life brings unexpected changes to us all. We cannot control most of the accidents or diseases that hit us. We cannot change such things as job layoffs, growing old, or the engine that goes out in our car. What we can control is the decisions we make, and one of the most important decisions is how we choose to react to the struggles that life brings. We can choose to withdraw, to hide our sorrows behind alcohol or drugs, or to strike out in anger. Or we can choose to reach out to others and to reach up to God.

Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps, wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (from Man’s Search for Meaning)

Our life on earth will end, but the choices we make can determine whether that ending will be tragic or triumphant.

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My son called from Indiana today. “Mom, are you at home?”


“Could you do me a favor?”


He was driving somewhere near Indianapolis and had apparently missed a turn. He needed directions to get back to where he was supposed to be. Could I look it up on Google Maps for him?

I typed in “Indianapolis,” moved the map around a bit, and located his position. From there it was easy to find his intended destination and note the best road to get him there. He stayed on the phone until he had made the last turn and was on a familiar road.

How amazing is modern technology! Here I was at my computer in Oregon, directing him to a place I had never even heard of before. Why didn’t that technology exist when I was a kid? I remember that family trip to San Francisco when every road seemed to lead to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was not where we wanted to go. How nice Google Maps or a GPS would have been then!

What we really need, however, is a Google Life. When we reach one of those crossroads in life—which college to attend, what career to choose, whom to marry, where to live—we could just type the choices into Google Life, and it would provide the answer. No staying up late at night weighing the options, no worrying that we had made the wrong decision. Just input the data, and out would come the solution! Wouldn’t that make life easier? I know my son would appreciate it, stuck as he is in that limbo between college graduation and entrance into a career. I could have used it any number of times—it would have saved hours, days, even weeks of indecision.

Unfortunately, Google Life does not exist, and I doubt it ever will. Despite the wonders of technology, we are stuck making decisions the old-fashioned way: thoughtful deliberation, prayer, and, sometimes, a leap of faith. Still, maybe it isn’t that bad. I would rather trust my future to God than to a computer anyway.

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