When Life Feels Like Jury Duty

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I recently had the pleasure of being a part of the selection process for an upcoming court case. This was the first time I had made it to this point in the juror selection process, and only the second time I had actually been called in for jury duty.

I am one of those weird individuals who actually enjoy fulfilling my civic duty. Perhaps I have all those years competing in debate to thank for my love of how the judicial system works and is conducted. Regardless, in my mind I secretly let out a “yesshhhh!” and pretended to throw my hands up in the air in anticipation.

I think the words “Jury Duty” are probably synonyms for “waiting-a-long-time” or at the very least are a way for citizens to practice their patience. At least the holding room was comfortable and accommodated our lesson in the art of patience. My group was finally called up to begin the selection process, and I felt like I had entered a reality tv show screening room where the possible contestants shared their most depressing sob story of why they could not fulfill their civic duty. I’m sure some of them were sincere, but by the time the last story had been shared, the rest of us were all a little less sympathetic and had turned into depression-riddled zombies who had been locked up in a dark room for far too long and were about to get ravenous.Recognizing our impending dilemma, the Judge graciously excused us for the day to resume the next morning when we had all returned to our normal state.

The next day we sat through more depressing stories and finally had enough people for the prosecutor and the defense attorney to begin their screening. I was the sixth of twelve potential jurors to be questioned. By the end of the day, I felt like we were all one huge family that had just come out of a counseling session where all of our personal information and past baggage was placed on the table for all to hear.

The final portion of our interrogation consisted of quite a few extremely vague hypothetical scenarios. I don’t like hypothetical examples all that much. They are just that – hypothetical and vague. Not real people, with real problems, and real scenarios. Thankfully, despite this portion of our interrogation, I thought I did very well, and tried my best to answer each question as truthfully, or at least as accurately, as I thought possible. Then both the defense attorney and the prosecutor took turns dismissing those they no longer wanted on the case.

I was shocked to discover that my name was the third called to be dismissed. I believe the prosecutor’s exact words were “I wish to dismiss juror #6 Miss Keefer (he never once got my last name right), and thank her for her time”. The judge and defense attorney agreed, and I was escorted out the door and released back into civilization. No harm, no foul, it just wasn’t meant to be, right?

I tried to persuade myself of this reality, but no matter how hard I tried, I have to admit, I was hurt. And badly. I mean really?!?!? After I literally gave all of my resources to the judicial system via my time, money, emotions, thoughts, common sense, mileage, attention, and any other physical and mental ability not already listed, they had the nerve to just dismiss me? Done. Gone. End of story.

I will probably never know what (if anything) was the tip-off that plummeted me over the edge and caused me to be dismissed. Maybe it was just what I was wearing (or not wearing). Whatever it might have been, I don’t know. But it has bothered me. What if I answered a certain question differently – would I not have been dismissed?

As the day came to a close, I used what little mental processors I had left to come to a startling realization.

My life all too often reminds me of my dismissal from jury duty.

Whether it’s trying my best to work at a relationship with a young man who may one day be my husband; devoting time to invest in friendships; making sacrifices so I can be an available blessing to mommies with little ones; or diligently working hard on to-do lists both personal and for the well-being of my household; I feel like despite all of the resources I have given to say, do, react, and learn in the appropriate manner, all too often I find myself being dismissed from opportunities I have poured myself in. A young man’s friendship moves no further; friend’s schedules do not work with mine; mommies have better options to turn to for help; and the to-do lists are a never ending reminder that my work never ends.

It’s like┬árunning in a wind storm – no matter how hard I try, I move nowhere. Like God has told me “Thank you for your service in [insert area], but you have been dismissed.” I question my hard work and begin to wonder if I had said/not said certain things; if I had reorganized my schedule better; if I had sacrificed myself just a little bit more; would I have been selected for service? Is there something about me that is hindering my ability to be of service in the greater good of those who mean the most to me?

I may never know why I feel like I am in a holding pattern in my life while others are being selected to do things I would love to do, but I am learning to trust that my dismissal is the best thing for me right now. That in the grand scheme of things, it is better for me not to be selected while others are.

Perhaps one day I will actually be selected to serve on a jury, but even if that never happens, it is comforting to know that at the very least, I will hear my God tell me one day “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21)

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Stay!!

Over the past seven years since I joined a local Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raising group, I have had the incredible opportunity to learn so many things from how to train a dog, to the more intricate life lessons that come my way teaching me anything from patience, contentment, and everything in-between. I am really excited about starting up this series of blogs on the impact being a puppy raiser has been in my life through learning important life lessons. I thought it fitting to post my first blog in this series this week as I celebrate the first birthday of my fifth puppy I am currently training. I am sure there will be many more lessons I learn throughout the coming months and years, and I look forward to sharing those experiences with you all too!

Anybody who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I am a go-getter. If a task needs to get done, I will be the first to raise my hand and offer to complete the task, or even take the initiative and just do it without a prompt. I am also the oldest of three siblings, so naturally I was taught (and learned from experience) that I need to lead by example in front of my siblings, as well as be the leader of our little Three Musketeers pack. I am sure I owe a lot of this trait to the diligent training of my parents who taught us from a very young age to joyfully and completely finish tasks that need to get done, and take the initiative to also start and complete tasks on our own. Saying the phrase “I’m bored” in our home was practically the equivalent to using foul language, and I learned very quickly that there is never a time to be bored, and that if I didn’t keep myself busy with either work or play, mom was sure to always find something productive for me to do.

This character trait engrained in me from a young age has also been hard to juggle as I have gotten older. As someone who always takes the initiative, I have learned that I also usually gets stuck doing a majority of the projects that need to get done because I am either the first to sign up for them, or others have learned to not speak up and take on the task because they know I will offer to complete it myself. There is also an increased stress level of taking on too many things (even if they are good and godly!) that stretch me too thin. Learning to let go, to say “no”, and to let others handle things differently than I could have has been a huge learning process that I won’t pretend I’ve mastered yet *wink*

Because of my go-getter personality, my worst nightmare is getting a cold that knocks me out from doing work for upwards of a week or more. I go from spending the day at work and coming home to help with chores and running errands and working on projects for church, etc., to barely having the strength to move around in my bed. I am literally good for nothing when I am sick, and it drives me crazy!! I have had to learn that sometimes it is okay to be knocked out of production so we can rest, because God initiated a day of rest after the sixth day of creation and blessed it.

One of the most important commands I teach each of my puppies I train with Guide Dogs, is the “stay” command. This command is different from the “wait” command. “Wait” is an in-between command that requires the dog to pause momentarily and listen for what I am about to ask next. It is also used before a release such as during meal time, play time, and getting out of the car. When I ask my puppy to “wait” I am always next to them. “Stay” on the other hand requires much more self-control on the puppy’s part because it requires me as the raiser to physically leave the presence of the puppy for a short amount of time. This as I mentioned not only teaches the puppy self-control, but patience, and trust in my return as well. This training almost always requires another person to help enforce, and is reinforced through a game of “hide-and-seek” to make it fun for the dog. Out of the five puppies I have personally raised, and the many others I have “puppysat”, each puppy progressed through this command at different rates – but all struggled with it. One of my pups in particular, a beautiful white labrador retriever named Valisa, really struggled in this area for a while. She would literally cry when I left the room, even if it was just to grab something from another room really quickly. She loved shadowing me everywhere, and the moment I told her to stay I might as well have told her I had died.

It was during one of these training exercises that I had what you might call a “lightbulb moment”, although I believe in “lightbulb moments” about as much as I believe in luck. What really happened was the Holy Spirit gently and quietly began telling me some observations about myself. Any follower of Jesus Christ can testify to a time in their life where the Lord was either silent on a matter, or His answer was for them to be still and wait on Him. How often do I cry out to the Lord begging Him to show me what to do next when I know all along that His answer is for me to stay exactly where I am? Why can I not trust that when He says “stay”, it is the best for me and He always returns, just like I do with my dogs!

I read a devotional one time that I thought not only perfectly described my dilemma when the Lord asked me to stay, but also clearly explained why staying was His best not only for me, but the best way for His glory to be displayed. The poem in the devotional written by an unknown author states,

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord,

Though I wanted so badly to go;

I was eager to march with the “rank and file,”

Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.

I planned to keep step to the music loud,

To cheer when the banner unfurled,

To stand in the midst of the fight straight and proud,

But I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me, I will, dear Lord;

I’ll bear the day’s burden and heat,

Always trusting Thee fully…

And then, when my earth work is ended and done,

In the light of eternity’s glow,

Life’s record all closed, I surely shall find

It was better to stay then to go;

I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

Sometimes, I even correlate movement as getting closer to God, but unless the Lord decides to carry me through a difficult time, or if His response is not to “go”, then I am to “stay”. Oh that I could learn to trust my Savior in matters of coming and going, like my pups learn to trust and obey me when I have them stay and they patiently wait for my return!

As a go-getter, it has been a struggle re-training myself that sometimes my greatest work and my greatest exhibition of strength and bravery is actually in the joyful and patient stillness in waiting for my Savior to show me what’s next. My prayer is that others see that strength in my patience while I wait on the Lord to work. Not a strength by any means of my own power, but a power given by the help of the Holy Spirit that leads others to see Him in all His glory.