Perfect by Lori R. Keeton



1.The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
2.The attainment of popularity or profit.

I vividly remember when my oldest sister Connie announced that she had left the practice of law to become a waitress.

(In truth, she was only a waitress temporarily while she saved up money to move to Chicago and become a realtor. But, the story sounds way juicier without that postscript…)

She waited until after she quit her job to tell our parents.

Smart move.

As for me, well, I remember being absolutely horrified by her decision. She was a lawyer after all. She made good money. She had security. She made our parents proud. She had a job that people respected. She was… “successful.”

And she was going to give all that up to go wait tables and hope that somehow she would save enough money to move to the NORTH and be a realtor?

Sounded like a long shot to me.

I felt so smugly superior. I was a straight A student. I did not waste time thinking about dreams or wishes. I was going to be a super successful lawyer. I would never quit my job- or anything else- on a whim.

Poor, poor Connie.

Fast forward twenty years.

Connie is a successful realtor, wife and mother of two amazing boys living in Chicago.

Yep. She did it. Every bit of it (and a whole lot more).

And I would venture to say her only regret is the years she wasted living out our parents’ dreams instead of her own.

Who’s feeling smug now? (Truth be told- she isn’t. She isn’t like that. Never has been. Annoyingly kind on top of living out her dream… She’s also thin. Ugggh.)

I have been doing a lot of soul searching as of late about what it really means to be a “success.”

A lot.

Because here’s the thing- I’m not.

At least not in the ways that matter to me.

And that’s a really big, scary thing to admit.

It’s the kind of tidal wave that can drown you if you let it.

Or, it can inspire you.

It gets you thinking, hoping, questioning, praying (a lot).

You start thinking about your crazy older sister- and about her courage.

And about how naive you were.

You think about all kinds of things.

I think about how hard I worked to be “perfect.”

Yes, perfect.

When I was in college, there was one particular professor I adored- Dr. Pearson.

It was like he saw me- the real me- from the first day I walked in his classroom.

Cautious, guarded, shy, insecure me.

He was the first person outside my family who told me I was a good writer.

I will never forget that.

Year after year, he sat back and watched me study and obsess and achieve.

He was there when I received awards and accolades.

He applauded.

But, he never talked about any of it.

Never mentioned any of it to me.

It pissed me off really.

And then, after four years of being my favorite professor, he decided to let me know his feelings by attaching a postcard to my final paper….

It said: “Rude awakening #457: Nobody really cares what your G.P.A. was.”


Crazy- just like my sister and her waitress job.

Surely my parents would agree with me, right?

After all, my greatest fear was disappointing them.

But, you know what’s even crazier?

I think my stepfather (a/k/a Dean) knew I would be living this very struggle a long time ago. Years before he passed away.

I have a framed picture of him in my bedroom in his uber prestigious military uniform that he gave me when I was 22 years old.


In other words, when I had it all figured out. When I was brilliant and perfect.

And you know what his handwritten note on the back says?

“I am so proud of you for what you have done, for what you will do, and most of all for what you are.”


Did you get that?

Because I didn’t. Not when I was 22.

I just put it on my mantle and kept studying and trying to be perfect.

I didn’t give much thought to what I was.

Instead, I was all about what I would do.

Fast forward 20 years.

Dr. Pearson?


I bet you wondered if I would ever truly get it.

All I can say is thank you for thinking I might.

I have a lot left to learn.

But, here’s what I know for sure….

Being a success has nothing whatsoever to do with how much money you make or what letters appear before or after your name.

It doesn’t matter if you have a cubicle or a corner office.

It doesn’t matter if you report to someone or someone (or a hundred someone’s) reports to you.

It’s about having the courage and the confidence to be a waitress when the world thinks you’re supposed to be a lawyer.

It’s about what you are- not what you do.

It’s in your soul.

It’s there.

And you feel it.

You can ignore it.

Run from it.

Tell yourself that the big house and the Mercedes make it all worth it.

But it won’t go away.

It’s the voice telling you that it’s totally okay to go be a waitress.

Or a lawyer.

Or a mommy.

Or a writer.

Or a CEO.

Or whatever it is that makes you wake up every day and feel thankful for this precious life you have been given.

Thank you Connie, Dr. Pearson and Dean- for inspiring me to dig deep enough to want to be so much more than “perfect.”



Billboards by Lori R. Keeton

I am one of those people who is fascinated by the concept of coincidences.

I am pretty much a sucker for any story that includes the phrase “what a small world.”

Once upon a time, I believed these seemingly random occurrences that linked a person to someone or something at a particular point in time were just that- random.

However, the older I get and the more I witness and experience them happening, the more convinced I am that these so-called coincidences are something much more magical and important than just happenstance.

As Albert Einstein so aptly explained, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”


My mom refers to these events as “God moments.”

I cannot tell you how often the two of us will email, text or call with the news “I just had a God moment!” or “You won’t believe this God moment.”

Some of them are big; others small. None of them are insignificant.

I realize when I tell people about these “moments,” some think I am stretching or searching- looking for a deeper meaning to something that simply does not have one.

While I respect their opinions (I let people be wrong whenever they want.), I also feel sad for them because these events bolster my faith on a near daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong- I am all about “the proof.” Maybe it is the lawyer in me, but I want to see evidence to support almost any point someone makes to me.


And these “divine coincidences” are no exception.

Fortunately, God knew that about me long before I ever did.

While in college, I was struggling with some decision or another. Quite frankly, I don’t even recall what it was (proof in itself that whatever it was was not that “earth shattering” after all- but don’t try and tell 20 year old me that!). But, I know for certain that I agonized over it as I so often do, terrified of making the wrong decision- or of making any decision really.

I felt lost and let down, having prayed for an answer and heard nothing in response.

I eventually prayed angrily. Yes, angrily. That part I remember.

“God- How can you leave me without an answer? I am trying so hard to hear what You are telling me, but I hear nothing. If You are trying to tell me something, I am not getting it. I am not like other people. I need something big and obvious. I need a billboard or something. Seriously.”

I recall feeling a little ashamed after that prayer- sort of the way you feel after you raise your voice at your parents. I had been too vocal, too bold, too demanding.

The next day I was driving down a road I had driven down countless times before.

And there is was.

My billboard.


I knew it was mine as sure as I knew anything.



“All He Asks Is That You Trust Him.”

That was all it said. No advertisement. No fancy graphics.

Eight words.

Eight words that I have since come back to thousands of times in my life.

Eight words that were meant for me- the scared, angry, doubting girl that demanded a billboard.

Even after all this time, I simultaneously laugh and cry every time I think about it.

He gave me my billboard.

And so much more than that.

Because it wasn’t just the answer to whatever question I was struggling with on that particular day- it was ultimately the answer to all my questions.

It is tattoed on my soul.

When I find myself panicking- about my career, my family, my finances, my future- I close my eyes and I repeat those eight words to myself. Several times.

When I do that– and I let myself really hear those words– it is like hitting a reset button.

They remind Type A, control freak me that God doesn’t expect me to to fix it or solve it or find my way out of it or into it.

To the contrary, He just asks that I trust Him with it. All of it.

Since that fateful day, I have been blessed to receive many other “billboards” along the road of my life.

A few months ago I arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina completely worn down and exhausted. I was having the week from hell. A huge presentation in Charlotte followed by oral arguments the following morning before the North Carolina Court of Appeals to be topped off with a return trip to Charlotte to catch a night flight to New Orleans for an early morning deposition (i.e. no beignets or Bourbon Street in that schedule).

The combination of being tired and having a long car ride alone is not a good thing. One can start feeling quite sorry for oneself.

For whatever reason, on that particular night and for those hours in the car, my brain fixated on how sad it was that my stepfather was not alive to know that I was going to argue before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Since his love of being a lawyer is what drove me to become a lawyer, those types of moments were particularly bittersweet.

Sweet because I knew he would be so proud of me. He would have absolutely loved it. He would have sent me a card. Called his friends. Called his friends’ friends. Told strangers in the grocery store.

Bitter because there would be no such card or calls. No last minute tips. No “just in case” wake up call (as back up for my iphone alarm, the alarm clock and my wake up call!).

He would have been the person I called as I was driving down the interstate feeling too much fear and too little confidence. He would have answered the phone literally breathless with excitement over the prospect of my upcoming day.

And his attitude would have been contagious.

After the call, I would have walked a little taller and the load I was carrying would have felt a lot lighter.

But on that night, the load just felt heavy and the road long and lonely.

When I checked in, the woman who helped me was nice enough- although clearly on automatic pilot. She gave me her well-worn speech (need a credit card for incidentals, the gym is on the second floor (clearly a standard part of the speech given to everyone as I so did not look like someone who needed that piece of data), breakfast is from 6-10, one room key or two?) and directed me to the elevators.

I returned to the desk a few minutes later to get change for the drink machine.

As she handed me my change, she paused and looked at me- really looked at me- for the first time.

“I need to tell you something.”

As she said it, she looked confused- as though I had said something that did not make sense.

I waited, assuming she had forgotten some piece of her standard speech on the first go round (dry cleaning? the safe? check out? room service?).

She paused.

Her discomfort made no sense to me.

“You are awesome. You really are.”

Now I was the one looking confused.

“What did you say?”

“You are awesome… And I don’t know why, but I really needed to tell you that. Okay?”

I managed a weak “thank you” as my eyes filled with tears.

It was more than okay.

She was my card. She was my call.

She was- my billboard.

And the following morning when my cereal showed up from room service with a mini bottle of ketchup on the tray, all I could do was smile.


My stepfather always brought those bottles back to me when he traveled because my love of ketchup is a long-standing family joke.

A couple of hours later, I walked into the courtroom with a mini ketchup bottle tucked in the pocket of my briefcase feeling nervous- but awesome.

Very, very awesome.

While doubting, demanding, scared me may not know much, I know that God gives each of us these sorts of “billboards.”

A friend or stranger who happens to share a story with you at just the right time.

Unexpected opportunities.

A devotional.


A note.


A job posting.

Painful endings.

A chance encounter.

Ketchup bottles.

And for the most stubborn among us, actual billboards.

Be on the lookout- they are there.

All He asks is that you trust Him.