Red Plastic Cups

As I recount in my memoir, “Facing Chapter 11,” a pivotal point in my life came in the 11th grade when I got in trouble after showing up at the wrong party. You know the kind of party I’m talking about, the one teeming with teenagers holding red plastic cups.

My school, which was affiliated with the Baptist church, had a strict alcohol policy. I certainly knew the rules, but confronted with the opportunity to try beer for the first time, I gave in and took that small sip—but then promptly spit it out! It snapped me back to reality, and I immediately told my friend that I wanted to go home.

Surely, I was out of the woods, right? Wrong. The school administrators got wind of the party and everyone had to report to the office. I had convinced myself that I was in the clear—after all, I hadn’t “technically” ingested any beer and I argued my case with all the zealous indignation of a good TV lawyer. It didn’t matter. I was judged guilty and put on suspension for two weeks.

Missing school meant that I would have to make up all my missed work, but the punishment also extended into my extra-fun activities. I would miss everything that spring because of that darn party, those red plastic cups and my “so-called” violation of school rules.

Needless to say, I was livid at the “injustice” handed down the principal, and begged my mother to take me out of this school and let me finish my high school career somewhere else. But she said no. “Jan,” she explained, “life will make or break you….You’re going to have to decide what you’re going to let this do to your life.”

I look back now over my nearly 30-year career in the aerospace and defense markets and realize that if it weren’t for those red plastic cups, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

I worked diligently my final year of school–only to find myself back in the office again and confronted with another life-changing conversation. This time, the school secretary wanted to know if I was interested in taking a part-time job with the company on the other end of the phone. Twenty minutes later, I found myself walking into the lobby of Orbital Sciences Corporation. It was the fastest-growing aerospace company at that time, a company that was revolutionizing commercial space and a company that would launch my career to heights and places I could have never imagined.

So here’s my point. Sometimes our actions and circumstances involve “a red plastic cup moment”. We all have a past, but God can use any “red plastic cup moment” and turn it for good. Remember: God has a plan for your life. The enemy has a plan for your life. Know which one to battle and, which one to embrace!