The Changing Seasons of Life

The last few weeks of my life have been a time of reflection. I spent a week down in Virginia to visit my mother who had some health issues and ended up in the hospital. When you consider that she is 87 years old this should not have been a shock to me. Throw in the aspect that my dad is closing in on 90, there is a reasonImage(1) for our family to not be used to dealing with the fact that we are entering the season where health, life, and death are daily concerns. 

For the most part, my parents have been relatively healthy. For the past 20 years, they have been living with my sister Linda and my brother-in-law Albert. Linda has been the principal caregiver for them during this time. I can never repay my sister for the commitment she has made to our parents. There is no doubt that Linda has lived close to the fire and probably has been forced to recognize the signs of this “season” much sooner than I have had to.

There is a difference between recognizing the signs and accepting them as a reality in our lives. It is clear I am not ready on any level with accepting that I am forced to deal with this looming “season” in my life. I can only truly speak for myself… I have been living in denial.

The reality is that my parents are still here. For that I am grateful. It is a gift that God has given my brother and sister. I want them to live for as long as possible.

Image-1For me, having my parents still here is the reason that has kept me from acknowledging that I am getting older. This “season” isn’t just about my parents entering the last chapters of their life, but rather the recognizing that we as their children are getting old ourselves.    

Life is changing.

Life is rushing by… we are checking off days like they are insignificant and of no value. One more day towards the weekend. One more day closer to vacation or retirement. Then suddenly you find yourself sitting next to your mother and you find yourself thinking that when you leave in a few days to get back to the “rushing” this could be the last time you have a conversation with the woman who gave you life.

Life doesn’t seem fair when you are forced to deal with such things.

As I pulled out of the parking lot of the hospital to start to drive a long 10-hour trip back to the “rushing,” it gave me time to reflect. I drove for the first five hours or so with the radio off.

I drove in silence.

Silence… shutting out the noise of life.

Here’s a quick fact for you: more than 30 million people in the United States are exposed to harmful sound levels on a regular basis. This doesn’t just lead to hearing loss, but sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and anxiety. Too much noise is not good for our health. But, even worse, it’s not good for our peace of mind.

Unfortunately, silence isn’t always golden. It can be torture, or at the very least, uncomfortable, and it forces to think about things that you have been avoiding.

Silence forces us to stop working, stop doing and, above all, stop and face ourselves in the mirror. I don’t know about you but spending time with myself is no picnic. That’s why TV was invented.

But, as difficult as it may be, silence is also the space where you find peace and stillness, and if you get good at it, wisdom. The answers to all our questions are there in the silence. And not just big and bold, “why am I here?” questions, but everyday stuff, like “what am I ignoring? Putting too much attention on? Attracting into my life?” questions.

Not to mention the dreaded questions of sojourning life during and after this “season.”

Nothing is too big or small for silence to answer.

Related imageThere’s no way we can spin certain things that happen as we get older. Feet that never stop hurting. Real sleep is a rare commodity. Bad hearing. Oddly flowing urine (too much information? Sorry, not sorry). Hair growing in odd places… especially ear hair. Embarrassing pauses in speech. It’s downright inconvenient. And, of course, there’s nothing funny about losing a parent or a spouse. Nothing funny about having you or a family member face a life-threatening illness. The fact is, we could fill volumes on all the challenging ways we get older or all the things we can no longer do.

Life is rushing by.

But, I’m looking to do something different.

I’m looking to lighten up my life, in spite of my circumstances, however overwhelming they may be. I want that for my brother and sister too. In realty, I want this for anyone who may be reading this. We all can begin by injecting a new brand of optimism into our blood.

I want to live life in this season of life.

This will not be in denial. Or avoidance. Living life in this season isn’t about putting on rose-colored glasses, holding hands and wishing on a rainbow that our skin would suddenly tighten up and not sag so much.

We can sing Kumbaya all we want and we’re still going to end up one day with our kids asking for our license because we are not safe to drive anymore, regardless of Image result for keysour self-conceived confidence in our driving ability.

It’s not if, it’s when.

And let me be the first to break the news: somewhere out there in the middle of space, probably a thousand light-years away, asteroids are ricocheting off of stars at 17,000 miles per hour. And, should one of these make an untimely left turn at just the right spot, there is a centillion-to-one chance that it could end up crashing on your front porch. It’s unlikely that any amount of positive thinking will change that.  But, don’t worry. I’m betting the asteroid will miss us. We should still take care of ourselves health wise and plan for the long haul.

The fact is, living life in these changing seasons, isn’t about changing the world or redirecting the planets so they align with our personal wishes.

And living life in these changing seasons is also not about pretending to feel good when you don’t, or saying you’re happy when you’re obviously miserable. Living in this season means that we don’t bury our head in the sand and pretends that life is a stroll down Main Street at Disneyland.

It’s not.

Living life in these changing seasons is about being vulnerable enough to acknowledge that life sometimes hurts. And our job is not to ignore the suffering, but to transcend it.

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Living life in this season is about focusing on what we have, not what we lack, and seeing what is, instead of what is not. It is a cultivation of gratitude that allows us to appreciate whatever falls on our plate.

Even if that means dealing with the mortality of your parents.

And when it really, really, really comes down to it… living life in this season is about living as if everything in our world is here to point us toward some deep secret that will change our world.

It’s about living as if every moment and experience has something to teach us, empower us, and free us. Even—and especially—the hard parts of life.

We can still face our challenges head on, and always knowing that when we say we need to live in this season, what we really mean is that we need to bring light and meaning to things that were once dark and meaningless.

And, that my friends, will be the secret sauce to a life well lived in the changing seasons of life.

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The Best Was Yet To Come

A friend tagged me in a post on Facebook and my face stared in disbelief as I read the comments.

“Hi everyone! It’s that time! That’s right: it’s been 40 years since we graduated from Oak Harbor high school!!!  Does anyone know if they are planning a reunion in the summer of 2019?”

First of all, that can’t possibly be correct.

Forty years? (wasn’t it just a few years ago?)

Secondly… I did not graduate from my hometown high school. Why would they ask me?

My guess is there might be some confusion.

Some confusion might be from the fact that it has indeed been 40 years… memories are the first to go.

The other is I wrote about a book about my memories of growing up in my hometown. I tell stories of being a student at Oak Harbor high school. Obviously, Image result for Oak Harbor High Schoolthis friend hasn’t read my book because I document the reasons why I did not graduate with my class.

Either way… I don’t know if they are having a reunion. I am not invited.

But this FACEBOOK post caused me to pause and to start counting on my fingers and toes as to how many years it really had been. I don’t normally keep track of such things.

Has it really been forty years since I received my diploma on that June day? Could I remember a single point of the valedictorian speech that would tell me to chase my dreams with gusto? Had it really been that long since I sat with that mortar board affixed upon my huge head and oversized nose? I weighed all of 130 lbs. at 6’2”.  45 of those pounds were attributed to my large nose.  It took another 15 years for my body to catch up to the size of my nose and now it has far exceeded the proper balance of nose size to body size ratio.

I don’t remember a single thing about my graduation ceremony. Oh… I remember the day, but I was too consumed with heartache.

What I remember about my graduation is the fact that my girlfriend broke up with me 3 days before it took place and I was devastated. It was over for my 3-year relationship with the girl of my dreams. My 17-year-old life was over, and it would never be the same.

At least that was what I thought at the time.

As I sat there trying to squeeze out any memory of that graduation ceremony, I immediately went into shock when I realized that I could no longer count the years Image result for 1979 yearbookI’d been out of school on my fingers and toes. I dug my senior yearbook out of the recesses of my attic. I dusted it off and paged through memories I’d long forgotten: Friday night games spent with my friends on the field and on the court. Long bus rides coming home from a victorious game or the sullen woes of dealing with a loss. All made right when I would spend time with my cheerleader girlfriend. Memories of walking the halls and lunchroom dramas. Tests, quizzes, and term papers. Not to mention the memory of conversations with my favorite teacher.

When I came to my senior portrait, I looked at that skinny young man with the light blue three-piece suit. I so wish he knew what I know now.

As I reminisced, I thought of all of the things I’ve learned along the way that I really wish I’d known ahead of time. Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without surviving the disco era phase but, still, there are a few things I would like to have known to make the next 40 years of my life a little easier to sojourn.

As I sat there with my graduation gown on and the graduation cap mashed upon my bulb-ish head I would like to have known these things… (in no particular order).

  1. Travel, while your standards are low. Youth hostels are a lot less glamorous at 57.
  2. Pack up your tiny, barely running PINTO and drive it until it craps out. See as much of the country you can and eat peanut butter and jelly along the way.Image result for john lennon
  3. John Lennon gets murdered, as does Marvin Gaye, so prepare yourself for that. Michael Jackson dies. And so, does Prince. And Tom Petty. So, enjoy them while you can.
  4. Your hair will turn grey, but it will stay where it is, unlike some of your friends, so enjoy it and quit worrying about it. You’re good.
  5. Speaking of hair… it will start growing in the oddest places. It will start to grow out of your ears and you need to keep that stuff under control. They will invent products that will make it easier. Hang on, help is coming.
  6. Enjoy the freedom of being lost on a country road with your best friend as you sing Tom Petty lyrics at the top of your lungs. Technology will make it nearly impossible to be as in the moment as you are right now.
  7. You will not recognize your eyebrows after you turn 40. Seriously, be prepared.
  8. The grunge phase doesn’t last long. I promise.
  9. When your favorite shows end, don’t panic. Turns out, networks “reboot” shows thirty years later and it’s like they’ve never left.
  10. You will discover in the coming years when life settles scores that you will be friends with everyone from your high school class, even the cool kids. And, 20 years later, you’ll talk with the people that ignored you and you’ll all wonder why you weren’t friends in high school.
  11. You will never get over the loss of your first love. But that heartache will lead you the one who will love you forever. As in the fact that she has been your wife now for many years. In the end, it all works out for you because twenty years after she breaks up with you before this graduation day… you will be reunited, and the rest is history.
  12. One day, you will realize you can’t remember the name of the kid who annoyed you in biology class. And you’ll text (yes… you will learn what that is and how to do it) your best friend to ask if he remembers and he’ll have forgotten, too.
  13. High school is good. College is better. Those that you thought were going to be so successful never are.
  14. Wear your faith a little closer to the top. Don’t hide your faith. Own it. Let people see that Christ lives in you. I know you hide it now… but you’ll regret that in the coming years.
  15. You’ll get a VCR but soon no one will use it anymore and this will come as a Image result for vcrshock to you. Also, don’t say “tape a show” to your kids because they will laugh at you.
  16. Cherish the friends you make in high school and do what you can to keep in touch. On the days when life is barely recognizable, they will help you find the guy who wore a light blue leisure suit to the dance. Be prepared, cause your kids they will continue to laugh much when they remind you just how hideous that suit really was.
  17. Be very grateful social media doesn’t exist. Your wild nights with friends won’t come back to haunt you at a job interview.
  18. Two words: Ear hair. Yes, I know, this is the second time I referenced this. It’s devastating. I don’t know what to say, either.
  19. High school football games don’t change. When you attend one in the coming years, you’ll swear you can hear your friends giggling next to you and if you close your eyes, you can see your home team playing on the gridiron. You will come to the realization that at the end of the day… it really didn’t matter whether you played or not. No one made it the NFL.
  20. Relax… you’ll become a teacher, soon after that, you will become a high school principal and you will be exactly what you always wanted to be.
  21. You’ll prove the naysayers wrong. Those that told you that you would not amount to anything will be wrong and you’ll achieve dreams far beyond those encouraged by this valedictorian speech.
  22. Prepare yourself. Read more about the things that excite you, question everything. Learn how to become a better speaker, writer, storyteller, son, friend, leader, boss, and father. Again, be prepared… you’ll discover that you will fail in all of these endeavors, but you can recover it by striving to become better today than yesterday.
  23. Clear communication is a key to personal and professional success. PrPublication2actice writing every day. Write about your day. The show you have seen, your feelings, fears and dreams, love and the perfect world. Make it interesting. One day, you’ll be an author.
  24. Don’t try to be important. It’s not about you. Your ego will demand attention, ignore it. Serve anyone without expecting anything in return. Amazing things will happen once you shift your mindset and start enjoying helping others. You will see how paying it forward comes back in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
  25. Life is short. And sweet. And it really does go by too fast. As cliché as it sounds, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that 40 years have passed. And you’ll find yourself writing a list like this.

As I wrote these down, I realize that I could write a book about these lessons I wish I would have known when I was sitting on that chair on graduation day.

Truth is… some things matter. Most things don’t.

I would like to have responded “Yes” to attending my 40th high school reunion this summer, I remembered the teachers, the friends, and the memories. I smile at the antics on Fall afternoons, driving cars and chasing my girlfriend. I reminisced about dances, classes I loved and even those from hell. But there isn’t a 40th reunion in my future.

Sure… there are things I hated about it. It wasn’t perfect and there are things I know now I wish I would never have learned. Sometimes life experience sucks. Those things are appropriate for another book somewhere down the line.

Every now and then I wish I could go back… not to change a single thing but to feel the freedom of being young again and not know what I know now.

I know that my life is the sum of all my experiences. The same as it is for you.

I remember being that 17-year-old young man and wondered what would happen to him.  

Mostly, though, I remember myself wearing that light blue leisure suit and hoping that the best was yet to come….

And it was.

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The Threshold of Growing Older

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I am relishing growing older.

Truly. I’m not exaggerating.

I am not just tolerating it; I am not just enjoying it. I am savoring it.

Delighting in it.
Reveling in it.
Luxuriating in it.

I am quietly but gleefully surprised by the gifts that keep appearing in my elderhood.

Gifts like perspective.

Calm.

A deeper gratitude.

Letting go.

And discovering that some of the most meaningful things that I’ve learned have come through disappointment and suffering.

I remember when I turned 50. At the time, on the outside, I was playing it cool… like it wasn’t any big deal. On the inside, it was killing me.

Now I understand for some reading this might be thinking that if you are in your 50’s you are still “young” but all my life I considered “50” as being at the threshold of being “old.”

On my birthday that year, I wrote a long and serious article that I have never Image result for Turning 50published. It began, “I hate being 50!” That really covered it, but my dismay and my angst about becoming “older” demanded much more than four salty words. I filled several pages with my recriminations and my growing awareness of the impossibility of stemming the tide and the gross unfairness of it all.

Even as I slowly made some uneasy peace with my own aging over the next few years, I still lived in tension with the realities of growing older and older… and older.

I was a billboard for the worst prejudices of ageism. Secretly… I worried about becoming incapacitated, dependent and invisible. I had little good to say about getting older.

Then, some months after I turned 55, I began realizing that I was falling in love with life in a whole new way.

After a lifetime of working hard to live a good life, gaining some wisdom in both my successes and failures, I found that with age came changes that I had not anticipated. They just – appeared, surprising me with their quiet and mysterious arrival.

So, it was that the changes that surprised me, that subtly arrived over time, became gifts that I hadn’t expected; gifts that I hadn’t found by searching for them. Delight had quietly found its way into my life over 55 struggling, questioning, wondering, longing years.

And it was delicious.

Image result for turning 57Now, in this newly refurbished life, having now reached 57, I relish the deep, quiet calm of my spirit.

It’s a calm that I cannot manufacture but which is simply there. It is the foundation of most of my days, unlike those days which used to be too full of angst and insecurity and indecision. This amazing calm is not just deep; it is deeply grounded, rooted firmly in the soil of experience and reality and my longing for a greater peace of mind.

I relish the enjoyment of sharing the long histories that I have with family and friends. I am fed by our telling the stories of our lives together, laughing and sighing and smiling and sometimes weeping over every “Remember when?”

Image result for Remember whenOur stories, so long a part of who we all are, have become a healing balm for the soul. And the stories tell me who I have been, the good of who we have been, and the oh-not-so-good places that sometimes scarred our souls.

Regret and forgiveness have become comfortable companions in my life.

I relish the discovery that few things frighten me now. I have been to the depths and survived. I am more resilient now, softer around the edges.

I know from experience that grace lives in the midst of suffering and loss.

I relish the deepening gratitude that has, I suppose, been with me always in some ways. Yet it was so often pushed to one side when life disappointed me and when I failed myself and others.

With the coming of a few physical limitations and hearing loss, I have had to make a choice: complain and grovel about my health issues or smile (even laugh!) at how Image result for Growing oldergood life has been and how good it can still be.

And I relish the new hunger that I have found for discovering who I am yet to become. My purpose on this earth is far from done. What quietly profound surprises await my discovery?

Ah, the possibilities!

I recently learned that when you turn 60, the next 10 years are said to be the second happiest decade of life. And that the 70’s (believe it, or not) are the first!!!

So, I’m going to relish as much in these years as possible.

And I don’t think I’ll ever pass through that threshold and consider myself “old” maybe… just growing “older.”

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Good Ol’ Days

Who remembers the good ol’ days?

You know way back when teenagers could ride in the back of a pickup truck, jump off the bridge into the river for an afternoon of swimming, or you could spend the Image result for The good ol daysday doing whatever you wanted.

Remember the good ol’ days when you didn’t have social media? You did not have to read everybody’s slightest gripe posted in your face on your facebook page. If you had a problem in your life, nobody needed to know. Nobody wanted to hear. And, by God, if an eight-year-old wanted to ride his bike around the town, he could do it.

I remember very few days in my adulthood where I could do “whatever” I wanted.  Responsibilities and bills to be paid controlled a lot of what I was able to do.

Like I said, the good ol’ days!

And, sure, these might not be the golden days you have in mind, or what most people think about while sipping lemonade on the front porch. But, the fact is, it’s easy to cherry-pick our memories and then let selective recall convince us that life was so much rosier in another time.

I know I am guilty of this. I definitely refine my memories by what “good” was going on in my life. It’s the curse of getting older. At least it can be.

But, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard curse to fight, especially when today’s world is so complicated and challenging to navigate.

It’s easy to get lost in nostalgic moments—open the photo album and rewind to simpler days.

And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, we all want to spend a little Image result for The town of Mayberrymore time in our own Mayberry—Floyd’s for a haircut and Aunt Bee’s for a piece of pie.

Most of us have our own version of simpler days—a bubble-like period of time when life was easy-going and untroubled. We had no responsibilities, mortgages or debt, along with healthy bodies and sharp minds. Sunscreen was optional. Good hearing was a given. You could do flips off the diving board at Teagarten’s pool whenever you felt like it.

Pick your own rose field. We all have one, even if it’s buried somewhere deep in the confines of our memories.

I might choose to reflect when I was in college, or perhaps that time when I drove down to Florida from Ohio on a whim when my girlfriend (now my wife) broke up with me.… I was alone in my 1976 Pinto with just an AM Radio to keep me company. It was what I needed at the time and it was wonderful way to heal from heartbreak. I might choose to remember the times when I traveled to Brazil and Africa. Swam in the Amazon River and the Indian Ocean all before I was 21.

Truth be told… there are many sweet spots I could reflect upon.

But, if I’m being completely honest, and had to choose just one particular time where my mind travels back most often, it would be when I was nine-years old.

It would be the time before my brother was killed. Long before I would face the awkward phase of my teenage years. Before the loss of my hearing. Before the time when I would lose three of my best friends all in the span of one year. Life before my body became compromised, and suddenly everything became more complicated. Long before I would discover my weaknesses and failures.

I know I’m not alone. Most people who have had struggles in their lives. (and isn’t that all of us?)  We can’t help but let our minds occasionally play the “life before” game. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize how exhausting and useless a game that is.

Cliché aside, time does indeed march on. And I have learned that I either march with it or I don’t. Don’t get me wrong; memory lane is a beautiful place to visit. It warms the heart and helps us appreciate all the blessings that have come our way. But, stay there too long, and that sweet nostalgia turns into a dissatisfaction that comes when you don’t want to be where you are, or believe that being where you are is a consolation prize—good, but not quite the real thing.

Image result for Runner UpUnfortunately, this is what age has become for so many—the “runner up” life, a less relevant and not quite as meaningful existence as the one you had. Life before and life after. And go ahead and compound this with physical difficulties and diminishing energy, and it is no wonder we spend so much of our “dream time” back in another day.

But, I’ll say it again, not being where you are takes so much more energy than being where you are. Living in the past (or the future) sucks the life force right out of you. It takes away all the energy you need to live and enjoy today.

In our 24-7, always-on, lightning fast society, we have access to the world at our fingertips. Unfortunately, this comes at the high cost of actually having the world at our fingertips, and with it, every possible bit of bad news imaginable. We don’t just have our own problems and heartaches to deal with, we have 7 billion other people to think about. It’s an impossible load to handle.

And while the world may feel close and connected, it still takes an hour to get to the closest mall. And for all the social connections we may think we’re having online, people are more isolated and lonely than ever before. Get yourself a bowl of ice cream and do a Google search on how many people are dying alone.

And, of course, we all know how dangerous the world has become. Who wouldn’t wish for a life in which we didn’t have to lock the doors, shut the windows, or tell the kids not to talk to strangers? Or if we didn’t have to be suspicious of packages left on the street. Or have to worry if a porch pirate was going to steal the one off your porch. We wouldn’t have to Image result for andy griffith aunt bea show mayberryworry about the growing divisions in the country and the world. Hostility. Paranoia. Anxiety. It’s a crazy time to be alive. It’s definitely not Mayberry. But, guess what? Mayberry wasn’t Mayberry. Fun fact: In real life… Aunt Bee wasn’t warm and cuddly. She didn’t even like Andy in real life. And who doesn’t like Andy?

Life might have been simpler in another time, but only if you kept your eyes shut and stayed in your small bubble. It’s a lot easier to find bliss when you’re living on an island in the South Pacific. It’s not so easy when the guy on TV is shouting at you and telling you that YOU are the problem, or when someone gets ten-foot tall and bulletproof on your Facebook page blaming you for all the country’s problems because you support a political candidate that they don’t.

Name calling and threats.

Throw in wildfires, hurricanes, flooded coastlines, and senseless shootings, and you’d be crazy not to want to escape to another time.

But, before you purchaseImage result for island in the philippines that island in the Pacific, you should probably know there’s a storm heading that way. And, even more important, you should know there is a huge silver lining to the world we live in. And, no, this is not a “look at the bright side of life and keep a stiff upper chin” silver lining. You can’t just put a bumper sticker on the back of your car and will yourself to happier days. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work.

This silver lining is simple, although it’s a hard pill to swallow.

It is this:

The crazier, screwed up and more challenging the world you live in, the more opportunity there is to discover who you are and what you’re made of.

But you have to be willing.  You have to step outside your comfort zone. Step away from the past and embrace the future.

In a world filled with such heartache, anxiety, and pain, you have three choices: You can sink, tread water and stay afloat, or swim to higher ground.

Most of us are strong enough (or have enough support systems) to stay afloat, to find a way to keep going and get by. It’s called survival. But, for those who aim to live beyond survival, the alternative is higher ground, where the view is spectacular and life-altering. Of course, this takes conscious effort.

Again… we have to be willing to swim to higher ground.

It calls for us to be stronger than we thought possible—kinder, gentler, more compassionate, forgiving, and loving. In other words, it calls for us to live at the top of our game—balanced, mindful, and awake. Always searching.

Quit being so offended at the drop of a hat.

It is a life that requires us to become fierce warriors committed to a better world.

To live in today’s world, we must be part Mother Theresa, part Gandhi, part Terminator, and part Monty Python.

Wise and humble, fearless and bold, and with eyes to see the humor and absurdity of it all.

To live in today’s world, we have to be immune to the toxic poisons that surround us. We have to choose to live above the noise—to turn off what doesn’t matter and tune into what does.

To live in today’s world, we must honor our past with gratitude, plan for our future with purpose, but live for today.

In the Now.0000056_happiness-is-here-and-now-woman

Visit the past… but don’t stay there.

Live your remining life with…

No judgment. No resistance. Not better or worse. Perfect, just as it is.

To live in today’s world, we have to transcend the madness and illogical world of mind and matter, so that we may pursue who we really are.

And who we really are is wise beyond space and years, and always aware that the good ol’ days are right where they always have been…

Here and Now.

 

Where Home Is

As October gives way to November this year, my life’s odometer flips another month.

Why?

My birthday is in June, so it’s not that.  My odometer turns because both of my sons, Nathan (Oct 25) and Adam (Nov.6) have birthdays in the coming weeks.

For me, the milestones of life have never really felt important. I only “feel” older when I recognize that my boys are going to be 32 and 28 respectively.

Image result for odometer of lifeThe odometer flips for me because how is it possible to have children that old?

Because of this… I find myself especially pensive about some things. I am thinking about the fact that I am on the backside of life. I am just a few years away from retirement and I wonder if all of the effort at my place of employment was worth it.  What did I miss in life because of being too commited to my job? 

I also look back with thoughts of how often have I failed to live up to my faith. Have I walked a path that brought honor to Jesus Christ? Thoughts of failure and the times I walked far short of God’s plan for my life clearly overwhelm any memories of when I was doing what was right.

It’s more of a feeling in my soul than a sequence of clear, discrete thoughts.

I find myself more and more overcome with thoughts of “home.” Not so much about being home but rather my thoughts are more about the journey to get home. Like after a long vacation and you start to head home. For me, there has always been thehome-is-where-our-story-begins relief of getting home after those long trips. The same enthusiasm that I had on the day we pulled out of the driveway to get “there, I often feel that same enthusiasm to get home when it was time.

Life is about returning.

Returning home.

I think that was one of the main reason I wrote my book, “Footprints in a Small Town.” I was on the journey to reconnect to my childhood home and hometown. 

Now I find myself on a journey to find my way to another aspect of “home” and looking to find closure on other aspects of life.

In other words, trying to find another place that represents home. I am not talking about heaven. Heaven is the final destination. I am not ready for that. I have more things I want to accomplish before I find my way to that home. 

At this point in my life, I believe that God is asking me how I am going to live my remaining days. It is clear to me that my success is not found in my paycheck, nor is it found in a title I have at work.

My success is now more or less found in being a good man. A good husband. A good father. A good grandfather and a good servant of God.

This is where home is for me now.

How different this is from the drive to achieve that defined so much of my life as a younger man. I knew where I wanted to go and believed that I could get there only through toil and competition. Without effort and without impressive results, I would go nowhere.

Image result for successOther people would be more or less, higher or lower than me. I would look up in envy or down in condescension. And I could not rest until I had arrived. It was all on me.

The drive to be successful.

The older I get I realize that none of these things that I have accomplished are real evidence that I did it on my own.

As I reflect I see the evidence of God doing the heavy lifting. He was there preparing a way and giving me the opportunity.

God brought me here. Right where I am today.

I have no idea where life is going to lead me in the coming years. Things are changing and I need to continue to trust that God will lead me to where I need to go.

And I will only arrive there by admitting that I cannot get there on my own.

Together, we walk and, at times, stumble together back to the home we yearn for.

We are all returning to where home is.

We’re all just walking each other there.

Our path homeward is long and uneven.

We will endure detours and setbacks.

But the One who brought us here will lead us.

Home.

Where There Is

I entered my first-grade class with my head held high.

After a summer that seemed to last an eternity, I could finally say I was officially out of kindergarten and moving into grade school!

Image result for first last day of first gradeI would have my very own desk to sit at this year. No more nap time, I would have real recess outside on the playground and with the big kids!

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

My mom helped me locate my very own desk. It wasn’t that hard. I recognized my name taped to the top of it. David L.

I wondered why my name always had the letter “L” attached to it at school. I was the only David in my kindergarten class, I also was the only David in my first-grade classroom too. Image result for H

Other kids got cool letters, like the girl sitting beside me, Jackie H.

H was a great letter, it was fun to write. Always reminded me of goal posts. 

“L” was so boring, I’d had been stuck with it for 6 years in a row now.

“Bye David!” My mom said kissing me on the top of my head. I was too busy digging into my paper bag to get my pencil-case so I could put my three brand new pencils in the pencil spot on my desk. I barely looked up to say goodbye. My mom talked to the teacher at her desk for a few minutes before leaving to go home.

It was the last, first day of school that I would ever experience my mom taking me to school.

After my pencils were in place, I sat in awe, taking in the entire classroom. It was so amazing! The walls were covered in pictures and words and charts! I loved charts. I wondered what they were for. I recognized a calendar Traditional Manuscript Alphabet Line By North Star Teacher Resourcewith birthday cakes all over it in random spots. On top of the blackboard was an alphabet. I already knew that A was for apple. There was a corner filled with colorful books. I couldn’t wait to look at them. Beside the books were at least three board games I’d never played before, and one I had. I loved board games!

At the door, I spotted my friend from kindergarten, with his mom. His eyes were red and puffy. I wondered what he could possibly be crying about on the first day of first grade. His mom said something to him, then gave him a kiss goodbye. As she turned to leave, he latched onto her left leg and yelled, “mama, nooo!!!”

My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe he was doing this in front of everyone! Crying might have been okay in kindergarten, but now we were in first grade! We couldn’t be crying and causing a scene. That was unacceptable.

Now truth be told… I was on the verge of jumping up from my desk screaming and running over, crying to my mom. Fear, embarrassment and the unknown kept me Image result for Old elementary schoolroomglued to my seat. At that time in my life, I would not do a thing that would draw attention to myself. That would change as I grew older, but for now, I was trying my best to become a wallflower and not say a word to anyone. I learned real early in life that it would always be better to blend in and not make a scene.

The teacher had heard his outburst and was headed across the room right toward him! Uh oh. He was in trouble now.

But to my complete surprise, the teacher nor his mother seemed upset with him. Nobody was yelling at him to get off the floor, or to stop making a spectacle of himself. Nobody seemed mad at all. That confused me. The teacher knelt, whispered something in his ear, and suddenly he looked reassured. He stopped sobbing, stood up and nodded. She flashed him her perfect smile and took him by the hand to his seat. I figured she must be the nicest person in the whole entire world.

“Good morning boys and girls,” she finally greeted us, standing in the middle of the room.

“Good morning Mrs. Provonsha,” we chorused.

She started explaining all the wonderful things that would happen. This year, we would learn how to read! I needed to learn how to read so badly. My brother and Image result for Dick and Janesister knew how to read, and they would always tease me about it.

Dick and Jane would soon become part of my everyday life. I would learn to read about them and their dog, Spot.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize that they were the BIG things.

She then walked over to a corner of the room and picked up a bowl and held it up Image result for Look back and see the were BIg thingsfor us to see. There was a real fish in there!! A goldfish! He would be our class goldfish for the whole year! Every week, one student would have the responsibility to feed the goldfish! I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. It would be like having a pet. (I don’t remember if it lived the whole year…lol)

I decided pretty quickly that Mrs. Provonsha had the best job ever.

She got to be in charge of creating and organizing all these amazing activities and systems. She got to decide everything. She got to listen to all of our stories. She had access to all the books and games, and she could probably take them home whenever she wanted! She could do whatever she wanted.

Although I was already pretty impressed, it wasn’t until later that day that I realized she probably had unlimited access to endless amounts of school supplies; pencils, markers, crayons, maybe even pens! Upon that realization was when I started to think that I wanted to be a teacher too when I grew up.

Reminiscing now, well over 50 years ago, I would have made a scene so that my mom knew then how much she was my world. I will forever be an unapologetic momma’s boy. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to tell her that over the years. She is 87 now and I still talk about the past with her and how much she means to me.

I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last time my mom ever took me to school on the first day.

These things took place right there in my small hometown.

When people ask me where I am from… I proudly say from “there”.

I know where “there” is.

I am forever grateful for growing up “there”.

It’s important to know that “there” made up who I was, who I would become and who I am today.

Do you know where your “there” is?

 

The Easy Silence

I’m going to fall on the sword here.

I’ll be honest and say that I am NOT good at recognizing this.

It’s not that I don’t have massive amounts of respect for all that my lovely wife does Pam and Davidand who she is, it’s that I don’t often express it.

Shame on me.

It’s hard to put into words but because of WHO she is and ALL that she does, I am able to be who I am and do all that I do. She is the CEO, CFO, Accounting and Human Resource Manager for the Lee household. One small example is I don’t have the first clue how much we pay for groceries each month. I don’t know how much our gas, electric or water bill is.

If you ask me to do something this weekend, I’d have to check with her. I don’t know our schedule.

Without her…I am LOST! Literally.

Far more important, she was the shepherd of our children’s hearts.  Any credit we get for great kids goes straight to her. THAT much I am sure of.

Last, and certainly not least, I am thankful for the “Easy Silence” she creates for me. I got that phrase from the great philosophers “The Dixie Chicks”.

In the easy silence that you make for me
It’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
In the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Her ability to “keep the world at bay for me” is remarkable. A recent increased role with her employer created the need for some long weeks. For the last few months, she has worked three jobs every day.

We are in the midst of change in our life.

Things never stay the same and we are doing our best to adapt.

It takes someone special to deal with me and I am married to that someone.

There is no coincidence I’m popping Nexium and blood pressure medicine every morning. Outside of our home, we run a pretty crazy pace and this is just a part of it. It’s chaotic and makes all that she does even more important.

Inside our home, she keeps the world at bay. She allows me to be a husband to her because details have all been taken care of.

She creates an “Easy Silence” for me.

And… I am forever grateful.

Focus On What Matters

This past week I was at Tim Horton’s.

Sitting across from me was a man that I did not know.Related image

The reason he and I were sitting at the same table is such a coincidence if you believe in such a thing.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I was soon to find out that the reason for me meeting this man at a random table at Tim Horton’s would change my perspective on some of the things I considered important.

Jack would tell me about his situation.

He would tell me of the diagnosis. How they found cancer. He would give me Image result for cleveland clinic cancer centerdetails of his surgeries and of the treatments. The doctors removed one of the largest tumors recorded at the Cleveland Clinic from his colon. He would tell me he has been dealing with this for almost 5 years now. He has been told by the doctors that there was nothing more they could do. He has been told on at least 2 times that he only had a few months to live.

He recently had more tests run and again, the prognosis is not good. They will do another round of chemo and they will attack it as best as they can.

He has survived. He has overcome. He has lived.

But that isn’t Jack’s story, at least not all of it.

Jack’s story begins with a desire to write a book about his situation.

He has wanted to write a book called “Blessed With Cancer”. 

It is as important as life to him.

Sure, he wants to write this book for his wife and for his children to read in the future, but more importantly, he wants it for those that are walking the same path in life.

He wants to share his story of how he has survived. How he has overcome and more importantly how he has lived to those that are battling cancer.

He has tried to get his book published. Some publishers would tell him that the costs of putting this into a book form would be thousands of dollars. Others would tell him that it will be over a year away for it to be published in book form.

Jack doesn’t know if he has a year to give.

This is where I come into Jack’s story.

I am not sharing this to get any credit, to be recognized or to be seen in a better light.

I just know what Jack feels like when it comes to wanting to write a book and the process it takes to get it into book form. It’s brutal.

I have developed a publishing process to where I can get Jack’s book into book form at almost no cost to Jack or his family.

I can help him achieve his desire while he can enjoy the fulfillment of reaching a lifelong dream.

This is what I am going to do for Jack.

As Jack and I finished up our discussion and details that need to be completed to publish his book, I see that this book is something that he is living for. The compassion to tell his story and a desire to leave something that gives evidence that he was here.  A way to thank his doctors… his friends and most of all his TEST DPI FINALfamily.

Here is the front cover of the book I am publishing for him. I just submitted the book and it will be on Amazon in the next week or so. I am proud to have been part of his dream to publish a book.

The lessons to be learned in his story are evident long before a book gets published.

For me, I realize that in light of his story, many of the things I consider important… simply are not. Whether or not the Browns win another game or the Indians win a World Series is not important. It simply doesn’t matter.

I am reminded of a movie I watched many years ago.  It wasn’t a great movie by any standard, most of the movie I forgot about soon after it was over. However, there is one scene that I have never forgotten. In that movie, called “Meatballs”, Bill Murray is Image result for what matterscoaching a summer camp softball team. Just prior to the final game between his team of nerds and the super-jocks, Bill gives his team a pep talk, reminding them that whether they win or lose, it just doesn’t matter.

Most of the things we face in life really do not matter.  Not in the big picture of life. Our perspective will change when we face our mortality. When we face an uncertain future.

I am aware that we all have to face these things in life.

We have to play the cards we are dealt.

We need to focus on what matters.

What matters is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

What matters is showing up and doing the best you can.

What matters is your family.

What matters is stepping up to the plate and taking your best shot.

What matters is not letting your fear or your cancer define you.

What matters is living life until God calls you home.

It’s trying to squeeze out every last drop of life knowing that it is so precious.

So… when I see a man who has endured the last five years dealing with cancer and then he writes a book called “Blessed With Cancer”…  the game that the Browns won last week… just doesn’t matter.

Looking at Things in a Different Light

Never in my life did I think I’d learn a life lesson from a garage sale.

Once a year, some good friends of mine have a huge garage sale. This summer event was always one of the highlights of the year for them. They would always ask me if IImage result for dimly lit garage sale wanted to bring things over to sell and I always said no. But that year they were persistent and I finally decided that I was going to sell some “stuff” that was taking up space at my house. 

The garage sale was amazing… the driveway was lined with tables that were on display with all of the things they wanted to sell.  Lots of sunshine, and lots of foot traffic. It was nearly perfect – except for the garage.

The garage was dingy, even after we cleaned it. The lighting was gloomy – the paint, uninviting. It wasn’t a space you’d want to hang out in. Unfortunately, that was where all my “stuff” was laid out. The sale was so big we had no other choice but to fill the garage with all of the things that could not fit on the tables that were out front.

Over the next two days, hundreds of people shopped the sale, buying dozens of items. But through it all, the garage remained untouched. I didn’t even see anyone lingering around them. It was so strange to me. I would have thought Related imagethey’d have been among the first things to go.

I was puzzled, but I began to reconcile myself to the thought that they just weren’t going to sell.

Towards the end of Day 2, the tables out front began to look picked over, so we decided to move things around. We cleared out the garage, pulling everything out into the sunshine and on the tables out front.

And that’s when it happened.

Not even minutes after we moved my “stuff” to the new location, a young couple stopped, looked at each item carefully and then chose one to buy a few. Within thirty minutes, more things sold. And then another – and another. In less than two hours, shoppers had bought all of my stuff.Image result for garage sale

It blew me away. They went from worst to first in the blink of an eye! Really? Why?

They were no less valuable or capable – no less good – in that garage. Yet hundreds of shoppers just passed them by. They overlooked them, distracted by what they felt in the ugliness – eager to get back out where it was sunny and bright.

The shoppers needed the opportunity to see my “stuff” in a different light. And once they did, it made all the difference. They saw the value and they wanted it.

There’s so much to learn here. On the surface, of course, it’s a lesson that presentation matters more than we think. If we want to sell something – if we want to sell ourselves, it’s up to us to present well. We can’t expect people to buy in – even if it’s a no-brainer – until we do.

But there’s something more valuable here.

The thing that has stuck with me is how resigned I was that it was over. I was totally convinced that my items weren’t going anywhere. I’d accepted it. I mean, if they were, it would have happened already. There had been plenty of opportunities, but no interest. So, I was absolutely shocked to see them succeed so easily after such a small tweak. I mean, I literally picked them up and moved them 20 feet.

But with that one small change, what was unlikely became possible – and what was possible became reality.

Where else could that be true for you and me?

Is our fate sealed, or is life waiting for us to not have our minds quite so made up?

Is it possible that a simple change could have a profound effect?

What if we took a look at things in a different light?

Change1Perhaps our work could be more fulfilling.

And our friendships, more meaningful.

What if our marriages could be saved and even thrive?

What if we could make a great impact on the world around us?

Maybe we already do and just don’t see it.

Is your mind already made up?

Are you convinced of the outcome?

Do you know what you know?

Are you sure?

Looking at things in a different light might make all the difference in the world.

And I Won’t Forget

Image result for 9/11

What kind of world would it be now?

Everything was going to change.

For awhile it did.

We were just getting familiar with “high speed” internet.

Social media and the keyboards we hide behind didn’t exist yet. Our cell phones were dumb.

Our TV’s were fat and we were all maybe a little thinner.

There were no planes in the sky. There was a slight breeze and I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t sleep well that night. The fear of protecting my wife and my family kept me up most of the night.

I still can’t sleep some nights wondering how I can protect my wife and my growing family. My kids are now grown and starting families of the own.

Our TV’s are now thinner and we’re all a little bigger.

Our cell phones are smart now and we hide behind keyboards on social media and say horrible things to one another.

Actually, we don’t even hide behind keyboards anymore.

Now we shout our beliefs so loud that our targets can’t even hear us.

And I think back to this picture

And I won’t forget how for a moment we all pressed pause…

To love our neighbor as ourselves. To open doors and show kindness.

To hold those we love a little bit tighter.

The world changed that day.

And I won’t forget.