I celebrated a friends birthday a few weeks ago. Lots of conversation, laughter, delicious burgers and shawarma (yum!), it was a lovely evening. We celebrated someone I’m honored to call friend and grateful that he calls me the same.

As we toasted the evening, he said something that struck me. He looked to the guys around the table and thanked us for consistently showing up.

Whether it is breakfast at 6am before work (slightly later on Saturday mornings), or coffee in the evening, he and I get together a few times each month. The fellowship is refreshing and encouraging. I’m a better man and husband because of his friendship.

But the words he chose that night stuck with me and I realized something I’ve been pondering ever since.

That evening I realized that life isn’t necessarily lived to the fullest by those who have all the answers (who does?), or even any of the answers. I realized being a part of the most important moments, being there for the hardest moments and the most meaningful moments, that living a truly full life doesn’t require you to be a great cook, or an excellent conversationalist, you don’t even have to be all that good at making friends.

I realized that life is lived fullest by those who just show up.

I said goodbye to a friend earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend his memorial service, and being honest, we’d not talked in years. But I still considered him a friend. Most definitely someone who influenced my life during some of my most formative years.

Goodbyes suck.

Because they bring back memories. And while the memories bring joy, they also bring pain. I say all this not because memories of this lion of a man bring me pain, but because they Delorean’d me back 20 years.

I grew up in a very (so I thought) typical white, suburban, religious, household. We went to church, I had friends, we lived in the suburbs. Everything was normal.

It wasn’t until around 2000 that the paint covering the cracks in the foundation of my family unit began to peel, and the true nature of our home began to show itself.

In September of 2001, just two days after 9/11, my family left for what was supposed to be a two week trip to Texas. My youngest sister was fighting, and losing, a battle with an eating disorder and my parents were trying to find her help. By mid-October, it was clear this wouldn’t be a two week trip.

The years leading up to this were some of the most amazing of my life. I was a leader in my church and serving as a sound-guy regularly during worship services. I had two jobs I loved. I was really into the contemporary christian music scene and by the time I was 20, I was working full time in christian retail and christian radio. I had my own christian music radio show.

Music and worship. I loved music and I loved to worship. And I did all I could to surround myself with them.

Throughout 2000 and 2001 I’d been heavily involved with a prophetic worship group. We’d meet each week on Tuesday evenings and worship till 11 or 1130 some nights. Throughout that time, I was able to run sound for some of the most gifted musicians and vocalists I’ve worked with (including the friend I had to say goodbye to this week). I still count it an honor. Even as my familial world was fragmenting, this was a beacon of light, much needed normalcy as my life was fast sinking into chaos.

Our efforts culminated in an actual CD. We’d recorded an album. A release party was scheduled, we’d invited a choir to join us, it was without a doubt the most important event I’d ever run sound for and I was so incredibly excited.

November 2001, I can still remember the moment my phone rang. Soundcheck. I never answer my phone during soundcheck. But, it was my mom.

The floor dropped out.

Dad had left them. In Texas. He’d abandoned my mom and sisters in an empty apartment.

No jobs. No furniture (they were sleeping on the floor and using lawn chairs someone had donated. No money. No food.

During counseling, my sister began to talk about the abuse. The molestation. My other sister confirmed it. His depravity came to light and he fled, like a coward.

I hung up the phone and continued with soundcheck. What else could I do? But I was on autopilot. I was devastated. I was stunned. I was shaken.

I ran sound.

I went to the after-party.

I couldn’t see straight.

I left a few minutes into it.

That evening, forever stolen by the actions of my father. And I had no idea that this was just the beginning. Everything from that point forward, would forever be different.

My wife and enjoy different types of TV shows.

She loves good mysteries and the Hallmark channel. Stories with mostly happy endings. Murder, She Wrote and Magnum, PI reruns are regulars in our living room.

I love true-crime, the unexplained and the unknown. Unsolved Mysteries, X Files reruns and Stranger Things stream on my PC regularly

But — there are shows we both really enjoy. The Amazing Race being one of them.

Earlier this evening I was reminded of one of our favorite teams.

If you watched the show, you may remember father and son team, Mel and Mike. They were on for two different seasons. I remember watching both seasons and seeing this incredible love that Mel (dad) had for Mike (son). He was proud, but he wasn’t just proud. He rejoiced in his son and celebrated with him. It was one of the most pure father/son relationships I’d ever seen on TV.

It’s been a number of years since we watched those two seasons. I hadn’t thought about either of them until I happened to see an article online and it lead me down a small internet rabbit-hole. A rabbit-hole that lead me to a deeper understanding of the love Mel has for his son.

Mel (Dad) had been a Reverend. Back in the 80s he was a well respected ghostwriter and speech writer for nationally known televangelists.

And he was gay.

In the closet. Married.

He tried for years to ‘fix’ himself.

Can you imagine the shame he felt?

To be gay in the 80s was hard enough but to be an evangelical Christian as well? I cannot imagine anyone feeling more alone. Knowing that if the truth was exposed, he would most likely have been ostracized, abandoned by every friend. He would have been shunned. An outcast. Immediately unwelcome and unloved.

Fast forward a few decades. He’s on the Amazing Race with his son.

His gay son.

And I got it. It all of a sudden made sense.

Mel, first and foremost a father, wanted what every father wants for his son. He wanted to ensure his son never experienced the hurt and shame I can only imagine he experienced in the 80s and 90s.

So he chose to love his son fiercely. He chose to celebrate his son. And he chose to be proud of his son.

We could learn so much from that simple example.

May we love that fiercely. And we may know we are already loved that fiercely.

Our life has really never been what my wife and I would consider normal.

The majority of our friends married much younger than we were (we were 32).

The majority of our friends live near family.

The majority of our friends have children.

And infertility isn’t a word most people use in their daily language.

But if you do, you know it’s a shadow, ever there. It’s the blank spot in pictures. It’s the awkwardness in conversation when you meet someone and they ask how many kids you have.

It’s the question, why?

And it’s the reason Mothers Day looks differently, too.

Being honest, we don’t use that word often. We don’t talk about it.

Not so much because it isn’t all of the things I just mentioned, but because in some ways, we’ve come to accept it. We’ve been married 9 years. We’ve had zero success. We’ve gone as far as we can medically.

At this point, we’re just used to it.

We’re not normal.

But, I’m learning normal is overrated.

My wife and I are best friends. We love spending time with each other. We have an amazing marriage that we’ve fought tooth and nail to grow. We have a beautiful family. So what if our kids have four legs. They’re our family.

And despite the challenges we face, and maybe even because of them, our life is beautiful. We have much to be grateful for.

Happy Mothers Day, Erin.

We aren’t ordinary. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I love you.

Our neighborhood is awesome. Every Christmas Eve, before he begins his round-the-world trip, Santa takes the time to visit our neighborhood. Most years, he stops at each house, greets each of us and waves to the good little boys and girls. But this year, to be safe, he rode his Harley, waved and wished those he passed by a Merry Christmas.

And if I’m honest, it was the brightest moment of Christmas Eve for both my wife and I.

We both had tears in our eyes.

Because it was beautiful. Because for some reason, that simple interaction brought light to a tough holiday. Two adults, unexpectedly at home on Christmas because of a family member who was exposed, standing in the cold, waving like 5 year olds as Santa waved back.

Our family is all OK, which we’re grateful for, but it meant that Christmas was added to the long list of things this year that was suddenly, different.

After Santa passed by, Erin and I made the decision to grab the dogs, hop in the car and go Christmas light watching. So we did. We packed our dogs into the back, bundled up ourselves and headed off into the dark.

Maybe it was because everything was just, different, but as we drove, and ooh’d and ahh’d at all the pretty displays, it seemed like there were more Christmas lights this year. A lot more.

And then it hit me, why Santa mattered so much to us, why so many more houses were decorated. I realized that as hard as this year has been, as dark as some of the nights have gotten, we still need the light.

And I clung to that.

In the midst of this most weary of years, we need the Light more than ever. My wife and I needed to see Santa last night. We needed that reminder, that light. Maybe you need the same. 

It is in the darkest of nights, we need The Light the most.

And it’s in the darkest of nights, The Light shines the brightest.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas night, I pray someone, somewhere reflects the Light to you, shines grace upon you, and reminds you of what we need most this season.

This, most precious of days.  When heaven literally invaded earth. 

Our light has come.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

 

Even as I typed the title, I felt the corners of my lips curl slightly. Who hasn’t had a hard day? It’s 2020

But, it’s the truth. Today was hard.

Being misunderstood is hard.

Believing in something and not having others believe the same is hard.

Genesis

I love the story of creation. And I’m not sure why I am so drawn towards it. But over the last few years, it’s probably been the story in the Bible I’ve returned to more than any other.

Maybe it’s because there is so much to the story. So much more there than just the story.

Maybe because, between the lines, the story tells me that there is a process.

Maybe because it’s the understanding that if God Himself, the most powerful being in the universe, who, by His mere words, spoke 400 billion billion stars into creation, had a plan and followed it, that maybe I can trust that there is a plan for me.

Maybe because the story tells me good things take time.

And maybe it’s because, if you were there, if you were a cosmic spectator watching the creation of the universe, none of it would make any sense until the product was finished.

And maybe it’s because that’s what I need to know right now.

Good things take time.

There is a process.

It’s part of a much larger story.

And just because it doesn’t make any sense right now, doesn’t mean it won’t make ever make sense.

It will.

Whatever I’m going through, whatever you are going through, will make sense. Because the end of that story is the most beautiful thing you would have ever laid eyes on.

I have never really wanted kids. Not in the same way I saw other guys want to be a dad. I often wondered what was wrong with me, was something missing or broken? Was I just not wired that way?

My wife has been incredibly gracious throughout this journey.  She’s walked with me, asked questions, challenged me, allowed time to process and think, to unpack things emotionally and work through all the reasons behind why I feel this way. And while I’ve worked through a great deal and can now say I’m not where I was, I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I yearn for kids like so many of dad-friends did.

A few nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep, another layer of the onion was peeled away.  And for a moment, I wasn’t 40 and married.  I was 15, at the state finals swim meet.  And instead of enjoying the memory of a great time, I was reminded of feeling like a burden. 

My father was there.  A rare occurrence.  He never came to my meets.  But because he was there, I felt like I needed somehow to provide him with a good Saturday to pay him back for his time. 

And while I lied there, I realized that I don’t think that my father ever saw us (his kids) as gifts. We were burdens. We were responsibilities. We weren’t to be treasured and cherished, we were to be taught and corrected. It’s how he was raised.

And I began to understand how much that experience colored my view of relationships. Relationships were not gifts to me. Not things to be cherished or nurtured, but burdens, responsibilities, something to be handled.

Ask my wife. She probably realized this about me 1.7 minutes after we were married. I’m not always the quickest. Quick or not, my point is the same. 

God rarely gives us a blessing that we will interpret as a burden. 

Am I saying that my issues from 25 years ago are the single cause of our infertility?  No.  I am emphatically not. 

But I am saying that what I’ve learned through all of this is that God has blessings for us, big blessings.  And those big blessings require big work. If we’ve not grown to the point where we can see these blessings as blessings, if instead we’ll see them as burdens, He may wait.

God designed relationships.  He loves them.  And He loves to put us in them.  But if we see them as burdens instead of blessings, we may find ourselves with many fewer relationships than we desire. 

God designed work.  He loves and values how we spend our time and energy. But if we see that promotion, or that new opportunity as a burden, instead of the blessing it actually is, we may not get as many opportunities in the future. 

Or, as Dave Hollis says in his book Get Out of Your Own Way, “We must risk it not being easy, for it to be better”.

If we want better, if we want the blessing, if we want relationships, or kids, or that promotion, or a better marriage, that’s good! God wants those things for us as well.

But we must be willing to change, to risk it being hard for it to be better. God desires to bless us. But some of his biggest blessings require us be mature enough to see the blessing for the blessing it is.

Don’t be afraid of hard. Because hard brings blessing.

547 days ago we pulled up our roots, said goodbye to what we knew and began an adventure that would have us planting ourselves in the fertile soil of Missouri.

And many amazing things have happened since we moved. We bought our first house (yay!!). We started a small-group at our church. We adopted a second dog. My wife spent the night in the ER a few weeks ago (she’s ok), and despite an ER visit, CT scan and meds totaling over $20k, we didn’t pay a cent. See? Amazing things!

And yet, 547 days into this adventure the one thing I feel most deeply is that I don’t fit. Anywhere.

Kids? Ha – nope. The doctors say everything is fine, but I can’t get my wife pregnant for anything.

Friends? Not really. Sure, we’ve done all we can to be involved at our church, we’re section leaders and small-group leaders, but a year into this we’ve only had one invitation to do anything with anyone anywhere.

And all I know to ask is “Why”? What else can we be doing? We’re friendly, we host people, our church is even using OUR FACES to advertise small-groups!

I used to fit in. My wife used to fit in. I don’t know what happened. But now we use a long weekend to take the dogs to get french fries.

My god, we’re lonely.

Earlier this evening, I confessed to her that it just sucks. How I had hope that Memorial Day weekend would have resulted in an invitation somewhere, anywhere. And she shared with me that she’s cried more than once in the shower this week.

This isn’t like me. I don’t allow myself to feel down, I fight so hard to be positive and upbeat, to support her dreams and hopes. To be happy. To be there for her and help look on the bright-side and encourage and love…

But I don’t know what to do.

I cannot fix this.

Having kids seems to be the one ticket we were never allowed to obtain and by default, we are not allowed into the exclusive club of parenthood.

And by golly, if you are not allowed into the parenthood club, then
You
don’t
fit.

Anywhere.

Why do I so desperately want to fit? Because fitting in equals value to me. Having a group of people want to be around me, want to be friends tells me I’m lovable.

I find value there.

And even if we’re never allowed into any clubs, I can at least realize that I cannot base my worth on the valuation of someone else, my self-esteem on the desire of another to be my friend. So in that, I know I have room to grow.

And if there is one thing you can do in the fertile soil of Missouri, it is grow.

So I will.



2019 begins in little more than 24 hours when I write this.  24 hours and 8 minutes to be exact.

A lot of people take the turning of the calendar as an opportunity to create lists of resolutions; things they want to change about themselves or things they want to accomplish.

I have never done that.

Two decades worth of new years as an adult and I honestly cannot recall ever having a resolution.

I just figured out why.

For me, a resolution is not worth the paper it is written on simply because “wanting” something never brings it about.

Wanting to lose weight does not shed pounds.  Wanting to read more does not put a book in my hands.  Wanting to have more friends does not make them available via Amazon Prime.

Wanting, for me, never solved anything.  Because I never quit the core issue.

This year, I am no longer just wanting.

This year, I am breaking up with you.

Dear Fear – we are through.  You have controlled too many of my choices for far too many years.  I never want to see you again.

Self-Doubt – we are over.  Move out.  I am no longer going to listen to your voice.

Inadequacy – it feels like you have been around the longest.  So, I may have to say this more than once.

So I will.

Get the hell out.

2019 is mine.

I will own who I become in 2019.  Not you.  Take fear and self-doubt and never come back.

I know you. 

You will return. 

Now that I have called you out, now that I have made this public, you will do everything you can to stop me.

Bring it on.  With all the conviction I can muster, I will remind you every. single. time.

You no longer own me.

Everything, everywhere, at some point, will change.  We know this.  Yet somehow we forget.

Each time we’re caught off guard by something changing, we chide ourselves and remind ourselves that we know the world changes.

I believe we are wired to expect, or need something to stay the same.  Because everything changes we flitter from one thing to another.  We seek out something that seems solid and immovable because deep down we yearn for something to rest upon.

And if we’re honest, part of ourselves never grew up.  And that part needs to know that we are not the biggest thing out there.  That part needs to know we’re not alone, we may not know everything, and that actually, that’s OK.

I knew Toys R Us would be closing.  My wife and I went to our local store twice in its last days.  Less to shop and more to wander aisles that, for our generation, represented love.

Maybe that’s putting too much weight on what was just a retail store.  But as an adult I’ve realized that one of my love-languages is gifts.  So to 10-year-old me a trip to Toys R Us wasn’t a chance for a toy, it was a giant “I Love You”.

It stung when I realized that this was it.  Today was the last day.  Blame it on bad business decisions made years ago, or the rise of the internet, or Wal-Mart and Target, or higher prices…. whatever the adult reason for it closing, part of me wonders if this is a symptom that we as a society have somehow lost our way.

My childhood wasn’t perfect.  Far from it in some respects.  But I never had to worry about a mass shooting at school.  Or if our government was separating parents from their children simply for crossing a border illegally.  I didn’t have to worry about online predators or cyberbullying.TRU

I think that’s why saying goodbye to Geoffrey was that much harder.  Because for 10-year-old me, Toys R Us was a place where everything was happy.

And for 38-year-old me, Toys R Us will always be a place where everything is happy.

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