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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.



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.

Not because we recently moved and are still looking for a church to call home.  Not because we’re not feeling well (we feel great).  And not because it’s late and we’ll sleep in (we won’t).

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

For millions of people, that means a day full of cards, flowers, brunch and FaceTime or phone calls or actual face-to-face time.

For us, for my wife, that means it’s the one day we absolutely do not go to church.

Why?

Because more than anything, she wants to be a mom.

 

I don’t type those words lightly.

She has 100% of the desire.  And 0% of the results.

It’s been years.  We’re both healthy.  The doctors have no diagnosis.  The answer is just “no”.  And we don’t know why.

 

I don’t speak often of infertility.  It’s not something that most people are comfortable speaking about.  We either hear the jokes about “not doing it right” or folks already have a family.  When you’re 38, most of your friends have kids.  Lots of them.  And you’ve got a dog.

For my wife, that means she’s different, or somehow ‘less-than’ other women.  Think about it – what happens when a bunch of moms get together to hang out?  Their children rule the conversation.  When the topic is potty-training little Tommy, sharing stories about your rescue dog just makes you look weird.

So tomorrow, we don’t go to church.  We avoid social media.  We celebrate our moms and the moms in our lives, and Maple (our four-legged child) gives “Mom” a Mothers Day Card.  But we don’t go to church.

Because it hurts my wife too much.

If you know someone like my wife, someone who’s kids have fur, then take a moment tomorrow to send her a note.  Wish her a Happy Mothers Day.

You’ll never understand what it might mean.

So, tomorrow?  Tomorrow, I will love my wife.  I’ll continue to support her, to be a father to our pup, a husband to her, and I will remind her in every way she can that she is 100% a woman and 100% a mom, even if our kids have four legs.

 

To the women in the Facebook “Moms Alumni” group of a now-defunct ministry focused on teens, thank you.

Thank you for not understanding.

Thank you for the tears my wife cried today because she no longer fit into your group.  Thank you for so kindly telling her that because she’s never been pregnant or even had a miscarriage, that she’s not a mom.  That she doesn’t belong in your Facebook group.

Thank you for clarifying exactly what infertility does to someone…. makes them feel alone.

And thank you for doing it just ONE DAY AFTER Mothers day.

 

To my wife, who called me today in tears, who skipped church yesterday because Mothers Day for a woman dealing with infertility is hard enough without seeing baby dedications and a celebration of something she longs for; to my wife I say

Thank you.

Thank you for responding with so much love to the words you received today.  Thank you for the grace you showed.  Thank you for calming me down and for helping me see things from their perspective and for gently reminding me

“Honey, it’s a group for Mom’s.  And I’m not a mom.”

Thank you for your strength through all of this.

Because I know this is not easy.

and finally

 

To our future little person, regardless of how long it takes for you to get here, you’re going to have a great life because you’ve got a hell of a mom.  She’s strong, passionate, Christ like, stubborn, beautiful, tall and iron-willed.  You’re will be fought for, protected, love and raised by the most amazing woman I’ve ever known.

And when you’re older, we’ll tell you the story of how long your mother and I waited for you.  How you’re a gift to us.  And how awesome you are.

 

The words we speak are incredibly powerful.

As I look across the past year and as I scroll through my social media feeds, I feel a massive chasm has opened in our country.  On each side people are shouting, desperate to be heard.  And even more desperate to drown out those the disagree with.

We hurl insults disguised as meme’s, we say things online we’d never say in a group setting and all the while, we ignore our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and coworkers, our friends and family who lie at the bottom of this chasm.  They have been wounded, hurt and alienated by the words we’ve spoken, agreed with, or not spoken against.

And instead of building bridges, we’re shouting at those on the other side.

Instead of reaching down and grasping the hands of those who’ve fallen or been trampled, we’re holding our signs in protest.

We’ve forgotten the power of the words we speak.

We’ve forgotten that we the people make this country great.  We the people carry the weight of our decisions.  We the people are responsible for where our country is and we the people are responsible for its healing.

It’s not someone else’s job.  It’s you and I.

You and I ignoring the vitriol and salacious comments, responding in love when we’re attacked or insulted.  It’s you and I extending the love of Christ when we’re trampled and stepped on.

It’s you and I.

We the people.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Unity, justice, tranquility, defense, general well-being and the blessings of liberty.

We the people.

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