You Lead. I Follow.

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Me, versus the formidable Knobstone Trail.

38 miles of treacherous terrain. Endless ascents and descents along the hillside. Several battle scars (okay, they were only blisters), and a wicked cough. They don’t call this the Little Appalachian Trail for nothing. It kicked my butt.

Okay, okay. I may have exaggerated just a little; BUT not by much.

Last week, a close friend of mine posted on Facebook that he wanted to go on a weekend hiking trip. I’ve always wanted to do something like that so I decided to make a quick trip to REI: purchase the essentials, pack my bag and off we would go! The only I forgot to ask was where we were going. However, in all reality, it would not have mattered much since I had never heard of the particular trail before and I would have probably been too lazy to look it up.

We set off at about 8:30am on Friday morning. Another friend joined in; that made two with military skills and I wasn’t one of them. They also had quite a bit of experience hiking, backpacking and map reading… I knew absolutely nothing. Are you beginning to see the pattern?

As we began our trek through the woods, I fell into the last position. I was enjoying the scenic views, the crunch of the leaves under my feet, the sounds of birds chirping, the crisp cool air and just the overall picture of the autumn woods.We climbed hills, scooted down ravines, walked through dried up streams and hopped over fallen trees. By mile 10, I was getting a little grumpy.

At the beginning of the journey, I vowed to myself that I would not complain. Whatever the other guys decided to do, I would get in line and move. I wouldn’t ask, ‘”Are we there yet?” or, “How much further?”.  I may have thought those very things, but I would not dare ask them aloud.

As my grumpy attitude turned to anger and spite, I decided I would take the lead. If we had a specific mile marker to get to, why not move a little faster in hopes of reaching our goal sooner? Because that would also mean that I could set up my tent, take off my boots and nurse my poor feet back to health!

At the next path crossing, as the other two looked at the map, I stepped into the lead position and took off with them taking up the rear. I was still somewhat enjoying the sounds and the views that the wilderness had to offer, but I was primarily just looking down at my footing, trying to ensure that I would not have a misstep, causing myself to fall.

I wasn’t even settled into my new spot in line when I felt an overwhelming sense of fear. The entire time that I was following, I didn’t have to look around and pay attention to the white markings on the trees (called a blaze). I realized that it had been some time since I could recall seeing a blaze and I didn’t want to admit to my trail mates that I might have gotten us lost.

I kept walking, following the path before me. No one said a word. We began ascending up another hill and I saw it, I saw a blaze. 

Words cannot adequately describe the relief that came over my body at that particular instance. Overall, my hiking experience was filled with pleasant memories. However, I did keep quiet much of the trip as I tried to reflect on my life, what it meant to be a leader, and allow God to speak to me through the experience of His creation.

In regard to leading my trail mates, and the impact of the blaze, I learned these lessons on the topic of leadership:

When following, I only had to worry about my footing and where I was going.

I had gone the initial 10 miles and not really understood what the blaze signals meant! I trusted my trail mates that they understood the general direction of where we needed to go, and how to effectively get there. As a follower, it was not necessarily my job to ensure that we were going in the right direction. However, it was my job to support the individual who was leading me through the paths.

When leading, I had to not only worry about my footing, but that we were always going in the right direction.

Sometimes, understanding the burden of leadership is the only opportunity to appropriately grasp the respect that the role deserves. I certainly did not want to turn around and tell my trail mates that I had gotten us off course, or even worse, that I didn’t have a clue where I was going. The responsibility had shifted for I was no longer responsible just for me, but I was responsible for others.

It’s easy to sit back and criticize those who lead. As the third person in line, I had the luxury to assess each step that the leader took and notice sometimes that when we had to re-route, there was a better way to get us to the destination. When leading, we don’t always have that luxury to be able to sit back and evaluate each move, sometimes the leader just needs to act…

Much has been said the last few weeks regarding our newly elected leaders and those who they ran against. It’s been ugly, mean-spirited, and sometimes plain evil. However, they are our leaders. President Barack Hussein Obama has been one of our leaders the last few years, and I have respected his decisions, and the office that he serves.

I didn’t get to elect, or necessarily choose, who my leaders are at work. One could make the case that I chose to work there, but I didn’t get to handpick them. You may not have gotten to select the pastor of your local church congregation, the new CEO at your company, or even your school board commissioner.

Every one of us has been uniquely crafted with particular skills, assets, personality traits and gifts. We need to use them collectively and work together, appreciating the roles that each of us have. We may not always get to lead, so when we are following, we follow with all of our heart and support the ones who are leading. In the moment when the baton is passed to us, we lead with integrity, understanding the gravity of our situation and the responsibility that we have to those whom we are leading.

Appreciate those who are leaders in your life. Those who you chose AND those whom you may not have chosen.

 

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Just a Seat at the Table

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This morning while reading and reflecting on my life I was feeling rather frustrated with where I’m at in this moment. Sometimes it feels as if I’m just a pawn in this chess game, moving only at the direction of the hand who controls me.

I want to be more involved. I feel like I have God-given talents, ideas, passions and skills and I want to put them to good use. I want a seat at the table.

Whether by pure chance or direction, the song “Carbon Ribs” started playing within my head. I began spouting off the lyrics and I felt a sense of peace when I got to the chorus as I repeated the lines over and over ‘The cripple at your table, the cripple by your side‘.

A Thousand pairs of firey eyes
Burn like a serpent down the hwy 5
As the Long amber tail to Los Angeles unwinds
I’ve got resurrection down in side my skin
But for all my revealating
I just cant make sense
Of this gravity we’re in

Cause I’m a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs
And one day when I’m free
I will sit
The cripple at your table
The cripple by your side

The song is written about the relationship between King David and Mephibosheth (don’t ask me to pronounce his name). Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, King David’s childhood friend. When Mephibosheth was young his family was overrun by an army, a caregiver picked him up to run away and inadvertently dropping him, causing him to become crippled in both feet.

I’m sure cripples were treated no different in Biblical times than how they are treated in today’s society. We often find ourselves turning our gaze away from someone who has a physical deformity, trying to avoid eye contact so there is no awkward stare. We will go the long way to our final destination if it means that we won’t come in contact with them, hoping that they won’t call out our name, ask us for a favor, or simply just say ‘hello’.

This is where it gets me. King David invited Mephibosheth into his kingdom and offers him a seat at the king’s table, guaranteeing that all of his needs will be met for the rest of his life.

As I began to reflect on these lyrics I felt as if I heard a peaceful voice say “I have already provided you a seat at my table.” What more could I ask for? What more is there to desire in life? You see, I’m really just a cripple in this life. I’m not whole. I’m undeserving of all the good that I see, undeserving of His grace and love, undeserving of the friendships and blessings that I encounter every day.

Read the second verse of this song.

A thousand miles of pain I’m sure
Led you to the threshold
Of my hearts screen door
To tell me what it is I’m dying for
Gravity comes
Like a cold cold Rain
To lead me to the rope again
But someone is standing in my place

That rope is meant for me. It’s meant for you. Think of the pain that Christ suffered on His journey with the cross on His back, for the sole reason to take our place on the chopping block. The noose is hanging on the gallows, the trap door is set. The executioner grabs hold of the rope and begins to slip it over your neck, but someone steps in and offers to take your place so that you can experience life.

Today I am thankful for the peaceful voice that continues to speak to us on a daily basis.

I pray that I’m just always willing to listen when He speaks.

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Is She Worth It?

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“Is she worth it”?

That is the question that Azeem asks Robin Hood as they are about to catapault over the wall so he can rescue Maid Miriam. Robin Hood’s answer is simple as he responds, “Worth dying for.”

That may be the one of my favorite lines from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and trust me, I can quote most of it. This movie is hands-down my favorite movie of all time, and also ranks number 1 as Alan Rickman’s best movie (with the second being the Harry Potter series). The question that Azeem asks Robin Hood at this point in the movie is a repeat question that Robin Hood proposes concerning how Azeem was thrown into prison, and Azeem declares that the woman for which he paid a great price, as totally worth him being thrown into prison and possibly losing his life, simply put, she was worth dying for.

I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time lately thinking about what it means to be in love. Some of the books that are currently on my nightstand focus on building relationships and there are a few chapters regarding love and marriage. It has caused me to reflect on my previous dating relationships and I’ve developed a greater appreciation for all of the couples that have been able to stick together through the hardships and trials of life.

I have a confession: I’m not perfect. I know, it’s a shock, but I can be kind of a jerk. I’ve always told myself that it’s okay to be a jerk as long as you do it with a smile, but deep down I know that is not true. It’s something I desperately need to work on.

I’m picky. Picky when it comes to the girls that I want to date for longer than two weeks. It’s a blessing and a curse. I think up until my 28th birthday I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and I wasn’t mature enough or ready to settle down; which caused me to focus on the wrong types of girls to date. But enough about all of that, my blog post is not for you to psycho-analyze me. I’ll pay for that advice; I don’t want it to be free.

The truth is, I’m looking for love. I always have. I thought I knew what I was looking for, and I often found it in the arms of a woman, a new hobby, or school. But it never really satisfied me. Deep down I was still unsatisfied.

This past week I have not been able to get the song Higher Love out of my head. I was driving home from work and I turned on the radio, which is incredibly out of character for me, as I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. Free plug: Serial, Freakonomics, The Experience Community and The Village Church are some of the ones that I can’t get enough of. However, Higher Love began playing on the radio and I stopped browsing through the stations because of the sweet 80’s feel that the song has.

While it was the beat and the rhythm that got my attention, it was the lyrics that have changed my perspective. Allow me to steal the first verse and chorus:

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is a wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine
Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be
Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?

Powerful lyrics. I started to research the meaning behind the song and found out that the song was actually written by Will Jennings, who was the son of a Methodist circuit preacher. Will made it no secret that the song had a double meaning, as he was not only looking for love on this earth, but a love that was greater than any love he had ever known, a love reminiscent of what his father used to preach to his congregations.

Humans are engineered to love. We might have events in our life where people do us wrong and we begin to build walls, but that is not in our nature from birth. Yesterday I was holding a friend’s little baby girl and I could look into her eyes and just see the purity, innocence and love that radiates from this little girl. She doesn’t know any better. She’s just showing love.

There are times that I get frustrated with where I’m at in life. I thought by 29 that I would have a family,  a career and a dog. I guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad. But that’s what I’m trying to tell you, is that I’ve been thinking all along that the family that I want is really a substitute for the love that I desire. 

“The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.”

John 15:13

A few chapters earlier in John 3:16;

“God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.”

The past year has been a year of transition for me, as I’ve begun to find the love that I’ve been looking for all along. I’m not satisfied, as Will Jenning’s lyrics hit home with my heart constantly singing:

“Where is that higher love, that I keep thinking of?”

This quote does have a little bit of a double meaning, it does play into my dating life, as I’m failing to find that love on social media apps such as Tinder and Bumble. But I know that there is something greater. To know Christ’s love passes all knowledge and understanding. In reality, His love is so great that I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But I know it’s out there, and I desperately want to have more of it in my life. I want to pursue it. Why? Because that’s the void in my life, I don’t feel complete without it.

Without Christ’s love playing a signficant role in my life, I am unable to really love people (remember me confessing that I’m kind of a jerk?). I need His love in order to reflect that love back out to all of my interactions with my family, friends, coworkers, and the people I talk to on a daily basis. I just want to show love.

Remember when Robin Hood stated that “She was worth it?” Well, Christ made that same statement for me, for you. Picture him on the cross, He looks up and says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing…” He didn’t curse, throw insults, or promise vengeance. He asked for forgiveness for the people that had wronged Him. Simply put, Christ was saying that all of the pain and suffering that He went through was worth it.

I was worth it. You were worth it.

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The Forgetful Gentleman: Fulfilling Your Bucket List

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Yesterday I went out to dinner with some coworkers at Indianapolis’ local German watering hole, the Rathskeller. For those of you who are not familiar with this establishment, they have some genuine authentic German dishes and of course German beers. However, their biergarten has been consistently named in the top biergartens among the United States… I mean, I saw Smash Mouth there last year, and any place that is willing to host Smash Mouth is a winner in my book.

I digress. After dinner, I picked up some dog treats and Three Dog Bakery and then stopped in at another one of my favorite shops Silver In The City, which is located right on Mass Ave. This store has fantastic gag gifts, jewelry, random books, clothing apparel and home accessories. I could literally spend hours in the store, and often times, I do. It’s very rare that I ever come out of this store empty handed, and yesterday was no exception.

I came across a book entitled ‘The Forgetful Gentleman: Thirty Ways to Turn Good Intentions into Action’. It caught my attention in two ways. 1) Every guy should read up on how to become more gentleman-like. 2) I’m a man who is full of good intentions, oftentimes I feel like I am full of too many good intentions, and I need assistance in implementing those desires. So I bought it and decided to give it a go. So starting with this post, I’m going to be blogging on my thoughts with each chapter.

The Bucket List

I think one of the first movies that I genuinely cried in was ‘The Bucket List’, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It’s really an incredible film about a couple of dying men finishing out their last days on the Earth, and ensuring that they lived their lives to the fullest. It was emotionally moving for me, having an oncology nursing background, and it was at that moment that I wrote out a few items that I knew I wanted to ‘check off’ before I passed away.

The book focuses on the story of Ted Leonsis, who actually coined the term ‘bucket list’, and how he had a brush with death, which made him rethink his life and begin to live each day with intention and focus. I took a look at Ted’s bucket list, and well, mine just can’t match up… Primarily because Ted is a multi-billionaire and he has things such as ‘obtain a net worth of one billion dollars’… I mean, Dr. Evil didn’t even have aspirations that high.

The book focuses on the thought that many of us, including myself, often say… ‘I can’t believe it’s (insert date) already’. It generally infers that we are not living our life with intention. I’m guilty of this. I often wonder ‘where did the time go’ or ‘what did I do today?’ It’s time to change that.

Below is a rough draft of my bucket list. It’s a living document, meaning things are going to be checked off and added as my life progresses. I just wanted to share it with everyone, with the hopes of getting your feedback, adding any ideas as well for me, and just keeping me accountable. I don’t want to look back on my life in 10 years and ask myself the question, ‘what did I do with my life?’ and I know that isn’t Christ’s intent for our lives either.

It’s His intent that we live our lives to the fullest, making the most of the abilities and gifts that He’s provided, and then making an impact on those around us. At the end of my life I want to look back and say that I experienced everything that He had for me, and that I made a genuine difference in this world.

Enjoy!

Family Matters

  1. Fall in love and get married
  2. Have a healthy child
  3. Adopt a child
  4. Take care of father/mother
  5. Develop/raise children who are individuals and love themselves, and others even more
  6. Leave a trust for each family member

Financial Matters

  1. Pay off college debts
  2. Pay off home
  3. Zero personal debt for family
  4. Invest in a start-up company
  5. Be financially stable enough to leave assets for my family when I pass
  6. Own a profitable rental property

Possessions

  1. Restore an antique radio
  2. Own a ‘getaway’ home
  3. Own a sailboat
  4. Flip a house
  5. Own a convertible Mercedes Benz

Charities

  1. Change someone’s life via a charity
  2. Be a Big Brother
  3. Volunteer 52 times in one year
  4. Have a perpetual memorial named after a family member
  5. Invest in 1,000 people’s lives
  6. Introduce 50 people to Christ in one year
  7. Volunteer in a medical missions project
  8. Open a non-profit youth center

Sports

  1. Catch a foul ball
  2. Get a hole-in-one (par three course)
  3. Go to a Final Four with Indiana University
  4. Complete the Hilly Hundred
  5. Complete the Ride Across Indiana
  6. Take my dad to a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds
  7. Finish an IronMan
  8. Throw out an opening pitch

Travel

  1. Go on a safari
  2. Go to Italy
  3. Go to Paris
  4. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
  5. Go to Australia
  6. Participate in the Polar Plunge at the Loony Dook
  7. Go to Alaska
  8. Go to Egypt
  9. Go to Israel/Jerusalem
  10. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail
  11. Take my entire family on a cruise
  12. Climb an active volcano
  13. Participate in the Running of the Bulls

Stuff

  1. Write a book
  2. Swim with Great White sharks
  3. Obtain a Masters degree
  4. Design my own custom tattoo
  5. ✔ Go skydiving
  6. See the Who
  7. See Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge
  8. Attend a live recording of a famous band
  9. Be on a cover of a magazine
  10. Wrestle an alligator
  11. Sing at a wedding
  12. Shoot/skin my own deer
  13. Be emotionally moved every day
  14. Take a six month sabbatical
  15. Bench press 250 lbs
  16. Win $1,000 in Las Vegas
  17. Tandem base jump
  18. ✔ See the Rolling Stones
  19. Chase a tornado

 

 

Rathskeller

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My Life: The Correlations with Don Draper

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*WARNING: This post contains key information on the series finale of Mad Men. Do not read unless you want to ruin the rest of your life and know what happens in the finale without watching it.*

 

One is hard-pressed to find someone in North America that is not somewhat familiar with the hit series on AMC. In my not-so-humble opinion, AMC is the premier network for television series, beating out the second best with HBO. I mean, AMC has created worldwide phenomenons such as ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Breaking Bad’ and lastly ‘Mad Men’. Heck, even my own father watches this series. It was that good.

Rarely do I blog, and I think the last time was roughly a year ago. To educate my readers on the process behind a blog post, I just simply sit down on my laptop and write. I don’t reread what I’ve written, as this is one of the few areas where I allow myself to open up via the security of an online presence.

Yesterday I completed the series finale of Mad Men, and it was everything that I wanted it to be. It tugged at my emotions and moved me. Especially when I was able to see where Don Draper ended up.

I remember the first time I met Don Draper. I had just went through a rather tough breakup with a girl, the first real girlfriend that I had as an adult. At that time I was working night shift at Methodist Hospital, and I struggled to switch between being awake on days and nights and many days would just not sleep at all. During those days I would watch complete series and just binge on programming.

That’s right. I binged on television series before it was even popular. I’m a trendsetter. 

I watched every Harry Potter movie in one day. Watched every episode of ‘Friends’ in less than a week. Four seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’ in 2 days. And then I moved on to ‘Mad Men’, which brings me back to the first time I met Don Draper…

Now Don Draper is not necessarily an All-American hero. He frequently sought the love of women that were not necessarily his wife. Drinking whisky and vodka at 8am in the workplace was a normal thing for him (which can I ask why/how that went away? Let’s bring it back and see how much fun it is working in our places of employment!) And Don lied. Constantly. His entire life was a lie. And that’s what drew me to him.

I think all of us can relate to Don Draper in one way or another. I know I can. I may not be routinely drunk before 8am or find love in my secretary’s arms (one of the reasons is that I don’t have one), nor do I necessarily make sexist remarks towards women, although I will throw in a zinger every now and then, for comedy sake. Don was an unbelievable salesman, a mechanic, a con-artist, but the greatest gift of Don Draper was that he was a wall builder.

No one really knew Don. And that’s the way Don wanted to keep it. I think the creator of ‘Mad Men’ said it best in his sole interview after the finale. Matthew Weiner was quoted just a few days ago that ‘Don loves strangers. He likes winning strangers over’. That may all be true but I really think that Don loved strangers because he could keep up his facade of who he really was, so that he wouldn’t want to open up about his personal struggles.

The closing scene of the series finale shows Don joining a circle of individuals who are in a therapy group session, and a middle-aged man walks up to the open chair in order to discuss all of the struggles that he is experiencing in life. This man is a little pale, balding, and from the outward appearance, really has nothing going for him. The complete opposite of Don Draper. The man then begins to open up about how he feels that no one really notices him. His children never look up when he sits down  at the dinner table. His wife never initiates sexual contact and his coworkers don’t even acknowledge his presence in the workplace. As a result of all of this, he then questions his entire existence.

Don sits there. Emotionless.

Now the Don I came to know and love would have scoffed at this guy and certainly would never have attempted to console him. But this time, it was different. Don gets up and embraces this stranger. The man returns the embrace. And they both begin to cry. Not some little tears but they both began to weep. Uncontrollably. They both found comfort and peace in knowing that someone cared for them. That someone cared for them not for what they were able to contribute, or what they looked like, or who they knew, or what kind of money that they had…

I won’t lie. That scene hit me hard. A thought then came across my mind ‘Which Don Draper am I?’

I often correlated myself with Don Draper in the respect that my life was often a secret. I didn’t like to talk about my feelings. I didn’t necessarily trust people. I rarely wanted someone to know what I was thinking. Like Don, I wanted to interact with strangers. And the people I knew were often treated as strangers. As a result of my actions, all I ever had in life was failed relationships and shallow friendships, the recipe for a very unfulfilled life.

This lesson was learned the hard way. Being vulnerable is not a fun thing as it allows for the opportunity for people to hurt you. However it was this one moment that made me question whether all of the walls around my personal life are worth it. What do I gain in the long run by not allowing anyone to really know who I am? Sure there are a select few people that I let in, but the majority of people just think that I’m a highly intelligent smart aleck (which those are both true).

I would argue that in the one moment when Don embraced this stranger, that he had more of a positive influence in that one instant than he had in his entire life. Through all of his influence with advertisements, the cigarettes, the sex, the tag-lines, everything. In this one moment of becoming vulnerable and showing someone he cared, that was worth more than everything else.

After that Don went back to McCann Erickson and created the Coke commercial that closes out the season finale. It was full of individuals of all races, ethnicity, age and gender, singing about how they would like to change the world with a Coke. It reminded me of Coke’s Super Bowl add a few years ago, where they sang ‘American the Beautiful’ in a foreign language. That commercial was a fantastic display of how united we could and should be as a human race, unconcerned with one’s ethnicity, gender, sexuality or race. Don had figured it out. It was about meeting people where their needs were.

I want to challenge myself and anyone else who struggles with the same concept of vulnerability. Find connection. Offer acceptance. Let people know that they matter.

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The Giving Tree

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WARNING

The following blog contains many personal analogies and completely reflects the writer’s inner feelings. If you are intent on reading this in its entirety then you must be prepared to not only be moved emotionally but also to share it among your friends and family.
 

The Giving Tree is one of the most well-known children’s books, ranking #14 in the “All-Time Best-selling Children’s Books” from Publishers Weekly. While I can’t necessarily remember the first time I read this book, or the first time it was read to me, I do know that I had a copy of it. It’s been roughly 17 years since I have seen that book, let alone re-read it. However, I can assure you that I completely remember the plot and the message of the story.

For those of you who are uneducated, get the book. I cannot provide a summary that does this book justice. (I have included a link that will take you to a free on-line version). With the desire to truly get my point across, I will do my best to capture the message in a summarized synopsis…

A little boy finds a tree and plays on this tree until he gets older. As the boy transforms into a man, the tree becomes sad because it is lonely. The teenager tells the tree that he needs money, so the tree gives him all of its apples in order for him to sell them. And the tree is happy.

Later he comes back, this time a man, and he needs wood to heat his home. The tree then allows the man to cut down all of his branches. And the tree is happy. The man returns again, this time older and wants to build a boat, so the tree allows the man to cut the trunk, just leaving a stump. And the tree is happy. At the end, the elderly man returns, this time needing a place to rest, as he is old and tired. The tree has nothing left to give but just its stump. So the man sits. And the tree is happy.

You’d have to be crazy not to see the common theme. Shoot, even Hellen Keller would see this a thousand miles away. The tree was sad when it wasn’t adding something back to someone else’s life. The tree was happy through its giving. Crazy logic, eh? In a society that is often plagued with “me, me, me”, there are those around us who are always looking for opportunities to give something back. People often look to individuals such as Bill Gates, Mother Theresa, Bono and Princess Diana, just to name a few.

But there are those around us, many that we know personally, who often go unnoticed and unrecognized. These individuals pour much of their lives into our own, crafting us into the adults that we are today. Without their influence, who knows where we might have ended up?! Countless hours of investing, while never expecting anything in return. Whether it was to offer an encouraging word, a smile, a simple prayer, friendship, or even some cash to help us get through a difficult financial time.

I have one in particular. I cannot express the amount of influence that these two individuals have had in my life but today I focus on only one. My Mother. My Giving Tree. I grew up in a fantastic home, not a care in the world. I had an incredibly family, two brothers that were an absolute pain, friends and over a thousand different sets of parents to help keep me in line (let me note that there were probably additional parents that could have been used).

Honestly, I don’t know what it is like to be a “normal” family. My childhood was spent either at church or with families from our church about 5+ nights a week. It was incredible. My parents were over the high school ministries throughout the majority of my childhood and I always had about 20 different brothers and sisters. Activities centered around the church congregation or local community were always present, whether raising money for the USA-based missions or foreign, or to help out a family in need. I learned at a young age that this life is not really mine to give… it’s already been spoken for.

Growing up, I often took for granted how many times people would walk up and tell me “how lucky I was to have such great parents like that”. I often didn’t realize that fact until I got much older and discovered how special they really were. Time and time again I watched both my mother and father make sacrifices to help someone a little less fortunate than themselves. Often I was skeptical, but time and time again I was able to see the blessings that their actions reaped.

This blog has an ulterior motive. Earlier I compared The Giving Tree to my mother, giving and giving until it was almost impossible to give any longer. At this moment, giving is somewhat hard to come by. My mother’s sacroiliac joint (sort of where your hip bones meet) is disintegrating. For almost two years I have watched her walk gingerly, rely on a cane, injections, pain medication, and even a walker…

However, even with the debilitating disease, she has found a way to give. She recently created a blog entitled Hope In The Healing, which is really quite good, and this is coming from one of her more harsher critics. In this blog page she often writes words of encouragement to those going through difficult situations, specifically those dealing with chronic pain in addition to writings about her husband, their passion for church-focused ministry and the adventures of her three boys (mainly me).

Many of us, myself included, wouldn’t be giving anything to anyone if we found it difficult to climb a set of stairs or even walk to the bathroom. Shoot, I’d probably be one of the most miserable human beings on the planet and my sole focus would be to make everyone else just as miserable as I was. BUT, that is not my mom. She found a way to continue to give in a way that her body would allow her.

She found a way to give back. Now it is our turn. What good is a fantastic blog without a call to action? A few weeks ago, one of Nannette’s readers (some know her by the name Candace Jo) felt impressed to open a FundRazr to help pay for her surgery to repair both of her sacroiliac joints. This procedure would literally be impossible to obtain without your giving.

All I ask is this. Follow this link “What You Can Do With $2” and just watch the video. If you feel impressed to donate just $2, I would greatly appreciate it. If you want, share the link with your friends through Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets. Just like The Giving Tree, it is time for us to give back. Our giving will enable her to get back to doing what she loves most…Giving.

5minutefriday

Posted in Life | 4 Comments

Wisdom…From Old People?

 

BettyWhite

 

“Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.”

-Lloyd Christmas

Just last week I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with my parents in Bloomington. I had just gotten back from a dentist appointment (no cavities FYI) so I decided to spend some time with my grandmother, or as she is better known as just “Mamaw”. We chatted, or I talked and she pretended to listen… She may have a slight hearing disability and could benefit from the technology of hearing aids. If anyone reading this ever shares the whole concept of blogging, in particular this blog post, then I will kill you. If she doesn’t kill me first.

While we were talking, I was admiring some of the pictures on her wall. I don’t think I need to tell you, but my picture displays the LEAST on this wall. I am okay with it. Some people just aren’t fully appreciated until they are dead (meaning myself, not my mamaw). However,  I digress… In the entryway in my mamaw’s house she has about 30 framed pictures that detail the aging process of our family. It is rather daunting while impressive.

I was admiring the pictures and talking to her (she pretended to hear what I was saying) and then she brought another 10 pictures that she wanted hung up on the wall. I grabbed a ladder and started nailing studs and frames. When we were finished we both stepped back to admire my work. It was at that point when she said something that I hope will stay with me for many years…

“Whenever I feel down and depressed, that there is nothing worth living for, I look at these pictures and realize all of God’s blessings in my life.”

Now this is a lady who has lost her siblings, husband, cancer survivor, multiple disabilities and now practically deaf. She knows pain, heartache and disappointment. Yet in all of these things, she is able to look to the good in her life and be thankful for the blessings in the little things. Whether those blessings include a new day to be alive, family, friends, the birds and the bees, and her favorite grandson, myself, she is thankful.

Little did I know that just a few days later, my employer would wipe out almost 300 full-time positions. As I watched coworkers receive this horrible news I couldn’t help but to fear for my own future while grieving alongside them. Yet in that exact moment I had to be thankful for all of the blessings and opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis. So I made a short list of things that I am thankful for.

  • The best family and friends that a man could ask for. Real stability and community.
  • Long runs on a hot day.
  • Woods and natural wildlife.
  • Home. Heat. Unlimited supplies of beverages and food.
  • Education.
  • Fishing.
  • Daily opportunities to invest in others.
  • Pretty women who can also carry on an intelligent conversation.
  • Mexican food.
  • Passion.
  • Farmer’s Markets.
  • Live music.
  • Spotify.
  • Books.

This list is not extensive by any means. But my mamaw, no matter how old she is, was able to put things into perspective. You know, sometimes we can get so bent out of shape about our car not working, a higher heating bill, your spouse showing up twenty minutes late, or the other inconveniences in life but it’s not worth it to let those things consume us. There is way too much good and positive things out there to focus on.

I challenge you, as I will daily challenge myself to try and focus on the blessings of life. Find something you are passionate about, that makes you happy and knock that sucker out of the park!

My mamaw may not be perceived as cool as the likes of Betty White or Doris Roberts, but she’s my mamaw and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Posted in Life | 2 Comments