Inputs and Outcomes

I shared in my last post that I am leaving one company and joining another one. I also shared that this is a difficult transition because I hold my current CEO in the highest regard. He is a man of incredible integrity. He’s a tremendous leader, husband and father to 5 girls. Sitting at his feet the last two years has restored my faith in leadership and taught me so much about how a man of faith can lead a successful organization. Fortunately, I am joining another organization where the CEO has the exact same qualities. For that I am thankful. Very, very thankful. I’ve been a part of teams where that could not be said and the difference in culture was quite noticeable.

During a recent conversation with my CEO he said something that was so simple yet such a testimony to how he not only runs our company, but to his faithfulness. He said:

Aaron, I know this will sound crazy and even our investors give me a strange look when I say it, but this is how I believe we run this company – we control the inputs and God controls the outcome.

At first I just nodded my head and agreed. There is nothing I have seen in my 2 years that told me any different. That IS how he leads the company. We control the inputs and God controls the outcome. During my 3 hour commute back to Columbus, I just kept repeating those words…. “we control the inputs and God controls the outcome.”

Our finances? We control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

Our faith? We control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

My kids tryouts for various sports teams? They control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

My witness to the circles of influence where I am placed? I control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

I’m not sure who will read this today. I’m not sure where this will find you. I just felt like that wisdom from a man that has taught me so much was worth sharing. It’s made a difference in my attitude and approach to many things.

I control the inputs and God controls the outcome.

“If we faithfully cast out the net, He’ll be responsible for what comes back in.” -Tony Dungy

Send Em On Down The Road

IMG_1311-001Tough week last week. When I say “tough” I’m always quick to point out that the word is very relative. Last week was one of those weeks where you’re looking for that chapter in the parenting manual that covers how to handle certain situations. Truth is there is no manual. An even bigger truth is you navagate as you go.

I said last week that the details were not important. They really aren’t. Last week was a lot of things. Last week stretched our parental “wisdom” (I use that term losely).

It was about seeing God given gifts in your child that they don’t see

It was about pushing where you can while allowing them to make choices

It was about choices and consequences

It was about trust. Trusting them and them trusting you.

There were tears. There were words…a lot of words.

There were inspirational speeches and motivational speeches.

There was a let down and building back up.

When you become a parent there is so much you don’t anticipate. You assume things. You dream big dreams. Last week was a reminder that we are all given gifts and talents but until we step into the moments, our gifts and talents will never be fully appreciated or realized. We need people in our lives to encourage us to step into those moments. To be brave.

The sports reporter Rick Reilly once wrote – “We are here to be there for our kid when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t”

Last week was one of those kinds of moments.

On Tuesday I downloaded the new Garth Brooks CD. I’ve often said that if they put a soundtrack to my life, Garth Brooks music could pretty much play the entire time. One song jumped out at me right away called “Send Em On Down The Road.” It’s classic Garth. These words really hit home…

You can cry for ‘em
Live and die for ‘em
You can help them find their wings but you can’t fly for ‘em
‘Cause if they’re not free to fall, than they’re not free at all
And though you just can’t bare the thought of letting go
You pick ‘em up
You dust ‘em off
And you send ‘em on down the road

I said last week that I was so proud of “the boy.” Always. As parents we have and will face moments when we will “help them find their wings but can’t fly for ’em.” Wisdom tells us there will be days when we wish we could step into the moment for them.

But it’s not our stage and it’s not our spotlight.

You pick ’em up.

You dust ’em off.

And you send ’em on down the road.

Mom and Dad, you gotta let em go. Today’s hurt will be tomorrows victory. Life is lived forward and understood backward.

Send ’em on down the road…..

14 Years Ago

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14 years ago today I looked into the eyes of my first born child. I rejoiced in God blessing us with a son. I could not believe that we were now parents. I didn’t get an instruction manual or a “dummies guide to parenting.” I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

And I still don’t.

14 years ago today I knew I would make mistakes. I knew I would fail him. I knew I’d use the wrong words at the wrong time and in the wrong place. I feared I would wound his spirit while trying to correct his will. I hoped I would do my best to raise him to avoid all of the mistakes I have made while trying to recognize the traps I fell in.

And I still do.

When we found out we were having a son, a popular song on the radio featured the following lyric which became an anthem of sorts for me:

If I had just one wish, only one demand
I hope he’s not like me, I hope he understands
That he can take this life and hold it by the hand
And he can greet the world with arms wide open…

In his first 14 years I think a majority of that is true. He has majored in the things which I was never good at. Thankfully he inherited the discipline of his mom when it comes to his education, studies and knowledge. He’s excelled in the classroom and in sports. I did none of those things at his age and thank the Lord that he does. They will carry him far in this life.

What I lacked in all of those things, I have tried to give him somewhere else. For as long as I can remember, he has been my shadow. He quietly absorbs every conversation, interaction and discussion with people. My hope over these 14 years is that he has learned to greet the world with arms wide open. I hope he’s learned to be brave, courageous, fearless and never afraid to try something. I hope he’s learned that people and relationships are quite possibly the greatest thing you can invest in.

14 years ago I looked at this child and knew immediately that nothing could ever change how I feel about him. There is nothing he could do that would separate him from the place he holds in my heart. I felt that way in that hospital room 14 years ago.

And I still do today.

Happy Birthday Son.

I Love You.

-Dad.

Free Family Turkey Trot II

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Oops we did it again!! Last Thanksgiving we had an idea and now it’s annual event. I started receiving emails for all of the local races so I thought I better start spreading the word that we will indeed host our second annual Free Family Turkey Trot this year. Despite the cold weather, last year was a success and great time for all. Here’s a quick look at some of the fun!

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We’ll finalize details in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get the word out as early as possible before you decide to make those payments to another race. We will also again accept canned food donations if you feel led. It’s not a requirement. For all of the latest details, keep an eye on our official facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/FreeFamilyTurkeyTrot

Continue reading “Free Family Turkey Trot II”

6 Things My Kids Need For School

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Here we are again. Where did the summer go? Maybe you’re getting ready to send your first born off to school. You might be sending your oldest to college. Maybe you homeschool and you’re ramping up for another year. Wherever this post finds you, I thought I might share the 6 things that I firmly believe my kids need before they start school. These 6 things are part of that “hill I will die on” I often refer to. I know each child and home is different, so take these for what they are worth. Here we go….

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying they need respect, that comes when you GIVE respect. From the time our oldest began school, we chose one thing we really wanted for them that school year. His first year, my word was respect. I don’t know a lot and I’ve never been accused of being really book smart, but respect for others will take you a long, long way in this life. Like my father-in-law says “you earn your breaks.” One of the greatest things you can offer another person is your respect. Respect your elders. Respect your friends. Respect those who disagree with you. You don’t have to agree with every one, or everything, but you can respect their differences. There is an exception to this but thats another post for another day…

2. Treasured – This one REALLY applies to my girls. I wrote a post about being fifteen about a year ago and apparently I am incredibly naive to what that age is like now. While none of mine are fifteen yet, they are growing up faster than we did at their age. They have access to so much more. The only way I know to compat all that waits out there both virtually and in reality, is to make sure they all know they are treasured. They are treasured by me, they are treasured by God. They are my joy and the prize of their creator. They don’t need to settle for anything less than all that God planned for them before they were even born. There will be influences and voices to encourage otherwise, but my hope is they have a firm foundation in how treasured they are both at home and by their Creator.

3. Quiet Strength – There is confidence and then there is arrogance. Confidence crosses the goal line, hands the ball to the referee and heads back to the sideline. Arrogance takes off it’s helmet and makes sure every one knows who scored the touchdown. When it comes to achievements in everything from academics to athletics, I’ve always encouraged my children to be more like Barry Sanders and less like Dion Sanders. Act like you’ve been there. Consider the feelings of those that can’t or didn’t or won’t achieve their goal. Remember when you fell short and how that felt.  As they saying goes…

Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live life to express, not to impress.
Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

4. Be The Change – In an age where “bullying” is a word thrown around a lot, I want my kids to be the change. Stand up for those that can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. Be “that friend” we all want, seek and need. Surround yourselves with those that are different and learn what makes them that way. Let your life be consistent. Let it be so consistent it changes others in ways that are positive. Be individul but be consistent. God created you to influence a circle of people. Be the change in your circle of influence.

5. Be Awesome – Before you click out and think I am “that dad” that demands perfection, let me put your mind at ease…I’m not. You can be last and still be awesome. You can not be at the top of your class and still be awesome. Bob Goff said it best…

Be Awesome…. God loves the humble ones, and the humble ones often don’t make it as first-round draft picks for the jobs with big titles or positions. But they always seem to be the first-round picks for God when He’s looking for someone to use in a big way.

To Be Awesome is to be humble and to be available. We get opportunities every day to be awesome to someone or for something. I want my kids to be available to any and all opportunities, especially with others. As the saying goes – “in 20 years they people won’t remember your name or achievements. But in 20 years they will remember how you made them feel and the memories you gave them.” Be awesome. Make others feel special and leave them with great memories.

6. Be Brave – How could I send them off without a charge that I set for myself in 2014? Be brave to try new things. Be brave to explore and learn. Be brave for those that can’t find the courage to be brave on their own. Let your bravery influence and encourage others to be brave too. God wired each of my kids differently. One will “be brave” with a quiet, calm influence. One will “be brave” in her compassion for others. One will “be brave” with an enthusiasm that is contagious. It’s they way they were built before they were ever born. Gods perfect design. Take each of those gifts and be brave.

As we send our kids off to school and college, my prayer is that these days will be rich with learning. Yes, I hope they fill their minds with book knowledge, but I also hope they are filled with moments and experiences that mold and shape who they will become. As I’ve posted before, it’s time to “Let That Pony Run.”

We Left Verizon For T-Mobile

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I challenged you all to #BeBrave to start 2014. I also took the challenge on myself. Just a few months ago we cut the cable cord. I cannot tell you how much that decision has been so freeing. I can honestly say there has not been a single day we have wished we still had cable. That $30 bill we get each month and the $100 savings has been so refreshing. It’s also inspired us to look for every budget advantage we can gain, wherever we can gain it. Obviously the next evil necessity (some would debate how much of a necessity) on the list is cell phones. With the kiddos getting older and devices getting smarter, that bill started to get to be one you looked at with one eye when you opened the envelope.

So I starting searching.

As with my cord cutting post, I need to be very clear up front and say that this plan may not be for everyone. Our situation was unique in that I have an iPhone 5 and was at the end of my contract. That certainly helped as I’ll explain below in the details. I looked at all of the carriers and plans. The reality is they are all pretty close and there is no clear leader. There are also some smaller compaines that might be options for those that don’t need family plans or other options. This particular move worked because of our situation and my contract status.

First, let me give you our specific situation.

We had 3 iPhones on the Verizon network. I had an iPhone 5. My wife had an iPhone 4S and my son had an iPhone 4. We had unlimited talk and text and shared a total of 3GB of data storage per month (we were getting 1GB as a promo and paying for 2GB). My contract was ending. My wife’s contract was through 6/15 and our son’s contract was through 12/15. Our total bill each month + tax was $195. 

We had been looking at options to add a 4th line for our daughter. I looked at prepaid options and other plans. I also contacted Verizon to fire up an old “mom phone” we had so she had an emergency line if needed. Prepaid options were going to be around $35 a month. Adding her “mom phone” to our Verizon plan was going to add an additional $30 to our current plan. No data. So our adjusted bill from Verizon was now rising to $210 + Tax. Plus we had the additional issue of being stuck in contracts with Verizon.

After all the research, T-Mobile emerged as a very possible option.

First, and most importantly, what you need to know about T-mobile is that they keep their plans low because they charge retail for their phones. DON’T STOP READING BECAUSE THERE ARE OPTIONS HERE. When I first ran the math, it still added up to a savings, but it was not substantial. We were going to be able to add an additional line (which is a Samsung Lite smartphone) for my daughter, get 2 new iPhone 5C’s and a sim card for my iPhone 5. It was basically going to cost us around $200. Not much of a savings, but with their 4 line deal, we were getting 2.5GB data per line, NO CONTRACTS and unlimited streaming of music services like Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio. So there were advantages, but I’m greedy and I wanted to really move the needle.

My iPhone 5 still has value and will move seemlessly to T-Mobile’s plan. I just needed a one time charge $10 sim card.

My wife doesn’t like change so she is going to get my iPhone 5 so she doesn’t have to learn an entire new phone operating system.

My son was very open to trying something new and got a Samsung Avant which was currently being offered for $200

I am going with the same phone as he is and transferring my iPhone 5 to my wife. $200

My daughter went with a smaller phone – The Samsung Lite – $99

Depending on your credit, T-Mobile will allow you to spread the payments of the phone out for 2 years. This is where this plan may or may not be for everyone. Remember, your phone plan is $100 a month. With the spread out payments, our payment went up to $38 to a total of $138 vs the $210 we were going to pay Verizon.

It’s still a win but I’m still greedy….

My wife’s iPhone 4S had about an $80 value and my son’s iPhone 4 had about $30 value. We had to trade them in anyway since T-Mobile was kind enough to pay their early terminations from Verizon. We then applied those credits to the prices of the phones and brought our bill down even further. As it stands, our current bill is going to be $130 + tax per month. We could bring it down another $10 but I added the “Jump” coverage to my daughters phone because she’s a first time phone owner and, well, things happen. It’s worth the insurance.

When the dust cleared….

We are out of our contracts with Verizon Wireless.

We each get 2.5GB of data, unlimited talk and text.

We each get unlimited streaming of music services like Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio. Not a minute of streaming comes out of our data plans.

We have three new android operating system phones that are pretty slick.

We are saving $80 per month.

There is some risk here so it’s best to really ask questions if you want to check out this option. Should something happen to one of our new phones (excluding my daughters with the “Jump” coverage), we’re on the hook for the remaining price of that phone AND the replacement phone. We could avoid this by paying the $10 “Jump” coverage, but I’m trying to keep the monthly bill down. We just have to take good care of the phones.

Those are all of the details. They do have a referral program that would give both you and I a $25 promotional gift card from T-Moblie should you make the switch too. Use this link if interested – https://mbsy.co/7PZqS

Lastly, the elephant in the middle of the room with T-Moblie appears to be their coverage area. Again, this might not be for everyone. The reality is that we don’t talk on our phones (just like we don’t watch TV). We text and use data (usually in wi-fi areas like the house or office). I’m not overly concerned about the converage map given the savings and very few times this might be an issue. Now if you are someone that doesn’t fit that category, again, ask lots of questions. Certainly check out that coverage map.

Best of luck to all those cutting costs. We’re all in this together!

#BeBrave

The Greatest Lesson My Dad Ever Taught Me

Fathers Day is this Sunday. How do you possibly honor your father for all he has done? Especially when you are a father now and know the requirements of the job. Today I wondered what the greatest lesson my father ever taught me was. The answer was simple and it took very little thought. Before I get to the answer, let me give you some other thoughts.

Now that I am older and a home and auto owner, one of the greatest regrets is that I didn’t pay closer attention when my dad would work on the house and cars. I was usually in the driveway shooting hoops at our garage while he was working away under one of our family vehicles. When it was time for home projects I was most likely in my room impersonating a rock star or playing Atari.

I never became a rock star, basketball star or great video gamer but I sure could use the knowledge I would have gained measuring, cutting, installing and removing. I thought it was important to point out that the teacher was always available. Sadly, the apprentice had other priorities. Thanks for always being willing dad and for still being a phone call away when I need the help.

So what is the greatest lesson I learned from my father? Three words….

Love your bride.

To the best of my recollection, these words were never once said to me by my dad. He never sat me down and gave me this lesson. As I have learned as a father myself, the best lessons are caught and not taught. Dad loved his bride. Every moment and every opportunity he honored his bride. My mom glowed because she was made to feel like she was the queen in his kingdom.

When my mom entertained in our home (which was often), it was a big deal. Behind the scenes, in the kitchen with an apron on was my dad. He would wash dishes, prepare food and make sure everything was as it should be. He supported her dreams and her spiritual gifts. He understood that when your bride is in her sweet spot in life, she radiates Gods glory.

My mom had a crush on Kenny Rogers. He was fine with this crush and every single time Kenny dropped a new album, she was one of the first to have it. The night or morning it came out, you would find my dad in a line at the record store buying one for his bride. He taught me the little things mean far more than the big trips to extravagant places.

In her final years, my mom needed constant care. While I have always respected my father, what I witnessed in the final years of my moms life was an entirely different level. He bathed, tended and provided for her every need. As the song says, he “walked her home.” He taught me what “in sickness and in health” really means.

Dad, Happy Fathers Day.

Thank you for the lessons you were willing to teach.

Thank you for the lessons you taught.

Thank you most of all for loving your bride.

I love you Pop.

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Dancin In The Minefields

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On June 14th, 17 years ago, remarkably, Heather Anderson said “I do” and we’ve been dancin’ in the minefields ever since. Even after 4 years of long distance dating, we had no idea what we were getting into. On that day we didn’t know we’d eventually be parenting a boy and two girls. Heather didn’t realize she’d be parenting two boys and two girls (because I still haven’t grown up). We didn’t know about mortgages, debt, jobs, and all that life would throw at us. We just knew we loved each other enough to make the whole thing official.

There are literally no words to describe the strength and grace of the women I am blessed to still call my bride. I will, however, try to put words to what I simply cannot explain…

She overlooks my many faults and somehow finds the slightest thing to praise me for.

She is the rock in this family.

There is no doubt in my mind that she would follow me wherever I lead and has the courage to tell me so.

Her faith in her Creator inspires me to pursue my faith as well.

She shepherds our children’s hearts and lives.

Her attention to detail is critical because details are not one of my spiritual gifts….AT ALL!

Her beauty is timeless and her inner beauty is stunning.

For 21 years (counting our courtship), we have danced in the minefields. We have had our moments when life happened but we’ve adjusted and kept the dance going. There have been times when the music stopped but the dance always continued. Speaking of music, the day we said “I do” a friend performed a song called “When You Say Nothing At All.” Who knew it would still ring true today?

It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Happy Anniversary. Thank you for 17 years of dancing in the minefields.

 

Knots In Your Rope

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We arrived home safely last night after a week in the Outer Banks. In case you missed it, I covered why this trip was important (HERE). I also gave a mid-week update of some of the not-so-brilliant moments (HERE). It was an incredible week on so many levels. I once again was reminded who I am on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (AKA – Gods Country).

My wife is a runner and I jog at a pace just a tick above walking so we typically map our various mileage routes when we arrive in OBX. One route we mapped out had a series of inclines and seemed to be a challenging 6 miler. I let my friend “D-Rich” somehow talk me into coming out of race retirement and sign up for a quarter marathon in August so I set a goal to get said challenging 6 miler before we left OBX. Saturday morning came calling and I always try to achieve goals I set. When I pushed off and hit my watch, I decided to take the 6 miles and compartmentalize all that had taken place on our week away. Immediately, my useless knowledge kicked in and this quote came to mind:

“Y’all come up here about the same time with the same problems. You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope and you think 2 weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it.”

-Curly (City Slickers)

Sure enough, old Curly was right. The only exception is I usually take 51 weeks a year to get knots in my rope. Then I spend a week in OBX thinking it will untie them for me. As I pounded away at the pavement, I kept wondering how a week off the grid somehow will solve all of the problems of the other 51 week mundane. Had I somehow found the magic I was seeking when we arrived 6 days earlier? Was there an “ah-ha moment” that I would now take home with me for the year ahead? If so, what was it?

“None of you get it”

If you’re familiar with the movie, Curly goes on to deliver his “One Thing” speech and it’s brilliant.

There is so much truth in such a silly little movie clip. Honestly.

While we were on our vacation, a good friend sent me a text asking for some advice. I called him a bit later and we discussed a decision that was weighing on his mind. As I ran those miles, I couldn’t help but think I shared my one thing with him without even realizing it. Our week away didn’t help me discover my one thing, it removed the distractions so I could focus on it much more clearly. It’s like his text and call were that ah-ha moment for me without flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder.

So what is that one thing?

What I told my friend is that he must decide on the hills that he is willing to die on. In other words, he must decide those things that are the non-negotiable things in his life. Everything else will fall into place and be viewed through this lens. They are the one thing. You figure that out and everything else just doesn’t matter.

Getting knots in your rope 50 or 51 weeks a year can’t be solved with a week or two away. It can’t and won’t untie them for you. Knowing your one thing and the hills that you will die on help keep from ever getting knots in your rope in the first place.

What are the hills that you are willing to die on?

What is your one thing?

It’s probably obvious by now, but these four are just one of mine. Every. Single. Time.

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Keeping It Real – Vacation Outtakes

We’ve had an incredible week here in The Outer Banks. Because social media can paint a picture, I find it very important to keep it real. I guess I felt led tonight to share some of the “behind the scenes” and real photos so no one thinks our vacations are all hearts and stars. Just as we are not perfect, our annual vacations have their share of issues, disasters and troubles. So let’s take a look at a few….(and it’s only Thursday).

IMG_0815Before we even left, my wife ran our van through the car wash real quick. As luck would have it, the small crack in the windshield became a big crack in the windshield. We also lost the wiper blade for the back of the van.

In a “if you give a moose a muffin” moment, I figured while I was replacing that wiper, I might as well #BeBrave and replace the air filter in the engine and one in the cabin. After stripping most of the screws on the filter cover, I was able to remove them by using a socket set (stay with me here, this will come into play later). Because I’m such a handyman, I replaced both the filters and was feeling pretty good about myself. Also, because I’m so smart, I made sure those bolts were really tight so there was a good seal (Again, stay with me….).

photo 3Somewhere around West Virginia, the little engine light in the van came on. Brilliant. My wife quickly pulled the book out of the glove compartment to decipher if this meant the van would explode somewhere in West Virginia or if we could make it to, oh, say, Virginia. As she read that the problem was an “emissions system” problem, that really smart guy behind the wheel (me) started to feel not so bright after all. I’m not 100% sure, but chances are pretty good those filters are not installed properly – thus giving the emissions problems. When we stopped for gas, I figured I would give everything a quick look, but, if you stayed with me thus far, the screws are stripped so I couldn’t get them loose. No, I didn’t bring a socket set. We made it to OBX, but that light is still on (more on or moron this later).

Once we arrived in OBX, we realized that we ordered sheets for the beds but forgot to get towels too. We’ve been drying off after showers with our beach towels all week. Don’t judge us.

The first night was filled with walks on the beach that brought awesome memories and maybe the photo of our vacation 2014 –

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But since I’m keeping it real, I bet none of you knew that this happened while I was practicing my dance moves –

Let’s just say I didn’t quite stick the landing.

Nor did I stick the toppings on our pizza our first night here. Brand new oven. Brand new pizza. Same coordination of  a carp.

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Day 2 brought a flu bug to Princess 2.0. She battled but her get up and go was get up and gone.

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Some of you might have seen this incredible sunset we captured last night. It was breathtaking –

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What you didn’t see was that our battery was dead when we got ready to go out that night. That stupid  little button on the dash of the Honda vans that controls all of the internal lights? Yep, somehow it found it’s way to “On” just like the lights in the van….all night. So before the sunsets, there was this… (Note: If you look close enough, you can see the stripped screws from yours truly).

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Speaking of those stripped screws, I was really smart and got a tool to remove that filter cover and “fix” it.

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Unfortunately, the guy that put that cover back on when he installed the filter, put them on so tight (told you to stay with me) that I can’t get enough torque to get them loose with this tool. Awesome.

That pond by our house? It looks awesome with rain drops (see our weather wasn’t perfect all week). The turtles that come up on shore and greet us in the morning? Despite our best efforts to NOT catch them while we were fishing, well, we did. Not good. Not good at all. He’s alive, but he’s not happy and I still feel guilty.

These are but a few of the adventures that social media doesn’t quite capture. But you know what, they’ve made every bit of the story of this trip that much richer. We’ll have laughs to share when we get back and for years to come.

The windshield can be fixed.

The engine will get us home.

I fell on my face but I got up and somehow my wife captured the moment I shared with Princess 1.0.

Dead battery? We met our neighbor by asking him to give us a jump (my wife’s idea).

I guess I have 2 points as I sit here reflecting on the week we’ve had so far:

1. This is all just a reminder that we can’t allow social media photos and posts to drive who we are. They never tell the whole story. Hopefully you’re getting a glimpse of that here.

2. The stuff that doesn’t make the cut, the outtakes if you will, are the things that write the story of the journey. It’s the not-so-perfect moments that you laugh and remember.

I think Gary Allen said it best….

Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.

Thanks to those that have followed along this week and shared the ride.

These Eyes

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Today we celebrate 11 years that these eyes have been a part of our lives. It’s going too fast. Way too fast.

These eyes captured me the first time I saw them

These eyes ushered in being the father of a daughter for the first time

These eyes teach me about compassion, joy, sensitivity and courage

These eyes scan the room, the court, the gym to make sure I’m watching and approve

These eyes have seen me fail as a dad but extended grace over and over again

When these eyes lock mine, I melt

In these eyes I see so much potential and promise

These eyes are intelligent and silly and know how to balance both

These eyes welcome a stranger and make them a friend

These eyes are so similar to her mamas

These eyes can bring tears to mine with surprisingly little effort

These eyes will one day change the world

How do I know?

Because these eyes forever changed mine.

I love you Miss Em.

 

Remembering Mom

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I was standing in the grocery store a few minutes ago, looking at Mother’s Day cards. What a sobering moment that turned out to be. Tomorrow, I will pause to reflect and remember my mom. Maybe you too will “celebrate” their life while mourning the loss. When I returned home, I pulled up this excerpt of the speech I gave to honor my Mom at her memorial service. I can’t think of a better time to make it public. To all of the Mom’s out there, Happy Mothers Day. Never under estimate your impact, your role, your touch on your family. To all of the spiritual mothers that have stood in the gap since my mom stepped into eternity, thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

When I was 5 years old, about the age of one of my children, I was running and tripped over a sidewalk. The result was a trip to the emergency room and ultimately stitches and a scar on my chin. What happened in those hours in that emergency room was the coordinated efforts of my parents. My Dad, our protector, did what he could to get someone to help us as the wait for assistance went much longer than it should have. All the while, my Mom, the comforter, rocked me back and forth and sang the words to a Helen Ready song called “You and Me Against The World.”

You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world
And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

Today I remember my Mom. I celebrate that she is in the place she most longed to be in the presence of her King and her Savior.

Remembering is what we do. 

I remember things like falling down (notice a theme here?) and Mom putting ointment on our knees in the form of a smiley face.

I remember working in the garden in our old house on Randolph Road and my grandfather sneaking up behind my Mom and I to scare us. He had parked his truck down the street so when he said “Boo”, my Mom jumped up so high she literally split her pants.

I remember a time when they renovated my bedroom on Woodrow. Mom spackled the ceiling by hand and with her fingers. I have never been the best sleeper at night and often would sleep on a foam fold out chair next to my parents bed when the fears of life and nighttime would wake me up. In an effort to combat those fears, Mom wanted to create a room where I would be comfortable. Within the swirls of the ceiling, she wrote messages I would find while laying in bed at night.

When I didn’t communicate much as a child, she found that playing Atari Pac Man and Pinball were a way to get me to open up. We spent hours playing those games, breaking those joysticks and creating a mother and son relationship. I can’t tell you who won a lot of those games, but I would imagine the time spent got me through the years of growing up.

I remember the many times Mom would work at the Alexanders Flower Shop at Southgate so her son had gas money, prom money and money for whatever the latest fashion was I just had to have (parachute pants). Even though there was something in that flower shop that gave her migraine headaches. She never complained.

From as early as I can remember, my Mom spent regular moments in her prayers dedicated to my future bride…wherever she was. I stand here today a man overwhelmed by the answer to her prayers. My wife and three children are more than I can ever be worthy of. I believe God answered those prayers so frequently prayed by my mom.

I remember the Bible and a Bus Ticket Home. “One will get you going when you haven’t got a prayer and one will bring you back son if you’re dreams aren’t waiting there.”

It was almost providential that “You and Me Against The World” was our song. The memories indeed will see us through.

While I could spend hours telling stories, I feel it almost necessary to speak of the other thing that my mom loved as much as her family and that is her Savior, her King, her Jesus.

It goes without saying that my mom loved Jesus. She shared Jesus with everyone. Our front porch and home at 83 Woodrow was a testimony to her heart for others and her compassion that everyone know her Savior too.

To the mailman that was lemonade on a hot day and a present at Christmas.

To our neighbors it was listening when no one else would

To many the front porch was a place to lay your burdens and receive a comforting word. It was a place where broken hearts were mended and the problems found solutions.

My mom knew no stranger. Our home was your home. Our door was always open. She was in her glory at Christmas when the house was full of people, the piano top was filled with food and hearts were full of love.

When the summers came, it was retreats to Tuck-away Lake for prayer, fellowship and friendship. No matter where, no matter the season, Mom was teaching Jesus, sharing Jesus, being Jesus.

As Tina and I grew up, Mom would often say that our accomplishments were their diplomas on the wall. I always envisioned the long hallways of our home on Woodrow Avenue with framed pictures to signify our accomplishments, most based on Mom and Dad’s sacrifices.

Each time I had any form of success (job promotion, special honor or a unique happening), I would call home to say “I got another diploma for your wall.”

Mom didn’t have a college degree. She didn’t have a Masters in theology or a degree from a prestigious Seminary. She couldn’t tell you the greek meaning of the second word in the 5th verse of Matthew. What Mom had was a heart full of Jesus and a passion that each person she had contact with would too. She loved Jesus and she loved people.

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

I love you Mom.

Grace Week – Day One

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I decided to do something new this year as we enter the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because one of the greatest gifts that happen on Calvary was the gift of grace, I’m going to take each day this week and focus on that. I thought it would be good to remind myself of that amazing grace every single day. If you’d like, feel free to follow along throughout this week.

A Lesson in Grace

Several years ago, I received a lesson in grace and hopefully taught one as well. It was the bedtime hour and I was putting the kiddo’s to bed. My youngest daughter requested some juice in a sippy cup to place beside her bed. She got used to doing this during a recent battle with the flu so I didn’t mind agreeing to said request. My middle child heard the request and decided she would like a little bedside refreshment as well. One problem…she had been known to sleep right on through her “potty alarm”….if you know what I mean.

Knowing that she would have this “issue” and trying to avoid a further problem, I kindly explained that she probably shouldn’t as it might lead to her wetting the bed. Since I am a softie when it comes to my girls, the hour was late and I didn’t have it in me to argue…you guessed it, she got a sippy cup too. Everyone went to bed without a hitch and I enjoyed the next 2 hours of watching television. After a few hours of down time, I decided to catch up on some work in my home office. That’s when it happened.

Small footsteps

Sleepy child walking in my office

Quivering lower bottom lip

Embarrassment on her little face

A tear forming in her eye

Decision time for daddy…..

In that instant I knew this could go one of two ways. While my human nature was screaming “I TOLD YOU SO”, there was a still small voice. It softly whispered “be careful here Dad, you’ve got this childs heart and maybe even her future understanding of God right in the palm of your hand. Don’t blow this!” After confirming that she had, in fact, wet the bed I decided to take a route she wasn’t expecting me to take.

Grace.

I motioned to my little one to come and sit on my lap (thankfully she had already changed her pajama pants). I then wrapped my arms around her and simply, softly whispered that I knew it was an accident. I explained that Mommy and Daddy know what we are saying when we ask them to not do certain things. I then told her I loved her, it was okay and that we would go clean up her bed. Once all the cleanup was complete she was back in bed, asleep and her heart and spirit were still intact. Hopefully one day she’ll remember that her father’s love is like that of our Heavenly father.

How many times have I done what I knew I should not have done? How many times has it gone as predicted? How often have I experienced Gods grace in those circumstances? God has every reason to hold my every foolish decision and move over me. My list of wrongs is much longer than the list of things I get right. Remarkably, “Friday” happened so He doesn’t have to. “Friday” happened so each day I experience a grace beyond my understanding. Lesson learned and hopefully…a lesson taught.

Grace.

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy
And believe me,
it’s enough…

-Matthew West

Life Lessons for Dad

photo1A few weeks ago an internet friend of mine sent me a request to check out his new book. Because we were messaging in 140 characters or less (aka twitter), I didn’t have a lot of details about the book he was sending. Today I opened up a book that is instantly a treasure. Are you a dad with daughters? Are you married to a man with daughters? If you’ve ever taken my advice, please take it now…you MUST order a copy of this book. It’s small but could be some of the most powerful instruction for you or that man in your life.

Filled with quick life instructions and beautiful photography, “Life Lessons for Dad – Tea Parties, Tutus & All Things Pink” by Michael Mitchell is just brilliant. I honestly can’t say enough how thankful I am to have said “yes” to this review. Please excuse the poor photography from my phone, but here are a few images of from the book.

Again, my iPhone doesn’t do a bit of justice to the beauty of the photography and the attention to detail on each page. Each picture tells a story, but the real key is the instruction below. Page after page of important, thought provoking wisdom. There is even an open page at the front of the book with the instruction to “Add your own photo and caption on this page.” I haven’t made it through the entire book yet, but here are just a few of the lessons to give you some idea of what you’ll find too:

She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.

 

Boys will break her heart. So will mean girls, stray puppies, and devastating athletic losses. Be there to help pick up the pieces.

 

If you want to be her friend in adulthood, you have to act like her parent today. This rarely works in reverse.

 

Sing to her. Every day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Do it often enough and the sound of your voice will become a permanent source of steadiness in her life.

“Life Lessons for Dad” officially releases on May 1st. You can pre-order today on Amazon (HERE).

Order yours today and start collecting memories to fill this page for you and your little girls.

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“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Perfect”

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9 years ago I launched this blog. Actually this isn’t the one that I launched. It started over on blogspot.com, it was named something different. Over the years it has changed and moved to where it is today. All of that really isn’t important. I bring that up because I created this blog 9 years ago to coincide with the upcoming birth of our youngest child. I thought it would be a good way to catalog all that was happening for family out of town. Today, our youngest, our “baby” turns 9 years old.

When I look back over the blog, I’ve written several posts about “the boy” here, here and here for example. I’ve also written posts for “Princess 1.0” here, here and here. It’s funny, but I haven’t written many about the one that was the reason this whole crazy blog started. It’s not for lack of love or to slight her in any way. There is no shortage of love or admiration for “Princess 2.0.” Not one bit. I thought today I might start to even the score a bit.

Early on in our marriage, whenever the topic of children was discussed, the number my wife had in mind and the number I had in mind were different. She comes from a large family (5 children). I came from a small family (2 children). Once we had a son and a daughter, I thought we were set. We had one of each. The number was even. I always knew that my wife would have more. She loves being a mom and I think God might have created her for that. So we decided to have one more. I’ll never forget the words of a friend when I shared my concern about a larger family.

Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.

The week that our new bundle of joy was due happened to coincide with a certain team that I bleed blue for playing for the National Championship. The Sunday before the Championship game, the ongoing joke at church was that I would miss the game due to the birth of our child. Because God has a sense of humor, my wife thought she was in labor about 3 hours before tip off on Monday night. We spent all but the final 3 minutes at the hospital that night. When we pulled in the garage, the game was tied with 3 minutes to go. I got to see the final 3 minutes and celebrate another banner for the Tar Heels. We didn’t deliver a child that night, but if we would have her name would have been “Caroline” or “Tara” to commemorate that event.

On that subject, some of you will remember this, but only her doctor and I knew what my wife was having. She didn’t want to know. I did. She was kind enough to allow the doctor to tell me at her ultrasound. For all those months, I carried that secret. I never once let it slip. About 10 minutes before my Brynn Joy entered the world, I actually let it slip. Our son was having a tough week. He was uncharacteristically out of sorts. Earlier in the week we had to put our dog down. As my wife and I discussed his behavior (right there in the birthing room), I said

“he’s had a tough week, he lost a dog but gained a sister….”

Immediately I couldn’t believe I let it slip. Talk about fumbling the ball at the 1 yard line. I had carried that secret for 99 yards and dropped it right there. To this day she says she didn’t hear me. That’s an example of her grace. Luckily our attention was quickly diverted to the birth of Brynn Joy Conrad. If you’re wondering where I got the name, it comes from a reality show on MTV called “The Real World.” I loved the sound of the name of one of the people on the show. I had never heard it before. She was a little crazy and tried to stab a guy with a fork on the show, but the name…I loved the name. 

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I will never forget the moment that Brynn Joy Conrad entered the world. There are those times in life when you swear you hear the voice of God. No one else does, but there is something so real and clear about a word that you sense or hear or feel. At that very moment, one swear I heard one word…

Perfect. 

At that moment, our family was perfect. No, WE are not perfect. Far from it actually. We have the same struggles and failures as everyone else. But all of my anxiety about adding another child to our family calmed with one word. All of my fears about imbalance (I’m a little OCD) and switching from “man-to-man” defense to “zone” defense were erased. A boy and two little girls. Perfect.

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Each day for 9 years Princess 2.0 has been the final piece of who we are. Her laughter and her enthusiasm fit her middle name (Joy) to perfection. She is the comedian. She is the dreamer. Left on her own, she can create just about anything. She can make friends with anyone. She has a compassion for everything from her stuffed animals to her little mouse/gerbil creature (still not sure what that thing is) “Lily.” She holds as much of my heart as the other two. Just as my friend said, love multiplied.

Today we celebrate the birth of Brynn Joy Conrad. I personally also celebrate the day that God whispered “perfect.” Thank you for completing us Brynn. Thank you for your heart. Thank you for teaching me to find the joy in the mundane. Never lose your smile. Never lose your joy. Never lose your ability to “dance like no one is watching.” Happy Birthday my love. I love you.

God, this hurts.

Infl_a_kelly_son_300x300n June of 2013 I was out for a run in OBX on our annual family vacation. When I returned, my wife told me that they saw on ESPN that former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly had been diagnosed with cancer. My heart immediately fell. Not because he’s a former NFL quarterback or hall of famer. Because I immediately remembered the gut wrenching story of losing his son to a dreadful disease at 8 years old. From everything I had read and heard about Jim and his wife Kelly, they are great people of faith. She has written books and maintains a blog openly sharing their faith. My wife said she thinks she may have even heard Jill speak at a conference once.

After a few weeks, the news got better. Jim had surgery and was pronounced cancer free. Suddenly I felt better. I felt like God had answered a prayer for this family. Maybe favor was shown to a family that had been through so much. Beyond family and health, this was the man that was the quarterback of the only NFL team to go to 4 straight super bowls and never win one of them. It was great to read reports of how well he was doing and see Jim Kelly out at events and sharing the good news of his recovery. Not because he is an athlete or public figure. Because he is a father and husband.

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Then just a few weeks ago came the absolutely crushing news that his cancer had returned. Immediately, my heart sank. I felt sick. Not because he’s an NFL player. Not because he’s a public figure or hall of famer. Because he’s a father and a husband and by all accounts, he thought he had beat this dreadful disease.

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The image you see above is from Jim Kelly’s daughter (the same one that was a child in that previous picture). She posted it on Instagram with the caption “Watching the Syracuse game with daddy – he’s my buddy! Love him so much!! #daddysgirl #prayersforjk #Kellytough,” When I look at this image, I just keep thinking…”God, this hurts.” I don’t know why some people are given the hand they are given. I can’t explain why a family would have to bury their son. I can’t explain why a man would have to go through the ridicule of 4 straight super bowl losses. I don’t know why cancer would attack this same man, a man of faith, only to beat it and have it return “aggressive and spreading.”

God, this hurts.

It hurts for his wife.

It hurts for his family.

It hurts for anyone that is fighting this dreadful disease.

If you believe in prayer, would you say one for Jim Kelly? Would you boldly approach His throne asking God to show favor on this family and any other family facing these tough battles?

Not because he’s a former quarterback in the NFL.

Not because he’s famous.

Because he’s a father, and a husband.

God, this hurts.

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Two posts from Jill Kelly I highly recommend – “Some thoughts on waiting, cancer and Christ” and “Meeting Jason.