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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Little Things.....

So, I was on BART going to San Francisco from the Oakland airport. I could see the sun setting on the bay, I can see the SF skyline. My body has just settled into the rhythmic vibration of the train, adjusting to all the stops and starts at each station...I take a look around, not too many people on board which is unusual, so I turn my thoughts elsewhere and make a conscious decision to not dive back into my phone to browse at email, texts and social media.  I look out the window and begin to  soak in the sunset and reflect......

I thought of home... and started thinking aobut each kid.  Eventually I came to Alexa.  I wondered what she might be doing right at that moment... I tried to imagine her a work, maybe finishing her homework..... and then I realized that this was her last week of school.  Woah...!  She was about done... Wait a minute... She is graduating next week!  Yikes!  I immediately realized this wasn't just my last daughter finishing high school....No, this was my last kid finishing high school!  I felt a bit panicky all of a sudden as  if I had just lost control of something and I couldn't stop it.  Like trying to grasp a quickly falling rope running quickly through my hands but unable to hold on enough to stop it.  It really caught me off guard which is silly because it isn't like a secret when graduation is in every high school across this country, but I hadn't really been paying attention when I came to Alexa.

As the realization of the finality of this event hit me I found a lot of emotions coming to the surface very quickly.  I found myself immediately missing her.  I thought about how challenging this past year had been for her... we moved far away from her high school and she had a long commute every day.  She had to get up early and would often come home late and many nights stayed over at friends because that was easier on her due to after school work schedule on top of that. She did an amazing job of making this tough routine work... I realized how much she had grown this year.  

Then I started rewinding the tape.... as I often do.  I thought about what I would miss the most.  What came to me weren't the big events, the seemingly more important milestones, vacations or family reunion type of things....rather it was the little things that I would have never have suspected I would even care about became the things that stood out.

The little bottles of nail stuff......I thought about the assortment of nail polish paraphernalia that she would constantly cart around all over the house...... All these little bottles of polish, remover, clippers, white tips, adhesive, and other nameless bottles of whatever that girls need to have to take care of their of nails.  They would seem to always be in the worst places, like on the couch, on the carpet, on the bed and they would travel together like a little gaggle of geese, always together, always in the way and in the wrong place and we would find ourselves incessantly having to move them to their proper place.  So, yes, a total annoyance.....  I am not sure why she buys 100 different shades of polish but seems to use 2 of them over and over, but such is the greatness of girls.    I have no idea why this image came to me, but as soon as it did I actually realized how much that represented her to me. This activity she would do so often was something that was part of her, something that was meaningful to her, almost therapeutic maybe and I felt an immediate pang of loss of not seeing those blasted bottles and vials here and there again...  

The little plates of food.....Then I thought of the half eaten food and half filled cups of milk that she had a tremendous talent in leaving around too.  Truly, there may not be anyone with more expertise than her in this category--once again I felt the loss of picking up after her.  Never before would I have ever thought that doing this activity for any of my kids would be something I would reflect on longingly... No, shouldn't be this way... so what was different this time with her? I wondered until the answer came.  Because we didn't see her very much this year due to the circumstances, the idea that maybe leaving this trail for us to follow was in a very strange way a way to connect with her... like because she wasn't there physically for me to get after her about I would have to actually do the work of gathering and collecting those things and then taking them downstairs to the kitchen was actually like touching her after all.... like she was there and it was a way to interact with her or at least think about her.... it hit me that way, like weird but true.

The little texts... ME: "hey... when you coming home tonight?"  HER: "yeah"   ME:  "When do you think you will be home?"  HER: "later...."   ME: "Do you need to stay the night with your friend?"  HER:  "Maybe".   Yes... I can now tell how you can see how obvious it is why I will miss these!

The little "talks".... Alexa is adept at one word answers, which often means that she doesn't always need to engage in long conversations.  It isn't her thing.... so one of the things I learned to totally cheris were the super brief and not very wordy moments I had with her.  Here is what it would look like...  She would come home, not really say anything, but I might find her doing some nail polish stuff somewhere.... then I might say "hey.... how are you?"  and then she might say "yeah".... and then that would be my trigger to actually not say or really ask anything else... and then we might just sit in the same room after that for a while and then she would leave.  To some, this may seem not super deep or super content rich.  I would disagree.  This might be the best conversation we have the entire week.  Because the conversation didn't need to have words.  There just needed to be "space" not necessarily filled up with words... often unecessary words...  Creating that space actually became the conversaton..... I had to learn this and once I did, I really enjoyed them.    Not filling up space with words is not a very Aaron-like thing to do.  Anyone who knows me would probably agree.  So learning how to chill was a super cool thing I learned from Alexa.  And then to "chill" together a little here and there became a little thing that I found so sweet that I will miss horribly.  There were a few times where it was I go to CupBop and get food and then we would then just eat it together, in silence..... awesome memories for me!  I loved that I could find such great meaning in that brief, quiet exchange.

The little walks..... We live about 1 football field away from a Cup Bop store.  We are regulars.  About once a week Alexa would announce that she would like me to go get one for her.  The rule is she has to walk with me to get it.  It is about a 3 minute walk.  We shoot the breeze, not too much substance, a few questions I try and insert that she cleverly evades with precision... She knows what's coming and so do I.  No surprises... but a fun predictable routine.   Simple, short and very sweet.  Little walks that I will miss terribly.....

Is it possible that that we glean the most meaning out of life through the collective littany of little things?  As I pondered on this list with Alexa, I realized how easy it is to miss the little things that we might overlook, not see or just pay attention to.  Although I kept trying to find in my memory the bigger things that I thought I was looking for, it ended up being these small moments.... drops if you will, in a life large lake that accumulate, and grow and make little unforgettable impressions that are so easy to forget....  How ironic....

At this point on my ride to the city I found myself looking through blurry eyes... watered with the memory of each of these little things and the feeling of sound peaceful gratitude came with it.  A perfect hurt good moment.

The little Lexi....

Lexi.... my heart is full... my eyes too... what an absolute beautiful person you have become... graceful, poised, funny and precise.  In some ways you will always be this little thing  to me despite how grown up you are now...
I wouldn't trade any of these little things for anything. It has been these that have made this, your last year here at home bearable in light of the other kids being gone and so much silence we have experienced with so much transition and change.  Thank you for being generous and sharing these moments with me, and then when you do that crooked smile thing, well.... game over.

Congratulations on doing the myriad of little things that now represent your huge achievement in graduating with honors from High School.  

You did it!  

Much love and admiration......



Saturday, May 12, 2018

#MYPACIFIC


Andre Gide said:  "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." 
This became the title for the recent documentary of 6 incredible women who made a seemingly impossible journey rowing across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Australia.    It was crazy.... For about 9 months they took ritualistic, relentless 2 hour shifts between sleeping (hardly) and then rowing....every day, every night...yes!... the whole entire time.....simply crazy!    I am a sucker for human interest stories especially if they involve the kind of stretch that changes people forever.   I was hoping this would be such a story....I decided to watch it the other night not so much because I was interested in watching women rowing hour after hour, rather I was a lot more interested in what made these women tick.  

The actual documentary wasn't that dynamic in terms of production and sheer entertainment value.  Much like the journey itself, it was a bit long, boring and monotonous at times.  In fact, after the first 20 minutes I almost stopped watching.... but, because they were so committed, I felt like I needed to be as well...  I thought... "Would I be letting them down if I didn't watch it all the way to the end?"... Ha!  Silly, but true. These women I didn't know somehow guilted me into it and so I kept with it... I kept with them....Plus, I needed to find the "squishy emotional motivational center" of this whole deal and I hadn't figured it out yet.

Watching them forced me to put myself in their place, attempting to imagine their insane existence and yet time after time, when I would think that I would have just stopped.... they wouldn't.....they didn't.  No way.  As a result I felt myself being drawn into their emotion every so slowly, but it mounted.  There was this one point where I began to feel more connected to their cause when one of them mentioned this quote again....

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."

The words carried deeper meaning and weight.... It was only then, that I started to reflect on my own life....I recalled some of the hardest things I had experienced in my life...  Memories came, feelings resurfaced, and I had to reconsider how I handled them in light of this quote... "Did I traverse my trials with this type of courage of willingly losing sight of the safety net to cross the chasm without knowing what was up ahead?"  "Did I dig down so deep as these women did?"  "Going past the point of exhaustion, finding that new place where there is nothing left to give?"  This definitely made me reflect and wonder.  How many times have I believed that I had left it all on the field, only to later realize I hadn't?  How many times have I convinced myself that I had nothing left in the tankto give or to try, only to find more drops to spare looking back at me...... 

It was interesting to watch these women pass through their crucible at the same time wondering and contrasting my own experience....  My respect for them grew considerably.  By the end, the story had won me over, it had managed to slither its tendrils down and wrap them tightly around my heart...My emotion spilled over and it felt awesome to somehow be part of their joy of accomplishment and super human achievement.  

They talked about what this journey would mean to them later.... All I knew is that they would never be the same, ever again... it reminded me that whenever we do things for the right and best reasons, we can be forever changed, if we have the right frame of mind and intent.... those ripples will never stop, forever increasing outward....

At the end, Natalia, who seemed to the leader of this group, summed up everything so beautifully by sharing this :
"Everyone has their Pacific to cross" 
That is what I needed to hear. That sealed the deal for me.   I needed to be reminded of my own Pacific crossings... this is why I needed to finish this particular story... I knew something was there, but I hadn't connected to it until the end.  These women weren't just breaking some record, or raising awareness for some noble cause, or trying to prove something for their ego.... at least not to me.  What they were doing was doing something remarkable to remind you and I and everyone else, that we are all rowing our own versions of the Pacific Ocean somewhere... and that our lives may not be always exciting, in fact, we more often experience long spells of routine and mundane repitiveness, and that we need to remember that we can win, that we will win, that we can overcome all adversity and not just endure, but be refined in the process..... to come out as something brighter, more durable, more resilient, more beautiful then what we started with..... Like these women did.  To acquire a deeper love for life and empathy for others.  It was really cool to cross the finish line with them.....

So.... I wonder.... 

Is it possible, that somewhere in the recesses of my earliest memories.... a memory before "here".... one so faint and fragile that I can barely pretend to remember I can believe I was with you and others on a distant shore... a shore far away, in a different time, a different plane, a different universe...before you and I knew we existed as we do now here, in this life?  

A place where we longed to cross an vast spiritual ocean.  An ocean of forgetfulness, that with each stroke of an oar, our memory of this place and shore would slowly fade...yes, as if like a veil one might say, might cover our mind and eyes to total forgetfulness.  But with with clear purpose, great hope and exceeding faith we would row, like these women did, to a beautiful destination, a place we had not been before.  A destination that would reunite us forever if crossed and rowed with enough faith and determination.  I would like to think that you and I both, held hands, leaned and looked forward and lept from that shore never looking back, knowing we would risk not coming back--completely losing sight and courageously willing to cross this unknown ocean together. The journey would seem so long and uncertain—so filled with risk. It wouldn’t be easy, but we knew it was worth every effort because deep inside, a whisper of a memory that reverberated in our hearts that we would be reunited again with others in a grand celebration of reunion.  If this crossing resembles even the smallest part of the crossing these women made, then... yes.  It would be worth every oar stroke.....

I wonder.... 

How am I doing?  Can I go the distance even when I can't see the shore ahead?  

All I really know is that I won't stop rowing.  I might stop and rest at times... but i am not going to quit.  How about you?  How is your Pacific crossing going?

Until then, keep rowing... and I will catch you on the flip side where all will be well again....

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Agape



Where does love come from?  Secular evolutionists suggest love is a social construct; merely a function of evolutionary need.  We need a husband or wife to reproduce; we need nurture and protection from parents; we need social love to protect the village.  In other words, love is not a reality, it just appears to us to be.   I wonder if the evolutionist’s wife appreciates when he utters: “I love you, of course......, by that I really mean nothing at all.”

We can either say that feelings are illusions that evolution has invented because they are useful for survival or that they come from a more spiritual source.  If the latter, then could that would mean that love actually matters?...That maybe how we love is important?

F.F. Bruce provides an excellent definition of agape love when he writes that it "involves a consuming passion for the well-being of others". This is an important distinction because humanity is predisposed to love in a self-centered fashion.

I remember living in Jakarta, Indonesia when I was 12 and and first learned about the different types of love.  We lived there during the late 70's and the "love and peace" movement had even reached our international community across the world in an underdeveloped obscure nation.  Some activist-like teenagers had organized well enough to get some funding and sponsorship from the US Embassy to create: "The Agape House".  It was an actual small house where like minded teens could literally hangout and be who they were.  It was accepting of all. They did activities and volunteer projects, but mostly hung out and were part of a community or a club.

I remember wondering what on earth the word "Agape" meant.  I started asking around and then learned first that it wasn't "Eros."  (Side note:  Eros turned out to be "slightly" more intriguing to this 12 year old to be honest, but I digress....  )

I learned that when we love out of eros - we love out of self-interest and in order to acquire and possess the object of our love.  Agape, by contrast, is a self-giving and self-sacrificial kind of love. It is based on God's unconditional love for all creatures. When we love out of agape we reject all self-gain and interest, and surrender ourselves to the other and love them purely for themselves. This was the beginning of my lifelong reflection and desire to acquire this type of love.  It seemed right inside to search for this kind and to recognize it in others.

Armed with this new understanding I remember thinking how awesome it was for these teenagers to have this as the name of their club and to use that definition as their charter.  It changed how I initially viewed these long haired, rock and roll loving, MJ smoking, bell bottom wearing folk.  That was a good moment of clarity for me.  Not to judge a book by its cover.

Ironically, I was too young and never set foot inside the Agape House but I remembered wanting to.... wanting to be part of a group of people that believed in that way of loving.

Recently, after experiencing a considerable amount of Agape love from family and particular friends I dipped back into that pond to remind myself of this interesting word.  In some translations, agape is actually translated as "charity". 

Paul gave the best clues on the subject of Charity that I know--which gets to the "how" we love actually makes a difference point of view:

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Interesting... it isn't enough to just do good works.... it has something to do with the motivation of our heart.  We can do many "good" things, but if we are doing it for the wrong reasons, then maybe it isn't Charity, it is something else.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Wouldn't it be cool if there were Agape Houses all over the place.....?  In our own neighborhoods and homes?  To be part of that club and to have all the right motivation and be that well accepted and understood and loved.....That would be amazing!

Someone invited me into one recently... Finally, after all these years, I am now a member of one... the dues are paid with a different kind of currency, and the benefits are amazing! 


Is it time you invited someone into yours?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Last Call


It has only been two days since that last call.... it seems like a lifetime ago now.... 

"Aaron... Dad's gone."  

It was dark and early in the morning.  I jumped at the first ring... The blasted call that I knew was just up ahead, foreboding, lingering in the shadows, just waiting for the right moment....had come.   The call I wanted to avoid, the call that hung heavy in the air like an imposing humid fog.

I had written about Dad a few days before.  A post that came to me late one night  and I wrote without even knowing why... but I went with my gut.  What came out was: "The Last Farmer." Looking back, I now know why the prompting was there.  Something told me to sit down and capture some thoughts that were circling my heart and mind....to pay silent tribute to him in word, in my own way.  What I didn't know was that it would be the last one before he passed.  2 years ago I wrote "Who is this Man?" and then 10 years ago I wrote: "50 Words" as birthday gift to him.

We quickly dressed and left to help his wife with the details and tasks that always come after this type of call.  The busyness of plans and tasks kept my mind focused for a while.... a few hours later I went into his office to look for an email.... 

I made the mistake of sitting down in his chair....I pushed it back a foot or two.. and then looked all around.....and started to soak.....and then the rushing emotional waterfall came crashing down all over me and took over.

I can't express everything I saw... but there were quotes, and pictures, and drawings and doodles, and half written poems, lists of what he was working on, cards from kids and grandkids... I looked at all the placques on the wall, recognition from all over the world.  It was like being in the cockpit of his mind, seeing what he saw, trying to feel what he would have felt.  I started to focus on a few.  Here is one that caught my eye. 

He had this taped to his monitor:  I particularly liked No. 6: That stemmed the tide a bit as I laughed out loud... Then I read No. 8 and was caught off guard how I was immediatley filled up and rendered useless as I wondered what went through his mind as he so subtley wrote that one down... What is one more step after you have done all the obvious ones.  It felt so intimately personal and this one wasn't about the will, or the insurance.  It wasn't about that email response or grandkid birthday reminder.... This was something else....

What if this was something he was working out with his Maker?  Could it be that they were conversing about what that next step should be? Could he have been preparing to acquire the grace of "letting go" and being ok with that gesture.... to release his life unto the Father of his own free will without that clinging "one last look" ache?  Maybe that was the most courageous and noble thing he would ever do.... quietly, with no one looking, no one knowing.  So personal, so intimate.   

Is this a list that you or I will have posted on the mirror when we are 87 riddled with cancer?  Makes me wonder....

I have learned more about my Father in the past week reading oodles of stories from so many friends and family that I have been overwhelmed in just trying to take him all in... I can't.  It is the most beautifully heavy load I have had to bear in a while.  

I had the good fortune of taking him to the Dr's recently and so I picked him up in my little two seater sports car and the first thing he said was: "What possessed you to buy a two seater car?"  as only Dad could..... I laughed out loud...This meant he was still "here", his body was betraying him, but he was still in there... We went to the visit, we had some quiet time, and then he would say..."It will be nice to see Mom and Roland...... and my parents too."  I knew then he was leaning differently... before the fight was still there, now it was a reflection of what was just up ahead and he was ok with it.  I held back the tears and said "It will be so great Dad."   Afterwards he took me to breakfast.  He had an omelette and I found a bottle of Cholula because they didn't have Tabasco sauce... He doused it and ate the whole thing.  Simple, quiet, but the moment was filled with meaning for me.  I drove back and I told him how much I loved him.  He squeezed my arm.... I got out to help him into the house and he gave one of Mom's relentlessly ferocious desparate hugs that felt like he was hanging on to life itself and said "Thank you!".   

..... Yeah, that was a pretty good day.

HIs whole life passed before I hung up the phone.... My guess is he did the same thing as he received his last call from Heaven asking him if it was time and as he looked one last time through all of his life, he smiled, nodded and said, I am ready.

Now the glorious aching begins.... 









Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Last Farmer

Farmers are anything but rock stars. They get up early and work. They sow, plow, toil, and protect. In all of it, they beg God for rain.  No, they aren't rock stars but they are built like rocks.  Solid, unmoving, steadfast.  They have a gaze that sees things that most don't.  They squint and the world comes into focus.  They know when it rains when the familiar pain twinges in their knees.  They smell the weather...they feel the world.  They seem to just know things.... how things should and shouldn't be.  They know about right and wrong in their bones.  They move slowly, but always lean forward and their wit is lightning quick.  They don't need to use a lot of words to get to the real meaning of things.  

Yes..... my dad was a farmer.  

The last in his line.... 

When he was baling hay, tending to cattle and watering the crops, something beckoned inside... He was a cowboy that started to form big non-cowboy ideas... Ideas that grew and became bigger than the state of Arizona.  They needed more land to grow in and he needed a wider horizon. So, he traded in his boots for an airplane and took us around the world.   You can't take the farm out of the farmer..... Although he dined with Ambassadors and Presidents, he always put tabasco on everything he 'et and always fixed the car himself. 

He painted the world with his wit, he made every joke understandable in every language and culture.  He was welcome at every campfire in every nation.... Though no statues will be raised, no monuments with his name, he will leave a lasting legacy of himself.  

The seeds of his posterity have been sown deep in rich soil and have sprung forth in a multitude of goodness.  His gaze has shifted from vast foreign lands to the eternal hinterland of his mind... and lingers on those that have gone after him.  What joy he has in tending to these that are fruit of his vineyard of eternal increase.

Now, as he wrings every ounce he can with every interaction he has, he finds something to give, of himself.  He has done this his whole life.  He has been willing to give his life away to other people.

I am one of those other people..... 

He has given me laughter, he has given me understanding, he has given me hope, he has given me mirth.  He has given me the world, so that I could see things differenlty.  He opened up doors that few ever even knew existed, doors to inexpressible joy, doors that connected me to people all over this world.  Doors to diversity, doors to awakenings, doors to understanding, doors to empathy, and doors that allowed me to love more uniquely.

I do not know what he will give me next, but I know it will be something solid, unmoving and steadfast.  It will be like a rock, that I can find my footing with, where I can stand with surety and strength.  

Yes, my dad was a farmer,... The last of his kind.  

And although I will never really know what that means, and maybe, just maybe I don't need to as I watched and learned what it meant to him.  What makes a farmer isn't the crops, the animals and the land after all....What makes a farmer a farmer comes from within.  It is part of who he is.  I have spent my life watching him give his life away to others..... one precious piece at a time with every touch.

He is in charge of the number of days that are left now.... He will know when to give away the last of himself.....His eyes will be perfectly focused, his gaze clear and he won't use very many words...but it will be lasting, this I know.

And then...in a coming day I will be left with the defining burning question that will cause me to refine my focus, raise my gaze, and sink me to my knees and decide if what I have given away thus far, has been enough.... and then spend the rest of my life making sure that it is.









Saturday, March 10, 2018

Can't Find The Words

Just wanted to let you know... that I am struggling to find the words to connect with all the beauty and blessings in my life.....


                                                 I feel things, but I just can't find my way to the words right now.... 

Monday, January 15, 2018

40 Years Later.....

I received a Facebook friend request from someone the other day.  Happens all the time right?  Well, the name jumped out at me.  This was someone I knew in 7th grade in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Her name was Teri.  I remembered her and the memories started to flow with that invitation as the trigger.  I figured it was one of the those FB automated deals that pretend to say "Oh, this person really wants to friend you but not really because it is me the system that is really doing that." 

So, I accepted because she was someone I was fond of and hadn't ever connected with since.

She responded quickly saying she remembered me and that she did indeed invite me.  She was brand new on FB after all these years.  She said she friended two people from her time there in Indonesia....I was one of them.  Frankly, I was surprised... we were not that close and with us both of us being 12 years old, I wondered what it was that made her remember me.  She said she just had this nice image of me and that I was a nice guy. 

It was fun to connect and catch up.  We did that in one email.  But then she started asking me questions about things I remembered about her.   She was very curious.  I started racking my brain and even looked in my year book.  A few things came back and I shared those with her.  She then seemed to take a big leap of faith and then shared that people her whole life had told her she was "aloof" and "cold and this now bothered her.  She was exploring a way out, trying to figure who she was now in her 50's.  She was hoping that reaching out to people she knew in her life might help her find the answers.....

Hmm..... "How did we get here? I wondered".  Why me?  Why now after 40 years.....?  We were 12!! Not 16 or 17, but 12!  We were like..... little kidlets at best!!

Once I shrugged off the immediate questions I started to let the reality and seriousness of her pursuit distill down from my brain into my heart.  Wow!  How courageous for her to take this on... to  reach out to people like myself.... hardly someone she new but based upon one shred of a positive perception she took the chance.....Because remembering who she really is, is totally worth that chance!! Wouldn't you...?

 The more I thought about this, the more I realized I have been on this same journey for quite a while, maybe my whole life.  Maybe you are too?  It made me realize that we are all just 12 years old inside.....still even now..... struggling to sort the pieces of our life's puzzle.  Anyone that knew us when we were at whatever age we think will help us know who we were then and that maybe that will help us know who we are today.....because somehow, in life we have ironically forgotten something about this in all of our busy comings and goings.  Maybe others have figured it out.  I know I haven't.... I feel I am getting closer for sure but I can't do it without others.

So,  40 years later..... what a beautiful gesture... ask a friend for help, to better find oneself..... What an awesome purpose.  I feel very lucky and blessed to have been invited to re-friended an old friend again from the 7th grade.  We will get to know each other all over again and in the end... we will remain true to who ever we were then.  I imagine we will find that we are still ourselves now.... and I can't say if Teri or I will find any new answers, but I can say......that it will have been worth all the while and I will always be forever more glad.... that this came to be because of a single, solitary and simple lingering memory of.......

 "I remember you as nice"

Monday, January 1, 2018

In Memoriam: Shane Stewart


I lost a friend this week.  Just a few days before Christmas.  We were roommates in college.  We hit is off immediately and were friends for over 25 years.  We loved many of the same things.  We loved going on exploratory bike rides with no plan.....we loved playing the guitar together.  He was from a super small town in UT....Meadow.  His dad was a hay and cattle farmer.  He invited me down there many times.  He taught me spelunking and fishing.  Things I had never really done before.  He grew up on a farm and we helped the family with the calving during the Spring.  We both moved on from school, got married and had kids.  We went to his wedding, we stopped by several times during the years on the way to and from St. George to get a glimpse of his life and family.  He was the consummate outdoors person.  He got his degree in recreation and forestry.  He loved fishing, hiking,  hunting, backpacking and everything outdoors.  I believe that this became his religion.  Although a believer in God, he loved God's creations immensely.  He wrote poems and songs about what he observed through his particular lens.  He wasn't big, he wasn't a jock, he was humble and mild mannered and loved to chat.  Everyone was Shane's friend.... especially if you were over 70.  He loved Meadow..... it was home and it was in his blood. 

His favorite hobby was to go to the local hot springs.  It was an awesome spot in the middle of nowhere.  I remember the first time he took me when in college.... I had now idea where we were going.  He drove the truck out on these unpaved farm roads in the middle of the night and then all of a sudden we were there.  No signs, no rules....it was a small but deep hole.  Perfect for the locals, and for foreigners to never know about.  Over the years I learned that Shane would spend almost every Friday night there where he would play guitar whether there were people there or not. A few Friday's ago he dove in for the last time and didn't come back up. 

I learned this by accidentally reading about him in the news, which I never do.....  It had just happened the day before.  I scrambled to find his parents and siblings.  Finally had a very dear conversation with his Mother Sue.

The funeral was perfect....for us.  I am sure he hated that he wasn't cremated and strewn about in his precious mountains, but funerals are for us, not those that have passed.  This wonderful small town family carried themselves like royalty.   His 7 kids all were incredible.  They inspired all that were there with their laud and honor of their father.   His brother said things that struck to the core.  Although Shane was a troubled soul and had his demons as we all do, it was obvious he was beloved and will be remembered dearly.

I can say that I ever once passed Meadow without thinking of Shane Stewart.  Every single time the voice came ...."You should stop." I can't lie, it hurts a bit to know how many times I pushed the invitation aside.   I do cherish the times I said "Yes".  But there were too many "No's" to ignore...... I will stop more now, and honor Shane by sharing time with Bonnie, his wife and kids and parents.  I will tell the stories that they have already heard over ad over again... reliving the fond, funny and  beautiful memories I was able to be a part of.  I will learn more about Shane through his kids' stories.... Stories that will undoubtedly open my heart so that I can love him even more now in his passing so that when I do visit with him again, hopefully fishing or with guitar in hand he will smile back at me like he did the very first time I met him and know of the love and respect I have for him.

Shane, you were and always will be the light of Meadow and a light in my life.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wannabe Twins

A fews years back, two little "critters" crept into our lives..... Obviously we know we had something to do with making that happen....but, we didn't choose who they would be.  No, we just let Heaven know that we were ok with Him sending us some random spiritual strangers... Yes, you could call it rolling the dice with life!

When they came, they were so little they couldn't do much, but then lickety split they started to crawl, then somehow figured out how to stand on two of their chubby little legs.  They teetered (by finding a way to put everything they could find into their mouths)...and occasionally tottered (managing to throw up like 139 times before they were 3) ...but managed to finally take first steps, find their balance, start walking and then off they were running around like bugs in summertime....direction-less but it didn't matter cause just moving was the point!

It was fun to see them get just as excited about a big empty cardboard box as they did a new tricycle for Christmas.  They were sweet and beautiful and they had no idea what lay ahead of them in the big whole world of Life.....We got to watch...

......They found light early on and "crawled" towards it... somehow they figured out how to stand close to it and although they teetered and sometimes tottered, they figured out how to find their footing and stand on their own two feet. Then, lickety split, they did a few years back, they started taking first spiritual steps, finding their balance and then BOOM!... they were running like jets in the summertime skies.... the difference this time is they knew exactly the direction they were headed....because now, it started to matter.

McKenna and Braden came two years apart, but act like twins.   They decided to go and leave on missions on the same day!.   They have been on their missions for 6 months now.   McKenna in Uruguay and Braden in Thailand.  You would have thought I would have written many posts about them by now....Funny, I have tried about a dozen times and every time I start writing I can't seem to finish... The emotions sneak up on me like snakes and I can't seem to find the words cause my eyes are blurry.

When I think about what they are doing, the purpose that drives them, the motivation that has led them to sacrifice a couple of years of their life to do something that they believe in stalls my heart..... and then......when I see these little pictures of them when they were just little people.....well, then it is like game over.  Don't get me wrong, it is awesome to experience the feelings, I just am not sure where to start putting 'pen to paper.'

You are never sure about the investments you make as a parent early on.... it takes so many years to see if they were the right ones to make... will you get a good return?  Will it have mattered?  To have tried to do things that seemed so simple, basic and slow at times... hoping for recognition later, or even just some sense that you did something right.

Missions are incredible springboards to see the ROI!  They are the world's greatest developmental stretch experiences ever and the cool thing is that the reason young people go, usually has nothing to do with what they will get out of their time themselves, rather, the motive is to serve others... ironically though, often the result of aligning one's actions to the right motives yields so much personal growth and learning after all.  There is magic in witnessing the growth of your kids right before your eyes, week to week in real-time.  It is hard to behold.  Like the rising sun's rays catching you in the eyes... too much to handle.  God promised us that if we sacrificed just a portion of what He gives us back to him, we would receive so many blessings that we wouldn't be able to hold them all in:
"....and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."   Malachi 3:10

What a privilege it has been to watch Braden and McKenna both double down deeper into this thing called 'Love They Neighbor' and figure out how to not let themselves get in the way, how not to make it about themselves, but how to just reflect the love God has for all of His children on everyone they meet.  And then to see what happens to their hearts each day they go deeper!  Malachi is right....there isn't enough room....

What I am learning in my 'advanced' years.....is that I am becoming more and more ok with that.  I don't have to find more room, it is enough to know it hurts that good for now....... Maybe in the next life, there will be these unplanned moments when we get the full download of all those blessings that there wasn't room for before, but there, in that cool future place, there will be.  That would be awesome no?

I can't wait....

Braden and McKenna probably are twins in a spiritual sense.... they probably made pinky pacts before they came down here that they would hang out together in the same family, go on their missions together on the same day and who knows what other promises they made... but I have a feeling these two have many other things up their sleeves... and we just happen to have the best seats in the house to watch it all unfold.....

I can't wait....