Saturday, July 23, 2011

Longest Lasting Hollywood Marriages...

My dad sent me this artice.  Check it out and see what you think...

Very interesting stories from Hollywood, don't you think?  Would that we all could be as down to earth as Sissy Spaseck or Alan Alda. I am not so keen on the Dustin Hoffman philosophy.  Pretty sure I flat disagree.  While I understand needing space and respecting and allowing each other to freely pursue their own dreams, I would not say "the trick to marriage is living your own life while you share a space."  
In an ideal marriage you come back to each other and are best friends.  No one else in the world should care about the pursuit of your dreams or the goings on in your heart like your spouse.  And no one else should know what's going on in your mind more than your spouse.  That's the freedom.  Knowing that your spouse knows your rottenest thoughts and most self-destructive patterns, and loves you anyway.  I think thats the trick.  But that's just me.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Help Others...when? if? because?

I am currently reading the book Coach Wooden: The 7 Principles That Shaped His Life and Will Change Yours. First of all I highly recommend this book. It isn't some esoteric leadership strategy or never-before-seen self-help BS. It is all common sense kind of things and the personal, life changing proof that principles are not pointless and that keeping life simple, yet meaningful will absolutely impact the lives of others...not to mention how God will use it to fulfill His calling in your life.

The first principle Joshua Hugh Wooden wrote on a card for his 12 year old son Johnny Wooden was "Be True To Yourself". The second was "Help Others". It is the principle of helping others that  is really what's on my mind today.

The truth of the matter is that I love to help others. I love helping my neighbors, strangers, whomever. The author of the book, Mr. Williams makes a special point to help others especially when the can do nothing for you in return. I enjoy helping those people too. At first glance I could assume that this principle is one I have a pretty good grip on and that I should spend way more time on the other 6 principles....most of which I certainly do not have a good grip on. Thankfully, today I had an epiphany (I firmly believe that the word epiphany is yiddish for "brain fart") that I in fact do not have this principle in the bag. There is one aspect of this principle that needs continued work in my world.

Can I help others that have intentionally not helped me? Can I sacrifice for someone that has chosen to exclude me from their life to some degree? At it's most foundational level, can I help others because of who I am instead of because of who they are, what they have done or even in spite of wounds I may have from them?

On Father's Day my Dad was going to his Father's house to work around his house, catch up on some landscaping and spend what could be my grandfather's final Father's Day with him. I agreed to meet my Dad and to bring my 3 sons so that I could help him get more accomplished, see my grandfather and have my sons exposed to their great-grandfather another time. That all probably sounds pretty normal and really even expected to most people...but, there is always more to the story.

For years I idolized my grandfather. He was physically strong. He was emotionally strong and he had even earned a field commission in the Korean War. I was always amazed that he could go to Korea as a Private and be a Captain by the time he left Korea. Others must have also seen greatness in him for that to be possible. I was an adult and was already married before it hit me that my grandparents had never initiated any interaction with me. All of the phone calls that had been placed were placed by me. All of the visits had been driven one way...from my house to theirs. I don't doubt that they loved me, but they certainly were content with me in their life at a distance.

That realization was painful. I know my grandparents had their own lives going on and that I didn't always live exactly next door to them, but I still couldn't imagine someone never once, ever calling their grandson. I can't imagine grandparents never once planning a trip to visit or initiating a trip to spend time with their grandson. How did they know if I was doing well? Were they concerned about my education? Did they ever want to know if I was safe? Maybe they did, but their apparent interest and concern was lacking.

As time has passed since that realization I have had bouts of resentment and a lot of questions. Sadly, my questions will largely go unanswered as my grandmother has since died and my grandfather isn't in great health. Who am I kidding though? If they were in great health I wouldn't discuss it with them. I am not sure how to start a deep conversation with someone with whom I don't enjoy a deep relationship. I'm not sure that they have ever thought twice about their lack of involvement and even if they have, I'm not sure what a conversation today would do to improve the situation.

So my anger, hurt and resentment has at times lead to me withdrawing from their lives. I could have visit when in town and I didn't. I could have called, sent cards for holidays and birthdays, or something else people in relationships do, but I didn't. I think to some degree I didn't want to reminder of hurt for myself and in some ways I may have been punishing them for their lack of effort in my life. I never stopped loving and I never completely dealt with the hurt, but neither did I pursue them further. The result is that on Father's Day this year my grandfather had to ask the names of my sons...he doesn't know them because he has never taken the time or made the effort to know them.

Even with all of that as the background, some unexpected things happened on Father's Day. First, my sons didn't seem phased at all by having to tell their great-grandfather their names. In fact, they seemed to enjoy being around him. His lack of effort hasn't yet touched them and as his health continues to wane, it became obvious that they will probably never be effected by what they don't personally experience.
The next surprise was that my great-grandfather seemed to be energized by having 3 of his descendants in his home. He smiled, laughed and even told a few stories...some of them were even about me when I was a child. The third, and maybe most important surprise is what happened within me as it relates to helping people.

While the circumstances that exist would lead many rational and decent people to avoid, ignore and otherwise be absent in the life of their grandparents, I am now convicted of the calling of more mature followers of Jesus to help those that have intentionally or neglectfully been absent in your life. The truth is that I don't know why grandparents wouldn't connect to their grandchildren. Maybe they were wounded in some way? Maybe they never had love modeled for them in a healthy way? Maybe they felt insecure in their ability to love? Regardless of the reason, it seems right to me to lead them by loving them. I want to help my grandfather by connecting to the emotionally unavailable...not in an unhealthy, codependent and needy way, but in a way that is rooted in my identity being firmly rooted in who God says I am and how God interacts with me rather than the way my grandparents have.

It seems obvious in ways that are rather self evident now that it is is in fact Godly to help people that can't return the favor. It seems even more right to help, bless and connect with those who have never  even shown an interest in you. I'm thankful that God was pursuing me passionately long before I ever made an effort to connect to Him. His people, if we are to stand in agreement with Him and His Word, would be well served (and well serving) if we made the same efforts in the lives of others.

So here's to helping...others, often, regardless of circumstances!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Comedic Marital Relief... From the Bloggess...And Thats Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles

Found this article and so wish I had thought of this a few times.  It's hilarious... You gotta love a wife with this kind of sense of humor.  Props to you, Bloggess...  Click here to read full article.  ****Language Warning!!!****  ****Language Warning!!!****   ****Language Warning!!!****

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fighting Cystic Fibrosis...Again.

If you have been around in this world for very long tragedy has intersected your path. It may be a horrible injury that forever alters your life, some form of abuse or the death of someone close to you.

Tragedy intersected my world on June 29, 1998 when my big brother died. His name was Andy and he was less than 4 months away from his 30th birthday when complications of cystic fibrosis took his life. If you aren't familiar with cystic fibrosis you can read more about it here. CF has killed multiple members of my family but admittedly, losing a cousin doesn't effect you like losing a brother. In so many ways my world was forever altered when Andy died.. Andy was 7 years older than me and I looked up to him in almost every way imaginable. Through my whole life we always did everything together. From fight, play sports, stand up for each other and make one another better...with me always receiving more than I gave...he was always there. So many lessons in life I still follow came from him. I could go on and on, but all of it is to say that he was incredibly special to me and life hasn't been the same without him here.

Certain events in life have been bitter sweet without Andy being present to offer his wisdom, love and wit. Brook never got to meet Andy. I know he would love her and they would probably leave me with the boys all the time as they rode horses. Andy wasn't present for the birth of the boys. I know the boys would be with Andy constantly if they could. Kids always loved Andy and my boys would be no different. They would love their Uncle Andy and would likely be so spoiled by him.

Cystic Fibrosis is such an awful disease. The death one typically suffers is the person and their family. Once you go through such an event I don't think you can ever hear of someone having CF without knowing how your path has been effected and feeling a special sympathy for the person. I have said that I would do anything to keep someone from experiencing such a disease and ultimately such a death. The truth however is that next week will be the 13th anniversary of Andy's death and only once have I been able to actively approach people and/or families dealing with CF.

Prior to our kids being born, Brook and I went to Children's Hospital and took orders from the CF kids and their families. We simply asked what would make their time in the hospital better, easier or brighter. We took the list and went to several stores like we were Santa. I purposely couldn't tell any of the families why we were doing what we were and how my life had been effected by CF. I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain my composure long enough to tell them. I think the parents somehow knew...and the kids didn't need to know. That night brought a lot of joy to the families and to us, but it was so incredibly hard to re-enter that situation. That was the first and last time we did anything like that.

Yesterday I was looking online to see what progress may have been made toward treatments or possible cures and ran across a relatively new marathon and half marathon in Atlanta, GA and another in Miami, FL that benefits the CF Foundation. I decided that it was time to get back in the ring and fight cystic fibrosis so I decided to run in the race next year and raise money for the CF Foundation.
Everyone in my family that was born with CF has died from the disease so I don't know anyone directly that will be blessed by a cure or a new treatment. To me though running the race is about fighting for those who need help and running for people that can't run a marathon to save their life, maybe enough other people can run to save lives. That will be my prayer and my goal.

There will be more information to come...

Thursday, June 16, 2011


First of all let me say that we are back in the blogging business. We were posting regularly until the tornadoes ravaged our state on April 27th. We became very involved in the clean-up and recovery efforts. On the heels of that it was time for school to get out so we were in the midst of the chaos that time brings about. Add to that 2 trips out of town and we have been busy. Anyway...we are back and settled in for the summer and ready to think, write and discuss life in unique ways.  YaY!!!!

 The most significant change in our lives as of late has to be in the ecclesiological area. {Ecclesiological= Ecclesia= Church (in lay man's) ever so fancy that man o mine.}  If you know us at all you may be shocked by what you read here. In case you don't know us, let me give you a bit of background. In an attempt to balance our perspective of the truth and fairness to others I will withhold names and other labels that may overtly indicate the parties at hand.

Brook and I are workers and we are passionate people. That is an amazing combination in the right context and when kept in check. It can also be a recipe for relational and organizational disaster in the wrong context. We have no desire to sit on the sidelines of included. We will work, serve and participate often to the point that it becomes detrimental to other areas of our lives.  {All or nothing folk, if you will} The first 7 years of our married life we spent at one church {Well, we were open to lots of spiritual experiences...we went to many kinds of bible studies, etc}. We served on various committees, even leading some of them and we loved the people we were with. At some point we realized that our journey at the church was coming to a close. The reasons we felt like we were leaving caused bitterness, resentment and it was hurtful on levels too deep for either of us to fully understand at the time.

Once we officially broke our ties from that congregation we entered what a dear brother of mine appropriately labeled "church detox". We needed time to regroup, refocus and engage at some point in the future. We were in no hurry to engage at another congregation, much like people wounded deeply in romantic relationships aren't eager to go out on dates for a while. Also like fractured romantic relationships, we would be entering new relationships with churches and the people there with a touch of skepticism and hesitancy.

For over a year we did nothing in any religious-corporate way. We had family prayer time and discussions of Biblical themes and stories with the boys, but we never set foot inside a church. After a while we felt the need to engage faith in a group setting but we were in no way interested in attending a church, meet in a church building or hear a sermon on tithing, church growth strategies or any other polemic sputtering.

Brook and I began discussing what we wanted in a spiritual community and the more we discussed the various characteristics and dynamics the more it became obvious to us that we were surrounded by what we wanted. Our neighborhood had some like minded families and after discussing our vision with them individually we decided to partner together in ways that run deeper than simply living near one another. For the next 18 months we met in our homes, shared meals, disciplined {discipled} kids and increased the depth in our relationships with God and one another. Even this venture, that largely was our dream come true in so far as "church" goes, ran its course. In a very peaceful and uneventful way we stopped meeting. No hurt feelings and no resentment...just the end of a chapter.

We again were left with the desire to be in a spiritually focused community, but didn't want to return to traditional churches. We continued through life for a few months without any official church plans and largely we were content {I was a little unsettled...the soul yearns to connect with other souls, to be encouraged, refocused}. Over time though, it became clear that we should connect with others...but how? Where? When?

We decided over Christmas last year that January 1st would kickoff our quest for a new church home. We didn't know exactly where we would end up but we were determined to engage, connect and take chances. We knew that community is more important to us than doctrine at this point so the particular flavor of church didn't matter as much as the people we hoped to find there.
We decided to visit one church per Sunday for the first 7 weeks of the year and we weren't to visit a church twice until the end of the 7 week period. We visited a newer church plant and really enjoyed it. I connected well with the pastor and Brook had some friends there too.  I thought that it may well be where we ended up and we visited several times. For some reason it just didn't fit us and we knew better than to settle for "almost".

All totaled we visited 3 Presbyterian churches and 1 Methodist church. Each place we would visit was decided by 2 factors. They were not affiliated with the denominations Brook nor I grew up attending and the churches were geographically close to our home. {I also wanted to end up somewhere the kids had some school friends}

The last church we visited was Faith Presbyterian Church. It seemed different from the start. The people at every church we visited were very nice and inviting, but this group went well beyond that. During our first Sunday School experience we sat in a class of 20-30 people and listened to people request prayers for real problems. Frankly, some of the issues the people were having would be embarrassing for me to discuss in such a setting. The fact that the requests were being discussed told me the people were close, safe and loved. Nothing else would produce such transparency and vulnerability. The preaching, if I'm being honest has not yet touched me to any significant degree. That probably has more to do with me than the preacher. The church has a meaningful way they take communion each Sunday and the worship time is thoughtful and meaningful. It isn't like a concert and it isn't like an old country singing either.

As for me, I knew the criteria we had stated earlier was going to be a challenge. I am such a denominational/spiritual mut, and I really didn't have a clear grasp on what it was right now that God wanted to teach me through this next communal step, so I just tried to be as open as possible knowing that my ideal was nowhere around us, and God wasn't really interested in my "ideal" anyway.  He can use whatever he wants to teach his children.

It was still so very odd with my own spiritual philosophies to "visit churches."  I am so exhausted by the consumerism in our culture, and the process we were embarking on just seemed to be as consumeristic as it could shopping around.  Ugh.  It grates me.  I would so prefer God to just tell us where to go, which he has done before and I know he can do.  But, for some reason, he wanted us to explore.  
So many other things really grated me too:  Are we judging these families?    Are we trying to feel some sort of emotion from what we can only know from first impressions?  It was like dating!  Which, anyone who has read the blog knows I was not very good at.  Being goos at it and enjoying it are different things all together. In dating, yes...but also in church. I am admittedly wonderful at playing the church game if I am trying to provide emotional space, protect myself or whatever. Ironically, I know that those very games are absolutely detrimental to true community.

Speaking of dating, allow me to go off on a little tangent.  I promise it applies...   
My opinion of dating is, yes, there may be one person out there for everyone, and sometimes the angels sing and the stars collide, and people live happily ever after.  I can look back on my own experience and say that could have happened maybe at first, but I don't think that's most often the way it works.    It's a matter of perspective.  Call your own experience what you will, but I believe that most any two people can be put together, and with enough commitment and enough perseverance, and enough, well, about any two people can make it.  I say 'work' because I think any married person will tell you it is work.   Whether fireworks went off and you are married to your soul mate or's work to die to yourself and your own desires and blend your life with another (especially to have a good marriage, which...why would I be talking about anything else??  That's the whole point of this blog...Come on people, let's  have truly GOOD marriages!!).

So, we made it to 5.  We couldn't visit the entire 7 churches as we had planned.  Did we run out of options? Kinda not really.  Were we exhausted? Absolutely.  But I don't think that's the reason we stopped, and I in no way feel like we settled. 

I agree with Hubby (unusual I know), the first time we went to Faith, it was that spark in my spirit like, "Okay, I can't say we have been to anything like this yet."  Which is what we needed.   It was new, and fresh, and different somehow, even tho it sort of followed the same format as most everyone else (you know, Sunday school then worship with your basic prayer, songs, preaching, songs, know, the Biblical model...{rolling my eyes right now}).  It may not be something everyone experiences, but it had what we needed: 
1.)I love the smaller's intimate enough to be needed and involved, and I love the esthetic {it's English tudor on the outside, but very little mountain church house and casual inside with organic, blue-grassy type music and leaded windows looking out on the beautiful Alabama pines.  But also sort of formal and 'high church' feeling with the high ceilings, great acoustics, instrumentalists,  and chior sometimes.  It is reverent, but also very FAMILY feeling}.  
2.)Most of the people there we have talked to seem to be there out of a conscious decision.  Not just, well, my wife or husband grew up Presbyterian kind of thing.  In fact, I think most people in the congregation did not grow up Presbyterian.  I think they just came and fell in love with the grace of Jesus.
3.) I also love that they are outwardly focused. They support themselves minimally mostly making sure the children are taught, but most every service, there is a time to talk about a foreign or local ministry.  For example, last week everyone participating in vbs was asked to stand and be prayed for.  Most everyone (young and old) stood.  The week before, a sweet-hearted lady stood and spoke about a local ministry called Project Readmore, where you simply go and read to children without parents to do it.  I was amazed when more than half the congregation stood up that they had been downtown and read.
4.)  I am absolutely in love with the way they take Communion together.  It is hands down my favorite part.  {I actually cried the first Sunday.}  Blake grew up in a tradition where they take communion every Sunday, so we did that for 7 years.  It can, at times, lose the meaning and get a bit worn out.  Although I don't know that it is a Presbyterian tradition to take communion every Sunday, this church does, and they way they do it is beautiful.  It is interactive sort of like a Catholic church or something in that you have to get out of your seat and walk to take the meal, but unlike a Catholic church, it is not an individualistic thing.  You walk to the front and congregate in large circles, take the bread and wine (yes, there is wine and juice...woohoo!!!) and pray together.  It is such a representative moment of the heart of why we take communion: "When you come together... do this in rememberance of me."  It's a family meal.  I love it.
5.) RELATIONSHIPS.  That's the biggest thing.  Brand new ones getting started, and existing ones being deepened.  There is just something about raising your children together with a diverse group of like-minded people, shared experience, authenticity within a people you can trust, exercising your God-given gifts in community, etc.  that is just beautiful.  And it is the reason why we go in the first place.  

Those are the main things for now.  There are still plenty of things I don't know, am not sure how I feel about, and even just don't like (as I think there would be anywhere), but so far, I have not been disappointed with the place God is growing us.  Maybe I will let you know when the fireworks go out, and the 'work' and staying begins.

So we have continued to "visit", cultivate relationships and get involved as much as we can. I think we both feel very comfortable with the group and see ways that we can serve and be served {I think sometimes it is much harder to be served, but also a very pivitol part of community}. I think safely we can say for the first time in over 4 years that we have found a church home that isn't actually a church meeting in a  home. I increasingly think that this whole search and find has been orchestrated by God. Neither of us are Presbyterian and I can make a much more convincing argument against reformed theology than I can for it. Again, the community is worth more to us than the doctrine.

I'm sure we will be checking in and blogging more about our new experiences, but for today I can simply write that we are happy, we are connecting and we moving forward on our journey. Knowing God and knowing us I am confident that it will be an interesting and adventurous ride.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Girlie-Girl Marries Caveman

    Something on my mind to blog about lately has been the opposites portion of me and my wordsmith hubby.  I know I can't be alone out there.  Does anyone else feel like they married their polar opposite?  
Strangely, the part that bothers me the most sometimes is the recreational aspect (shallow as that may seem).  I mean, I'm really a girlie, flowery, artsy girl and Blake's a beastly, stinky manly man. I appreciate that Brook, but you forgot to mention that I'm also hairy and mean. And don't forget how well I drag you by your hair from our cave when it's time to go on hunts or gather berries in the wilderness. I am in fact the real life Shrek. As much as I also love that about him (you know one of those "the thing that initially attracted you to someone is the exact thing that drives you crazy once you get married"), I often joke that if I ever leave Blake it will be for a black, homosexual dancer with dreadlocks, simply because I can't think of anything more opposite from him. With any luck your gay dancer (not to be redundant) may even like mustard and quiche!!!

Did anyone ever give you the advice when you were looking for a spouse, to find someone who you have things in common with?  I often look at couples in the same profession, like two celebrities actors who get together, or two interior designer married teams, or a married ballroom dancing couple, and think: Okay, so you are dancing your way through life together in this one area, but who's taking care of the things at home that you can't possibly be good at simply because you weren't made to be that way?

I don't know.  I guess now days you can hire just about anything out, but I must say,  at the end of the day, I really like knowing that the things that I am just not wired to do, Blake does very well.  Sure, it can get aggravating on Saturday mornings, when I want to pop up early and go yard sale-ing...and Blake would rather go rafting or hunting or even have a root canal.  Or when it just makes sense to me to keep your closet tidy in this certain way, so I go to extreme organizational measures to make it as easy as possible to put things where they go...only to find during a seasonal clean out, he has found a way to secretly and neatly stash dirty clothes in a clean clothes drawer (Ugh!). The very fact that you said I NEATLY stashed clothes seems like a huge step forward for me. I will be celebrating and focusing on the positives in this whole thing. (For those that don't know me, I get a lot of things done and I am rarely defeated in things I set my mind to do. The downside to that is that I often leave a huge wake of destruction and mess from my "productivity". Brook likes my results but my methods drive her crazy.)
There are always huge things to deal with in marriage, and you can get into some really vicious cycles, but the little things can drive you no less batty. But, be encouraged, if you find yourself married to an opposite or thinking about marrying an opposite, there are bright sides and compromises when both people are willing to step up and sacrifice a little.  (Uh...hope that's not a new word for you on the marital circuit.)
I actually wouldn't marry someone too similar to me. The conflict produced by our differences is well worth the gift of diversity and the covering we provide one another and our kids in so many areas. For what its worth, we very much agree on the big issues of child rearing, theology and politics...for the most part anyway. In the areas in which we differ we have grown in ways that allow us to not only hear one another but to value the thoughts and opinions of each other. That has been a huge blessing for us as we journey together in this world.
For your pleasure and entertainment, it is fortunate, on the other hand, that we both terrifically enjoy...well...blogging. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letting People In

The vast majority of posts thus far have been about lessons we have learned in the past or formidable events in our relationship. Today I realized that we are in the midst of a situation and as such it would be therapeutic and enlightening to blog about my natural tendencies and the thing I should do. The two things conflict in huge ways.

Right now I am in a very stressful chapter in life. Some of it I can't go into publicly right now. It's not that I want to hide anything, but I am legally prohibited from discussing certain aspects of my professional life for now. I assure you that I will disclose the specifics as I can. For now I can only say that nobody in the practice is in legal trouble or anything like that. The main point is that this particular storm alone could completely consume me if I would allow it to do so. Every day is complicated by this issue and even the routine and relatively simple aspects of life are emotionally and even spiritually cumbersome right now. Endless meetings, stressful discussions and the aspects of the unknown are weighing on me more than I probably even know.
Hmmm...Is this going to be about stress relief?  

My natural inclination is to put my head down and work relentlessly, accomplish tasks and achieve excellence (to the utmost of my ability) but to do so without allowing another soul to know about my struggles.   In fact, writing this post about it is against every fiber of my natural being. In other stressful times I have become a loner and done my best to avoid including anyone else. I veiled my attempts by claiming to protect Brook from the details and related stress. I thought, falsely, that in keeping others at a safe distance I was insuring their safety. As much as it has never seemed obvious to me and as much as I hate it, the fact may be that I attempt to lessen the weight in life by discarding everyone and everything I can in an attempt to make survival easier. Is it possible that I choose accomplishment over relationship? Yep!
That's so weird how people act differently under pressure.  See, I would totally melt down and have a week long panic attack, and everyone would come visit me in the mental hospital.  Blake's "work" method is so much better.  I basically become useless.  Of course, I can't let anyone in either not because I'm not trying, but because my mind just goes blank.  I can't even let myself in. 

The truth about relationships, in so far as I can tell anyway, is that they assure that one doesn't have to travel through this world alone. In attempting to "protect" Brook, I am actually robbing the relationship of an opportunity to grow and develop depth. If our previous experiences hold true in this situation, Brook wants to be "burdened" by my thoughts, troubles and concerns. That's what relationships are apparently all about.   The not knowing can make things a little scary. And I can be trusted with national security secrets so I can for sure be silent when it helps me accomplish a task or survive a stressful time in life.

So as this chapter in life continues for the next 3-4 weeks it will be my goal to stay connected to Brook and the boys, if nobody else. I think doing that will broaden our relational horizons and will provide an example for the boys to experience so that one day they will connect to others in times of trouble rather than shut down relationally. I'll let you know how it goes....which will indicate a level of connection and that's always a good thing.

Thanks babe.