My Thanks for Three of the Best Lessons I’ve Learned

Taking-your-family-history

Do you ever just feel grateful? I think that gratitude is oxygen for the soul, similar to the effect a timely word of encouragement has on you when you’re feeling spent. Seriously, give it a try. “Count your blessings” is only cheesy because we don’t do it. When we do, we realize it actually works. God designed us to depend on one another and function in community, learning things about him and about ourselves through our relationships.

Today I was thinking about how thankful I am to be where I am doing what I do. But none of us got to where we are without a little help from people who cared enough to invest in our lives. I am, like you, indebted to many dear friends for some valuable lessons that were likely hard to learn but are now a part of who I am. Here are three.

First, I want to thank my dear friend John for teaching me to be a problem solver. “Don’t stay in the problem, stay in the solution” is what he drove into my skull over and over again. It took a while to sink in, but now I know a little bit more of what it means to take action, to move things, to get out there and DO SOMETHING to move things forward. “You can’t think your way into good living, you can only live your way into good thinking.” This wisdom has become a priceless to me.

Second, I want to thank my friend Jason for teaching me to have the hard conversation no matter how difficult, awkward, or otherwise intimidating it might be. I haven’t known many people who are better at this than Jason. I have seen him handle awkwardness, difficulty, challenge, busyness, and what would otherwise be extremely stressful scenarios in every area of life with poise, wisdom and determination. I’m hoping some of that got transferred to me from being around him.

Third, I want to thank my friend Robert for pushing me to set goals and step out and risk. You can’t always know everything about where you’re going or what you’re going to do without starting. I can say with confidence I wouldn’t be where I am today without the pushing and prodding I’ve gotten from this wise mentor. Sometimes you just have to begin, and that releases the knowledge, resources and motivation that you need to accomplish your goal. What a gift it is to have friends who will challenge you.

 

There are many others. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my wife, my parents, my in-laws, my high school English teacher or Dr. Young from my freshman year of college history class. Not to mention the countless authors who feel like they are my lifelong friends and teachers. It helps me to think about them often, to remember their faces and their names and what they did that made such a mark on my life.

Who are your people? What did they teach you? Let me encourage you to make a habit of being grateful. And if you really want to bless the people who have marked your life, share your gratitude with them in a thoughtful way. It’s the kind of habit that binds us together as a people who need each other. And it’s how God made us to be.

A New Kind of Love

Love is a subject given to much speculation and debate. It is an elusive beast that will defy the efforts of the most ingenious poets and artists in the world to classify and explain.

And yet love is a simple thing, something that is better experienced than analyzed. The power of love goes beyond intellect and pierces into the depths of our very soul.
My understanding of love has received a recent overhaul with the birth of my first child.
As everyone says, it changes everything.

Even though she is just two weeks old, the moment she was born I knew something had changed forever. The emotions that awoke within my that morning failed to find a place inside my previously established classifications for love. It was something different entirely than I had ever known, and I have been trying to grasp at an explanation ever since.

Every other loving relationship in my life up to that time was forged in the furnace of time, made up of countless past moments and memories that added up to the current state that we called love. Aside from my immediate family, the only way I arrived at love in a relationship was through time and choice. Even with my wife, the person I love the most in the world, there was a time when I saw her that I didn’t know her and certainly didn’t love her as deeply as I do now. But when I saw my daughter and held her in my arms, it was instant love of a totally different kind. It was love at first sight in the absolutest sense of the phrase. Never before have I instantly felt such extreme devotion to someone, paired with an unparalleled willingness to sacrifice anything for their sake. This must be real love.

This kind of love does so much to help me understand the love of God, because his love for the world was (and is) unconditional. It has nothing to do with what we do for him, but he loves us deeply because we belong to him. I never really knew what that meant until fifteen days ago.

I hope that you will have the chance to experience the joy of loving someone more than anything else in a split second of time. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts.

All The Cliches Are True (Our Labor Story)

If there’s anything that invites commentary, advice from almost everyone you talk to, and all kinds of cheesy cliches, it’s having a baby. It’s one of those defining moments that will change your perspective forever.

Until recently, I could only say all this by speculation. But last Monday morning everything in my life changed and all the cliches suddenly made sense. Here’s the story.

I’m no stranger to waking up on a Sunday morning and being really tired, but this time was different. My wife and I had been up most of the night for the previous three nights with contractions, sitting right on the edge of heading to the hospital. But each night around 6am the contractions would slow down and we would head into our day thinking it was a false alarm.

I knew going into it that this particular Sunday was one of those especially tired mornings so I tried to manage my grogginess. I made it through two of the our three services before getting the call from my wife to come home. The time was getting very close for baby to arrive.

We headed to the hospital that afternoon around 2:30, both expecting to be sent home because there wasn’t a whole lot going on. When we got to the hospital we found out that we were 5cm, halfway to having a baby, much to the surprise of the nurses who saw my wife’s calm demeanor. So we stayed and buckled up for the event we had tried our best to prepare for.

Things were progressing fine hour by hour and by the evening it looked like baby was just around the corner. My wife was handling all of this like a champ, not a single medication administered up to 8cm. But suddenly and for no apparent reason things came to a screeching halt. We didn’t progress any more for eight more hours. Yeah, eight… long… hours. The exhaustion and fatigue was beginning to take a toll, and we had to talk about doing something to help our baby make the final steps of the journey.

Even though our original plan was to go natural, we opted to get the epidural and hope that things would go smooth the rest of the way. Prayers were prayed and after a little waiting we were ready for birth. Our little daughter was born at 8:49am on Monday morning.

Everyone’s experience is a little different, and all the commentary that you hear from other moms, buddies and relatives cannot prepare you for what it is like to go through the process of labor and delivery. It is such a confusing emotional cocktail of exhaustion, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and overwhelming joy, just to name a few, all of them wrapped in phrases like “Your whole life will change in an instant,” “Life will never be the same,” You instantly would do anything for this little person,” and other bumper-sticker type phrases.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they are all true, every last one. It’s virtually impossible to describe what it’s like to see your child come into the world. The change in perspective that it produces is incredible. When I laid eyes on her for the first time, the entire world stood still, frozen in that moment of absolute miraculous beauty. It was pure awe, like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon feeling overwhelmed with the reality of God.
In the days that have followed, I feel a little crazy because I float around on this cloud and can scarcely think of anything but her. I do silly things like hurry to get back home when I run errands so I can be with her, and at this point I wonder how I’m going to get back into “real life.”

But I guess that’s the point, “real life” is forever something different than it was before. It isn’t a loss or a disappointment, but it’s like seeing with new eyes all the colors of creation. I have already learned so much and I am incredibly grateful for the blessing that our daughter has been. And the crazy thing about it is that it’s only just begun.