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I Like it Here

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The last week or so since I wrote Welcome to My Vulnerability has been pretty good.  I’ve been staying pretty busy…very busy actually.  This time of year gets pretty hectic with all of you in school and the Upward Sports season starting up.  Throw in some of the other ministries I’ve committed my time to, and I just don’t really have the time to sit down and spend much time writing.  I miss it.

As I write this, I’m watching Bubba play cars on the chair beside me before we leave for school.  I was clearing memory cards from the camera last night, uploading pictures and making room.  We had pictures dating back to the fall of 2010 on there, so I was getting a first glimpse in several years at what life was like back then  So much has changed since then.  Life is pretty good right now…even for all the hectic nonstop action we have going on during any given week.  I often think back on the times when y’all were kids and wish we could go back.  To a time when you were still learning to walk and talk.  After browsing through pictures last night, I realize I’m good.

Perhaps it’s because I have been so focused on preparing for the basketball season…so wrapped up in my rather large and ever-growing to-do list…that I just haven’t had the space in my head for much else…for any negativity.  I like it here.  I like being right here.  Right now.  In the moment.  I don’t want to live in the past.  Or dwell on it any longer.  The funk I’ve been in for much of this past month has kept me from truly enjoying every moment for exactly what it is.  Our life.  I’m ready to push the memories of that incident aside and move forward.  I like it here.  I like the present.  I like watching you play.  I like playing with you.  I look to the future with hope and confidence.  And with one eye on the future and one eye on the present, I have no eye left for the past.  And I’m good with that.  I like it here.

Love,

Dad

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When I Grow Up

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As we watched the Olympics last night, out of nowhere NE asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up.

To be honest, I haven’t given that very much thought lately. Most days, it seems like I’m stuck in a revolving door…not able to escape the craziness of our life for more than an hour here…two hours there. I’m not complaining, mind you…wouldn’t change a thing…just saying that my vision has been pretty short-term lately. Most days, I’m not able to see past the end of the day, let alone plan for tomorrow…next week…next month…15 years from now when I retire.

So goes my conversation with a curious 5 year old:

Me: “But I’m already a firefighter.”
NE: “No dad. When you grow up and don’t want to be a firefighter anymore, what do you want to be?”
Me: “When I grow up, I want to be a great daddy and a child of God.”
NE: (With a grin) “Not when you die…when you’re still on earth, not in heaven.” (I love the innocence found only in a child.)
Me: “Then I want to be a Papa.”
NE: Giggles
Me: “I want to be a Papa when you have children.”
NE: (Giggles louder) “but I already have a Papa…and a grandpa.”
Me: “Then you can call me Poppy.”
NE: Uncontrollable giggles

And as quickly as it started, you’re distracted with the runners on tv, and the moment is gone. But the conversation made an impression on me…and I look toward the future…not to what I want to be, but toward who I want to be. I want to be a man of integrity, honor and courage, humbly serving others just as Christ served. I want to be the kind of dad that leaves a legacy for your grandchildren…that they can look back at and be proud of. For now, though, I’m happy to live in the moment…and watch you dream of what you want to be when you grow up. Whatever that may be, I’ll be your strongest supporter. I love you buddy!

Love,

Dad

Have We Met Before?

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Hi.  Have we met before?  I’m your dad.  I remember playing with you while you lay on the floor, unable to crawl or even roll over yet…your tiny hand squeezing my finger with all your might.  I remember your soft breath as you lay on my chest, sleeping ever so soundly.  I remember crying at your side in the PICU after open heart surgery left you helpless at only 11 months of age.  I remember your first steps…your first scraped knee…your first words…your first solo bike ride.  I remember you calling out to me for help in the dark…kissing your boo boos and hugging you close when your friends were mean.  I remember dancing with you as an infant to help you fall asleep…can still recall the words to our song.  I remember reading your favorite book over and over again…and again…and again.  I remember watching your favorite movies so many times that I can still recite them verbatim to this day…10 years later.  I remember driving you two hours round trip through lifeless Kansas at two in the morning just to help you fall asleep.  I remember when tucking you into bed meant butterfly kisses, bumblebee kisses, frog kisses, and looking for the alligators in your ears.

You wouldn’t remember most of that.  And that’s okay.  I wouldn’t expect you to.  You’re twelve now…becoming a young woman…independent…strong-willed and determined.  I wake up some days and don’t recognize the girl you’ve become…the woman you’re becoming.  In my world, you’re still that little girl who needs her mommy and daddy for everything.  Some days, I don’t know who this woman pushing back against us with all this attitude, sass and anger is…I don’t recognize who the young woman I’m looking at is.  Hi.  I’m your dad.  Have we met before?

Love,

Dad

You Did This To Me

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I wasn’t always this way. I used to be smart. I used to be able to sit and read an article or a book and remember what I read when I got up 30 minutes later. I could have a conversation with someone and remember it two days later. I could actively participate in a conversation that required me to use more than single-syllable words…and say it all without taking 5 minutes of awkward silence to form in my head what I wanted I say. I could sit down and write a ten page essay on any topic without stopping to remember what I just wrote in the last paragraph. I could look at three people and in the heat of the moment call out their names correctly. I could choose one side of an issue, more serious than who stole whose Legos and whose turn it is to wear the Spiderman underwear, and present several logical and well thought out points to support my case.

As the saying goes, “the good with the bad”… I’ve been blessed with many good fathering moments in my short tenure as your daddy, and I pray many more to come. I just never realized that the bad would include losing the ability to form a rational thought and convert it into a sentence that doesn’t leave my mouth sounding like it came from an ape.

You don’t see it now, but you will. As you grow into your teenage years, you’ll start to notice it more…and you’ll think I’m an idiot. You’ll glance over at me with a disgusted look on your face as I try to counsel and guide you. You’ll think to yourself (and most likely mutter it aloud to me at least once) “dad, you’re so old. You don’t know anything about being a kid. You’re so dumb.” When that time comes and you have the urge to break my heart by saying it aloud to me, I caution you to consider this before you do: I wasn’t always this way. YOU did this to me! And revenge is bittersweet.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Oh, and before you start fighting with each other to figure out whose fault it is, you’re all equally guilty. Accept it.

Don’t Quit

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Ran two miles today. Ugh!! Here’s an unsolicited tip. When you set out on a goal, don’t ever stop. EVER! In particular, with getting fit, it’s harder to start back up once you stop. My two months off is kicking my tail! I gotta keep reminding myself that it took me 38 years to put myself in this condition. Reversing it isn’t a battle I’m gonna win overnight. It’s a lifelong war…one that I’m determined to win. For your sake – and my own – I won’t quit.

Love,

Dad

Stop the Insanity

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Today is a long run day. Nine days until my first half marathon, so it’s my last long run before then. Ten miles today. I REALLY wish I was a morning person. I need to be asking God to turn me into one, because what lies ahead of me is not able to be accomplished at the status quo. When I said on my entry for Oct. 4th in this month’s RUN JOURNAL that maybe I set the bar too high, this is what I’m talking about. To run 10 miles will take me about 2 1/2 hours, not really adding a time to warmup and cool down and shower afterward. Three hours…not an every day commitment, but an average day ends up being about two hours of working out. Two hours a day for a dad with three young children, a full time job and a full time ministry is not easily attainable. The bar I set too high is not my commitment to a better level of fitness and overall health. The bar I set too high was the time frame in which I hoped to accomplish it. While I am physically prepared to run and complete a half marathon within the time I set out to prepare for it, I am not prepared for the aftermath. What lies ahead after next weekend is a lifetime goal and a desire to continue getting healthy and to stay there. It is intermingled with a desire to be present in the lives of those most important to me, my family. It’s in the intertwining of those two desires that the difficulty lies in reaching my goal.

Unless God miraculously makes me a morning person, I don’t know how to continue on at the status quo. Something needs to change, because I don’t currently have time to be spending two hours running every day…nor do I have the desire really. What I want is the ability and passion to wake up every morning with enough energy to go out and run before my kids even wake up…to have the rest of the day to play with you and accomplish all I need and want to do, without the day’s run looming over my shoulders like an unattainable deadline.

Today specifically, I’m struggling with a severe shortage of patience, compassion and kindness toward you. That looming run on the horizon has me somewhere else mentally, not here with you. I’m finding it difficult to engage with you in the way you so richly deserve and are so eagerly yearning for from me. I don’t like this part of me. I want to be the dad that wants to be here with you 24/7, playing and doing the things you love. I want to be the dad that can bring himself down to your level anytime, anywhere just to be with you. I want that so much, it burns the at the very essence of my soul when I have a day like today…when my selfishness is at the forefront, and all I want to do is what I want to do…to run. It is painful on so many levels to know that God did not bless me with the gift of the ability to spend days at a time with you, without going temporarily insane.

It’s hard to admit that about me, because I don’t like to show weakness. The last thing I want to do is leave you with the impression I don’t love you. Nothing is further from the truth!!! I love you with every fiber of my being, so I will continue to ask God to fill me with the Spirit’s fruits and to lead me and teach me how to be the father you need and crave. I will continue to pray that my weakness in this area of my life is not passed on to you, and that you will forgive me this weakness as you grow.

I’ve heard the saying before that “insanity” is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Basically, if I want different results, I’ve gotta change my approach. Aristotle said what is one of favorite quotes, used in My Sept. Run Journal “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” Something I must repeatedly do…create a habit to achieve excellence…both as a father and as a runner. The real-life application of that truth requires I step up my game…requires I change something if I want different results. That means with God’s help, forcing myself to become a morning person…to get out of bed at 5:00 in the morning to run before you wake up…so that my focus for the day can be where it needs to be…on you.

Love,

Dad

Just Another Grass Fire

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I’m laying here in bed at work…wide awake after waking from a dream. It was a dream that was partially rehashing a call we ran earlier today, a grass fire on the side of the highway. By the actual definition of “close call”, it was not. It was a routine call, without further incident. However, I quite honestly consider every time I step off the truck on the highway, and live to tell about it…a close call. I’ve said for years I’d rather run into a burning building with little chance of survival than to step off the truck on the interstate.

Let’s just call it what it is…generally speaking, the general public doesn’t give a single thought to the safety of their firefighters, police officers and paramedics. When they’re driving down the interstate and see my firetruck, their first thought isn’t “hey, I’ll slow down…move over a lane…and do my part to make sure these guys make it home to their wives and kids tomorrow morning.” No, they have somewhere to be, and my firetruck blocking a lane of traffic is impeding their progress. They’re distracted with their cell phone…or the cup of coffee in their hand…or with the radio…or…you get the picture. And honestly, I don’t blame them…completely. Until you’ve stood on the interstate in the middle of the night…in the pouring rain…and watched as cars and semis whiz by you at 70+ mph, within two feet of you, you really just don’t get it. Until you’ve been knocked off balance by the force of the wind from a passing car…or sat in the stopped truck waiting to open the door to get out, as it rocked violently back and forth from the semi that just passed within inches of you…or had the smack on your backside from a passing car’s side-view mirror…you just don’t get it.

So as I lay here, thankful that what transpired on the roadside grass fire in my dream is not what I faced on the highway this afternoon, I’m left with a vivid image of a road sign from my dream…a road sign with a peculiar inscription. On our highway call earlier today, it was a road sign that sat 200 feet in front of us and read it’s a state law to slow down and move over when emergency vehicles are stopped on the highway. Ironic, eh? The following is what was written on the road sign in my dream:

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s called upon to do something that offers him no tangible benefit in return. How he responds to that call will follow him beyond the grave. The benefit of his decision to act is in knowing that he did so merely because it was the right thing to do.”

Be safe out there, and remember…slow down and move over when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the highway. Somebody is counting on you to do your part to help him make it home to his wife and kids in the morning.

Love,

Dad

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