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I Love You More Than Dirt

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Twenty years ago, two kids made a pact…a covenant before God, family, and friends. Forsaking all others, they vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their days on earth. Two kids who thought they knew it all, jumping feet first into a world that sought to pull them apart, forged a bond that, through the test of time, became unbreakable and grows stronger everyday.

Twenty years is a long time by today’s “norm”, but they’ll both tell you that it’s passed like a flash of lightning. The story of their lives continues to unfold daily, and only time will tell what the next twenty years holds for them. I can say that with every fiber of my being, I can’t imagine having spent the last twenty years with any other woman by my side. You are my best friend and soul mate. No one but Christ himself knows me any better than you, and I look forward with eager anticipation to what lies ahead for us. I look forward to spending the rest of my life trying to be the husband you deserve, and to show you half the love you’ve shown me in the first twenty.

I love you more than dirt baby!

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Share Your Burdens

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I had a tough call at work yesterday…one whose images will be engrained in my mind forever.  God has been teaching me lately that I cannot, on my own, bear the burden of what I see, do and experience in my job.  The demons inside me only live there because I allow them to stay.  I’m learning (albeit slowly) that in addition to leaving our burdens at the foot of the cross, we need someone on this earth we can confide in…someone we can bear our souls with.  We are not meant to walk through our valleys alone.

“Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:11-12

I received an email this morning with a link to a video “Dancing in the Mine Fields” by Andrew Peterson.  I find encouragement in this song…to know that my wife is in this “minefield” of life right alongside me.  She may not always completely “get” the pain of what I’m carrying…but she “gets” me, and she’s willing to help carry my burdens with me…if I’m willing to share them with her, so that I’m stronger with her than I am alone.  As a man, I have to fight the instinct to share these burdens with her because as men, it’s engrained in us from birth to be the “tough guy”…to “man up”…that men don’t cry or show emotion.  However, I believe King Solomon knew that the internalization of our emotions and feelings can lead to self-destructive behavior, and he saw the strength we have in numbers.

I’m still working on the HOW part of sharing my burden of yesterday with my wife, your mom…but I know that when I’m ready, she’ll be there to let me.  Because pain and suffering is not inclusive to only those in my field, I pray you boys will one day have a wife…and you, SD, will have a husband…who each “gets” you enough to let you confide the deepest secrets of the pain you will eventually have buried deep within your own soul.  Please don’t carry your burdens alone.  Give them first to Christ…and then share them with your spouse, because we were meant to share our burdens.

Love,

Dad

P.S. If you found this note and are particularly interested in following how I’ve been dealing with this, you can read My Scar Revealed and Looking for Hope

Spread Your Wings and Fly

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Every child has a dream to grow up and be a __________. Not all dreams are the same, and each child has his own ambitions and desires. There are only a few things I ever remember wanting to be. My first memories of a dream job were wanting to be a pilot. I wanted to fly. I still do, actually. Back then I wanted to fly commercial airliners. I actually used to dream about flying, but not in a plane…just running through a field and taking off like Superman, flying over trees, houses, buildings and the world. I haven’t had those dreams in many years, but I vividly remember those dreams, and how they inspired my desire to learn how to fly. Besides, being a pilot has a certain allure to it that just permeates “cool.” And then I found out that in order to be a commercial pilot, you have to have good vision. I don’t.

So I moved on to wanting to be a doctor. I carried this dream for a few years, moving from one specialty to another. I remember wanting to be a brain surgeon, a cardiologist, and then an emergency room doctor. I think I’ve always had a desire to help people, and this seemed like a logical fit. It didn’t hurt that it also is a job that speaks “cool”…and makes good money. Then I found out that to be a doctor required 4 years of college…followed by 4 years of medical school…followed by more schooling for the specific specialty. That sounded like more than I could handle.

So the next logical choice was a police officer. After all, what job is cooler than one where I can help people by shooting bad guys? That was about the time the tv show COPS was in its prime. It didn’t take long to figure out that most of being a cop is listening to people fight and trying to figure out who’s lying. Like I don’t have enough problems of my own, I want to mitigate everyone else’s? And running…I hate running. Being a cop means you have to be able to run after bad guys. I was so out of shape in my youth that the mere thought of running took my breath away. I knew right away that I’d be fired the first time a bad guy ran…because I’d be the guy to shoot him in the back instead of running after him.

Which brings me to what I do today. I remember well what first turned me on to firefighting…the “Kansas City Six”. On November 30, 1988 a fire at a construction site in south Kansas City involved a pickup truck and two storage trailers. Shortly after the first two engine companies arrived, a series of explosions rocked though the site, killing six firefighters. The investigation afterward revealed that the two storage trailers contained 40,000 pounds of explosives, some of which were mixed with kerosene. The deaths left the community in shock, and coverage of the incident was all over the place. At the time, I was a sophomore in high school, living only 90 minutes south of Kansas City. We couldn’t escape the media coverage. When the firefighters were laid to rest, the memorial service was held in Arrowhead Stadium, the NFL stadium where the K.C. Chiefs play. My memory of the event was that the stadium was near full. In looking back through the archived stories in the papers, reports say that over 5000 firefighters turned out to pay their respects, in addition to countless citizens, and friends and family of the six firefighters.

And that’s what impressed me. To see that many people come from all over the country…some from other countries altogether…to say goodbye and honor six strangers…people they didn’t know, other than through their common career…was inspiring. That’s what got my mind thinking that I didn’t want a job just to be cool or to make lots of money. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself…part of a brotherhood that takes care of its own…a group that has a rich history, filled with tradition, honor, sacrifice. It would take me several years to begin turning that dream into reality.

After marrying your mom in ’93 and moving back to Nevada and buying our first home, I was a manager at McDonald’s. I’d worked my way through high school and most of my college years at McDonald’s, and it was a natural fit to move into management as we settled into a home and our lives together as a newly married couple starting out anew. It was 1994, and I saw an advertisement in the newspaper seeking volunteer firefighters. With a friend from work, I applied…and they actually hired me. The FD there has one station with a paid crew of 4, so they rely heavily on volunteers to fill out manpower needs on varying incidents and during times high call volume. With no experience whatsoever, I was handed fire gear and welcomed to the ranks. Within a month or so, I had my first fire, and the bug was in my blood. Once the firefighting bug is in the bloodstream, it’s there for life.

I was content to be a volunteer, not giving much thought to doing it as a career. At the time, the department was young…there was little likelihood that they would be hiring anytime in the near future. After volunteering in Nevada for a little over a year, I changed jobs, taking a management/ownership role with Sonic. That required a move, so the dream was on hold for now. Ironically, within a few days of accepting the position with Sonic, a paid position opened up, and the FD was seeking someone to fill it. I didn’t apply, because I’d already committed to Sonic, and you know me…once I’ve given my word, I’ll honor it. So, we moved. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t apply for that position, because if I had been hired, I’d be there now instead of where I am now. We wouldn’t have SD and DWS, and life wouldn’t be the same. God rewards the patient…and those who honor their word.

We settled in St. Charles county in August 1995, and within about a year I took a volunteer position with St. Charles Fire Protection District. I truly enjoyed those years…getting calls at all times of the day and night, leaving meals on the table to be eaten later and leaving bed at 4:00 a.m. to do something I love. My sights were set on moving up the chain within Sonic, though. I was in pursuit of money, prestige and power. However, God humbled me, and in November of ’97, my time with Sonic had come to a close…a story for another day. It was time to move on.

When I left Sonic, I knew that within 5 months, the voters in our fire district would be presented with an opportunity to merge our fire district with the St. Peters Fire Protection District. If that vote passed, the new fire district would hire 27 paid firefighters, starting from within the ranks of its volunteers. I did my time, trained to pass the physical agility test, and in the summer of ’98, I was hired. My first day on the job was July 20, 1998…we spent 8 hours a day for the first five days in orientation, and I started my first 24 hour shift the next day, my 25th birthday. The night of my first shift, my truck was first in on a house fire. What a birthday present! I love my job. Yesterday marks the anniversary of my 13th year on the job, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Whatever you decide to do with your life…whether you follow my footsteps into firefighting or flip burgers at McDonald’s…do it with honor, humility and pride. No matter what career path you choose, know that I’m proud of you. Not for what you do or how you do it…but for who you are. Follow your dreams and don’t give up on them when you face adversity. Spread your wings and fly. I’m turning 38 in four days, and I still have a dream to fly. I haven’t given up on that dream, and one day I may just learn how to fly.

Love,

Dad

Your Mom

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I’ve been told that one of the best gifts I could ever give you, my children, is to love your mom…to show and model what love is by honoring our marriage vows and loving here.  So, I want to take a chance to express just some of how I feel about your mom.  The words below pale in comparison to the words of my heart and soul when it comes to her.  She is my soul mate, my partner, my best friend.  If I should be taken from this life before you’ve grown into adults, it’s my desire for you to know how much she means to me.  It is my prayer that each of you find a love like ours…that you find someone to share in your successes…to stand by you in your failures…to cry with…to laugh with…to share in all that life brings your way.  It is also my prayer that I have modeled for you what true love is…shown you how to love your spouse…how to treat women with kindness, tenderness, love and respect.  (SD it would be your mom’s job to teach you how to be a Godly wife, to love and respect your husband…I believe she does that every day.)

I met your mom while I was in college at SMSU in Springfield.  It’s MSU now, but not back in 1992.  I had just finished my freshman year and started working at McDonald’s a mile or so from my dorm.  I was an assistant manager, trying to pay my way through college.  In the fall of ’92, as I was entering my sophomore year, I first met her.  She was a senior in high school, working at the same McDonald’s part-time.  I’ll be honest here (because she’ll call me out on it if I’m not 🙂 ), I wasn’t interested in her at first.  I was interested in one of her friends, which never went anywhere, thankfully.  We went out together a couple times in groups of friends, and your mom…she worked her magic on me.  She found a way to catch my attention, and from the first kiss I was hooked…I knew she was the one.  Within months we were planning the wedding, and the following June we were married.  I have only one regret about our time dating.  I did her parents (your Grandma and Grandpa) wrong.  Way wrong.  The first time they met me, I was moving her out of the house into our own apartment.  Wrong.  I hate that about my past.  I’m ashamed of it…ashamed and embarrassed to admit it.  Don’t ever do that.  Please.  The parents of any girl you’re dating or are interested in dating deserve way more respect than I gave them in that.

Your mom has blessed me more than I could ever imagine.  In all our years together, she has been faithful, devoted and tender-hearted.  The beautiful children that she’s given me are more than I deserve.  You don’t know this, but I was hesitant (to say the least) when she first approached me about becoming foster/adoptive parents, and now I can’t imagine life without you SD.  The pain and discomfort she endured to birth you boys is a gift beyond my ability to express gratitude.  She has created a home for us that is perfect.  In the eyes of an outsider, they may not see it as perfect, but I do.  She is the right mom for all of you…perfect for the job, she was handpicked by God for her role as mother for you and husband for me, and she fulfills it daily better than anyone I know.

Her humble, servant’s heart is something to be admired by others.  Her willingness to always put the needs of her family above her own is a wonderful model for you to see how Jesus always served others.  Her love for each of us is greater than any bond I know.  Her willingness to walk alongside me through all these years is honorable.  She has stayed with me through my selfishness and pride and made me the man I am today.  She is what has softened my heart and turned my eyes and heart toward Jesus…in her humble, quiet, unselfish willingness to serve.  She truly is a Godly woman, and I love and respect her for it.  I know I don’t tell or show her this enough, but I thank God daily for her.  I could not navigate this life without her constant companionship and love.  She is the Proverbs 31 wife!

Eighteen years ago today, we made a promise before God and family.  A promise to love each other through good and bad.  A promise to honor each other in sickness and in health.  A promise to respect each other in all that we do.  A promise to put the needs of the other above our own.  We’ve certainly seen our share of good and bad times.  We’ve survived some hard times, and we’ve enjoyed some easy ones.  I don’t need to share all the details…she and I both know our story, and some things are just for us to know…one of the joys of marriage.  We’ve certainly worked through our troubles, though, and we’ve always stood firm alongside each other.  I’m looking forward, with joy and anticipation, for what lies ahead for us in the next 18 years…and beyond.  I look forward to growing old with her…to walking beside her throughout the remainder of our lives.  Whatever hardships and struggles await us, I’m blessed beyond words to have her by my side.   There is no other.   There will never be another.  She is the love of my life…my soul mate.

Love always,

Dad