A Better Boat

Really, I don’t dislike worms.

When I was a child, my dad took me fishing many times and I enjoyed everything about it except baiting the hook.

I didn’t mine worms. They were actually very interesting to watch but poking the hook through the worm, night crawlers usually, I swear at times I could hear the worm cry out in pain. A kid’s imagination. Right?

Sitting along the bank, casting out, reeling in, watching the water roll by. Some pretty great days even with the worms. Days I wished I could have spent more with my dad. But cancer and his self medication in dealing with life problems cut our fishing days short.

Regardless, I have some pretty fond memories along and on the water fishing with my dad. One such memory was camping and fishing at Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri.

Around the Fourth of July most years, my mom, dad, and I would spend a couple weeks in southwest Missouri for our annual family reunion on my mom’s side. One summer, all the dads and kids that wanted to, went to Table Rock for an overnight fishing excursion. We camped in tents, trailers, and the beds of a couple pickup trucks but not much time was spent sleeping.

Just before sunset, we took boats out on the lake to string lines of baited bottle floaters. Our goal was to catch lake trout and other varieties overnight in order to cook them up for breakfast in the morning. I’m happy to say our goal was achieved. And it was delicious.

Being out on the small boat was a lot of fun for my ten year old self but one thing I was not initially informed of was that at least twice during the night we had to go back out in the boats to check the lines and re-bait as needed. Again not much sleeping happened but that was ok. We were doing man things.

On the second trip out to check the lines that night, the sky got cloudy and a wind kicked up out of the south. This made our small boat rock quite a bit and the re-baiting pretty difficult. Being not a good swimmer, my ten year old self became quite nervous. About all I could do that second trip was hold on to the sides of the boat and try to not fall in the lake. In my mind I was shouting, ‘We need a bigger, better boat!’

Although shaken and somewhat wet from the rain that came with the wind, we made it back to land ok. I can laugh now looking back at myself on the water that night and realize that it wasn’t really that bad. I was with my dad and uncles and if anything went wrong they were there to help me through.

You know though, I can still feel like my ten year old self sometimes even now in my fifty-eighth year. Dark nights come. The wind and rain begin to blow and my life boat gets rocked. There’s no time to enjoy what’s going on around me as holding on is about all I can do. Bet you’ve felt that way too. We need a better boat.

There’s a song out right now by Kenny Chesney and it’s title is exactly that. Better Boat.

It’s a great song with very meaningful lyrics. If you’ve ever felt like your boat is taking on water, sinking, and there’s not much hope of making it back to safe dry land, I want to encourage you to listen to Kenny’s song.

Below is the chorus. Simple words that hold great encouragement. We all need a better boat at times in our lives. Let’s all keep building while we hold on. The storm will pass. There’s still a lot of good fishing to come.

I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t workin’, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussin’ out
Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control
I’m learnin’ how to build a better boat.”

See you down the road…

Route Recalculating

Hey there. It’s been a while.

Life got very busy for me over the past three months. I retired from a thirty-seven year career in the I.T. field, sold our family home of the past eighteen years, moved into an apartment for the first time in my life, and I’ve been helping my daughter get her business off the ground.

Yep – I’m taking it easy in retirement.
Not really sure how you do that but I’m working on it.

Retiring at Fifty-eight was not in my original life plan. Nor was losing my wife to cancer. But one thing I’ve discovered through the past few years is that when the road we’re traveling in life changes and our destination becomes uncertain, who we are as the traveler doesn’t really change. Here’s what I mean.

Throughout my working life, I’ve always worked with computers in one way or another. Programming, in my opinion, is a form of art. It’s creative, it can be original and unique, and it can be awe-inspiring to see the final outcome of your work. It’s not a symphony by Beethoven or a masterpiece by Monet, but in its own way, a well-done computer program is a work of passion that any I.T. geek can be very proud of.

I loved the various types of work I did and positions I held over those I.T. years but in all honesty, over these past few months, I really haven’t missed it. What I’ve learned is that it wasn’t the type of work I was doing that was fulfilling to me but it was working with others that were just as passionate about their work that brought me wholeness. My experiences with my teammates, my coworkers, my “life traveling” companions is what made it all fun and meaningful.

As a child, I was pretty much a shy introvert. I had a hard time feeling comfortable in meeting new people and being in large crowds. I preferred to just hang out with a few close friends in our neighborhood most of the time. This led to some lifelong friendships but also kept me from getting to know a whole bunch of other folks. I sometimes wonder how many friendships I missed creating back then and experiences lost.

But when I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license, my world expanded in both area and relationships. Those four years of high school were a time of so many memorable experiences for me and I cherish them all. The good, the bad, and the ones I’m still surprised I survived.

At my 40th High School reunion a few weekends ago, many of us from the CHS class of 1978 laughed and enjoyed looking back at our high school journey and reliving the past. Matter a fact we relived it so well that the local deputy paid us a visit around 2am at our hotel. We’ve still got it was our motto for that night! Not sure what that ‘it’ really is these days but it’s still ours.

While I was driving home the next day after our reunion, I was thinking about friends that were not able to make it this year and some of our shared memories. In particular, I was thinking about one childhood buddy that wasn’t there with us. Bob. He is one of the twelve classmates we’ve already lost. Cancer got the best of him in 2017.

A number of us talked and laughed about times with Bob during our reunion weekend but while driving home I became rather angry over it. Angry that this damnable disease has touched my life and the lives of so many of those I care about. Everyone dies but cancer, this horrible disease, takes too many too early.

I hate it. I asked God to destroy it or take it far from this earth so it could no longer strike down those we love. I was becoming quite upset when at that moment a song came on the radio that brought me out of my anger and back to a place of peace. And the next song that played confirmed that peace and a few tears of thankfulness.

The songs ‘Praise You in this Storm’ by Casting Crowns and ‘Even If’ by MercyMe, both speak to the struggle we face in our lives due to illness, relationships, or any hardship. Dark things that we can’t control that are put in our path that we have to somehow try to navigate around, no, make it through. Horrible things. Things not planned in our life journey.

Both songs brought me back to my faith and belief that there’s really just one way to make it through those dark times. We can try all the human ways of dealing with tragedy and death, and believe me I’ve tried many over the years, but the one thing that has gotten me through is giving the anger, pain, and hurt away to the One, the only one, that can truly make it easier. Not necessarily take it away but carry it for me. I’m grateful for that each and every day.

This past weekend here in Columbus was the Pelotonia. The annual bike ride to raise funds for cancer research and to find a cure. Many of my friends touched by cancer rode again this year. I believe for them as well as myself the lyrics from ‘Even If’ sum up how we feel and where our hope and strength lie. Give both songs a listen to perhaps hear for the first time how you can make it through.

“They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

May it be well with you as you continue your life journey – see you down the road.

The Road Of Remembering

The past four weeks have been pretty hectic. Life can get that way at times you know. Too many things going on at the same time which cause us to stress out. I’ve been there before. The hectic nature of these past four weeks did give me some stress but it also gave me the opportunity to remember some pretty spectacular things in my life.

Four weeks ago I retired. After 37 years of working in the I.T. field, I decided I had had enough fun and needed to get serious about this ‘adulting’ thing. So, to have enough time to figure out what being an adult really means, I retired from work. So far I have no clue and I’m starting to think Peter Pan got it right. Bang-a-rang!

Along with retiring, I also sold my home of the past eighteen years, and have now moved into a new two bedroom, two bath apartment. Definitely, a downsizing move and I’ll be spending the rest of the summer going through a lifetime accumulation of stuff. The things we keep over the years. I’m not the only one with twelve copies of the same photo of the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile, am I? Be honest now.

And just two days after moving into the apartment, I drove to Missouri for a family reunion with all my crazy cousins on my mom’s side. Thank goodness I have a wonderful house/dog sitter that didn’t mind all the boxes and clutter left from the move. Perhaps the resort style pool at my apartment complex made it a little easier for her. I hope to get to the pool myself this week if the weather gets warmer and dryer. I prefer to get wet by being in the pool and not just from walking to it.

As I was driving westbound on I70 last week, I had the opportunity to relax a little and think back upon recent events in my life that have brought me to where I am now. The time on the road allowed me to remember many things and I can honestly say, the happy outnumbered the sad many times over.

Times I’ve spent working with some very talented and carrying people. Folks that were patient and understanding with the new guy and others that were gracious enough to allow me to lead them. Memories of rubber band wars in the cubicles. Of office Christmas party shenanigans. Of long days and nights with project implementations. The many sayings of hellos and goodbyes. Friendships created. Successes celebrated. Failures learned from. All memories that I will cherish through my retirement and will bring a smile to my face.

Selling and moving out of the house my family had called home for the past eighteen years was not easy. So much had happened in that home over the years. Celebrations and conflicts. Kids struggling through school and kids blossoming into adults. Birthday parties for family and friends. The planning of a daughter’s wedding. And the sadness of saying goodbye to the one I loved more than anything or anyone in this world. All memories I will never forget nor take for granted as each one from my time at Laura Lane has contributed to who I am and to whom I may become.

This past weekend with my cousins in Missouri brought back some wonderful memories as well. My earliest memory of going to old MO for my mom’s family reunion is when I was four years old. Mom and I took a passenger train from Coshocton, Ohio, (my hometown) to St. Louis. I don’t remember why but my dad drove to the reunion while mom and I rode the train. Dad picked us up in St. Louis and then we drove the last few hours to Marshfield to see all the family. The train ride was awesome watching out the windows as the world passed by. Probably what gave me my love for travel.

Our family reunions were no small affair when I was a child. My mom was one of thirteen siblings (3 brothers, 10 sisters) and many of my aunts and uncles had three kids or more. We were a large extended family and on my 16th birthday which coincided with our reunion that year, I counted close to sixty first cousins at the reunion. Many of us took over my aunt Mary’s home for a night, supervised by some of the older more ‘mature’ cousins, where we played cards, watched a Star Trek marathon on local TV and stayed up all night doing what cousins do. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I did not grow up with any brothers or sisters so my cousins, back then and even more so today, are my siblings. Even with the miles and years between us. This past weekend was another installment of fun and love in my life with this crazy group. The hours we spent laughing while playing Liverpool Rummy for three nights reminded me of our aunts and uncles playing the same card game all those years ago while we kids could only watch. I’m sure they were all looking down this past weekend laughing right along with us as we continued the tradition. I’ll buy that (if you’ve played Liverpool you’ll understand)!

As the mile markers rolled past my car, it seemed each one brought to my mind milestones, memories of all the years I’ve been blessed to live in this world. What is life without our memories and experiences? So many good times and yes a number very sad but it’s a package deal in life. I’ve come to appreciate them all and cherish each one.

The road of life is a journey just like the drive to a family reunion. On that journey, I’ve learned to take my time and enjoy each exit, detour, and stay over for what it is and what it brings to me. And I’m thankful for what lies ahead and the new remembering the road will bring.

See you down the road…

You Look Like A Princess

I found myself watching the conclusion of the Royal Wedding Saturday morning. In all honesty, I had totally forgotten about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting married. So when I switched on the tele, ‘God Save The Queen’ was being played and the recessional was beginning.

My wife Barb would have been up at 4am to watch this. My guess is she was watching just from a much better vantage point.

The bride. The groom. The dress. The vows. The kiss. The promise. So many beautiful, meaningful moments. Barb absolutely loved weddings, as do I, and I think she would agree with me that one of the most moving moments of a wedding is when the groom sees his bride for the first time.

When escorting my oldest daughter down the aisle a few years ago, I was focused on the face of her soon to be husband. When he first saw her, his face lit up with a joyful smile and there was something like a radiance shining on him. Truly touching and a confirmation that my daughter was most definitely marrying the right man.

I remember standing at the altar myself waiting for my bride to make her way to me. When Barb and her father entered the sanctuary, I couldn’t see her until they made the turn to come down the aisle. I smiled and cried at the same time instantly. How in the world did this beautiful woman, both inside and out, choose me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. As she walked closer, I was able to gather myself and after accepting her hand from her father, I whispered to her ‘you are gorgeous, a princess, and I love you more than anything.’

Which instantly made her cry. Tears of joy I like to think.

I believe all grooms see their bride as a princess and apparently, Prince Harry did. Word is he whispered to his bride, ‘You look like a princess.’ I’m sure the hearts of millions of women melted at that point as they watched the ceremony. I know mine was touched and brought back the memory of our wedding.

Love is a powerful thing that can be quite difficult to figure out. At the beginning of the relationship, you are getting to know each other. Then slowly deeper emotions develop. A greater connection forms. The two of you are experimenting with the thought that maybe this is the right person. Love takes root and begins to grow in your hearts.

Then something happens. It can be almost anything but something happens that threatens your relationship. You begin to question. You begin to doubt. You might even begin to pull apart. Is this really the right person.

Perhaps that’s it. The relationship is over. Or perhaps through that something, that challenge, the two of you are able to work it out. To reconcile. To talk about it and grow from it. Together. Stronger. Deeper.

I have learned that relationships and especially marriage are works in process. An emotional journey that never really ends. There are struggles. Barb and I had a number of them. We came close once to calling it quits when the pressures of life around us became great. But we didn’t quit and we grew closer together through the struggle.

I want you to know that the love Barb and I had for each other was not the only thing that got us through. There were two other factors.

One was our commitment to one another. Even in those few times we didn’t like each other very much, we held to the commitment we had made to each other that this was going to be a lifelong love. No matter what mistakes either of us would make, we would do all that we could to hold to our commitment and hold on to one another. I’m thankful we were able to do that.

In tying the knot, love and commitment made a strong two thread cord in our marriage but a three thread cord is much stronger. And that third thread is faith. Not in one another as that was really our commitment, but faith in the One we asked to bless our marriage and to stand beside us and walk with us through all that may come our way.

Faith is nothing you can see or touch but when you ask God to join you in your marriage, He will be there to carry the two of you through whatever comes. He will be there to strengthen your relationship with one another and with Him so that your love may become complete. The three of you will be strong together so that the two of you can withstand whatever comes.

I believe the key is keeping God closely involved in your relationship. He will always be there if you’ve asked him to but you must also be there. Staying in love with Him and growing deeper in your relationship with Him. Just as your love for one another grows, you must together as individuals and a couple, continue to not only have faith in God but grow closer to Him. Go deeper. Trust more. Talk more. Listen more.

For our almost 32 years of marriage, Barb and I did all that we could to keep that three thread cord strong. We stretched it pretty hard at times but it and we held together. The three of us kept at it and just as our wedding vow called out, only death was able to separate us.

But that’s only true in the human sense, in this world. My love for Barb and God, our relationship, continues on as I can feel both of them present in my life. The chord has not been broken. The love grows strong. Death has no power over the promise and presence of love everlasting.

The month of June is coming up and so will be many weddings for many wonderful couples. It is my wish and prayer for all of them that they invite that third thread to join them and let it make their marriage, their love, the strongest it can be.

Thanks, friends.

See You Down The Road.

Front Porch Sittin’

It seems summer has come early to Central Ohio. Today, the temps were in the mid 80s as it has been for the past four or five days. Tonight there’s a cool breeze as the Doodle and I enjoy the front porch. That breeze also has the scent of rain so something is coming our way it seems.

Today was a really good day. Actually, the weekend has been very special.

Our family celebrated Mothers Day this afternoon to honor all the mom’s in our family. Three generations. This morning, our extended church family stood and affirmed our commitment to 10 young children being dedicated by their parents. Two were my grandchildren. That commitment of love makes my heart full.

Today was also my two-year-old granddaughter’s birthday and last evening we partied like a two-year-old to celebrate her presence in our lives. She and her little brother bring incomparable joy to my life.

And Friday night I was able to go with a group of friends to see a band perform the hits of Fleetwood Mac. One of my favorite groups from my youth. Music has always moved my soul.

So tonight while doing some front porch sittin’, I’m lingering in the stillness of the evening with a full heart, a joyful spirit, and a soul that is singing a song of gratitude and thanks.

Oh, how I wish my wife Barb was still here with us to celebrate these precious moments. They are the life events she loved. From the hanging out with friends to celebrating special days with her family, she deeply enjoyed times like these. And you know, I’m confident she did so this weekend.

I don’t really know if our loved ones, who have passed on, do have some heavenly view over our lives but I like to think so. Even though she is not physically present, I can sure feel her with us.

I felt her Friday night at the show and could visualize the two of us dancing away the night like we used to. She was with us last night as we enjoyed and celebrated the blessing of our granddaughter, and her spirit was with us today during the dedication of our grandchildren. Her joy tonight must be beyond abundant.

I find comfort in knowing Barb’s joy is abundant and complete. How awesome that must be. I can’t wait to experience it for myself some glorious day.

But for now, I remain here in this life. And I have to say it’s a pretty good one. I’m surrounded by family and friends that love me and one another. And with that love and grace, there isn’t any storm that can overcome the hope and joy I have.

So tonight I’ll leave the windows cracked and let the breeze blow in as I listen to the rain on the roof. It will give me peace. And there again I’m reminded of Barb and her love.

Peace to you my friends.

See you down the road…

How Sweet It Is

I woke up this morning with James Taylor.

Singing in my mind that is. I’ve always enjoyed his music and this morning I could hear his song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”. My foot started tapping which apparently annoyed Izzy the Doodle enough that she jumped off the bed. She must not be a fan of the original JT.

Here are a bit of the lyrics:

‘I close my eyes at night wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore, everywhere I went it seems I’d been there before.
But you brighten up for me all of my days with a love so sweet in so many ways,
I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop and thank you baby.
How sweet it is to be loved by you, feels so fine. How sweet it is to be loved by you.’

This is one of a number of songs throughout my life that has always picked me up. I can’t help but to start singing along and let the song put a smile on my face. Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll pull up beside me at a stop light while this song is playing. I expect you to sing along with me so don’t be shy. Put the windows down and join me in making a joyful noise!

Do you have a song that picks you up? Why does it? Perhaps when you first heard it, it really connected with you. Or perhaps you heard it during an emotional time in your life and it’s been your goto song ever since. Or maybe it’s a family favorite or a song you and your childhood friends have great memories around.

Songs are memories. And tied to them are emotions. Many if not most songs have emotions as part of their title or in their lyrics. Songs such as:

“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (the other JT)
“Happy” by Pharrell

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
“Yesterday” by The Beatles
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

And thousands more across all genres of music. No matter your favorite artist or style of music, I’m sure there are certain songs that will forever open your mind and emotions to another place. Take you back to a time when you experienced something that made an impact on your life. A life-changing moment.

James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” has now made a new emotional connection with me. In addition to being that happy little jingle that always made me sing, it has also become an anthem since losing my wife Barb. We would dance to this song everytime we heard it. Weddings, parties, clubs, and once on a public sidewalk. I promise it wasn’t too embarrassing.

Wonderful memories of a love so sweet in so many ways that continue on even after the grave. I really do wonder where would I be without having had her in my life all those years. So many great memories and experiences that will stay with me no matter what comes. I’m very thankful for that.

So which song connects with you? I’d love to hear about your song and your story so please leave a comment to share. And while you’re doing so, queue up that song of yours. Play it loud and sing along. Get that feeling inside your bones and go electric wavy when you turn it on. Dang there comes that other JT! He’s pretty good too.

See you down the road.

The Ness Of March

The month of March has always meant the coming of Spring. Sure almost every year in Ohio, we would get a pretty decent snow in March but it usually didn’t last long. Soon the sun would warm up the ground to melt the mantle of white and flowers would start poking their way up through the soil. Daffadills, Crocus, and sometimes Tulips would begin blooming in all their colors as Spring arrived. Such wonderful colors. Nature in transition. The beauty of creation. March in all its fullness.

Since 1939, March has also been the month where brackets are drawn, teams compete, buzzer beaters ignite the crowd, nets are cut down, and a champion is crowned. If you’re a fan of college basketball then this is your month. Even if your team is not in the tourney, there’s something about these games that is unlike anything else in sports. Going through the season and all the transitions teams must deal with to reach the pinnacle of success. Such anticipation. Such excitement. The beauty of the game. March in all its madness.

And then there’s March of 2017. March 7th to be precise. The day our family said goodbye to the person that held our hearts together. The day my wife Barb finished her 19-month journey of transitioning from a healthy life to her death from cancer.

It truly is the saddest day I have ever experienced. No other pain or sorrow comes close to what I felt that morning as I kissed her goodbye and whispered in her ear it was ok for her to go. She had fought long enough and now she could fly high to her new home. My heart still aches as I think about that moment. Tears well up again as I experience one more time the loss of her beauty. March in all its sadness.

But there’s another Ness that surpasses all the others.

Some years, Easter occurs in March which brings with it the greatest beauty. The beauty of grace and sacrifice. If you are a follower of the Christ, Easter week is probably the most significant example of transition you can find.

From the joyous shouts of Hosanna, through the final days of teaching and preparation, and into the night of communion and betrayal. Then the Friday of trial, suffering, and death and the Sabbath of sadness, doubt, and despair.

But then, oh thank God then, coming with the rising of the sun, there is the gift of new life. The raising of the Son on Sunday morning. The world transitions from a place of darkness, confusion, and fear to a home of hope, light, and life as the Christ overcomes the grave. The beauty of the Creator. Easter with all its forgiveness and completeness.

This March has been a tough one for me. In some ways even tougher than that first March losing Barb. Everything I’ve seen and experienced this month has reminded me of her. At times bringing great happiness and smiles and other times such a strong feeling of loss and tears. Grief is a process that presents itself in many ways. I’m learning to allow the ways of grief to come and to accept them. The transition out of grief is long and perhaps I will never be rid of all of it. And that’s ok.

You see I know that this loss and grief will not keep me. It cannot keep me. Because the love I shared with Barb and the love our Saviour has shared with us, is greater than anything we have to endure in this world. I am so thankful for it. The goodness of God.

Tonight during our Good Friday service, we sang the song At The Cross by Christ Tomlin.  I heard the lyrics in a way I had not before. Singing this song tonight gave me a comfort, a hug from God if you will, which is what I needed to close out this month of March.

I hope you, no matter what you are going through, are able to see and take in the goodness of God and what He has done for you. It is my prayer that you do.

“There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down”

 

Happy Easter and see you down the road.