The Calm After The Storm

Not quite the saying we’ve all come to know. Usually we say ‘the calm before the storm’ for which I’ve found this description: “a quiet or peaceful period before another period during which there is great activity, argument, or difficulty.”

Since childhood, I’ve always been intrigued by the force and the fierceness of storms. How the world around me can go from its normal, everyday commonness to a thunderous downpour of raging rain and wind. It can happen so quickly and sometimes totally unexpectedly. You’re not prepared. You’re caught in it.

I’ve been caught many times in storms. Riding my bicycle on the backroads of Coshocton County as a kid. Or at a football game and not close enough to the car. Or sitting in our kitchen as my mom tells me my dad had just died in the hospital from his cancer.

The first two situations were true surprises. The third was not but in my 15 years of living, it was by far the most devastating storm I had been caught in. Even though I didn’t show it.

I don’t remember exactly when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer but I believe I was still in middle school. I know my teachers and school officials knew what was going on but only a few of my closest friends knew.

It was hard for my adolescent brain to fully grasp the depth and importance of something like that and I mostly tried to live my school life in denial. I created in my mind a world that was at peace. A calm place. I tried to ignore my dad’s cancer and in that process I also ignored him.

Dad went through a few years of different treatments. I would stay home or at a friend’s house when mom would go with and later drive my dad to his appointments. I seldom would ask how the treatments were going or what was next. When you’re living in a world of denial, that information isn’t required.

So for that time period between my dad’s diagnosis and his passing, I lived in the calm before the storm. But his passing for me wasn’t really a storm. It was just something that happened. It was over and my life went on. Calmly just as before.

It wasn’t until my wife lost her fight with cancer that the storm really hit me. It’s like over the 40 plus years since my dad’s death, it had been slowly brewing within me and was released a little at the time of Barb’s diagnosis and then exploded in full force the morning of her passing. I was caught in the middle of the strongest, fiercest, darkest, most devastating emotional experience in my life and I had no idea if I would get through it.

But somehow there was a growing peace that soon subdued the winds and rains and brought me out of the darkness. Back into light and the calm. An assurance that the storm was over. That I was okay and Barb and my dad were okay too. The calm after the storm.

It’s been three years since Barb’s diagnosis of brain cancer and roughly eighteen months now since her passing. As many of you know, I started writing about what I was experiencing during my wife’s journey with cancer as a release or therapy to help me process my emotions as well as my faith. I’ve continued that writing since her passing and I have found a calmness, an assurance, that is true and I know it will sustain me through all the remaining storms that will blow into my life.

More storms will come, I know that. I don’t know exactly from where or when but they will come and that’s okay. Because I know that there will always be a peace that will get me through and a calmness waiting for me after the storm.

Storms come upon all of us. I encourage you to search for the calm that is waiting for you and the peace that will get you through your storms.

Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago but felt it wasn’t time to share it. Knowing that many folks are experiencing Hurricane Florence tonight, I thought I’d share this now. My prayers go up for all those in the path of this storm and those ready to help in the midst of and after it. May the calm come quickly.

See you down the road….

Tiny Little Dog

Go back and read the title of this post again but hear it in your mind with a Native American accent. Keep that accent and add a little Canadian to it as I introduce you to Daniel. You got it, eh?

Daniel was the driver for the Sun Tours 8 hour trip I took yesterday around East Glacier National Park in Montana. He is a full member of the Blackfoot tribe to which Glacier Park is a neighbor.

Daniel showed us beautiful mountains and stunning views of many areas of the eastern side of the park. He also shared with us historical information about both Glacier Park and the Blackfoot nation. His humorous approach in telling us stories was a whole lot of fun and I highly recommend him for a tour.

The Niitsitapi, which is the native word for the Blackfoot nation, means ‘The People’. Daniel explained that many of the North American tribes call themselves ‘The People’. I like this. How cool is it that the majority of the members of over 500 different tribes all see themselves as part of one large group of ‘the people’. Unity with variety. We non-native American tribes can learn from this.

He mentioned a few tribes refer to themselves with other names and one of those is the Cheyenne. He said they call themselves not just ‘The People’ but ‘The Beautiful People’. Touch of ego? Probably not as Daniel laughed his almost Santa like ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ (remember that native American Canadian accent) and told us that most other tribes agreed. The Cheyenne are beautiful people. Which made me think, aren’t we all both inside and out?

I asked him what his traditional name was as many Native American families have an ‘English’ name as well as a tribal name. He replied, ‘I’m just Daniel’. But then he added, his mother’s family has the tribal name ‘Shoots many guns’. Ho,Ho,Ho he laughed again.

He told us stories of other Blackfeet members and their names. He mentioned the elected mayor of their town, Jack ‘Makes Cold Weather’. Sounds more like the name of a meteorologist to me.

It was wonderful hearing Daniel’s stories and learning about him and his people. But the thought came to me that he and his people are really no different than you or I. All of us know folks with funny sounding names right? Be kind now. πŸ˜€

We may live in different places, live different lives, and speak a little differently but are we really that different? I think we humans have much more in common than not. We should do better at living in that unity with our variety.

Today is my last day at Glacier Park. I board the Amtrak westbound train again tonight to go to the Portland, Oregon, area. The beauty of this place is breathtaking. The creation around us, both down the street and across the world, is something we all should try to see and experience more of.

Nature, our world, wants to show us that life is best lived simply and in harmony. As I was thinking about these things sitting at the East Glacier Rail Station, I noticed etched into the outside of the station’s wall the words ‘Tiny Little Dog’.

I’m wondering if this was a Native American traveler or a well trained Shihtzu just passing through in ’76. Doesn’t really matter as I just hope they really enjoyed their stay at Glacier and the journey they were on. I know I have and am.

See you down the road….

And in the morning….

It’s 6am and I’m somewhere in North Dakota. I’m traveling on the AMTRAK #27 Empire Builder train on my way west to Glacier, Montana.

The light of morning is just starting to brighten the eastern sky. Just enough that I can see there is a mix of clouds above us. Should be a pretty colorful sunrise. That’s my hope.

While waiting on the sunrise this morning, I was reminded of this verse from the book of Numbers:

“Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening until morning. When it lifted in the morning, they started out. It didn’t matter whether it was day or night. When the cloud lifted, the people started out.” – Numbers 9:21 NIRV

As a simple description, the cloud in this verse was the guiding spirit of God that was leading the people of Israel to the promised land. I’ve often reflected on that last sentence, ‘When the cloud lifted, the people started out’. In other words, the people didn’t move until God did.

Have you ever been waiting for God to make his move? To show you what to do next? I have. Many times. And many of those times, my patience wore thin in the waiting and I got mad at Him. I went ahead and made my move without Him. Bet you can guess how well that went for me.

No matter how impatient we become waiting on God to do something, it really is in our best interest to wait for Him. What I have learned is that while I’m waiting I need to be calm and secure in knowing that the move God will make in my life will come at exactly the time that is best for me.

So as I wait on God’s timing, I’m doing my best to be patient and prepare myself to be ready to go. So I can say “It didn’t matter whether it was day or night”, I was ready to follow.

See you down the road….

12:30 – A Love Note

Recently while flipping through some books my wife Barb had kept, I came across the following note she had written.

She wrote down scripture verses, quotes, and devotional thoughts all the time as reminders to herself of who she was and whose she was. One of her ways of journaling.

Around our home she would tape many of her reminders to the kitchen cabinet doors (both inside and out), the refrigerator door, and mirrors. At her work she had them taped to her desk, filing cabinets, and computer monitor. She kept Post It Notes and 3×5 card manufacturers in business for many years.

I have kept the notes she had taped up around our home as they are another reminder, now to me and our kids, of how strong her faith was and just how much love she held in her heart for everyone.

This note is from her years of serving youth groups at the churches we’ve attended and specifically her middle school small group from just a year or two before her cancer diagnosis.

She absolutley loved helping teenagers come to understand, know, and believe in the Christ. Not traditions of religion but how to begin and grow in a relationship with the God that loved them with all of His heart no matter their current circumstance or what they had done in their past. She knew this kind of love and wanted, no, she had to share it.

Barb’s words in this note should be the mantra for all of us that are followers of Christ. And not just for serving teenagers but all persons. I think she really understood the Great Commission.

I’m not sure what the 12:30 she wrote referenced. Was it a time or scripture verse? I plan on asking her when I see her again someday but for now I’m choosing to think it referred to Mark 12:30:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

She lived this out each day. I believe she abounded in this love and shared it with all those she met on her earthly journey. And now great is her reward in Heaven. I’m striving to do the same.

So let me encourage you to take those notes of love, love letters if you will, that come to you and tape them up in your life so that you’re constantly reminded of how loved you are and how wonderful it is to share that great love.

See you down the road….

Dog Tales – Go West Young Man

While walking the Doodle this morning, I was thinking about a trip I have coming up. Just a week away, I fly to Chicago, board Amtrak and head west to Glacier, Montana, and then onto Portland, Oregon.

Now when I say I was thinking about my trip I mean I was mentally reviewing my trip spreadsheet row by row to see if I had left anything out of my plan. I do a spreadsheet for every trip to layout the schedule and control costs. I’m just wired that way and I suspect a few of you are too. I like to plan spontaneity. πŸ™‚

This will be my first train trip since I was four years old and I’m just as excited about this one as I was back then.

I’ve always enjoyed trains. My dad had an O gauge train set and I’ve owned a few others over the years. They were all fun to setup and play with but mostly I enjoyed daydreaming about traveling cross country on a train. So the trip next week is hopefully the first long train ride of many for me.

When I was a kid, I loved the TV show ‘Wild, Wild West’. James West and Artimus Gordon were the first two secret service agents in the late 1800’s and they traveled and lived on a train. Awesome!

Jim’s courage and Artie’s cleverness were quite the combination. They were able to serve their country, kick the butt of various villains, and meet a lot of very pretty women. Still sounds like a good gig to me!

I don’t plan to be vanquishing any villains this train trip but I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and take a trip of this type on my own. I imagine as I’m sitting in my seat, watching the vastness and beauty of our nation roll by, I’ll replay some of those old Wild, Wild West episodes in my mind.

Maybe I’ll come up with some gadget or disguise like Artie or climb out the train window and run across the top of the cars like Jim. Or most likely, I’ll just enjoy the ride and talk with a few newly made friends. And if one or two of those new friends are pretty women that will be ok too. 😎

On this trip I plan to start writing about the life journey of other folks I’ve met over the years. We’re all travelers on this road of life. Some times we share the road, or track, and sometimes we take different routes but we all have experiences that make us who we are and who we are to become. And in sharing those experiences we will usually discover that we all have more in common than we thought.

So my friends both now and soon to meet, if I give you a call, drop you an email, or tap you on the shoulder over the weeks ahead, here’s hoping that you’ll share a bit of your life journey with me in order to share with others. Thanks in advance my friends!

See you down there road, ah, or maybe the track….

Every Rose Has Its…

I love flowers. Especially roses.

The Park of Roses in Columbus, or Clintonville to be precise, is a favorite park for our family. Over the years, from each Spring to Autumn, we have spent many hours there walking among and enjoying all the various varieties. The colors, the scents, even the structure of each plant are things to admire and appreciate. The beauty that comes from some very prickly plants is amazing. Kind of like some folks I know and I bet you know a few too.

My wife Barb especially enjoyed the Park of Roses. The heritage varieties were her favorites. She enjoyed talking with the volunteers that grew and maintained all the plants in the park and learning about new varieties and the care of the plants. At each house we’ve lived in, she would plant one or two rose bushes shortly after moving in so we would be able to enjoy them for years to come. She was good at caring for flowers as she was with almost everything in her life. Whenever I see a rose I think of her.

The photo with this post was taken by a family friend recently in the Park of Roses. Thanks Emily for letting me borrow it. The contrast of decaying blooms with vibrant flowers, really struck me. Realizing that both life and decay were occurring from the same plant, at the same moment, was thought provoking. And inspiring.

Every plant or if I may, every person at any moment in their life, most likely will experience life and decay at the same time. One part of our life may be fading away while another is reaching full bloom. Two realities existing as one.

We experience disappointment and even hurt as things once beautiful and strong begin to slip away from us. Maybe our health or perhaps a relationship is beginning to fade. The beauty, the happiness, we once enjoyed is leaving. What seemed to be the most important thing in our life is going. And we question why. Why is this happening to me? Sadness starts to discolor our world and our joy is taken away.

These past few weeks, the message our senior pastor has shared with us at our church has been based on the book of Ephesians and the Uncommon Joy that can exist in our lives. A joy that stays with us no matter what is changing around us or even happening to us. A joy that goes deep, down to our roots, and no illness, hurt, or decay can take it from us.

I’ve found that type of joy, that internal strength and beauty, but it took me a long time to really understand what it is and from where it comes. It’s something that was always with me, planted deep inside, and over the years I’ve tried to be happy, to grow my joy, but something would always happen that would bring sadness into my life and the blooms would fade and die. I’ve repeated this cycle of growing and dying over and over again with my emotions and I probably will continue to repeat it until my time is up on this earth.

But joy is not an emotion. It’s not like happiness or sadness. Joy is not a feeling. It is a confidence and a contentment in knowing yourself and your source of life, from where life comes. A strength that no matter what this world throws at you, no matter how bad it hurts, you know that you will be alright. That is the joy I’ve come to know and allow to grow in my life. It really is uncommon yet available to everyone. Everyone.

As many of you know, this weekend Senator John McCain passed on after losing his valiant battle with brain cancer, a glioblastoma.Β  The same type of cancer that took my wife in March of 2017. Both Barb and Mr. McCain fought a good fight, gave their all, in trying to overcome the disease and both lost their life to it. But from what I know about Mr. McCain and from the life I shared with Barb, I can say neither of them lost their joy. The decay of cancer may have taken their lives but the blooms of joy from living and loving continue in those of us that lived and loved with them. They knew the source of their joy and it did not leave them. And now their joy is complete.

“Contentment is not about what we have but who we have.” – Mark Krenz.

I encourage you to search out that source of contentment, that joy, and claim it. Let it take root inside you and grow to make you strong. Even strong enough to overcome the decay of this life.

To be able to bloom. Always and in all things.

See you down the road….

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…