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…

Strength In The Broken Pieces

Have you ever broken something?

I know, a silly question isn’t it. We’ve all broken something during our lives. A toy, a glass, grandpa’s storm door, a friendship, a heart. Some breaks are easy to fix while others are hard. And sometimes what has become broken is the hardest to mend. Our self.

Through this first year without my wife Barb, there have been many times that the brokenness I experienced was so complete that I honestly felt lost. Lost to the point I had no idea where to find or how to put things back together again. Have you felt that way? It’s an empty, deep, dark place to be.

When you lose that one thing, the person, that brought wholeness to your life and fullness to your heart, it’s, well, indescribable. It’s one of those things that until you have experienced it you really cannot understand how it feels. Have you been there?

As many of you know, my wife’s brain cancer was not the first brokenness our family had felt. Just a few years before Barb’s passing, her younger brother Greg also died of brain cancer. To lose one was tragic but to lose both of them to this vile disease has been truly devastating. It felt like our lives had been broken into pieces and scattered across the table. Spilling onto the floor. And some pieces seemed to have been lost. That’s what cancer can do to a family. It was not the first time cancer broke me.

When I was 15, my father died of lung cancer and other complications. Dad was a smoker and a drinker. Two habits he developed during his youth and service in WWII. When he was wounded in Europe and sent stateside to recuperate, he met my mom.

I was their only child. They adopted me in 1959, eleven days after I was born which is a story for another time. Through my childhood, my dad was not totally present in my life. He lived with mom and me, took me fishing and mushroom hunting, took vacations with us each year, but being a fully involved fulltime father he was not.

I resented my dad for that and when he was diagnosed with cancer and started to spend even more time away from home, at the hospital, I resented him even more. Such a foolish, childish, selfish way to feel as my dad struggled with his illness. When he went to the hospital the last time, I never went to see him. He died and I stayed home due to fear and that resentment. It’s something I will never get over. I wish I could go back now and be there for him. Do you have regrets of resentment like that? It’s another empty dark place to be.

But we do not have to stay there.

When our lives are broken and become scattered, we have choices to make. We can choose to allow the darkness to hold power over us or we can choose to overcome the darkness to live again. I’ve learned this now. I’m stronger than before. I’m no longer that young man afraid and resentful. I’m learning to find the broken pieces of my life and put them back together. Not the same shape as before. A life that is different for sure but also a life that is strong.

I’m finding strength in the brokenness through my friends, my family, and my faith. This cord of three has proven to be unbreakable in my life. It has pulled me up, gathered me in, and put me together again. It is healing and powerful. It is a gift.

If you have this cord of three in your life you know how great a blessing it is. If you do not, I encourage you to reach out to those around you who are waiting to help you heal, to mend. You don’t have to go it alone.

But you should know there are really four cords involved in living. Friends, family, faith, and the fourth cord is yourself. It’s up to you to first start putting yourself together and although it can be a rough start, you can do it. If I can you can too.

Over this past year, I’ve read many books, watched many videos, and prayed many times to find strength and wholeness. You have to find what connects best with you. One thing that has helped me very much is the book “Healing After Loss” by Martha W. Hickman. Her short but spot on daily meditations are really helping me grow stronger through the healing process. You may find her words helpful too. I’ve included a link below regarding her book.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, if you are feeling broken, I want to encourage you to not give up. It’s hard, this grieving process, but you can get through it. Persevere. You can find strength in the brokenness and that strength will lead you to a life of renewed meaning and wholeness. You are stronger than you know.

See you down the road.

Martha Higgins’s “Healing After Loss” is a wonderful book of daily meditations to help you through your grief. Available on Amazon via the image above.

And A House Is Not A Home

Or is it?

What exactly is it that makes the house, the apartment, the condo we live in a home? Is it the type of building? Is it the amount of time we’ve lived there? The experiences we’ve had there? Is it the people we have loved there?

I have lived in six different places in my life and I can say all of them were home. First with my parents in a small ranch. Then the first and only rental which was a house about eighty years old. Then the first mortgage with a cape cod, followed by a larger ranch, and then a two story three bedroom, and now the current two story four bedroom that Barb and I had built back in 2000. All have felt like home but for different reasons and for different seasons.

Growing up as an only child, my parents and I lived in a small three bedroom ranch on Walnut street in my hometown of Coshocton, Ohio. Yes, I was that stereotypical little spoiled snot that got almost everything he wanted. It was great and I can honestly say it has had no negative affect on me. At least I haven’t noticed any problems. Be quiet. You know who you are.

The house sat on a hillside which overlooked the town to the west. From our back porch, I loved to watch the thunderstorms come down the Walhonding valley lighting up the sky and shaking our little ranch when the thunder rolled. Mom would always yell at me to get inside but most times my dad was with me so we kind of ignored her request. The storms were just too good to not be in the middle of. I lived there through high school until I graduated from college.

The apartment was also in Coshocton and my first wife and I rented it for a year I believe. It was a cute old house with all the sounds and smells old houses come with. Some pleasant others not so much. As young newlyweds, we didn’t mind at all the shortcomings of the house. It was new to us and beautiful.

After that came the cape cod on Elm street. My first ownership and mortgage. Wonderful old home with great woodwork, much character, and wonderful neighbors. A great home to start a family in we thought and it was. Just not within my first marriage. High school sweethearts that married before really knowing each other well enough. But that’s a story for another time.

I was still living in the cape cod when I met my second wife, Barb. I think she might had fallen in love with the house first and then decided I was good enough to stay. Either way she had good taste. In homes and husbands.

We lived on Elm street for about three more years. We hosted some pretty great parties with great friends. Our Halloween costume scavenger hunt was one of them which is another story for another time. We watched the world premier of the Thriller video on MTV with the Lady Crusaders Basketball team which I coached at Sacred Heart. That was a fun night. Who knew a team of teenage girls could scream so loudly. And we celebrated the birth of our two beautiful daughters. It was a great home with wonderful memories that I think about often and cherish.

But the cape cod only had two bedrooms so soon after our second daughter was born, we started looking for a larger house and luckily found a really nice ranch home in Warsaw. Three bedrooms which were perfect for us and our two girls. The girls would each have their own bedroom. We were set. Then God blessed us with our son. The girls were still very young so sharing a bedroom wasn’t that big of a deal thankfully.

So in the ranch in Warsaw we began raising our family. That home was always busy with our kids, the neighbor kids, and the four to five other kids Barb would watch before and after school. All moms are superheroes in my opinion but Barb was the super-est. For the longest time, I could not comprehend how she cared for so many kids in our home without losing her mind. But now I know it was just who she was. A person with a beautiful heart that made a home of love. We spent close to eight years in the ranch in Warsaw before a job change necessitated a move. I still miss that home at times.

In 1995 we moved to Redlands Drive in Hilliard, Ohio. We bought a beautiful 10 year old two story home in a great neighborhood and again we were blessed with wonderful neighbors. I thank God for the friendships He brought into our lives in each neighborhood. Looking back, I can see the blessing in each move we made and I thank Him for that.

We stayed in the Redlands two story for five wonderful years but with it only having three bedrooms and the girls growing into their teen years, Barb and I decided for our own safety, that we better get a four bedroom house. Which we had built and moved into in the summer of 2000.

The two story four bedroom on Laura Lane is where I still live. At least for a little while longer. This home has seen some pretty awesome good times and some really sad times as well. Graduation from high school and college of all three kids. Many parties and dinners with good friends and family. Seventeen Christmas mornings. And the passing of Barb to her eternal heavenly home.

That heavenly home I look forward to some day but for now I’m very thankful for the homes I have had in my life and the people that have made a house a home. So I guess that’s my take on that 1965 Dionne Warwick song A House Is Not Home.

If it wasn’t for the people we have loved in our lives, a house really wouldn’t ever become a home. We can live but if we have not loved do we really have a home? I’ve been blessed by many, so very many loving people in my life that I can truly say I have had the best of homes. I imagine I have a few more to move into over the years ahead and I know each will be just what I need and desire. Especially the last one on that golden street.

But until that home, I will continue to live and love the people God brings into my life and enjoy the homes that are created around me. How wonderful it is to be home and even more wonderful to make a home for those you love. May we all be blessed in this way and build the blessing of a loving home for others.

Thanks friends. See you down the road.