The New Song Of Morning

I woke this morning, thankful for a good night’s sleep. And now I’m sitting in my apartment, drinking my morning tea, and listening to some Christian worship music reflecting on a few things.

Life. It’s not always what we expect or want it to be. For many of us there seems to be more bad times than good. But with the rising of the morning sun, we are given another day that will hopefully be better than the day before. A chance, an opportunity, a gift to improve our life. There’s a song from Jason Mraz that has a line which has stuck with me, as a prayer, from the first time I heard it. “May the best of your todays be the worse of your tomorrows.”

Death: I find it interesting that the words mourning and morning are pronounced the same. One brings us feelings of sadness, remorse, and grief. The other brings us hope, peace, and a reassurance that today is a different morning where we can leave the mourning of yesterday a little further behind us.

Love. What truly is love? Is it just an emotion or is it something deeper. Something greater. Something everlasting. I think it’s all of these and so much more. Actually more than I’ll ever fully understand. Love of family, love of friends, love of a lifetime, love of God.

One thing I’ve discovered is love is a two way road. If it was just one direction then it’s just affection or infatuation. Real love is where two become one, many times from that first word or glance. It’s an aching of the heart where you are incomplete without the other. This is true in our human love for one another and the love our God has with us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

So as the light of the new day brightens the darkness of the world outside, I pray that neither life nor death become the focus of our day but that love is where we place our focus. Our hearts. And our hope.

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….

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.

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.

 

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.