Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I have been trying to take some vacation time with my wife. Yet, interruptions seem to be a fact of life. Last week we were going to go to San Diego, yet my Anne had surgery, which was an eye opening shock. Cancer wasn’t a word I thought would be used in conjunction with my Anne. I am so thankful that cancer isn’t going to be part of my vocabulary with my Anne. Next in line is my dad. We go to see him last night after a crazy scare last week with my Anne. Just before we leave after dinner with my niece and nephew I get a call and then text from my dad’s group homeowner. Grandpa is sick with the flu what shall we do? Decision time!

After returning back to our house after a staycation at a local resort I knew that I had to help a couple of our teens, who are broke and semi-homeless. My heart continues to break for these gals. I don’t know how to help them help themselves because they are caught in the aftermath of their mom’s choices. I know that Scripture talks about the sins of the fathers impacting generations to come. I now see and understand what this is all about. Most of my teens aren’t responsible for their circumstances that they grew up around or inherited through their parent(s)’s choices. Yet, they are forced to grow up too soon and have always been in the hussling mode.

I had to make a tough decision about a cell phone, which I had given to this one teen for her safety not her personal pleasure. I also had asked her mom not to use the phone because in the past it meant that my personal numbers were used for all of her ‘stuff’ from bill collectors to potential jobs. My goal was that both of them would respect my desires and keep the phone under these conditions. Unfortunately the phone was broken then the sim card was taken and put in another phone without my permission. I attempted to explain that regardless of the phone that they used it was my simcard and minutes that helped them.

I have to admit that I get annoyed with adults and teens that don’t know how to respect another’s person’s privacy. I had the scare of my life a week ago and went away for a day with my Anne.  The purpose was to get away from phone calls and e-mails to be focused on her and allow our kids some time to love their mom. So when I get numerous calls from this teen and her mom I’m a little ticked. I attempt to explain in a nice way that when the phone is stolen that I don’t have much sympathy and that it would take $40 to re-activate another phone which will also cost more money. I explained in a nice fashion that I couldn’t any longer support such irresponsible actions.

I went back online and looked at the usage of the phone and kinda knew what I would find. Yeah, these two had 7,000 texts in a month, which didn’t cost me anything but it was the 1,000 minutes, which took my usage over my monthly limit. I had to make a tough decision and turned off that line. I knew that I would get a text soon saying that they had found the phone that was either lost or stolen. The obvious question was what do we need to do to get it activated. My response, which wasn’t welcomed, was nothing. The line is turned off and it is time to get your own phone and be responsible.

So after dropping off these two teens at a local Laundromat and doing a couple of errands I knew I needed to talk with this one teen. She is like my daughter or grandkid. I have been around her and her family a bunch over the last 6 years. God has done so much to help them, yet, the response from her mom and brother isn’t stellar. Why should she be punished because of their foolish choices? Neither the mom nor brother wants to be responsible for their actions but truly believe that they should get everything without any strings attached.  I know that getting a job in today’s world isn’t easy and that keeping a job requires actually getting up and following through regardless of what is happening around you.

So as I’m talking with my teen I see tears, yes tears. Why are you crying? Please don’t make me out to be the bad guy. I so much want to help but in the right way that will help you make the right choices and not become a flake like your brother or someone that really excepts something for nothing. I tried to explain how I felt when I was facing one of the most difficult days in my life and her mom didn’t have the common sense to wait and not call 10 times in a row. I didn’t want my wife to have to answer a call and get caught in the middle of something that is totally a waste of time.

So why should my kids be punished for my sinful foolish choices? I say this because I want to be honest and say that my actions often impact my family in negative ways. I can be just as selfish or too busy to care at times.  Yet, my choices haven’t translated into any of my kids being homeless, without an education or jobless. All of them have cell phones; none of them live out of their cars that are broken down. Yes, those tears yesterday afternoon hurt me. I didn’t have the power to fix anything. The power of change was in someone else’s hand that is unwilling to step up and follow through.  Please pray for my teen and me. I hurt and also have tears which aren’t going to accomplish much. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anne is OK!

I usually don’t worry or cry very often. I have to admit that once Anne shared with me her news about seeing a specialist and the potential of her having cancer I was totally stunned. We had a busy day and our niece is staying with us so my Anne wouldn’t divulge any info until we were totally alone, expect for four dogs. As I lay there in bed I was devastated. My thoughts went from God what are you doing to what else in the world could happen to me. I wasn’t going to throw a pity party yet but my mom had died 5 years ago and now my dad has Dementia and is far from normal.

After waking up it hit me that I had to continue living this week and prepare for an Urban Plunge Event with Young Life Students coming from New Jersey on Friday and then the painting blitz and neighborhood cleanup on Saturday. Anne had seen this specialist who told her she must have surgery and a biopsy as soon as possible. The amazing thing is that her new doctor’s office moved mountains and got her a surgery date in a week. The dynamic in play here is that she had just been laid off from her work and her insurance stops in a few weeks. (Yes we can get COBRA.)

I had secretly planned a get away for Anne and me after the painting blitz at a local resort for a couple of days. I knew we needed time alone and also an opportunity to talk with our kids and their spouses. I was totally taken back when my Anne went out of her way to write a thank you note to the Doctor’s office and scheduler for getting her a spot before the doctor left on a lecturing trip. She did the usual Anne thing of writing an incredible note and then dropped off See’s candy. I knew this was a hit when the doctor’s first words out his mouth were about the note and the candy.

The Urban Plunge Event went really well and after about 2 we were finished and ready to load up for our resort get away. Then we get a call from our Jon who is looking at a potential house to buy so we commit to go see it. Amazingly enough it turns out to be minutes away from our house. So we see the house and actually love it and are excited that they will be neighbors – almost. They ask if we want to eat afterwards and we say yes. Just as we get into the Sports Bar it starts to monsoon big time and the afternoon turns into a massive dust storm. We enjoy the food but then leave in the midst of the storm.

We pack and start our drive to the resort. We have stayed here a few times over the years as a family hang out for everyone. I knew that I was a little afraid of breaking down as I would spend time just listening to my Anne and her to me. We finally got unpacked and sat on the couch in the living room of the suite. I couldn’t hold back the tears and the emotions of wanting her to know how much I loved her, appreciated her and could never imagine my life without her. We had decided to invite all of our kids over the following night to talk about the surgery and what could happen.

I knew that the news of this would way heavy on everyone. I didn’t know what to expect when everyone showed up in the midst of another monsoon with lots of wind and lightening. A few of them decided to swim a little and then finally we were all sitting outside of the pool. We thanked all of them for coming and wanted to share our spiritual side of life, read Scripture and then pray for Anne. We hadn’t rehearsed the format so I let Anne go first and share the news leading up to the surgery. She had picked a passage to read so I let her read it off my iPhone. I then shared our personal journey with the Lord and how we believed that just as He had led us together in college, through Heather’s birth, Julie and Jon’s adoption, grandma’s struggles with cancer, grandpa’s battle with dementia that we believed that God would help us through this.

We explained that there aren’t any guarantees in life, yet the Lord gives his grace and mercy to face anything. I had a tough time talking without tears flowing as much as Anne cried as she shared that it wasn’t time from her perspective to leave. As we both talked back and forth it was time to pray and continue with the evening. I could tell that this was very difficult for everyone. Each of my kids and their spouses responded differently, one joked too much, another was quiet and another had tears coming down her cheeks. I was thankful for the evening together, a meal together and also a chance to just hang out afterwards.

We got up the next morning and had a great quiet time together. I knew that the surgery the following day could change my life forever. I am very selfish and can’t imagine I could live without my Anne at my side. She is the glue and inspiration that moves everyone. She is the one that gets us to laugh at ourselves. So I asked for a later check out time which the resort was happy to provide and they actually upgraded us to the larger presidential suite because the resort was empty after the weekend.

As we packed to leave I sensed a peace that helped prepare me for the following early day of surgery. Little did I expect to have some of my kids and one of our families actually meet us at the hospital at 5am! The staff at the hospital were incredible and made it easy to face the surgery. It is always the waiting that is most difficult. They gave us a little pager that would tell us when surgery started, finished and when the doctor would meet us. I was rather shocked how quickly it was over. I missed the call and the page that the doctor was ready to see us. I was shocked when he showed up downstairs in the Starbucks area. He quickly explained how well it went and how he didn’t see anything that would give him any indication of cancer. He still did the biopsy and other procedure.

It took longer for Anne to awake from the anesthesia than the surgery and it took even longer for the wheel chair to get her out to the car. I felt as if a huge weight had been taken from my shoulders. I didn’t know whether I should cry or scream. I had little sense how this would impact our larger family and friends. As I sent out word through FB, e-mail and texts and got back over 100 responses that reminded me how important my Anne is to a lot of people. It made me want to cry even more understanding what all of us had been through the last couple of days.

I was thankful that she didn’t have any sickness from the anesthesia and was able to sleep like a baby. We had company after dinner that I had to eventually kick out of the house. I went to bed last night as if I was a new person given a second chance on life. I will go out of my way to show my love for my Anne and not take advantage of her. Yes, God is in control and I knew that regardless of the outcome that He would give me the strength to live one day at a time. Thank you Jesus that my Anne will continue to make her off the wall comments and be the inspiration for many!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Do you ever cry? I do!

Yesterday was an incredible day with a group of 40 New Jersey Younger Lifers helping do community work in our neighbor. The day ended with a rather scary dust storm that turned into a monsoon. I was still digesting the news that my Anne had to have a biopsy this coming Tuesday to know whether she has cancer. She had recently gone to a specialist. Her doctor told her to quickly get to someone to find out whether or not she had a real problem.

My Anne is incredible and quickly surfed on the net for a doctor in her PPO. Little did she know that the one she selected, that was on her list, is the teaching expert from the University of Arizona Medical School. She saw him on a Monday and the next Tuesday she will have a biopsy to find out what is happening. I know that the word cancer scares everyone. We have already walked down the cancer path with my mom for over 10 years of her struggle with breast cancer. She outlived her doctor’s expectation.

I knew that after a crazy 6 weeks of doing our summer program that I had better set aside a few days to just be with Anne and our kids at one of our favorite resort ‘hangouts’. I made last minute reservations to only discover that the Resort was totally booked after I did my online reserving. After cleaning up the mess from our Painting Blitz Lunch, dropping off vehicles and getting our dogs set up, we left for our little resort room. As we are driving to north phoenix the dust storm and windstorm is at its worst. There was some lightening and a little bit of rain.

It isn’t always easy to talk about the obvious. How do I tell someone that I have literally spent all of my adult life with that they truly are the inspiration in my life? They are the reason I go the extra mile with what I do. Yet, it is so easy for me to come across, especially to my Anne, as if I am totally self-sufficient and don’t need her but want her around everything I do. I was raised by a mom, whose goal from birth was for me to purpose driven, and not grow up to be someone who made excuses or cried over spilt milk.

As we sat in our resort room and just reflected on what was going to happen in the next few days I felt totally powerless to change what the outcome might be from this test – CANCER. I cried as I attempted to express myself to my best friend, life-partner and lover. I wanted the world to slow down and stop so that we could be with each other and not allow any distractions to get in the way. I was so thankful that our summer program just finished with the Urban Plunge and that I didn’t have any commitments for a month.

Tonight we will have all of our kids over with their spouses. We will talk about what is going to happen and prepare them for how we are going to face the unknown with God’s help. I was drawn to the 23rd Psalm as my assurance that God is the one leading, guiding and drawing us on life’s journey. I know that whatever I face that my Father is truly with me. I know that even if I face the valley of the shadow of death that He will walk with me through all situations. I also know that his promise is that we will dwell with Him forever in His glorious Resort Mansion in Heaven.

I am learning to live one day at a time. My mom and dad’s circumstances have taught me to cherish every day that I have. So we will enjoy the next day just being with our family as we let God love us as we face a tough circumstance, which ultimately will prepare us for handling ever more difficult times. As I read more about what happened in this theater in Colorado I am blessed to have my best friend with me. I pray that God will use this to touch my life, my kid’s lives and those around us. I so much appreciate your prayers and encouragement. The journey is in God’s hand and we trust him for the results and strength to live each day for him whether there be sunshine or the dust storm. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pray! Please!

I did my usual routine this morning with rising around 5am and loaded the dogs in the car to do our usual ride to Starbucks before Anne goes to work. I typically get her decaffeinated coffee. As I’m listening to the radio I hear about some guy shooting a lot of people at a showing of the new Batman movie. I’m taken back by another e-mail from a college ministry asking prayer for one of the gals that was shot and is now in surgery.

As I share this following that I ask you to pray about seems like very little in comparison to what happened last night. This Saturday we are doing an Urban Plunge Project. We have 40 Young Life Students from New Jersey who will help paint 2 houses and a church tomorrow. Please pray that God will use this opportunity to touch the lives of those involved. I am excited to have many key leaders who are actually here in the summer time. YES!

My personal prayer request is for my Anne. This last week Anne went to a specialist to get advice or help with some issues she was having. Now she is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday morning to find out whether she might have either cervical or ovarian cancer. I’ve tried to have a ‘happy face’ while have I finished out the last week of our summer program. My brother and his wife are in Brazil and we are watching their kids and our or their Mango dog.

We will enjoy and be expectant for tomorrow’s project but my heart is all about my Anne and what will happen on Tuesday. We are going to get away after Saturday’s project to be together and spend some time praying together. My dad’s situation has taught me to live one day at a time and appreciate and cherish the time we have together, knowing that the next time I see him he might not recognize me.

I so much appreciate your prayers for the families that have been devastated last night, for our Urban Plunge Project tomorrow and then for my Anne who has surgery on Tuesday and as we await for results in a week. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bad Day!

Yesterday was one of those days it would be rather easy to doubt God’s existence or make the assumption that He’s out to get me or ruin my day. I have a large Urban Project this coming Saturday that requires the use of at least three large vans to transport 50 out of town helpers to our worksites. I had connected with a couple of other organizations to get 2 extra vans. I e-mail back out the plan for the different key leaders for the event. I get a text back from a good friend saying that his church van wasn’t free. I was a little ticked but God raised up someone else to also help.

As I am driving to my Starbucks to do some work I got a text from a dad asking me to call him. My assumption is there is something that either I messed up or one of our teens did something crazy. Instead, it was his confession that one of his kids accidently dropped the Ipad he had borrowed. The screen cracked and I know he was a little paranoid that it was going to cost him an arm and a leg.

Later in the morning I get texts from a couple of my key helpers for yesterday’s events saying either they couldn’t come or probably would be late. This puts me in a position that I don’t want to do an event where I don’t have enough helpers. Yet, after the morning rolled on everything worked out just right.

I had just been blessed with around 40 gallons of free paint. I had unloaded the paint in my garage because my friend, who owns a small painting supply place, was out of town on vacation. He had given me the impression that he would return on Tuesday. So I load everything up and go to us store. I see a sign as I pull up which I know is bad news. We are gone until Wednesday. So I sucked it up and unloaded the paint, which is mostly quarts, gallons and not my usual 5-gallon buckets. I figure it’s not a big deal I’ll just go on Wednesday morning and it will be done. Yesterday, I pull into his parking lot, which is empty and I see that the sign has been updated and they don’t return until today.

Today I will drive to my painting friend’s store and if he has another sign saying they are gone till tomorrow I might scream and attack someone. I need to empty my truck in order to pick up ladders a good friend had borrowed to finish painting his new coffee shop and church site. I really don’t want to unload for the third time all of those little quart containers.

As the Urban Plunge Project approaches I know from experience that everything will fall into place. The day will be awesome with lots of volunteers that will impact my neighborhood. Yet, I know that lots of people end up hurting someone because their day starts totally wrong. Yeah, maybe I did get up on the wrong side of the bed or maybe I did ‘kick’ the dog and God is getting back at me.

I know that James says we should count it all joy when we face various trials or bad days. I know that many around me would say you’re crazy to take pleasure in a bad day. Yet, yesterday finished well with a great Job Life Skill Group. We talked about how to become savers and not spenders and how to become givers and instead of takers. Looking back I discover that a bad day can become a great day!