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Christianity, Faith, Grief, Health, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Trust, Uncategorized

Mother’s Day for a Proud Papa

I haven’t posted very much lately. It’s not because the thoughts have slowed down (okay, maybe they have, but not for the reasons you might think…) or because Spring is accompanied by a long “To-Do” list. It has more to do with the fact that I simply haven’t been feeling well. I finally received an answer regarding my CT scan and quite honestly, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. There’s an issue needing to be addressed by my neurosurgeon and I don’t see him until tomorrow. So, the answer I’ve been waiting for is still “wait”. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned about patience, and more importantly, trust. It keeps my thinking in check – from becoming full blown obsession. It reminds me that I have a relationship with a power greater than myself and that Power, whom I know as God, has my best interests at heart.

The physical things going on didn’t keep me from enjoying a beautiful Spring Saturday. I got to spend some time on the porch with my beautiful wife since my grandson’s baseball game didn’t start until 10:30. It was a brilliant sunny day for the game. Watching the parents is almost as much fun as watching the game. They seem to get far more upset with the umpire and the score than the kids do. Maybe they should bring post-game snacks for the adults as well…

Yesterday evening, I had the honor and the privilege of attending the reception for my son’s gallery exhibit. I went early. The crowd was smaller then and I’m having difficulty dealing with crowds right now. Besides, he would be busy later doing what artist do at openings – cavorting about and schmoozing with collectors. He wouldn’t have time for me later. Besides, I’m more of a small-town kind of guy and out of my element. The art world is a different animal…

I spent some time talking to the gallery owner who told me of Jeremy’s successes over the last year. I was the proud papa and learned some things I didn’t know about my son. We don’t talk the way we used to and to hear someone else talk about his growth left me with a feeling of pride and an even deeper love for him as a person, an artist, and my son.

We have an unusual relationship. There have been times when his anger has kept us apart, though never for long. Growing up with an addicted parent, particularly a single parent, isn’t easy. It’s hard to see the effects of the disease of addiction on the people we love the most. I don’t know how I can ever make that right, despite an incredible willingness to do so. I’m sure that parenting out of guilt is not the answer, though I’ve done that more than I’d like to admit. Those of you who have been there know what I mean…

I guess that’s why I was so impressed by his exhibit. Prior to the last year his work reflected the scars of growing up as he did. What I saw, and heard, reflected a letting go of the past and pressing on to the future. My son is growing up. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for both my boys. I felt a sigh of relief last night when I realized that both my boys were, in their own way, men of whom I could be proud, and often despite me…

This morning, Mother’s Day, is an interesting culmination to a great weekend. This is the first Mother’s Day since my mother passed last year. Last night, all I could think about was how proud she must be of Jeremy. She wouldn’t “get” his art but she’d beam with pride at his accomplishment. I would love for her to be there in person, but I’ll just have to settle for her presence spiritually. She was there and she’s so proud of you Jeremy Joel.

Of all the paintings he had on exhibit last night, there was one that struck me at a deeper level than the others. It was a piece about two men in a rowboat, fishing together. I didn’t realize that it depicted Jeremy and I until the gallery owner told me. I felt a massive wave of hope flow over me. I’d like to think that in that moment of awareness our relationship changed. I’m not sure how. I just know it’s different.

Art has a way of doing that. It speaks to a deeper level of consciousness. Great art tells a story; a story that resonates with its observers. It offers hope that maybe, just maybe, the future can be different than the past. Real art – whether paintings, sculpture, movies, music, or great books – speaks loudly and clearly. It says that things don’t have to stay the way they are. Real art compliments the unique spirit within each of us and allows us to see differently. Jeremy, my son, you’ve produced some real art.

As you can probably already tell, this blog hasn’t been entirely objective. Some time back, I told Jeremy I would author a press release for him. The more I tried to write it the more I realized I couldn’t. It wasn’t for me to do. My kids are grown. They’re making their own ways in the world. Jeremy’s work obviously speaks for itself. That’s why he has a gallery show and I do not. I only hope that I can draw pictures with words as well as he does with paint…

Christianity, Faith, Gardening, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Gardens and Home Depot

The last few days have been incredibly busy – busy enough to put my thoughts from the porch on the back burner and take care of business. I must say there’s a feeling of satisfaction drawing lines through the items on the “To Do” list. The list is still longer than I’d like, but shorter than it was yesterday. I’ll chalk it up as a win. Unfortunately, I know it’s only temporary. My wife’s in the other room watching a whole season of HGTV’s Fixer-Upper. The list is growing longer as we speak…

I spent some time on the porch and retreated to my office to catch up on emails and check the morning newsfeeds. One service, who shall remain anonymous, listed seven top stories. Number five on the list was actual news about what’s going on in the world. Number seven was a good human-interest story related to a victim of the Waffle House shootings several days ago. The number one top story was about Tom Brady’s tuxedo choice and the rest were about the difficulties and fashion faux pas` of other celebrities. And we wonder how our elected officials got to where they are…

I generally start my mornings with some prayer time followed up with perusing my newsfeeds before sitting down to my workday. Maybe my routine should be the other way around though. I seem to need to pray more after I see what’s going on in the world. I refuse to be that guy who sits around bemoaning the state of the nation and society in general. I may be getting older, but I’m not an old codger. Then again, one doesn’t have to be old to be an “old codger”.

My experience has taught me that it’s not important what you do, it’s important what I do. Sometimes that feels like a cop-out, a resignation to what’s going on around me, but I know it’s not. “That’s just the way it is” and “you can’t fight city hall” are unacceptable answers for me today. I can be part of the problem or part of the solution. There’s no middle ground for me. I’d rather be part of the solution. To paraphrase Jesus, “I can either serve God, living as a citizen of His kingdom, or I can serve the same old, tired system of consumerism and scarcity”. I think I’d rather be a citizen of His kingdom…

My actions may not seem like much, and truth be known, they aren’t when taken separately. For instance, I care about the environment I live in. I can’t stop Big Ag from using GMO seeds and increasing amounts of fertilizers that drain the life from the soil. Oh, I can sign petitions and write letters to the appropriate officials. It may do absolutely nothing to sway their actions, but I keep sending and signing anyway. Moreover, I treat my own yard and garden with care, using only organic methods that restore and rejuvenate the soil. Maybe my neighbors see a difference in my yard and want to try something different. Hopefully, my actions affect someone else.

I was at Home Depot the other day. The check-out line was long and excruciatingly slow. I had a tight schedule and that seemed to add to the delay. The cashier was helping an older lady who was having some difficulty getting her credit card to go through. Behind her in line was a large, gruff man who huffed and puffed about how Home Depot was always so slow and inconvenienced him. I silently prayed that the elderly lady at the check-out didn’t hear him. When she finally closed out her sale, the man stepped up and began to berate the cashier with a series of expletives about her and Home Depot. I felt really bad for the young cashier, but I admired her ability to refrain from responding in a negative way.

When I got to the register all I could say was how sorry I was for her to be treated that way. She smiled and said, “thank you” and I could see her holding back the tears. I told her how grateful I was for her example and patience. She seemed to be struck by the kind words. I don’t have any idea how the rest of her day went. I do know that, for a moment, her world was a letter brighter. Maybe, just maybe, she got a glimpse of the kingdom. Acts of kindness are better done intentionally than randomly.

Nothing I do will change the world in general or society at large. Life will go on. My news feed will be filled with stories of violence, fear, and celebrity tuxedo choices, and so on. Yet, what I do does affect the world around me. I’d like to think that the cashier at Home Depot had a better day, and I know that the produce from my garden will taste far better than anything I could have gotten at the store…

Christianity, Chronic Illness, Faith, Gardening, Health, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Trust, Uncategorized

It’s probably nothing…

The rain of Friday gave way to brilliant sunny mornings for the weekend. Still, my grandson’s Friday scrimmage and the Saturday game were cancelled due to the condition of the field. It was way too muddy to play. I’m sorry we missed the game, but a cancellation means he wasn’t disappointed. The case of Chicken Pox he came down with this week would have kept him from playing anyway. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? Thankfully, his vaccinations may not have prevented the pox, but they have limited the severity of them. Just thought I’d throw that in for the “anti-vaccers”, since he probably caught it from one of your kids…

Since there was no game Saturday, I’ve had more time on the porch. I’ve been somewhat distracted the last few days. I’ve been at the doctor several times this week undergoing sonograms and CT scans. I won’t bore you with all the details. It’s probably issues with some old stuff. It’s probably nothing and the doctor is just being safe. My healthcare team tends to be extremely watchful as I get older; particularly with my medical history. I really appreciate that. I’m grateful that I have some wonderful doctors. That isn’t the case for everyone.

Despite the great healthcare I’ve received, overcoming past physical obstacles, and all the faith I claim to have, I still get fearful during the periods of “not knowing” – the period of waiting for test results. It’s a difficult state of mind for me. Even though I have 100% proof of God’s care and grace I’ll immediately go to the worst scenario possible and be in hospice by the end of the day. That may sound foolish and a little crazy to some of you, but I have a feeling that such thought processes are more common than one might think – especially for people with HIV/AIDS or other chronic physical conditions.

My friend Edgar told me there are five answers to prayer – yes, no, maybe, wait, and “are you crazy?”. “Yes” is my favorite, although “are you crazy?” is more frequent. The one I like hearing the least is “wait”. Mom used to tell me “patience” is a virtue. Apparently, I have a long way to go to be virtuous – especially when it involves something of importance to me like my health. I keep hearing over and over in my head, the old Tom Petty song, “…the waiting is the hardest part…”. Experience has taught me that he’s right…

My thoughts go way out left whenever I’m confronted with my powerlessness over life (particularly mine!). It doesn’t matter what the situation is. My first thoughts are almost always wrong. Rather than trust that God already has the solution to my dilemma figured out, I spend my time praying over and over for the result I want to see instead of praying “Thy will be done”. I try to exercise some degree of control over a situation in which I have none whatsoever. Thankfully, my time in left field has become shorter over the years. Recovery has given me a “pause button” of sorts. My first thought may be wrong, but my first response (action) is often more fitted to the situation.

It’s a little easier to get back in the game when I realize that God has my best interests at heart regardless of the outcome. I get to experience some relief from my fears and relax. I’ve learned that, for me anyway, impatience is always centered in fear. Today I choose to be centered in love, and “perfect love casts out all fear”.

I’m grateful I have a God, my Abba, who isn’t the least bit worried about the craziness and feelings of doubt going on in my head. I grew up thinking that God’s care and love were dependent on my performance; that any kind of doubt or questioning showed a lack of faith. That’s no longer my truth today. I’ve learned to accept myself better because of the God who accepts me just as I am, without reservations.

Fundamentally, for me anyway, patience is about trust. Do I trust that the God I’ve come to know has got my back? Definitely. Has He ever failed to care for me? Never! Then why do I doubt? Maybe it’s because I’m human and I still get scared from time to time about things I can’t control. So, what now?

I’ve got a house to clean up, a yard to mow, a wife to spend time with today, dogs to walk, a garden to tend (and fresh strawberries!), and the list goes on. In the midst of my doubt I find myself filled with gratitude and now it’s not so difficult to practice patience. Amazing how that works. I’m off to pick some berries…

Christianity, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Dinosaurs…

It’s raining today here in Fort Worth. It’s the kind of Spring rain I love: constant, but not too heavy, gently soaking the soil, and intensifying the vibrant greens of the trees beyond my porch. I’ll be picking strawberries this weekend! It’s the perfect morning for sitting here and simply enjoying the day. My thoughts stray and wander among the raindrops. All is well, except for the dogged determination of one little bugger that keeps asking me why good people do messed up things…

Many of you know that I tend to be a news junkie. It’s a habit I acquired in high school and college, long before the “24 Hour News Cycle” and the up-to-the minute “reporting” of the Internet. I was a student activist majoring in Political Science and had some pretty high ideals. I guess everyone thinks they can change the world when they’re young, but the reality of family, jobs, bills, and the often unfortunate drudgery of adult living hasn’t set in.

My motivations have changed over the years. I still watch the news (more than I should), it still drives me to some degree of activism and usually, insanity. The high ideals of my youth have come full circle. The difference today is in the lens that I view the world with. Today I see things differently because of my relationship with the God of my understanding. I’ve talked about that “lens” a lot. I apologize for any redundancy in my posts. Just think of a blind man suddenly seeing for the first time and maybe you’ll understand my obsession (one of the better ones that have dominated my life!) with visual clarity.

Seeing the world differently has enabled me to see all sides of the story. I say all sides because, as my friend Jim used to say, “There’s three sides to every story – yours, mine, and the truth”. I must confess that growing older, and hopefully a wee bit wiser, has helped broaden my vision as well. That’s probably why I understand “conservatives” better.

That being said, I hate political and social labels like conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, and socialist or libertarian. They seem to be ways of dismissing anyone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s just one more way we divide into “us versus them”. Moreover, they don’t really define who we are. Most, if not all, of us are not the labels we use to define one another.

I am not the labels you assign me, nor are you the labels I often find myself assigning to you. I still do that even though I know it’s not true for any of us. Changing one’s way of thinking is a difficult and most likely (for me anyway), an impossible task. It took a new relationship with a power greater than myself to transform my thinking and, more importantly, my actions. I’ve grown a little less judgmental as a result. My vision is beginning to clear.

I’ve come to re-prioritize my belief structure and activism. Things that seemed so important in my younger days have been put on the back burner, and more often than not, taken off the stove completely. Social justice and peace are fantastic things to work toward and my calling toward them hasn’t changed, but the locale has. I’m not going to change the world, but I am going to change my response to it. I probably won’t change my Senator’s vote (especially our Senators!), but the way I live may influence someone else to live a little more loving and kind right here in my neighborhood. I’m not going to impact Washington, D.C. but I am going to do things different right here in Fort Worth, Texas. I’m going to look beyond the labels and be a little kinder, courteous and, hopefully, a lot more accepting. Above all, if I’m to be labeled, I hope I’m thought of as one of those crazy followers of the Rabbi…

It’s a little easier to be an “us” today. There’s far less of “them’ today. I still have differences of opinion with people on political, social, and economic issues. Cultural differences are hard to get past at times. I continue for clarity, to see people as God sees them, and they become easier to understand. If the truth be known, becoming older has made it easier to understand people who want to “conserve” old ways of thinking and acting. Change is difficult at best…

When I came in from the porch, Margaret was watching old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. I couldn’t help but think of how wonderful and idyllic a place like Mayberry would be. I know a lot of other people, at least Baby-Boomers like myself, who share in my feelings. Nostalgia, no matter how well-intentioned lacks any foundation. There never was a Mayberry. Even in the early sixties it was just a TV show. It may have mirrored a simpler time, but not reality. I grew up in the last few years of the Jim Crow South. I know. I still recall the resistance to civil rights and acceptance of horrors like Vietnam. The reality makes me wonder about one’s motivation toward conservatism. How can you” conserve” an illusion; something that never was?

I was meeting with a business mentor of mine a while back and he pointed out that I’m a dinosaur. I know he was referring to my lack of technological savvy (I can still create great content though!). I don’t need any reminders that I need to ask my grandchildren for technical support sometimes but, if I’m honest, I am a dinosaur and I’m okay with that. There are times I wish we lacked some of the communication, informational and mis-informational ability in our world today. Just because you saw it on the Internet doesn’t make it true, if you know what I mean. There’s enough crap out there to cement anyone’s convictions – real or imagined.

I have a long, long way to go in my journey toward the kingdom where God’s will “is done on earth as it is in heaven”. My experience is one that tells me to move forward down the path and don’t look back. I’ve made my fair share of detours and walked in a lot of circles. The cool thing is that you have, too. We’re far more alike than either of us would like to admit. Maybe we can set aside the labels, lending a helping hand and try to figure out how to help navigate to wherever both of us are headed…

Christianity, Grief, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Family dinners…

Spring is in full bloom here in North Texas. Bluebonnets, One-Eyed Susan’s, and Indian Paintbrush make driving, even during rush hour, a beautiful experience. The pink blooms of the Morning Glories are so thick on the freeway medians there’s hardly a trace of green. The Arizona Ash and Pecan trees are vibrant greens and offer shade from the late afternoon sun. We’ve had frequent visits from the Woodpeckers, with their bright red crowns, as well as Cardinals and other species that were absent in the past few years. Blooms are making their appearance in the garden and my mouth is watering in anticipation of homegrown veggies…

I haven’t written as much the last few days. I’ve had several projects going at once, alternating between the office and the outdoors, which I enjoy. I have what my friend calls “First World” problems today: work, home, recovery, and so forth. Busy, busy, busy. So, it was nice to have Sunday to slow down, relax, and stay home. I didn’t write or work on any projects. I read, piddled around the house, and worked in the garden. Sitting here this morning and looking back at the last week, I’m truly grateful for the Sabbath rest, even if it was on Sunday…

One of my regular routes through the city takes me by the Mount Olivet Cemetery. I always look at it as I drive by: my Grandfather’s grave is slightly visible from the road. For the last couple of months something else has caught my eye (and my heart!). The area of the cemetery next to my Grandfather’s is called” Babyland” and, as the name implies, it’s dedicated to the little ones. Rows and rows of tiny headstones line that section of the cemetery. The rows are much closer together and the dates on the headstones range from one day to a couple of years. Balloons, flowers, and crosses adorn many of the graves giving an almost festive, yet somber, atmosphere.

Death is part of life. I know that. Yet, it makes me sad that “Babyland” has grown large enough to expand to an adjoining section of the cemetery. It was there I saw the young couple for the first time that touched me so deeply. I’ve never met them; I don’t know their story except for the little part they’ve unknowingly allowed me to see. And I see it often…

I have experienced the loss of parents, a wife, as well as close friends. I’ve known grief, but I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child, especially a young one. Parents aren’t meant to bury their children. I’ve watched friends go through that experience and I’m amazed by the amount of courage, strength, and grace it takes just to make it through the day. I also know there’s no time limit on grief.

That’s why I’m so touched by the young couple I frequently see at Mount Olivet. I have no idea how fresh their loss is, but now that Spring’s here, they’re out there almost every day. There’s always balloons and fresh flowers at the grave and they sit on a blanket sharing dinner, holding hands, until the sun begins to set, and Mount Olivet starts to close the gates. I’m sad for their loss and touched by their spirit…

I have no answers to offer, no words of wisdom. I don’t know why some parents experience the loss of their children and others don’t. What I do know is that by unknowingly sharing their loss and grief, they have shown me what it is to love. I’m more aware of just how precious the people in my life are. I want to hug my kids and grandkids. I become a little more present in the lives of the people who have so wonderfully touched mine. Ultimately, through the simple grief and love of two people I don’t even know, I’m reminded to cherish my family and friends more, love a little better and live each day to the fullest.

I’m always amazed at how God uses our grief, our loss, and our pain for good. Several years ago, my friend Rusty lost his mother. I never had the opportunity to know her. By the time Rusty and I met, she was already in a memory care center, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I attended her viewing to pay my respects to the family since I couldn’t be at the funeral the following day. Rusty showed me a picture of his dad, Dale, feeding her dinner one night. I found out that Dale spent everyday for several years visiting the center, helping feed the love of his life, and spending time with her even when Alzheimer’s robbed her of their life together. Rusty explained how everyone at the center knew and loved Dale. I can only imagine that his cheerfulness and his love for his bride was contagious.

Several weeks later, Rusty and I were having lunch and his Mom came up in conversation. He asked the question we all ask while grieving: why. Why did his mom have to suffer such a horrific illness for so long? I certainly didn’t have an answer. Until I remembered the picture he had shown me. Maybe her caregivers saw the love she shared with Dale and maybe they went home and were a little more loving? Maybe, just maybe, they had a little more patience, tolerance and gratitude for the people in their lives? Maybe his parents were simply busy sharing the Good News: preaching by example of just how much God loves us.

I’m so grateful for seeing a couple in a cemetery and a picture in a wallet. Sometimes the greatest joys come from the most unlikely places. I’m grateful for the ability to see that sometimes even grief can be Good News…

Christianity, Recovery, Service Organizations, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing

Oops…

The last couple of days have been a little hectic. I spent Monday doing some manual labor for our two of our kids. I enjoy throwing on the work boots and getting dirty. I love my work but it’s nice to get outside and work hard occasionally. I’m fortunate that I’m able to break up the routine from time to time. Most people don’t have that opportunity. Unfortunately, it made for a very busy Tuesday and a lot of aching muscles. That happens more often as I get older. That was one of the motivating factors in making the change to full-time writing…

I made the decision last year to go back to school, update my credentials, and begin freelancing again as a content and copy writer. I’ve been blessed to have great business mentors and a wealth of experience to help me make the transition. I was sitting on the porch this morning, reflecting on how grateful I am for that fortune, when I suddenly realized I had made a huge blunder in the process of this transition. I violated one of the fundamental rules of business, at least for people like me…

I started posting my daily “Thoughts From the Porch” on my Facebook page. Unfortunately, posting directly to Facebook instead of sharing a blog post raises issues of ownership. Naturally, I was thrilled to start blogging from my website, www.gregoryjoel.com. This is my web presence from a business standpoint and I keep it as professional as possible (which is why I constantly edit and update it!). Some of you already where I’m going with this…

My blog is a bit different. I share thoughts on things other than business, especially when it comes to my faith, how I see the world, and who (and who’s) I am. I make no excuses for that. While I don’t like to wear my recovery on my sleeve, I can’t deny it’s an important part of my spirituality and my faith. Recovery is what gave me a relationship with the God of my understanding. That’s what guides me as a professional. Unfortunately, the business community (and often society as a whole!) looks at it differently. It dawned on me that I had shot myself in the foot, professionally. It was right there for potential clients to read. Like my friend Jim used to tell me, “Sober don’t mean stupid son”. In boxing, they call it “leading with the chin”…

My mind raced with questions and self-doubt. How could I have been so foolish? What do I do now? I sat there feeling nothing but panic and failure. It was then a Casting Crowns’ song came on the stereo and stopped those thoughts dead in their tracks: “Just be held… your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place”. I paused, took a deep breath, and looked back at all the times I failed in the past and how they turned into blessings when I saw them differently. My vision had changed. Like my friend Edgar tells me, “we have a new pair of glasses”. I began to see my present dilemma differently, too.

One of the things I’ve come to know with a degree of certainty is that I am not my failures, nor am I unique. I used to think I was, and sometimes, like this morning, I still feel that way. I just don’t feel like that all the time. I see the past differently today and accept the grace that has been, and is, given so freely. By accepting that grace I’ve learned to accept myself and my failures. I trust that they made me the man I am today. I’m comfortable with the “Popeye Principle”: “I am what I am and that’s all that I am”. I’m just another one of God’s kids. So, I guess prospective clients will simply see me the way they see me.

I’ve learned (usually the hard way) that it’s not important what you think of me, nor what I think of me, but what God thinks of me. His grace and mercy lead me to live differently: in my personal and business relationships, in the world I live in, and to measure success in a new (and sometimes uncommon) way. Is my word my bond? Am I honest? Am I helping others, whether it’s personally or professionally? Do I live with integrity today? Do I live and work graciously and gratefully and treat you the same – with grace and dignity? When I live to love him and love others everything changes. Failures become life lessons and opportunities – to learn, to grow, and be of service to my family, friends, and fellows. Hopefully, others will see that as well. If not, then it is what it is. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am…”

Christianity, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized

I love you, too…

My grandson’s baseball game was cancelled this morning since the chance of severe thunderstorms is above the 80% mark this morning and I’m a little disappointed. It hasn’t started to rain yet, but I feel the leading edge of the front beginning to blow its way in. So, I’m grateful that the kid’s safety comes first. We don’t take chances in the Springtime in North Texas. I don’t remember ever thinking storms were a bad thing when I was young. They were an excuse to get soaking wet. But back then, I didn’t have to pay for new roofs, homeowner’s insurance, or broken car windows, either. I take severe weather alerts more seriously now.

I called my son to let him know I wouldn’t be picking him up for the game, and as we were hanging up, he said something that brought a flood of emotion and gratitude. He said, “I love you, Dad”. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I say it to my parents, spouse, kids, or (fill in the blank…) all of the time”. Sitting here on the porch this morning I realized just how big a deal it truly is.

The words “I love you” get used a lot these days. I use them all the time, especially to my wife, kids, and grandchildren. I have a circle of friends I truly love and care about. Our conversations usually end with “I love you my friend”. Much of the time though, I catch myself saying them more out of habit than conveying their true meaning; kind of like the old beer commercial, “I love you, ma-a-a-n”.

I think that’s why I got so emotional behind my son’s words this morning. I always end our conversations with “I love you”. The usual response is “I love you, too”. Not today. Today he said, “I love you Dad”. It may sound corny, but it meant the world to me. I said, “I love you too, Son”, but it carried even more meaning than usual. It was a reminder of how blessed I am to have my grown children in my life.

He and I haven’t always gotten along well. Active addiction (on both our parts), left unique emotional scars on our relationship. I guess that’s why it hit me so hard? There were so many things I did (and didn’t do) when they were growing up. It was a struggle as a single father and made even more strained by active addiction. Despite all that, we still love each other. It was another reminder of the grace I experience in my life over and over and over, without end…

A simple , unexpected and unsolicited ,“I love you Dad” reminds me of all the love and grace I receive each every day – from my wife, our kids and grandkids, my friends – and most of all, from a God who loves me passionately and genuinely likes me: the God who pursued me relentlessly even though I didn’t deserve it. All of this because he loves me – warts, faults and all! He loves me because that’s what Father’s do – love unconditionally and without limit. Somehow that helps me love others better? I’m awestruck!

Today, I’ll keep this short. The low pressure system has arrived and it’s raining now. I’m going to relax with the rain day and bask in the love that surrounds me. I pray this post finds you well and if nobody has told you today – I love you, my friend…