Sep 11, 2017

Sixteen Wishes

My oldest child, Josiah, turns sixteen today. I cannot believe that it has been so long since that curly haired baby boy arrived in our world. So much has happened over that time; so much has changed. What has not changed, though, is that I have so many things I wish for him.
  1. I wish this was a better world for you. Things are a mess. It is so easy for your tender heart to get troubled by the horrors unfolding all around you. Truthfully, this has been your story literally since you were born. And I truly wish that was not the case. 
  2. I wish that you did not have to deal with so much hate. We have had so many conversations as you have tried to wrap your mind around how people everywhere seem like they are ticking time bombs, waiting to explode on anyone who looks at them wrong. I wish you didn't have to face that kind of hateful atmosphere. 
  3. I wish that you had a better example to follow. I have tried so hard to become a more patient, loving, strong man. I know I've failed you too many times. That keeps me awake at night. I hope I have been enough, but I wish you had better. You deserve better. 
  4. I wish that will find your true calling. You have so many talents. You can draw, write, create. You are smart and kind. I want to see you discover something you love where you can change your world. I hope I can help you find that. 
  5. I wish that Funko made a Classic Thor POP figure. It is pretty stupid that it doesn't. We share this frustration. 
  6. I wish that you meet people who help you to become the best you can be. The Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron. I want you to find people who help to make you an even greater person - people who can help you in ways your mom and I cannot. 
  7. I wish that you learn how to be organized. You are NOT the only student who needs to learn this. I still pay the price from not being as organized as I should have been earlier in life. It is vital to be able to organize your life. If only you had an Apple Watch or something to help....
  8. I wish that you fall back in love with books. Reading has gone out of vogue with a lot of people. It has been replaced with apps and games. But reading has brought me more joy than just about any other leisure activity. I hope you find something that draws you back to the written word. 
  9. I wish that you could master fear. Nobody really ever can completely avoid fear. But, as much as possible, I hope that you can discover freedom from fear. Don't be afraid to try and fail, to get your heart broken, to be the butt of jokes. Sometimes those thing have to happen to bring us where we need to be. 
  10. I wish that you liked vegetables. I mean, I hate most of them too. But this seems to be an important thing according to doctors. 
  11. I wish that the Earth wasn't so broken. I am not smart enough to know if all of the wacky weather tragedies are due to climate change. What I do know is that one flood is one flood too many. Two floods is just wrong. I hate that you have to see these terrifying storms come around so often. 
  12. I wish that you will discover your faith and it will set you on fire. Not literal fire, obviously. But I want you to uncover what you believe, what motivates you and drives you. I want you to find what gets your heart beating and your fire burning.
  13. I wish you find love. I don't want you find love so it completes you or makes you worth something. I want it for you so that you can experience what it is like to have someone who is so invested in your life, your wellbeing, your improvement. There is nothing like someone who chooses to love you unconditionally. 
  14. I wish you find the perfect cheeseburger. We have had some great ones over the years. I hope that you will keep on trying them and that you will one day find one where you say, "I'm done with cheeseburgers. I can't top that one."
  15. I wish you didn't have to feel pain. I know that pain is important biologically. But it really sucks. You have felt pain in your life - and I've hated watching it. The pain of a tuba pulling on your shoulder, the pain of disappointment, the pain of injustice, the pain of rejection. I wish we could learn how to grow without pain. Maybe this should be that I wish you will be able to see through pain and uncover the blessing, the lesson, on the other side. 
  16. I wish you will discover the indescribable joy of being a parent. There is an immense amount of pain and exhaustion with being a parent too, but those cannot match the joy of watching a child grow and explore. Watching you march at halftime. Seeing you behind the wheel of a car. Hearing you talk about your future. These things can never be matched. I wish this one for you because you have brought me so much joy. You are an incredible young man and unbelievably precious to me. 

Sep 2, 2017

Aftermath

I still have a hard time believing that Texas got its ass kicked by some guy named Harvey. It isn't a tough enough name to bring down a state like Texas. It should have been Hurricane Clint or Hurricane Deathstar. That just needed to be said.

Once I finally had a moment to actually sit and think yesterday, I began to process the last week or so. That spilled over to the the last year, eighteen months, two years. In the last two years, we went through a citywide devastating flood in Columbia, SC. Then we moved across the country. Then my mom died. Then my Rheumatoid Arthritis flared out of control. All through that I battled severe depression. And now a region wide devastating flood in Houston. That is all in addition to the normal financial, psychological, and emotional stress involved in raising two teenagers and an active elementary kiddo - as well as watching a never-ending string of incidents making me believe the world has spun out of control. It has been a tumultuous, trying, and exhausting two years.

As I've tried to maneuver through this season, I have found it increasingly difficult to carry on. For the first time in my life, I have found myself asking questions that are quite uncomfortable. I have never been shy about my Christian faith. I have worked on church staff and am an ordained minister - although one who is not currently serving in that capacity. Throughout my life, I have lived synonymously with my faith. It is not something that I do weekly; it is woven into who I am. I have never resorted to prayer only in the toughest of moments. Attending church was not something done only as my world spiraled out of control. Yes, I allowed myself to drift in my ferocity of faith and I allowed things to enter my life that were against a Godly pursuit. But it was impossible to explain who I was to someone - to have them truly know me - without faith being a primary characteristic.

That faith has been tested and refined over the years. There were moments where I felt confused and abandoned. There were moments of startling clarity as I realized something I had been taught actually ran counter to the Bible. There were moments of intense anger over judgmental, hypocritical, legalistic people and their comments and behaviors. Through all of that, I could still separate the people from the faith. People are mean and stupid and selfish and misguided. They are going to misrepresent, misinterpret, and miscommunicate things. As long as I personally was in the right place, all that didn't matter.

The last two years have tested that. Yes, I have felt betrayed and abandoned by God's people. I have felt distant from church, hesitant to lower an ever-increasing barrier between me and others. But, more than that, I have felt betrayed and abandoned by God Himself. With each passing disaster, it became harder and harder to cling to my faith. Watching the already financially struggling city of Columbia suffer the blow of a devastating flood pained me. Hearing tales of vans plowing through crowds, gunmen shooting up clubs (in my beloved Orlando, no less), and bombers murdering innocent children sickened me.  Seeing my mom - this woman of faith - slowly deteriorate from unbeatable cancer silenced me. Crying out in pain and loneliness and hearing only a hollow echo instead of comforting words crippled me. A few mere months ago, I was a shell of myself. I literally sat weeping uncontrollably in a closet  I felt alone and worthless, ignored by friends and neglected by the God I served my whole life.

When it came to the time of me having to see that same destruction Columbia faced come to an even larger Texas region?  Instead of it knocking me further into a hole, it somehow emboldened me. I found my voice again.  I know that the series of posts I put up on Facebook consisted of silliness and jokes laced throughout the serious information. But that was a big step for me. I hadn't been able to produce anything even on that scale for so long. So what does that have to do with anything?

I am a story teller. I am the product of two storytellers. It is a part of me as much as my O+ blood, my black hair, and my light sheen from donut grease seeping up through my pores. It is something God gifted me with, and something that thrives the most when I am the most at ease with Him. It is little wonder than my voice fell silent so much in the last two years.  It still flashed when I was teaching for Kaplan or working on an event for my church (one of the rare times I dragged myself there). But mostly it felt like a fire that couldn't stay burning. It would spark and sputter and smoke and then fizzle. But during this last challenge, I found myself finally understanding that silence is not the same as abandonment. A lack of contact doesn't equal a lack of concern. And I could not be further away from being unloved.

Time and again, we found ourselves escaping tragedy without realizing it.  We came to recognize that the house we chose last May was the only house we looked at that remained (largely) unaffected by Harvey. We started getting supplies three days before the storm arrived, so we had everything we needed during those initial waves of rain and tornado warnings. When we had to evacuate on Monday, we could not reach the first place we headed. Each road we turned onto was rapidly filling with water - Heather would sometimes realize it mere feet in front of her and swing a U-Turn away from danger. That hotel and the area surrounding it ended up being flooded and isolated - and still is. The next hotel we headed to was full. It also ended up flooded. We landed at a crappy Crossland hotel and managed to wrangle their last room with two beds. We found supplies to supplement the ones we brought from home. And then we went out the next day and got other supplies to flesh out our anticipated long stay. Instead, we were able to map an escape to our friends Andrew and Natalie. As we were packing, I asked the family next door if they could use some of our food we had bought. They were a family with five kids who had evacuated from a flooded out region near Katy. When we realized that, we gave them all the food we had bought and most of what we had brought. We gave them the comforters we purchased, the snacks (their kids cheered), and even the Blu-Ray player we had gotten. Being able to help someone else while we were escaping our own challenges?  That was something special. We made it to our new place of refuge and experienced such generosity and love. And we also realized that the hotel we escaped was now isolated and blocked due to flooding - which was shocking, since it was fine when we left.

In addition, we were flooded (pun intended) by people offering us shelter, checking on us, trying to find out if we needed help. Twenty people offered us houses to stay in. TWENTY!  One day, between my phone and Heather's, the text notification chimes were ringing nearly non stop. As if Andrew and Natalie weren't generous enough by letting us disrupt their lives, they wouldn't let us help with groceries or a pizza payment. People from literally every era of my life contacted me at some point to check on us. My coworkers at Kaplan were incredible in covering for me and checking on me and doing everything they could to help from far away. You probably don't realize how healing this was. I have been so crippled by feeling alone. I felt like I only mattered to people when I could do something for them. Day after day I felt like I was slipping away and no one cared. I felt invisible. All I was good for was to drive kids places and do a lousy job keeping up with household chores - and virtually show up for work. If I disappeared, no one outside of my house would even care. I was completely floored to see that was not close to true. Each point of contact strengthened me. Every time someone sought me out to check on me or offer help, it further pushed away the dark.

All of that combined to pull me out of the dark shroud I had enveloped myself with. I recognized I had hardly been alone or abandoned. I cannot express how incredible it is to awake to this reality. I am not saying that the tragedy around me is better or that "it was all worth it for me to..." This is awful and sickening - the mark of a broken and twisted world crying out. But on a personal front, which really is all I can speak on, this event was renewing for me. That will allow me to start looking outward again, seeing where I can make a difference. Instead of being the death knell for my faith, it served to awaken it and rekindle it. I am not the man I was two years ago. My voice has been restored and I have a message to send. I have a hint of what it will be, and it thrills and frightens me. I have been both softened by trial and hardened as well. I am gentler and angrier. I am ready to fight for what is right, to oppose injustice and rage against wrongdoers. A different storm has broken inside.

Aug 27, 2017

Flooded with thoughts

I distinctly remember the Thanksgiving Day flood of 1984 in West Palm Beach. Over 11 inches of rain fell in a 48 hour period. We lived on a hill - well what was considered a hill in South Florida. The water didn't endanger our house, but, being a child, it was a traumatic experience for me. Growing up in Florida, I was no stranger to rain ... or to hurricanes. But to see grown ups freaking out over that level of water? That really struck a chord with me.

Since that time, I have experienced many severe rainstorms. I've been through several hurricanes, including the terrifying Charley. We sat huddled in our hallway on a mattress - me, Heather, toddler Josiah, and baby Natalie. The eye of the storm went right by our house. That storm brought significant damage to the area. And it was compounded as two other hurricanes struck within six weeks.

Even through all of that, there was always something altogether different about a flood. It is hard to think of a weather event more terrifying than an out of control flood. As a kid, we went to a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where we had heard the story of when the dam broke at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia (a CMA college). The thought of water overwhelming an entire city with people completely unable to escape is just awful. We all remember the pictures of Katrina. I had friends there who lost so much. The scope of that disaster was so great, it eclipsed any nightmare I could have generated. I thought about how a different chain of events in our lives could have led us to New Orleans - I was lined up to go to seminary there at one point. Instead I just watched, horrified by the tragedy.

Almost two years ago, Columbia suffered a catastrophic flood. The kids and I got stranded out of town during the event. We watched from afar and worried. The drive back was haunting, looking over areas we knew and loved and seeing it all replaced by massive fields of water. Once again, we were fortunate as our home was spared due to its location on a hill with a lake behind it to swell as the water drained. The series of dams that collapsed across the city didn't funnel water our way.  There was almost a kind of survivor's guilt that set in as we noticed all of the pain around us. Several of Heather's coworkers at the hospital had their homes devastated. We tried to help out in whatever way we could, but it always seemed so minor in scope.

Now, here we are watching yet another flood destroy another city we love. Once again we have been spared the worst thanks to our location. Our pain is largely one of inconvenience. School is cancelled for a week. We are stuck in the house. It may be hard to replenish our supplies if trucks can't get through the flood. Heather can't get to work. The ever-present tornado warning alarm is super annoying and anxiety generating. All around us there are horrific pictures and loss. The thought that the rains are still coming tonight and tomorrow and maybe for several days after that? It seems cruel to those people already in such distress.

I know that once we are able to, we will try to help out however we can. But again that survivor's guilt sets in. I'm glad that Heather got stuck here instead of at the hospital, but I feel bad about those attending doctors who have been there for three days and counting. I'm relieved that our belongings seem to be safe, but I'm broken-hearted for those all  around us who have to start from nothing. I feel blessed - undeservedly so. When we were moving here, we were torn between two houses. One was larger and would have fit our family very well, but the owner never got back to our agent's inquiries. We went with this house instead. The other house is in a neighborhood that has been underwater since the first night of storms. One person from Houston had told us to look at Clear Lake when we moved here; another said to look in Baytown. Both of those cities have been decimated by some of the worst of the storms. I know God placed us here, and there was a reason - one beyond just us being safe during the flood.

I have no idea why it seems like we are magnets for freakish weather. Trust me, that's not a reputation I enjoy. Maybe it is so we can shine some light on these situations so others will be encouraged to help. Maybe it is so we can minister to the people around us in the aftermath. I don't have any great wisdom that I've attained through this. It did show me just how many people care about us. It showed me what a great company I work for and what a great team I am a part of there. It showed me how - somehow - we've managed to create a safe place for our kids even in the worst of times. Beyond that, I'm still trying to figure it out as I hurt for those around us.

For those of you reading, please think about how you can help. Donations to reputable organizations like the Red Cross are always a good option. We know several families who will be rebuilding their lives, so if you want to help on a more personal level let us know. There are disaster relief organizations making plans to come to Texas who will need volunteers. And keep praying. The storm isn't over; more water is on the way, as well as more damage. I'll keep sending updates via Facebook. And if I gain any great insights, I'll be glad to share. Love you all. Stay dry.

Aug 1, 2016

Mom

For as long as I’ve been an adult, I’ve processed grief in the same way.  I write.  When my dad died, I wrote an article that ran in the church bulletin.  When one of our co-workers at that church died suddenly, I wrote a poem for on his memorial bulletin.  When we felt the grief of losing friends and jobs, I would usually write something - a letter, a blog post, an email.  When Heather’s grandparents died, I turned to my blog to express my pain.  This is how I do things.  I prefer to put things on paper.  I feel like I’m a decent verbal communicator, but I am a much better written one. 

Then Mom died.

There were no words to write.  I couldn’t bear to even think about sitting at a computer and espousing my feelings.  I was hoping I could have something done for her memorial service, but that didn’t happen.  Over a month has gone by since that day and I have not been able to write … anything.  The very thought of writing at all has been paralyzing to me.  Truth be told, many things of late have had that same effect. 

We had one of the most tumultuous periods of our lives in the last six weeks.  The kids finished school, including Josiah graduating from Middle School.  Heather completed her residency and won a ton of awards and received all kinds of accolades.  We packed up our whole house and moved to Houston, Texas.  We unloaded all of that craziness.  My rheumatoid arthritis, which had stayed cooperative while packing, had enough after our drive and it flared with a vengeance.  Then, a week after Heather and the kids showed up at our new digs, I flew to South Florida to tell Mom goodbye. 

There is this website - stress.org - that provides a stress test for you to try out.  There are different levels of stress, depending on what things you are dealing with at the moment in life.  The top level is 360 points and above.  At this point, you are “80% likely to have a physical breakdown related to stress.”  Heather and I have laughingly taken this test several times in our married life.  We usually are up around 300 on an average day.  My rating was 450 points this month.  I told her the other day, “I found out what level that isn’t funny anymore. 450 points.  That isn’t funny.” 

I have been a wreck.  I am overwhelmed.  I get panicked over doing things that I used to do with ease.  I missed an entire cycle of bills because the thought of looking at them made me melt down. I had trouble unpacking boxes, making appointments, going shopping.  It seemed like every time I went to the grocery store with the kids, I would freeze up halfway through and have a mini panic attack.  They weren’t being naughty - it just was too much.  And this didn’t go away in what I considered a timely manner.  I called my old therapist from Orlando last Sunday, just to have someone to talk to about things.  He was, as always, brilliant and insightful.  Then I had the worst week yet.

This past week was atrocious.  I would be perfectly fine.  With no warning, I would be crushed by a wave of despair.  Then I would be down for hours, crying from time to time.  We went out to a mall the other day and on the way home, I told Heather, “That was not a good idea.  That was too much to handle.”  I have felt broken and weak and helpless and useless.  I have been working for the last couple of weeks, but it seems to take all my energy - well whatever little bit I have left after a day full of summer vacation related kid arguments and issues.  Again, the kids are not being naughty; they are being kids.  But it seems like there is hardly any reserve.

I know that everyone says grief is different for every person and that it doesn’t go away quickly.  But that is hard for me to accept.  I have tried to solve this problem.  I have tried to figure out what to do to make this end so I can go back to the way I was.  It doesn’t even make sense, though.  Sure, there are times when I break down and it is a logical event.  When I saw Mom’s birthday on my phone calendar as I scheduled teaching assignments in November, that felt like a knife in my heart.  At church this morning, they sang In Christ Alone, which was a song that my mom loved and had played at her memorial service.  Obviously, that was a tear-inducing moment.  But when I’m standing in the middle of Target, I’m not actively thinking about Mom and missing her.  I’m just looking at school supplies or Funko Pop! figures.  That isn’t something to bring on tears.  I’m not thinking, “Awww man, Mom would have loved that Walking Dead Michonne bobble head.  That folder was righty up her alley.” 

After I went away to college, I have hardly ever lived in the same town as my mom.  There was a brief time when we both lived in Orlando about 11 years ago.  But that was it.   For over 20 years, my relationship with my mom has been nearly exclusively through the telephone.  We would go see her a few times a year - fewer the further away we moved.  Once Facebook came along, there was a little more virtual interaction.  But most of the time, it was over the phone.  I guess I thought that would make it easier.  I didn’t SEE her all the time.  Not SEEING her would mean it didn’t hurt so much.  That was the case with my dad.  The geographical distance helped the healing process.  There had also been some forced emotional distance on my part over the years.  I could not always fill the role my mom wanted (needed?) me to fill.  There were times that I felt emotionally manipulated.  (Anyone who knows anything about me and my church experiences knows that I HATE emotionally manipulative relationships.)  So I put some distance there.  It was necessary so that I could still relate to and interact with her without being pulled into everything she was going through. 

Mom had a lot of physical problems and had battled lots of things for years and years.  The first time she told me she was dying, I was 10.  And that became a recurrent theme for the next three plus decades.  It was hard to balance the pull of a child to his ill mother and the reality of recognizing that not everything required a massive response of sadness.  It was hard.  And I may have gone too far in my protective engineering - especially in her last six months.  But I could not be the husband, father, and employee I needed to be and be in a constant state of mourning for years.  I had to have that buffer to function.  For all of those reasons, I guess I assumed that when Mom finally did pass on, it would be a relatively normal, easy process. 

I completely underestimated just how much she meant.  I couldn’t erase the thousands of hours of conversations that we had.  We would laugh about silly stories.  We would get riled up at things people did to offend us - especially Church experiences.  We would argue.  We would get angry at each other.  We would push each other out of dark spots and challenge each other.  We would have theological discussions, political discussions, educational discussions, culinary discussions.  “Just a phone call” was hardly JUST a phone call.  I remember so many things about my mother: watching her cook or bake, seeing her sit in the living room reading her Bible, coming around the corner after school and seeing her yellow station wagon in the FIRST spot.  But so many of the biggest memories involved us talking. 

There were the conversations from my dorm room at UCF, where I would be so upset and lonely - desperate for someone to love me, wondering why no girls ever wanted to be with me.  There was the first night after I moved to Tampa, when I called her crying about how I knew it was a mistake.  No one knew me; no one liked me; I wanted to go back to Orlando.  There was the day that I knew that I had met my wife - a spunky little blond girl that reminded me SOOO much of the fire and strength my mom displayed.  (I had NOOOOO idea.)  There was the day when Josiah was born, when I called her from my cell phone outside of Orange Park Medical Center.  I was telling her all about him, while trying to understand together what the heck was going on in the world.  (He was born on 9/12/01 and we were in labor all day on THE 9/11.)  There were the countless days when I would call her on my way to pick the kids up from school, or on my way to teach some class in Charleston, or on my way home from a Defender Ministries event.  I can see these moments.  They became such a part of my life that it is only now - after a month - that I realize just how present she always was, even when she was hundreds of miles away. 

Now, I’ll find some great deal on something at the grocery store and think, “I should call Mom and tell her.”  I’ll finish registering the kids for school and be impressed by the faculty there and want to let her know.  I’ll hear that Heather got another recognition at work and I’ll want to brag about her.  (She ADORED Heather. On her last morning, she talked to Heather on FaceTime and she lit up so much.  When they hung up, she said, “Now I’m happy.”)  I’ll hear a good sermon that talks about emotions, which really was just what I needed to hear (that was this morning) and I’ll want to let her know that once again, help came right when I needed it.  But she isn’t there.  I can’t call her.  I can’t send her pictures of the kids’ new shoes.  I can’t post something on Facebook and know that she’ll like it within two minutes.  I can’t text her “I love you” any more. 

We hear a lot of things about a mother’s love.  It is truly one of the most powerful things on earth.  For me, it looked like a phone - be it a coil coming off a handset, a cordless one with a big huge antenna, a flip phone, an iPhone.  Life changed; phones changed.  But there was always a never-ending source of love on the other end of that line.  When I didn’t have any friends that I could count on, she was there.  When I was just a single guy, full of fury and loneliness, she was there.  When I was a confused new dad, a selfish husband, a lazy worker, she was there.  When I was a compassionate father, a loving spouse, and a trustworthy teacher, she was there.  She heard all of that and loved me through every single twist and turn.  I guess it isn’t so easy to have someone that ingrained in your life disappear. 

I held my mom’s hand as she was drifting away.  I looked at Holly and said, “She’s going.”  Holly took her hand and grabbed my phone to text Chris.  I sat down next to her on the floor and held her head as she took her last breaths.  And then I just cried so hard.  For the last thirty minutes or so, I just talked to her.  I told her about our new house, about the new town we were in, about the stuff the kids were into, about how much it felt like Florida.  I asked her if she was getting ready to go dancing.  She said, “I can’t dance.”  I said, “You will be able to soon.  You can dance with Dad.”  She made a face.  To the very end, she was Mom.  I know that in time, things won’t hurt so bad.  I know that I’ll be able to go to the store and not freak out.  I know I’ll find someone to listen to my pointless stories about recipes or shoes or virtual classroom adventures.  (I’m going to be that old man in the Perkins telling stories to the waitress, aren’t I?)  I know that I’ll be able to look at November 4 on the calendar and not get teary.  Some day that will happen.  Some day...

Aug 13, 2015

15 for 15: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

YESTERDAY
I have thought a lot about our wedding day as our anniversary approached. The thing that is perhaps most dominant in my mind is how young we were. When I see the pictures of that day, I am always surprised at how much we look like babies. And I remember having such a immature view of life. That wasn't a bad thing - we were immature yet, as in we were not mature. I know I had so much to learn about life, marriage, everything. I think about how fiery I was about everything. I thought I had figured it all out. I believed it was worth fighting all the time to defend truth!  I even treated Heather that way. I saw myself as in the right; I needed to correct those around me.

I think that I believed if I just pushed hard enough, things would go the way I thought they should go. That applied to issues with work, with finances, with faith, with marriage. But I soon discovered that was not how things worked. It was a frustrating and humbling lesson. I was extremely fortunate that I had an equally determined wife. Instead of a fiery, angry force of nature, Heather approached things very differently. She also had strong beliefs of how things should be. And she didn't relent. Instead she gave me time to work through my pigheadedness until I could actually see that I was wrong sometimes. (Not often. Okay. Often.)  

We had our ups and downs. We did not always see eye to eye. But we kept on working and fighting because we both knew that our marriage and family were worth fighting for. That was one thing that we both were determined about. 

TODAY
Fifteen years later, we don't look so much like babies. We don't see things with such immature eyes. When I pause long enough to examine my life, I am amazed at where we are.  We are sitting in a hotel in Houston, Texas. Tomorrow we will begin looking around the city we will soon call home. We drove through the Medical City today. It is mammoth. It is bigger than downtown Orlando. I just kept looking up at the skyscrapers, completely blown away. Next year Heather will be working there as a fellow. She matched at this incredible hospital and is going to be doing amazing things. How did we get here?

The David and Heather of today are a far cry from the ones of yesterday. Heather has developed into a strong, confident, brilliant leader of men and women. She continues to achieve more and more wonderful things. Somehow she juggles motherhood, wife hood (is that a word?), and doctor hood with style and grace. She constantly impresses me.

I have mellowed quite a bit. I am not the same fiery stubborn man. I still can be stubborn, but I have come to realize that fighting is highly overrated. I am not always right. I do not know everything. I have learned that my ideal view of life is not going to happen - and it is not even worthy of happening many times. I am in a totally different career than I ever could have imagined, and I love what I'm doing. 
I stay home with our kids - something that I love and that they love. Heather is thriving in her job. The kids are doing well. Things are not perfect, and we still are dealing with yesterday's decisions and aftermath. But I am so happy right now with where we are today. 

TOMORROW
Where will the next fifteen years take us? I really have no idea. I still have trouble sometimes wrapping my head around where we are now. Fifteen years from now, our kids will be out of college. Heather will be doing amazing things. I will be teaching. 

At least that is what I assume will be happening. That isn't sure, though. There is no way to know where we will be. People ask us where we plan on going once Heather finishes fellowship. But even that decison - a mere four years away - is impossible to know right now. We could be back in Florida. There are definite benefits to that decision! But we could be back in South Carolina. We have loved our time in Columbia and Heather loves the medical community there. But she could also be offered a job to stay in Houston. Or someone else could try to poach her. We have no idea.  

The future is impossible to know.  All I know is that I am so excited to approach that unclear future with a woman like Heather by my side. She is the most incredible woman I know. Every day I find more reasons to love her. I am beyond proud of her. I know I don't deserve her. I just thank God that He blessed me so greatly. For fifteen years, I have enjoyed that blessing. And I am only beginning to understand just how much of a blessing that she is. I love you, Heather.