Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting Older

Yesterday I was playing baseball in the backyard with my boys, and a memory came to me from 35 years ago.

My friend C and I would go out in the back yard, set up a makeshift home plate and pitcher's rubber, and pitch to each other.

One of us would pitch, the other catch; back and forth, for hours. There was no batter, and no hits. Only strikeouts and walks. The catcher made the calls, there was no arguing.

We had fun like that for hours on end, day after day. It was just one of many memories I have of that friendship. C and I have stayed close over the years, we still talk frequently.

As I looked back at those days, I thought about the kids we were--young, innocent, our whole lives ahead.

I remember at C's wedding, 21 years ago, his mother saying she never would have imagined C and I would end up being a doctor and a pastor.

And no one would have imagined that we would now be facing the challenges we are--one of us going through a painful divorce, the other struggling to hold it together while supporting a wife with cancer.

As I stood in the backyard and remembered those days of pitching and catching, I was gripped by a powerful feeling of nostalgia, a feeling that started in my chest and spread through my whole body, like a wave--strong yet warm.

I missed those boys, and the freedom of life at that stage. I thought of where my friend is now, and hurt for the pain he is going through. At the same time, I thought that those days seemed both forever ago, and just a little more than yesterday.

 I've never thought much about mid-life crises, at least for myself. I never felt my age, so wasn't as concerned with getting older.

20 years ago, 50 seemed ancient. Not so much now. It still sounds old, but doesn't feel as old (except on the mornings when I run). But the truth is, I'm sort of in denial; not really grasping the idea that in three years I'll be 50.

Each year we are closer to the end of life, and further from the beginning, but I never really thought about that until I was 40. I know I've lived more than half my life, and that's an unsettling thought.

I also look back at what I've accomplished, and wonder what I still have left to accomplish. I haven't done as much as I wish. I won't go there--I'm a pretty positive person, and not one to sit and lament or complain.

I am very self-aware, I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I am relatively OK with who I am. There is still a lot I want to do, and I guess the pressure now is time. Is there enough time to do what I still want to do?

One thing I have learned to do is slow down, look back, and find joy in the memories. I remember when I was younger, I didn't really enjoy looking back. It made me sad to remember a good time that was over, a season of life that had passed.

But now I find that the memories can actually bring me joy. I can close my eyes and go back to times and places that are gone, but that were good, and meaningful. Rather than regret that they are gone, I find that the memories can lift me up, warm my heart, make me feel good about all that has happened in my life.

I'm going to spend some time writing about some of those memories. Memoir is the type of writing I have most enjoyed. It helps me realize that I have been very blessed in the people and places that have made up my life.

I also find I can look back with a healthy attitude when I am satisfied in the present, and this weekend, I really am.

Jamie is in the midst of cancer treatment, so there is a lot of uncertainty there. We are going through a restructuring at work, and facing a lot of change there. Ten months after moving across the country, I still miss my family and friends in Virginia.

Yet in the midst of it, I have spent a lot of time lately thinking how great my life is. Jamie and I are getting along really well. I love spending time with my kids--we make the most of every minute, especially on the weekends.

And I am reminded that no matter where I am, it all comes down to relationships. My wife and kids. My in-laws. My new friends at work and church. And the joy of the memories of all the people and relationships that have touched my life and made me who I am. I have a good life.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Three hospital trips

On Friday Jamie had her weekly chemo treatment. She was tired from not having slept well the night before, and from the pre-chemo medication; and went to sleep pretty quickly once the treatment started.

I ducked out of the Cancer Center to pick Ashley up from school and run to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions.

While I was driving, I got a call from my friend Andy back in Virginia. Last summer he and his wife Erin got some surprising news. Years after thinking they were finished having children (they have two great ones--a boy and a girl), they found out Erin was pregnant.

As I was driving Friday, Andy called to tell me they were on the way to the hospital. I was thrilled that Andy called me at that moment--I miss my friends back home, and getting that call brought a lot of joy.

Andy sounded happy but pretty calm. It sounds like things went smoothly; a few hours later I read about the baby's birth (and saw pictures) on Facebook.

After I got off the phone with Andy, my mind went to hospitals. I pictured Andy and Erin pulling up to the hospital. I remembered my experience in the hospital when my boys were born, the unbelievable joy watching a new life come into this world.

I imagined the excitement Andy and Erin must be feeling, to experience "new parenthood" again after many years.

As often happens, my thoughts wandered, stream-of-consciousness style, to some other friends in a hospital.

Rose and Rich pastor a church in Shoreline. I met Rose at an Emergent Conference years ago. I loved her approach to God and people and ministry, and got to know her and Rich over the years, worshiping and visiting with them every time we came to visit Washington.

Rich and Rose have a son, Ben, who has terminal cancer. Barring a miracle, it looks like Ben's life here is almost over. I cannot imagine the pain of losing one's child (actually, I can, but refuse to let myself--I fear the pain would be too great).

I have followed their journey on Facebook--Ben and his wife recently had their second child. It has been heartbreaking to watch what their family is going through.

The one nugget that does not leave me feeling hopeless about their situation is the faith and strength that Rich and Rose and all their family and friends have shown.

I thought about these people that I love as I drove back to the hospital where my wife was being pumped full of toxic drugs that are hard on her body, but necessary to kill the cancer in her.

I thought of my friends in other hospitals, one experiencing new life, one preparing for death. We are in the middle I guess; anytime you hear the word "cancer" you think of the terrible possibility, but we are very hopeful that the treatment will kill the cancer invading Jamie's body and give her many more years of life.

Going through something like this usually causes one to be more aware of and grateful for life. I know it does for me. In the midst of the craziness and busyness of life these days, I often try to slow down, look around, and smile at the beauty and joy.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I want to enjoy and appreciate and soak up every good and positive moment as it happens. I remember a picture of Ben holding his new baby, and think about how profound that moment was.

We will all experience (or have experienced) the three different situations I thought about in those three hospital trips--birth, healing, and death. And in between them are thousands of amazing moments that make up life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


On Monday I turned 47.  Really?  Just doesn't seem possible. I tend to be pretty nostalgic; birthdays can bring that out even more for me. I spent some time looking back...

37. Ten years ago I was in Fort Worth, single and loving life. I was finishing up my sixth year teaching at Heritage Christian Academy, umpiring baseball, and hanging out at the Ballpark in Arlington, Six Flags, and Hope Church. Life was easy, fun, and free.

27. Twenty years ago I was youth pastor at FBC Alexandria, VA. For two years I got paid to play with teenagers, build relationships, teach, preach and learn from some really great people. Life was a blast.

17. Thirty years ago I was getting ready for my senior year in high school. Running track, enjoying great friends, trying to figure out girls. Young, free, pretty ignorant. Sometimes life was great, sometimes not so much.

7. Forty years ago we had just moved to our new home in Dale City, VA. I had a big back yard to play in, great friends, lots of places to explore. Life was fun.

Of course there have been challenges, losses, disappointments and failures, but my life has been pretty darn good. I've had a lot of great friends, been to some neat places and had a variety of experiences.

And although every other 7 year was pretty good, and 47 feels weird, I wouldn't trade it for any of the others.

We recently moved to an incredibly beautiful part of the country. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. We have a nice house in a good neighborhood. Thanks to my parents, we have a trampoline and basketball goal in the backyard.

We have great schools for our kids, and the blessing of Jamie's family and friends nearby. Every day I drive through a beautiful mountain pass, past gorgeous views of a lake and a bay.

And most of all, I have a beautiful wife who I'm still learning about and growing with. I have the three most amazing children in the world who bring me more joy than I've ever known.

Last night the boys had a T-ball game. I love cheering them on. Today we did some shopping, then tonight, Ashley and I put together the basketball goal that my parents got for Brady's birthday.

We had dinner, got everyone in bed, now I'm relaxing, thinking about how great life is.