SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

She's not to big to hang out with her dad...

She’s not to big to hang out with her dad…

“What are you doing this weekend? my youngest daughter questioned me.

“Why?” I answered her with a suspicious one of my own.

“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out?” she told me.

“With you?” I asked a little caught off guard.

“Yeah – I thought we could hang out since I had to work the weekend of your birthday,” she explained.

“Of course – that’ll be great, babe,” I answered, pleased as punch.

My youngest wasn’t around much, what with her hectic schedule that juggles school activities, work, and not to mention she’s sixteen and it’s not so cool to hang out with your dad. All that had me not exactly holding my breath on a follow up of it actually happening.

When she was little we went together like peanut butter and jelly. On the weekends she’d go to work with me. When the weather was nice she’d use blocks of cut lumber to build and create her own little villages for hours on end while I worked close by.

On the rare days of bad weather I’d leave her in my truck with the engine running and heater toasting her warmly. It didn’t take her too long to figure out how to use the horn as my reminder that she was there waiting for me. Even after I urged her to not use the horn, it was of little use. She figured out too that it made me laugh every time she laid on the horn and made it play a one note song.

Being a little kid at heart, after my half day of work on Saturday was done, it was my pleasure to swing by the local amusement park. We played miniature golf, rode the go-carts, her in my lap. We played video games, pinball, and one of her all time favorites; air hockey. She didn’t know when she was small I’d let her win.

I didn’t think much of that tradition at the time, but we’d always wrap up our outing, after cashing in the cache of tickets to exchange for the cheap trinkets of course, by stopping at the photo booth for carnival type black and white photos… sure glad I did that.

I was surprised again when my daughter asked me if I was ready to go the next weekend.

“Where we going?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” my little one teased… I have no idea where she learned to do that…

I wasn’t shocked that our very first stop on “hang out” day was Cracker Jax, our old stomping grounds. It’s changed a bit, looks older, like me I guess. They don’t have pinball machines anymore and a new laser tag has gobbled up most of the arcade space. But the place was still magical. Not so much the place as it was the precious time and memories made with my daughter there.

Like the old arcade has changed, so has my daughter and myself to a lesser degree. I don’t let her win at air hockey anymore… she does that on her own occasionally without any help from me.

The little girl I once carried like a football is fully grown now… she’s taller than her mom, but not too old to sit on my knee in the photo booth at the end of one of our amusement park outings. Birthday presents just don’t get any better than that in this life.

“Did you have fun, dad?” my daughter asked, knowing full full well the answer, but just wanted to hear me say it.

“It was great, babe. It couldn’t have been any better, thanks, babe.”

“You’re welcome,” she said… beaming like the twinkle of her in her dad’s eyes…

WEDDING BELLS

The Bride

The Bride

“Have you seen McKenzie?” My wife asked.

“No – She looks good, huh? I answered.

Within a few minutes there she was… I already knew she looked good, it’s hard for her not to, God made her look a lot like her mother. All three girls actually.

“You look great,” I offered the oldest.

“Thanks,” she said.

I asked her about the cartoon sized ring necklace she was wearing.

“Ali got it for me,” she informed me. That would be McKenzie’s maid of honor and daughter number two.

“That’s pretty cool,” I chuckled.

My study was instantly on the back burner as I reached instinctively for my phone.

“Let me get a picture,” I asked her. It’s the one you see here in the post.

It was a special day for the soon to be bride. The entire bridal shower started the day with a two mile race for charity. The race included a paint storm as the runners crossed the finish line. When they all came back to the house for brunch the whole lot of them looked like victims of a Disney channel episode.

After brunch, they got cleaned off and up to go out for a late lunch and celebration of McKenzie’s upcoming wedding. Once they’d all left I pulled my phone back out… “My, how time has flown by,” I thought to myself as I studied the picture.

I’ve come to consider nothing in this life as coincidence. If I hadn’t planned a full blown stroll down memory lane, the picture of Kenz sealed my fate.

“Man, her hair has gotten long,” I mused in silence. I’ve always admired her beautiful smile… as well as the determination written all over her face at times when she’s not smiling. I soon spotted the pictures inside my newest one, my shelves are loaded with all the lacrosse pictures in the background.

I smiled inside when I think about her and all those pretty girls that no one would suspect are tougher than nails. In the middle shelf, the highest one, is the a picture of McKenzie’s grandparents, my wife’s parents. She only knows them from stories and pictures… She never got to meet them before God called them home.

The next shelf down I spotted the framed newspaper article of my little league baseball team. I was a whopping nine or ten then. The pictures remind me that we don’t have any idea for sure about what the future holds… They also remind me of my blessings from God. I couldn’t have scripted a better life than the one He gave me.

That picture that looks like it’s sitting on Kenz’s shoulder is a newspaper article about her, she’s taking a shot on goal in the picture inside of my picture. One shelf up from that one, eye level with Kenz and the second one from her, is she and I. Her mom took that one of us after her team won a state championship… I love that picture…

The curtain has closed on the days of me protecting and providing for her… the prayers never will…

May God bless the union of Dean and McKenzie. 12/12/14

BEYOND LUCK

My wife's bike

My wife’s bike

Image 1My prayer wasn’t really an after thought. It was actually the second one I’d sent toward heaven; asking for the same thing that I had asked for not less than five minutes after I’d silently uttered the first one.

My wife and I were out of town on our bicycles riding out toward Pacific Coast Highway when I offered up the second prayer with an uneasy feeling in my gut.

We were around the twelve mile mark when we lost each other in heavy traffic on 101. I went straight and she took a turn toward the wharf in Oceanside. After waiting for several minutes at a stop light, I knew the platinum finishing Tour De Tucson participant who also teaches spinning a the health club was long gone.

I figured it best to head south to where we started and try to catch her on the way, not that it would have been remotely possible if she thought she was trying to catch me.

When I got back my wife wasn’t there, so I called her on my cell that I was strongly regretting not having had with me earlier.

“I’m still in Oceanside waiting for you,” she told me.

I waited for her, got a snack to hold me over until she got back, and answered some emails. One email in particular stood out like divine words wrapped in the light from the other realm.

My friend Lynn Morrissey, author of the “Love Letters To God”, asked if she could pray for my family and me out of the blue. Now I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I’ve figured out that when someone “feels” like they should pray for my family or me, I humbly and thankfully accept.

I took note of the time, did a quick math calculation and knew my wife would be rolling up any minute. Then I did something that I’ve never done before; I went outside to look for her, but she wasn’t anywhere in sight.

That’s when my phone rang… sometimes in our modern world, you know it’s not gonna be good news when the phone rings… It’s usually an inconvenience. My first thought was, “She’s got a flat tire.”

“Hey, babe?” I answered my phone. The next words will echo in my mind as long as mine still functions…

“I’ve been hit by a car! I need you to come get me!”

There are no laws of physical nature to explain what happened, but more importantly, what didn’t happen.

It is a fifty miles per hour speed limit on the frontage road to Interstate 5, where the elderly lady in a Toyota Prius hit my wife… Which means that the car still had to be traveling thirty five to forty five miles per hour after the short skid when her car struck my wife.

The eyewitness told me that my wife did a three hundred and sixty degree spin on her bike as it sailed through the air before she crashed down and skidded across the intersection on her back, knee, hip, elbow, and head…

On top of the early morning prayers for safety and Lynn’s prompting and praying for my family and wife, the driver of the car that hit my wife immediately asked her if she cold pray for her…

The half dollar sized skid marks on my wife’s elbow, knee, and back, and the fact that she walked away and was back teaching at the gym two days later, is proof that something or Someone protected her.

That nasty scenario is the kind where some people are maimed for life and some lose theirs all together. Some folks call it a coincidence, some call it lucky…

I call it the hand of God.

 

PARKING LOT PERDITION

Parking Lot Perdition

Parking Lot Perdition

I’m not at my best in crowds. On top of that, I loathe jam packed parking lots, but it’s hard to avoid them in this fast growing world. Bloated parking lots and scads of people are a lot like the old adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” If one is there, the other is a given.

When the opportunity presents itself, I try to outsmart the occasion. But that takes team work to strive and save in order to get more of the precious commodity we all took for granted at some point in our life; time.

I grimaced at the thought of braving the crowds of people on a Sunday afternoon at Costco; the mega wholesale warehouse. You have to be a member to get past the Gestapo and the line forms outside while everyone flashes their identification cards to get in… I don’t have one… but they let me tag along with my wife or daughters that do.

It’s the perfect store to buy in bulk. And I mean the kind of bulk that could fulfill many basic needs for a season, some for a lifetime. If a person ate that much peanut butter in one season, it would likely be their last.

“We’re never gonna find a parking space,” I groaned to my wife who’d pulled the classic bait and switch on me. I thought our destinations were only going to be Home Depot and Sprouts… til she added the human sardine store and parking lot to our agenda. Then again it was my idea to have steak.

“Just pull up and drop me off and you can drive around then pick me back up,” my wife gave me a pass in our trip to parking lot perdition.

“Okay,” I agreed greedily and drove off thinking to myself, “One outta two ain’t bad… that woman is good to me.”

I drove around the packed parking lot with zero pressure of having to find a space, whistling would have been apropos. I just softly sang along to a song on the radio. It felt good. I could see desperation in the eyes of the other driving sardines, but not mine… because I’m a pretty swell guy. Not to mention the fact that God likes me.

I wasn’t too surprised when a space was opening up as close to the front door as possible – without it being a handicapped space. I sat back in the seat with my signal on, feeling pretty smug and a bit above the other commoners, while I waited for the young girl in a BMW to pull out and clear my divinely appointed parking space.

I smiled, waved kindly, as she pulled out of the space and past me. Just as I was pulling into God’s space, a kid in a little red four banger cut me off moving at light speed, smiling, and almost skidded to a stop… in my space!

A good Christian may have driven on, chalking it up to the ways of the fallen world. A less than mature Christian may have shaken their head in disgust. The next down the ladder to levels in heaven may have called the smiling punk a “Jerk”.

Me? I pulled my car within inches behind the kid’s and was out of my car and at his rolled down window before he could say, “Finders keepers – losers weepers!'”

“Not happ-nin!!! I been sittin’ there with my signal on waiting!”

The punk’s clever smile was gone like the dinosaurs when the suddenly humble kid meekly asked, “Would you like me to move?”

“Yes!!! … Please!” The ‘please’ I added at about half the decibels of the ‘yes’.

I backed up and let him pull out as I pulled back into the space… not feeling nearly as favored by God and the blood still pumping in the veins of my neck and forehead.

I wonder how often we hoard the same grace extended to us from God Himself.

Math was never my strong suit… but I suspect I can’t count that high…

 

THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

k7274728I’m not much of a sailor, except for that one time in junior high school I stole that sailboat, but I savvy the sailing lingo fairly well. Sometimes a few words can sum up what a picture or a thousand words can’t, no matter the time spent trying. It’s remarkable how well a simple adage can describe perfectly what we’re trying to express, like the lucky folks who buy the right vowel on Wheel Of Fortune.

“You nailed it”, or “You hit the nail on the head”, are carpentry terms that have come to mean far more than the accurate swing of a hammer. No one needs to be a fisherman to savvy the phrase, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”. You get the idea.

Back to my seafaring thoughts: For the better part of six years I’ve been writing, pushing, learning, and have written hundreds of thousands of words in the form of this blog, writing assignments, and three and a half manuscripts. But sometimes life… get ready for it… “Knocks the wind out of your sails”…

I’ve come up empty. And while that isn’t entirely new, the desire that always seems to summon a fresh breeze has gone missing. That is new for me. My desire must have fallen in the deep waters when I blinked at the emotional strike delivered to the core of my soul…

This life is full of surprises and not all of them have the intentions or effect of a surprise birthday party. All of us know that people will let you down in this fallen world, yet we all get “Blindsided” once in awhile. Yeah, another overused analogy. No wonder it’s so popular; it describes the synopsis perfectly.

Sooner or later everyone of us gets crushed by another that has a soul cage wrapped around them and we respond typically in our flesh – What we know instinctively.

Our first reaction is grief, but it doesn’t take too long for the wicked desire of revenge to explode from our heart like a snarling and fire breathing dragon. We retaliate sometimes and the fire used to payback those that hurt us blown with vengeance from our hurting and twisted mouths, leaves us singed by our own poison.

Betrayal is grisly. As repulsive as it is, and we’re all quick to condemn the trespassers, we rarely stop to consider the monster in the mirror…

There’s another old saying that has some merit, “I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us…” While the quote isn’t fully accurate in that we’re duped by the real enemy of our souls, it makes the razor sharp point that we’re all fallen, even if that wasn’t the intent when that famous southern fella’ wrote it the first time.

We betray our Father daily with each sin. Maybe there’re not all out lies or deceit, but we’re deceiving ourselves if we think we’re above anybody else or our righteousness earns us a seat on a different boat… we’re all in the same one.

As our Father forgives betrayal, we too are called to forgive. If He forgives us, how can we not extend that trait that points to and proves we have His true love in us?

I don’t know when, but one of these days I believe the wind will return… and my sail and heart will be filled again. I pray yours will too…