The Fear of Bullies

This past week I have had flashbacks to my childhood as I watched my eldest son transition from a 4 year old to a 5 year old. Kids are so raw with their emotions, and we do our best to limit television consumption so as not to create manufactured emotions (even though they are watching the movie ‘Trolls’ at this very moment). Jackson, my eldest is a sweet and deep child, but in those moments of honestly raw moments he can say or do things that make me cringe. For example, his 6 year old friend made him a card for his birthday. When he saw it he said, “I don’t want a card”…. (story to be continued at the end of the blog). How do I nurture a man of integrity and not bring out the primal instinct to be an alpha / bully.

I grew up in the home of my Grandmother, and her less than $10,000 per year in social security income. I didn’t give much thought to my scenario until I hit middle school. I was a popular kid until the 7th grade (that’s how it worked back then). It all changed at the Glenwood Orientation, when parents sat beside their kids in the auditorium and I sat there clutching a bike lock key in my hand. I was quickly labeled an “orphan” which caused others to inspect me further.

At that point in my life I had deformed ears… which earned me an elfish nickname. I also had braces that extended beyond the time frame to remove them because my grandma could not afford their removal. I was also a skinny kid with freckles and economy haircut, which didn’t help my cause. My last hangout with a friend was in September of that year, and I never had a friend again until my Junior year in high school, 5 years later.

I was a fairly athletic kid, but my confidence was not battle tested. I visited the school counselor, who proceeded to tell another student of my personal pains. I earned a spot on the basketball team, but all the baggage an 11 year old carries earned me a spot in the back of the bus on road games and a table isolated with one other boy away from the rest of the team at post game dinners.

By the time I got to high school I was just ignored, which I preferred to the bullying. Sure, at times the “jocks” would steal my lunch money or baseball cards, or make me pay extra to trade cards with them, but I survived. I was accepted at Ohio State, but couldn’t quite kick my internal fear of bullies. I ruined friendships, rarely had a date, but I survived.

I will have future writings on lessons learned in my teens and 20s, but the message I want to share with my readers is that no matter how old you get or how high you move on the corporate ladder, there will always be Bullies. You either learn to deal with them productively, or you let them consume you. Do not be mistaken, the way you handle your emotions with bullies is not an overnight phenomenon… it takes years.

My journal to effective bully-management occurred in the fall of 2008, at the ripe age of 30. My faith was blossoming, but my life-wife came along, Emily. Over the next 8+ years Emily would force me to go to my core and root out the source and address it. When you face decades of bullies fear and anxiety become a natural part of your life. It is like a drug addiction, you may go into remission, but it is always a threat.

Corporate America has a new kind of bully, or they just mature in their bullying tactics. I am fortunate to work for a line of bosses that are anything but bullies. My boss has some amazing stories in his journey, and from him I have learned “corporate patience”. In a previous life, a long time ago in a galaxy far away…, I wasn’t as lucky. At every corner came an attack… I was called a ” battlefield promotion”, ineffective, disloyal, and pitchforks galore pointed my direction. In those moments I fought like hell to defend my my integrity and work, but but the bullies in glass houses wouldn’t have it. Have you been here? If you have, you know the kicking and screaming  approach doesn’t work.

As I said earlier, Emily was the first “Avenger” in my life who started my rethinking. Then I had more great people in my work life like Erik Chuang, Barry Wellins, and Rick Seba. Men that would challenge me to be better and hold me accountable to change. I learned that Bullies will always be there, they are like seed scattered along the side of the road. The wind will scatter them further and they will bear no fruit. As long as I make character and integrity the soul of my actions, I will be fine. As long as I communicate with my team, boss, and business partners, deliver sound action and results, I will be fine. As long as I control my temper, do not divide people, and respond in kindness, I will be fine. Do I fail sometimes, YES!  But my inner soul, and Emily, make me aware, and I apologize 🙂

Do you find yourself dealing with corporate bullies? If so, meditate on my story. Bullies live in perpetuity…. get use to it,  but don’t accept it. When they come at you with pitchforks and sledgehammers, take Martin Luther King’s advice and do not pick up a weapon in retaliation. Make your communication crisp, drive results, own your mistakes, and lead your people with the utmost integrity. You may lose a battle, but the war will not be lost.

Oh so Jackson. Emily and I had a conversation with Jackson and helped him explore his feelings. I said he was a deep boy and he proved it. He was remorseful and wanted to rectify the situation. He approached his little friend at church this morning, hugged her, apologized, and told her the card was beautiful. I am so very proud of my son!

Happy birthday Jackson!

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The Story of Losing My Son: When Unthinkable Tragedy Makes You A Better Leader

June 18,2015 started out as just another Thursday. We were getting ready to go to the 20 week check-up at the doctor. We had done this twice before so it wasn’t a big deal. I was exhausted from work at that time, but found peace in seeing my child bounce around a television screen. At this point in life I was an anxious and fearful person, but felt safe because we were well into that second trimester. We cozier into the room with three year old Jackson and one year old Colin, excited to see their baby brother and sister, but not comprehending really what was going. Up popped our baby, but no sound. 

In that moment it didn’t hit me. The nurse went and got the doctor and Emily knew, while I thought their machine was broken. The nurse came back, asked to take Jackson and Colin, and that is when I knew, this would be the worst day of our lives. We walked in planning to see our baby on a screen, little did we know we would be holding him that evening and saying our good byes.

It’s been 19 months since Andrew went to Heaven, but the tears flowing as I write this are just as real as the tears that flowed June 18, 2015 and the ensuing weeks after. Holding Andrew in his basket, seeing his beauty, wanting to be his daddy and protect him (God help me continue this blog…), and realizing just how helpless I was. I couldn’t do anything to comfort my wife or explain to Jackson (Colin was too little) why his baby brother wasn’t ever going to live with him. Losing my wife or boys would be just as painful, probably more if I am being honest, but selfishly I pray I never experience pain like that again in my life.

I think it is important for me to share where I am now, as it leads into my leadership lesson for the week. My wife and I are people of strong faith and in our faith we find our bedrock. Two specific events happened to me that launched me in a direction of peace and hope, the first was Andrew’s funeral. Emily and I sat in the front row, gazing at Andrew’s tiny little casket when Jackson jumped on my lap and said, “Daddy, I prayed for you so you can stop crying now, Andrew is in Heaven”… he also wagged his finger at me when he delivers his instruction. The second was advice from a counselor, shared with Emily, weeks later. The advice was “rest in knowing that because Andrew lived he receives eternal life, and you will be reunited with him one day.

Now that I have thoroughly soaked my shirt with tears and you have read this story…. so what? What does this have to do with business, let alone leadership?! Well let me tell you. It took a good 14 months after losing Andrew to stop responding out of an emotion of fear and anxiety.  My day started with fear of making mistakes that would harm the security of my family… and those of you who have experienced fear while leading know that fear mongering is real and bad people will try to capitalize.

I am convicted with the belief that Andrew changed me for the good not only personally, but professionally. Every day for the past 595 days I wake up thinking of my dear son, but not in a “whoa is me” attitude that would be justifiable. I think, “because Andrew lived, I have hope” and I smile. For those of you who are DYI’ers, you know your electricity won’t harm you cause it is grounded. For me, my connection to Andrew is that ground wire to the Bedrock, and I will be okay no matter what happens today, because I have hope.

While that is faith based for me personally, the product of me that I produce at work must be different. Hope translated into professional speak is leading fearlessly. We all face obstacles every day, some enormous, some self-created, and some generated by others. Some problems you can see coming from a mile away, some blind-side you like a dodgeball to the temple. You have a choice: do you respond or do you react.

Most of the time reacting can be dangerous for a leader. Back to the DIY analogy… when you react it is often like crossing a white and black wire, “POP! ZAP”! Followed quickly by a wife quip of “I told you to turn the power off”. In my leadership style I treat reacting like holding a connected black wire in my teeth while connect the white with my wet hand. Do I fail sometimes and react, yes!

Why is responding better? Responding let’s you plan whereas reacting is an imidiate uncontrolled respond to your emotion. Building a brain plan can take weeks/months or it can take a few seconds (long enough for an itchy pause). Your 5-second plan can be as simple as, “my boss is angry and yelling at me, I will speak confidently, own the problem, and the solution”. You may not have caused the problem, or even know about the problem, but you can always be part of the solution. Which is better, “boss, that is Bob’s”!!!! Or “boss, I don’t know what happened but I will work with Bob to identify the cause and drive a solution”. Leaders lead. 

When I lost Andrew I clung to the hope of seeing him again. I still cry at times because I want him here, but he, along with Jackson, Colin, and Emily, motivate me every day to be a good man and a high character leader. Andrew’s death taught me that I cannot control everything, but I can always believe, never sacrifice character, and keep my eyes up and not down (where fear, anxiety, ego, and aggression dwell). My encouragement to you is to control what you can control and for the things you can’t control, ground yourself in whatever gives you hope (family, friends, golf, etc) and let that be your catalyst to see you through the rocky terrain of being a leader.
Each year on Andrew’s birthday we visit his grave and release balloons 

Love Language Leadership

Busy day in the Frantz household. Jackson was busy researching global unrest while Colin was working the phones, dispatching the Avengers to areas of need. They were on a “church high” and wanted to save the world from bad guys. As I sat watching their intensity (yes that is my blue cast foot), I came away impressed how two imaginations combined in a way that shows team work in its simplest form.

 
Later in the day Jackson and I had some one-on-one time and I wracked my brain on what a one-legged dad could do to entertain a rambunctious 4 year old (a few years from beer, wings, and sports). I decided to engage his imagination that he showed earlier with his brother. After a quick haircut we went to Target, grabbed some Sharpies, and construction paper. We then set up shop at Starbucks… where luke warm hot chocolates were the choice. 

To further set the context of our day, one must understand that I promised the boys that I would build them a fort instead of a swing set when I could walk. Jackson has been obsessed with what the fort would contain. So I decided to listen to his deepest thought until I heard the magic words “I think that’s all daddy”. After an hour and several drafts our finished product looked like this:


It was a refreshing way to begin (I think of Sunday as a beginning) a week after the previous week saw talks of a wall, immigration bans, protests, and so on. My interactions with my boys made me think of how important team work is, but as head of household, how vitally important it is to lead with humility, even when emotions kick in. 

Last week in my “Managers Book Club” meeting, my managers and I spent an hour talking about good and bad managers and how we could be humble leaders in a high-stress field. The conversation with my team had an educated balance, but the same core lessons as my conversations with my son. The lesson learned, that I want to share with those of you still reading, is to be IN the moment but not CONSUMED by the moment, aka self-awareness.

So what makes a good boss per my team? Authentic, clear, good communicator, and a good listener. We drove the conversation around performance evaluation time (’tis the season). A good boss gives authentic feedback, not just a pat on the back. He knows how to speak the love language of every employee on his team. She knows how deliver feedback that is precise and gives opportunity to improve and celebrate successes. A good manager drives accountability without fear mongering, no matter the heat of the moment.

A bad manager conversely does the exact opposite. Passive aggressive, everything is a fire drill, bad communicator, and employs the “one size fits all” communication style?

What type of leader are you?

Are you sure?

I will close with this example of how many team responded this week to adversity. We had a department wide issue that caused me to have to pull the “fire alarm”. Instead of pulling the alarm and running, I mapped out a plan before pulling. I addressed my senior managers first, laid out the problem, how we got there, what the end goal needed to look like, and we built a plan. AFTER the plan, we carefully pulled the “alarm” with a call to action email laying out the problem, the game plan to address it, and the accountability expected of each of the 19 managers. We then came together as a management team and put the “love language” plan together at a micro level to address the 115 employees. 

By the end of the week we had steered the ship away from the iceberg and toward the shore. My managers made it succeed,  but it succeeded because the egos were left at the door, all sleeves rolled up, and we spoke each other’s love language until the problem was resolved.

Will you join me at home and at work in practicing emotion management and speaking the love language of those entrusted to you?

“I Must Forever Make the Complex Simple”

Jackson (near 5 years old): “Daddy, I would like to tell you about Marvin Ladder King Junior. Did you know that he had a Dream”?

Me: “I do know of Martin Luther King Junior, Jackson, but I would like to hear what you know of him”

Jackson: “well daddy, he had a dream that people would love each other like Jesus loves them. But daddy, a bad guy shot him and he died. Why would someone kill him because of the color of his skin daddy? His skin is like my friend Avery’s, and it is beautiful”.

“Why”? The most unanswerable question posed by a son to his father. The answer could send the child down a path of bigotry and hate, fear, or plant the seed for social justice through love.

That conversation occurred at 5:30 Monday evening and had a profound impact on my week. As I was studying tonight I came upon a quote by Martin Luther King, and the title of this weeks blog, “I must forever make the complex simple”. MLK spoke these words in response to how he, as a preacher (not yet a Civil Rights activist), would lead. 

Jackson and I had a deep conversation, as deep as one can have with a five year old, with chirps from Colin chanting, “Marvel Ladder King Juror” from the left side of the car. Tuesday I started my next journey in leadership determined to make the complex simple.

My number one priority as a leader is to build a “pay it forward” culture. Each week I gather the 6 leaders that report to me and the 15 managers that, collectively, report to them. We spend an hour doing a book study (currently working through Emotional Intelligence 2.0). This week I focused our conversation around Emotions, all the while thinking back to my conversation with Jackson, and the leadership of MLK. I ant to share some of that conversation with you and I hope you find it valuable to pay it forward at work, home, and social settings.

100% of the time, 10 billion out of 10 billion times, it is certain that the result of an event is an emotion. Seeing my wife walk down the aisle on 6/12/2010, Jackson’s birth on 2/9/12, and Colin’s birth on 4/15/14 caused. Controllable happiness. 6/26/2015 when we laid our son Andrew to rest was uncontrollable pain. Seeing two planes crash into the twin towers on 9/11/2001 caused fear and anger. These were al emotions stemming from life events, but let’s keep it simple. How do you respond at work when your “buttons are pushed”, your time is demanded, an employee complains, a work item is pass due. Write down your emotion. Now how do you respond?

As I posed these questions to the management team Friday, you could see wheels turning. Our environment is one that is highly scrutinized and often filled with pressure. We have multiple layers of quality control, and that alone, causes hundreds of potential emotional responses daily. Our team focused on healthy habits, big and small, that we can do every day to create an accountable environment, but one built on respect and collaboration. Here are some takeaways for you!

1. Own the emotion- you cannot prevent feeling, but you can control how you respond

2. Respond- Instead of thinking “how to respond” think about “how not” to respond. Don’t respond in anger, condescending, or uncaring

3. Physical Responses- when emotions are heated your hearing shuts down and your eyes glaze over. Make a physical response by turning your head, shift your body, etc to reset your eyes and ears.

4. Pay it forward- My favorite! Now that my managers are aware of how emotions impact their day-to-day, they are committed to making conscious choices to own their emotions and control their responses. They in turn pass on the healthy habits to their teams. The fruit we see is better responses between departments (I.e. AML and QC, regulator partnerships, etc.

I would love to hear feedback if you try any of these tips out! Have a great week everyone!

New Years Resolution- Find Your 1 Million

So I purposefully waited to write my New Years Resolutions until January 17th. We’ll sort of…. half of the month has seen me in bed, hopped up on pain pills, and recovering from ankle surgery. As I was NOT sleeping last night I thought about New Year resolutions. More so I thought about how all of us probably jammed Christmas cookies into our mouth and washed it down with <beverage of your choice> on New Years Eve.., saying “it all starts tomorrow… next year…  now that is the year I will be able to see my feet again”! What was it for you? Are you going to run a half marathon this year? Go to church more? Lose 10-20-30 pounds? Finally clean your garage?

I tell you what I did… I wrote on my page “Do or Do Not” (thanks Yoda) and put a period to end my goal writing. Remember, I told you I’ve been on bed rest… so yeah this isn’t suppose to make sense… but stick with me.

Let me introduce you to Jackson, 4 years, and Colin, 2 years. They are bottomless pits in many ways. They eat like their weight in food daily, ask questions like auctioneers, and have an insatiable appetite for love. Let me also introduce you to the 117 people that work for me at Discover. You know what they all have in common? All 119 have eyes, ears, and mouths (some larger than others).

So what am I going to give to these 119 lives that I have been entrusted with? “Hey Jim, I’m going to run a half marathon for you buddy”! “Hey Colin, this year I am going to read my Bible every day just for you”! Jim would give a positive encouragement and Colin would respond with “daddy I am going to be an Avenger”…. or maybe Jim was the Avenger and Colin the encourager…. meh.

So I further scratched in my journal… “this year I am going to do when I should do and don’t when I should don’t. When I don’t and I should’ve done and I do when I should’ve don’t, I will own it. Regardless of when I do and when I don’t and should and shouldn’t not, I will do no less than do with humility, patience, and a general desire to pay it forward for all the do and don’t times that we’re blessed upon me”.

Wow I really don’t make sense! Or does it? Boil that down into non-pain killer English… my goal is this…. change the world one action at a time. I spoke of my boys and my employees, so here are two tips for you to think about to start your year:

My Boys- I sat in bed with them last night and just talked about nonsense. Are the Avengers real? Why was the Hulk green? What they wanted for their birthdays, etc. Do you know what I did? I just listened and answered their questions. While they may be silly questions to you or I, they were important to my boys. What they learned is that I will listen to them and take them seriously. It’s a foundation of any relationship, people want to be heard and taken seriously, in turn you build trust and respect in that relationship.

What about work? Is it possible to be relational with 117 people? Of course not! I mentioned earlier “pay it forward”… so let’s talk about that. I have 5 directs and they have a total of 16 managers that report to them. So my goal is to pour into 21 people to “push it” to the remaining 97. Simple, right? Everyone wants to be heard and taken seriously, so as leaders we must put people in those situations and develop those skills. I purchased Emotional Intelligence 2.0 for all those managers and we do a weekly “book club”.  Why? If 1 person can engage 20 people, and those 20 impact 10 each, that’s a small company! How many generations of “pay it forward” to touch 1 million people? Slightly more than 5! My friends… THAT is a positive revolution that can change the world! (The world… assuming a 7.5 billion population… that’s slightly less than 9 generations of “pay it forward”) 

See wasn’t lying 😜

Today is Your Tomorrow and Yesterday is Never Again

Jackson,

My dear son… If you are on schedule you will be here in 100 days! If you hold true to form you are going to be a feisty little boy with an attitude!

Jack…. you are going to have so many wonderful experiences in your life that are going to create a wonderful memories! I have so many memories to share with you from my life… and it will start the day that you come into this world. I remember so many wonderful days in my life… March 22, 2000 in Panama City, FL was when I first accepted Jesus into my heart… August 22, 2001 in Glendale, AZ was the day I was baptized… June 2002- graduating from Ohio State… September 11, 2008- the first date with your mommy… and June 12, 2010 was the day I married the most wonderful woman in the world! You will be the next great memory of my life!

Memories can be both wonderful and a curse. For me they have been a bit of both throughout my life, and I want to impart a bit of wisdom on you so that you can avoid the curse 🙂 As great as memories are, they can also be like swimming with anchors tied around your feet.

Until a couple of months ago I spent my free thoughts overwhelming myself with “what if I would have done this one thing different in my life”. I remember back in 8th grade basketball try outs when I just quit because there were some guys that gave me a hard time. Or when I walked off the baseball field in the 7th grade when there was one boy on the team that made fun of me. I would think back to school projects and organizations that I quit on or didn’t try. I remember specific interactions with people who needed me and I let them down. I remember the girl in 2nd grade that broke my heart because she moved… and I remember losing close friends because I chose people that were bad for my life.

I would get lost in thought for hours at a time… instead of hitting the gym or picking up my Operations book… I thought and recalled memories. In the past month I have written apology e-mails to people I wasn’t always nice to that were there for me… prayed repentence for poor choices I have made….

A few months ago I decided that I wasn’t going to be a victim and handcuffed by my obsession with past memories. It’s a big pile of shit to dig out of… but I am digging. I share this with you because I do not want you to be someone that dwells on the past… because as I have experienced it can and will become an addiction.

The “I would have done that differently”… turns into a negative self view… you quickly identify your weaknesses… become timid and doubtful in your decision making (because you don’t want to make the same mistake again)..and these things are not a good feeling.

The one thing that I have learned is that memories are just a small piece of who you are and they DO NOT define you! There is no reason to look back and be stuck in thought… wondering how life would have turned out if you made different decisions. After all… the slightest change in my decision making process would have led me down a different path… that didn’t lead to your mommy, you, and future siblings.

Take my advice son… do not bond yourself to memories… they are anchors on your heart and mind. The release I feel by not getting lost in my past memories is amazing… and I want you to have an amazing life… never being bonded by these things!

I toast my Diet Cranberry Sierra Mist to you my son and to all the GOOD memories we are about to have!

Love Dad

So What Are You and What Will You Be?

So my child… we saw you today… and we know what you are!! I must say, it was one of the most exciting heart warming moments of my life!! You already know what you are… but we will draw it out a few moments longer for the benefit of the reader 🙂 I cannot call you by name, because your momma and I are not agreeing at the moment 🙂

This was one of the coolest experiences ever! The nurse showed us your heart and explained how it was strong. Then we saw your brain, spine, eyes, ears, fingers, and toes… everything looked great! Then… THEN… THEN… as eh hem… big as you please… we saw that you were a boy!!!!!!

My baby boy… I had close to a million dreams flow through my brain all at once about you. I could see you kicking and throwing a ball, mowing the yard, and watching football with me. My dreams were big and probably on par for a dad… would you be the Buckeyes quarterback? Run for president someday? Preach every Sunday? Throw a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium?

So now on to your possible names… I am still sold on “Jackson”… but your mom is worried that it is too popular. We somewhat agree on “Carter”… your momma likes “Reid”…”Bentley” has even been discussed….  so really your name could go in any direction. Just know that we are going to put a lot of love and thought into this… so hopefully you won’t be disappointed!

I have had a country song in my head all day as I have been thinking you. It is a father singing about interactions with his son. It goes something like this, “I’ve been watching you… dad ain’t that cool… I’m your buck-a-roo I wanna be just like….. blah blah blah” 🙂 It keeps it real for me that you will be watching everything I do…good and bad. The pressure is on to show you how to be a good man… one better than I am.

There are some things I want you to see in my life that I need to work on. I want you to be able to see Christ in my life… and for you to desire to seek Him and lead your family to him. I want you to fight for the poor and the weak. If you see a boy at school that is being picked on for whatever reason… be his friend. If you see a child at lunch that cannot afford to eat, let me know so I can send extra money with you to school. You put your heart into everything you do and I will support you and encourage you… but I will never let you be a quitter like I was. I know you are going to be an athlete… but be a scholar as well! Grow big and strong physically, but make sure that your heart and mind grow as well.

I have no doubt that a year from now you will be by my side watching the Buckeyes, Browns, Cavs, and Indians. Rooting for any other team is unacceptable in this household. You will have to move in with your grandparents if you choose any of the following to root for: Michigan, LeBron James, or any team from Boston, Pittsburgh, or New York. Your mom is insisting that you take up soccer… and be a kicker in football… but you will start a strict diet and regime in June of next year to become the next great Line Backer at Ohio State. So please rest now while you can.  Your grandpa’s are going to be ready to fill what little free time you will have with loads of fishing (grandpa Kevin), biking (grandpa Grant), and conversion to USC and Arizona sports (grandpa Tom). BUT PLEASE DO NOT let grandpa Grant talking you into wearing biker shorts!

Well I will let you rest up… your busy life starts son!

Good night son

 

 

Be a Simple Kind of Man (or Woman) :)

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My Child,

When I write the next blog post to you we will know if you are a growing little boy or a growing little girl. Mom and I still haven’t settled on names for you, so for now I will call you by the names I love… Jack and Grace… so your womb name is going to be Graciejack 🙂

Graciejack,

As I was sitting here tonight thinking and praying about you… again wondering what type of man/woman you will grow to be… and how I can raise you as a humble God-loving/fearing person. A song came into my head by the late great Lynyrd Skynyrd…. it is called “Simple Kind of Man” and the lyrics go like this:

Mama told me, when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely, to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.

Ohh take your time… Don’t live too fast,
Troubles will come,
and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you’ll find love,
And don’t forget son,
There is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
And maybe some day you’ll love and understand.
Baby be a simple kind of man.
Won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Forget your lust
for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

Boy, don’t you worry… you’ll find
yourself.
Follow you heart and nothing else.
And you can do this if you try.
All I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

Graciejack… I want this song for your life (I have linked the video for your enjoyment)!! There are so many things to take from this song and really apply it to your life! Be a SIMPLE kind of man (or woman… but I am going to say man just to keep it simple… not that I want you to become a man if you are a girl… well baby you know what I mean!!). What does it mean to be simple? Can you drive a Ferrari and be a SIMPLE man? Can you buy the biggest house? Dress in the fanciest clothes? Import your drinking water from the Alps? Probably not. To be SIMPLE is to be thankful for all the many blessings that God gives you… to be humble when called to be… to give when you have little… to love unconditionally… and to forgive always.

“Don’t live too fast… troubles will come and they will pass”… can I hear an AMEN!! 🙂 I can’t say it more simply than troubles died on the Cross at Calvary 2,000 years ago!! The things we encounter in life are mere obstacles. Life is a big picture/little picture type of deal. The big picture is that you move one step closer to Heaven with each breath you take…. and that is a good thing. Little picture is that you will experience a lot of good times and a lot of bad times on earth (more bad times if the government doesn’t get it’s head out of its…..ok). As this song says… THEY WILL PASS. So when you get to that point where you may wonder where your going to find gas money (ask your mom), a guy/girl dumps you, or you get cut from the team… THEY WILL PASS!

“Go find a woman and you’ll find love…”- See your mom… enough said 🙂

“And don’t forget son, there is someone up above”- Lynyrd didn’t mean that mommy or daddy is upstairs watching you (although it may be true). There IS a big omnipresent someone up above. God is like an indestructable roof over your head. He will always be there… even when you don’t think He is or don’t want Him to be. He will never leave your side. You don’t have to walk through any doors or climb through any windows to be under his protection…. you simply ask to be let in and he welcomes you with loving and open arms.

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold… all that you need is inside your soul”… AMEN! Listen…. I am not EVER going to sugar coat life to you. I guarantee that you WILL meet more than your share of people that you want to punch in the face. There is always going to be someone prettier (handsome) in society’s eyes… faster…. better athelete…. smarter…. have more money…. and have nicer things… that is life! I can sit here right now and HONESTLY tell you that my heart is content with all the things the Lord has blessed me with and all the things your mom has forbid me to have (Siberian Husky, motorcycle, hippopontamus, etc).  Do I have selfish wants… of COURSE! Anyone that tells you they don’t have selfish wants is selfishly lying 🙂 The difference between having those wants and being content with what you have been blessed with is simple…. what consumes you? Peace or possessions? Hord peace, forgiveness, and love… gather as much of it as you can. Anything you can take to Heaven is worthy of gathering…. but I can promise you Graciejack…. you aren’t flying your own private jet to heaven… there are no parking lots or airports there.

Remember… be a SIMPLE kind of person (hmm that works) someone that will love and understand.

Two Amazing Women You’ll Never Meet (This Side of Heaven)- Grandma Rose and Aunt Judy

My child,

There are many people you will meet in your life that impress you, make you laugh, cry, or fuming mad. There will be a lot of people that come along that challenge and stretch you, educate you, and compliment who you are as a person. Those people are rare… and those are the people that you want to surround yourself with in life. Those are the priceless relationships that you cannot afford to lose and must make early in life. You will meet so many people that give you the perception that they are one of these people, but over time, those people will fade into the sunset. Then there are those truly dynamic people that will not only change your life, but will imprint your heart and soul for eternity. I want to tell you what I know about two of those women… one from mommy’s side and one from daddy’s side.

I met your mommy’s Grandma Rose at Thanksgiving dinner in 2008. I instantly felt a bond with her as she was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I felt as though she loved me instantly and that in turn made me love her instantly. That night we played card games that night and she was a firery competitor… you don’t mess with Grandma Rose when a competition is going on! What I didn’t realize at that time was that the opportunity to get to know Grandma Rose was rapidly closing… as she had Ovarian Cancer.

Child, what I want you to know and to inherit from your Grandma Rose is her strength. In all my life I have never witnessed someone fight for life Grandma Rose did. The doctor’s told her that her time was running out, but the woman never stopped! She went on with her life as though she would live forever. I remember it like it was yesterday, one of the strongest moments I have ever seen, we were in Grandma Rose’s hospital room when the doctor told her we had come to the end and there was nothing more that could be done. The doctor began to cry and Grandma Rose, just told that she had weeks to live, was comforting the doctor and sharing her faith. That blood runs through your veins my child.

The second woman had a profound impact on my life from infancy until September 2009 and that was my Aunt Judy. I was blessed to have her in my life as another “mom”. When you enjoy one of those fantastic meals your dad cooks… you can give a shout out to Aunt Judy up in heaven 🙂 Aunt Judy was the one person… no matter how mad she got at me… that I knew I could unconditionally count on in life. Her and Uncle Bill took me on vacations, holiday excursions, watched movies with me, read to me and so on. There is a cassette tape floating around somewhere of Aunt Judy singing “Tammy” to me and I was cooing away! Aunt Judy would have died before she missed a big event in my life… be it graduations, birthdays, or bringing me down to Ohio State to start my college life! She was ALWAYS there!

Aunt Judy’s life wasn’t very happy the last 10 years for various reasons, but the one thing you must know about her, was that her love was unconditional and she was devoted to those she loved. In fact it is safe to say that her life was cut short because she put the wants and needs of others before her own. It was said at Aunt Judy’s funeral that she loved two things… 1) yelling at Uncle Bill and 2) being with her family. I would challenge you with a 3rd and 4th…. she had the biggest most giving heart and she loved the Lord. She carried her Bible (that I bought her) every where she went. It would be yours today had she not chosen to be buried with it 🙂 You cannot live your life taking care of everyone around you… everyone you love… without having a heart made of heaven’s gold.

My child, the night I found out about you I had a dream… in that dream God had just formed you and gave you to Grandma Rose and Aunt Judy to take care of until it was time for you to come to mommy and daddy. You were laughing and giggling as they shared funny stories about mommy and daddy with you. They told you funny stories about your Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Kevin… and they shared with you the good news of the amazing families that you would soon enjoy. Aunt Judy gave you some of her best recipes and Grandma Rose taught you how to knit (this is why I think you are a girl). Tears roll down my cheeks every time I think of this story… because part of me is sad that you won’t get to know them… but part of me is happy because I believe God has let them know you.

My child, if you look at the lives of those that came before you, you will find no better examples of love than Grandma Rose and Aunt Judy. They were strong loving women with very different outcomes in life. Both handled obstacles with grace and faith in Jesus. Grandma Rose had tremendous strength and zest for life (as well as many other endearing qualities). Aunt Judy was a pillar of sacrifice and kindness (as well as many other endearing qualities). My child… embrace these qualities as I know you will… and let God use them to bless others!

I’ve Had My Moments… My Days in the Sun

Good morning baby!

My child, there is part of a country song that I love that says something like, “I’ve had my moments days in the sun… moments I was second to none… moments when I did the best I could do… looking at me now you may not know it… but I’ve had my moments”. Now that song is about a homeless man looking for life to be over, but I see it as a reflection of great moments in our life. With that being said, I wanted to tell you about the first great moment in my life.

10 years ago today (yesterday now) was the first best day of my life. It was 2001 and I was Grandma Julie’s house for the summer in Glendale, Arizona. I had a huge group of friends that I hung out with every night, I had my first real girlfriend, and I had a future as hot as the Arizona sun! For as wonderful as all of those things were, nothing could compare to August 22, 2001 for a much bigger reason. It was the day I was baptized.

My child, the moment was set up perfectly. You will never lay your eyes on a more beautiful sky at night than the portrait sunsets of Arizona. I told my mom that there would be a dozen or so people coming over to witness… and as we stood on the porch waiting for people… more than 50 showed up! It was the first moment that I knew God liked to party!

As pastor Kevin baptized me, affirming my commitment to follow the Lord, my heart raced with excitement because for the first time I fully understood what a relationship with Jesus was all about. I can still remember the dunk and the rise and I truly felt like a brand new person when the water washed over me. Shortly after that moment my friend Leslie told me about a Kenny Chesney song called “The Baptism”. I listened to that song, fell in love with it, and it has been firmly rooted in my head ever since. It goes something like this: “It was down with the old man and up with the new… with faith to walk in the way of light and truth…. I didn’t see no angel… just a few footprints on the shore… but I felt like a newborn baby craddled up in the arms of the Lord”.

My child, the only days that has compared to that day was the day I married your mommy and the day I found out about you for the first time. Those days were also days that made me feel new… that I was on top of the world… that God was celebrating beside me as his family grew! My child, you will have many wonderful days like these that I call “moments”.

They are moments because they are wonderful building blocks to a solid life in Christ, but they soon become part of your legacy and history. Baptism was an eternal commitment to follow the Lord, our marriage vows was an eternal commitment to your mom, and a positive pregnancy test was an eternal commitment to love you always and give my life for you if need be.

For as wonderful as Arizona was in that moment, and as devastating as it was when it all went away, the foundation was laid and the purpose for that summer was clear… Arizona was a tool God used to change my heart. I believe in destiny and paths, and I believe had my path not gone through Arizona that summer… had I not found Christ Church of the Valley that summer… and had I not been accepted by a group of young Christians… my life would not be where it is today.

My child, when your “Arizona moments” happen… and there will be MANY for you… enjoy them and cherish them… let them become part of your legacy, but DO NOT let them define you. Look for what God is doing in your life at that moment and build on that! Do not fear these moments or yearn for them when they are gone, celebrate the knowledge you learn and the story you can tell. You will learn so much from these moments and I am excited to share them with you!

178 more days!