Some of my thoughts in the wake of Charlottesville, Virginia

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have brought to light the deep-seeded hatred that has lurked beneath the surface of our society for generations. It’s been our nation’s dirty little secret. Some say it’s America’s Original Sin.

Many have thought that if we ignored it, it would just go away. If we stopped giving it any credence, it would wither on the vine and die of starvation. Maybe those tiny pockets of crazy KKK folk would eventually disappear due to lack of interest. That’s the easy response. Because admitting we have a societal problem is uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. And it’s shameful.

But we cannot pretend it isn’t happening anymore. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have been pretending in the first place. But many of us have been. And although it’s been a long time coming, it appears that Charlottesville has served as a wake up call.

I would hope that if you’ve spent any time with me at all or if you’ve read any of my writings at all, it should go without saying that I deplore racism, white supremacy, and any other form of hate-filled rhetoric that these misguided characters might espouse. Let me say it again so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind: I reject racism and I repudiate white supremacy.  This a poison that will only lead to destruction. There is no room for such hatred in our society.  Period.

And there’s even less room for this type of venom in our churches.

Somehow along the way, people have tried to connect the Church with racist, white supremacist views. I assume some of this goes back to the time leading up to the Civil War, when church leaders who were sympathetic to the cause of slavery desperately needed some proof texts from Scripture to prove that the enslavement of an entire race was somehow divinely appointed. So they ripped verses out of context, twisted the meanings of different verses, and did the little song and dance that many of us do when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say instead of what it really says.

If you’ve come here thinking that Jesus encouraged and supported some kind of hate-driven agenda, you can go ahead and put away your proof texts and your mental gymnastics because I want to take a few minutes to remind you* of what Jesus has to say on this matter:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (emphasis mine)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no command greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (emphasis mine)

You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t, you should read it. Right now. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch this video. Jesus makes it pretty clear who our neighbors are. He makes it pretty clear how to show love. And he made it very clear what we’re supposed to do in response to this story.

“Go and do likewise.”

And just in case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul and see what he has to say.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (emphasis mine)

You think one race is cursed while another is elevated? You think one is inferior while another is superior? No way. Not in God’s community. There is no distinction. We should all be united. That’s our call. It’s what we’re meant to be when the love of Christ transforms us. Love your neighbor. Show mercy. Love one another.

And that’s the same thing that John tells us in his first letter to believers.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

You might as well go ahead and read the rest of that chapter. Shoot, read the whole letter. If you have any doubt about how we should live in a world full of hate, 1 John has the answer. Spoiler alert: It ain’t hate.

It’s that simple.

And it’s that difficult. Holy cow, it’s hard.

Because when I see images of people gathering to spewing  hate and breathing violent threats, my first reaction is to respond with hate. In fact, I want to punch them in the throat.

Indiana Jones punching a Nazi, much like many people want to do after Charlottesville
Image via Nazis Gettin’ Punched

That’s what I want to do. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. “Love your neighbor,” remember? One could argue that a white supremacist Nazi type of person is hardly a neighbor. So maybe it’s all OK to simply respond to hate with hate.

Wrong.

(Jesus said:) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Jesus wasn’t merely talking in theory. While we were still sinners, while we had set up residence in the Enemy’s camp, Jesus put “love your enemies” into practice when he spread out his arms and died for all of humanity – even the ones who beat him, hurled insults at him, and executed him.

If I’m being honest, that’s a pretty tough example to follow. And I also have no idea how to put that into practice. Because I’m outraged at the fact that people think it’s OK to treat other people like they’re less than human. I will not let their trash gain legitimacy in our society. And I will not allow them to hijack my faith.

But where is the line between responding in holy anger (yes, there is such a thing) and responding in hate? I don’t know. But I do know this: I know in the end even after everything else has passed away, only love will remain.

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest, the most excellent way is love.

It’s all about love. It will always be about love. Love will remain. That’s the answer to the ugliness that was displayed in Charlottesville. It is the answer to any ugliness we encounter, honestly. That’s what it boils down to.

Love.

So I’m learning how to choose love in the midst of hate. I’m learning how to stare Satan’s minions in the face and respond in love. Because these all of us desperately need Jesus.

I know what the answer is. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what it looks like in real life. How do we flesh this out? I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to start.

So I’m learning to stand with love. That should be my default setting: love. But since we’re being honest here, I can tell you that it isn’t my “go-to” response most of the time. But I’m doing my best. I’m learning to love the way Jesus loves me.

I hope you’ll learn with me.

*Do I really think that sharing these verses is going to change the mind of a devoted white supremacist? No. I don’t think they really care about the words of Jesus. Or Paul. Or John. I doubt they really care about anything other than statements that promote their own twisted, hate-filled, repugnant views. This post is really for people who might be on the fence, although I don’t see how you can be on the fence. It’s also for people who are looking at these white folks, connecting the dots, and thinking that this is what the American church is all about.  

I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

This post about nostalgia, Star Wars toys, and classic arcade games contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

I’ve only been working at the new job for about two months and I’ve already done some pretty memorable things. I got to tour a local bottling plant and was very tempted to pull a Laverne and Shirley. I was a good boy and didn’t do it. But, man. It was so tempting.

Then, not long after that, I had the opportunity to tour a local radio station and Continue reading “I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend”

We stand by Jennifer. I hope you do, too.

Jennifer has been an integral part of our family for the past nine years. Through her work with Adoptions of Indiana, she has served as our social worker. It was because of her that we were able to bring Mihret home. And Weldu, too.

I have no idea what our family would be like without her direct influence. And for that, we are forever grateful.

We stand by Jennifer.

Jennifer’s story is woven into ours. She has had a huge impact on our family. That’s why the horrible news of her husband’s death hits us pretty hard. And that’s why I’m sharing this GoFundMe campaign. I can’t imagine losing someone in such a public way. This is just one way we can stand by Jennifer as she and her family rebuild and carry on. From what I understand, Jennifer plans on continuing the priceless work she’s already been doing. That’s a great thing. I hope she can continue to impact countless other families throughout Indiana.

But first, there are some other things that need to be taken care of. And maybe you can help.

It would mean the world to our family if you would consider donating to this cause. I realize I can’t speak for them on a first-hand basis, but I’m sure it would mean a lot and countless other families whom Jennifer has served, too.

According to the page itself, here is the plan for using this financial assistance:

  • Emergency rescue and medical out of pocket costs
  •  Funeral expenses
  • Bereavement counseling and support for Jennifer and her children
  • Loss of family income
  • Future educational needs for the children
  • Long-term financial stability

Jennifer Morrissey has given so much of herself to so many families throughout the state. Supporting her during her family’s unimaginable moment of crisis is really a no-brainer. It is a right thing to do.

I hope you feel the same way.

Dear children, thanks for making me Dad

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your continued support. 

An Open Letter to my Children #ThanksBaby #ad

It has been said that when a baby is born, a dad is born. Pampers believes that is true. That’s why this Father’s Day, and every day, they’re thanking babies for empowering Dad and empowering him to discover new roles as he journeys through this thing called Fatherhood.

That’s definitely true for me.

I had helped out at our church’s day care when I was in high school. I had also served in another church’s nursery shortly after Christy and I had gotten married. I’d even helped babysit some young children over the years. But when my son was born, everything changed.

Because being Dad isn’t babysitting. It’s not even close.

Me with the Kids #ThanksBaby #ad

When I held my son for the first time, my world changed. I had been warned that it would change, but I had no idea how much it would actually change. It’s unbelievable. You’re holding this little, tiny, itty-bitty human being and nothing else matters. Nothing. You’re responsible for everything. This baby is relying on you. Of course, mom’s part of the story, too. We’ve been partners in this journey since Day One. But when it hits you that you’re actually a Dad, it’s an overwhelming realization. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s a scary proposition, too. You certainly become a new man when a child becomes part of your family.

Every one of our children has a completely different story about how they came into our family. And each journey has changed my life forever. For that, I’m grateful. So I’ve decided to write a brief note to each of them.

Dear Aiden,

Me and Aiden #ThanksBaby #ad

As the firstborn, you are the trailblazer. Everything is new. And I’m sure I’ve screwed up a lot over the years (still kicking myself for making you cry when I was coaching you on the baseball field).  And let’s not talk about the first time I changed a diaper. Let’s just say it was a comedy of errors.

I’m thankful that we’re blazing this trail together. I see your desire to help others, your natural leadership ability (on the field, at church, and in life in general), and your desire to make a difference with your life, and my heart explodes with pride, joy, and excitement. You’re going to do great things, my boy. In fact, you already are.

Even though we might disagree about which episode of Star Wars is the best.

Love,
Dad

Dear Weldu,

Me and Weldu #ThanksBaby #ad

I’m thankful that you joined our family last year. You filled the empty chair at our dining room table. You have made our family complete. Thank you.

I am proud to call you my son. I am excited to see you use your athletic gifts to the best of your ability, taking advantage of the opportunities that are before you.  Your English continues to improve and you are going to do great things wherever you are.

I may not be the biggest fan of soccer, but I’m your biggest fan. So I will continue to go to your games, even though I have no idea what’s going on half the time. Because you are worth it.

You always will be.

Love,
Dad

Dear Aly,

Me and Aly #ThanksBaby #ad

Oh, Aly.

Where do I begin?

You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer. I think you cried for the first 6 months, simply because you wanted to. That’s why some of our extended family still calls you “Waah-ly.” Thanks for growing out of that. Seriously.

Your love for animals, especially dogs and horses, is infectious. You have the biggest heart for others that I’ve ever seen. Ever. And your artistic ability? Mind-blowing. You certainly have an eye for photography.

Thank you for reminding me to explore new things and to make the most of every opportunity I have. You are our free spirit. But I hope you realize that wherever you go and whatever you do, you will always have a home right here in my heart.

Love,
Dad

Dear Mihret,

Me and Mihret #ThanksBaby #ad

You opened my heart, helping me realize that family is so much more than just blood. When it was time to leave you that first day, I had to put you back in your crib and go back to our Guest House. You cried when I put you down. It took all that was within me not to reach back down, scoop you out of your bed, and promise you that I will never ever leave you again. Ever. You broke my heart that day, but your smile makes my heart grow every time I see it.

You are the most determined little girl I’ve ever met. I think you’re the most determined little girl anyone has met.  And you have such a joy for life that it’s absolutely contagious. Thank you for challenging me with your determination. When you keep on pushing, never accepting “no” for an answer, you encourage me to have that same fighting spirit. You light up the room with your smile. And that laugh of yours? It just makes everything better. Thank you for being you and for inspiring everyone around you. You certainly inspire me.

Love,
Dad

None of my children are babies anymore, but I’m still grateful that each one of them call me Dad. It’s an honor that I do not take lightly.

I’m also thankful for companies like Pampers, who honor dads for simply being dads. They recognize dads for all of the amazing things they do – both big and small – to help little ones have a better, loving, and more fulfilling life.

OK. Now it’s your turn.

What do you have to say to your baby? What are you thankful for?

Share your gratitude on twitter by using the #ThanksBaby hashtag!

How I was Able to Share an Ice Cold Coke with my Office Teammates

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareIceColdFun #CollectiveBias

How I was able to share an ice cold Coke with my teammates #ShareIceColdFun #ad

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently made a career change. I left my job as an Instructional Assistant, working with lower elementary school students with Special Needs. Now I work with a nonprofit organization. I get to help adults with Special Needs find meaningful work in the community. I’m not going to lie. This was a bittersweet decision. I really enjoyed working with those kids. But it was also a no-brainer.

I’ve joined a pretty amazing team of Employment Advisors. I’m excited to work with them. And they’ve been very helpful as I’m trying to get up to speed. They’re a hard working, dedicated, and passionate group of people. It’s an honor to join forces with them to help change lives in our community.

I wanted to show my appreciation for the work my teammates do. They have been so patient and welcoming and accommodating during this transition. I also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to everyone on my team. So I created a little gift basket to share, thanking them for making me feel like I’m already an important part of the team.

My quest for the perfect gift basket.

This Summer, the Coca-Cola™ Share an Ice Cold Coke campaign has returned. It’s bigger and better than ever before. They’ve added a thousand new names this year.  They’ve also added last names!

That’s right. Last names.

I had to include personalized Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero™, Diet Coke®, Coca-Cola Cherry, and Coca-Cola Life bottles in this gift to my teammates. It just made sense. So, I visited our closest Giant Eagle store, the Market District in Carmel, and went about grabbing some personalized bottles and some other goodies to share with my team.

Why a Giant Eagle store?

Have you seen their bulk candy and trail mix section?

Giant Eagle treats #ShareIceColdFun #ad

It’s amazing.

So I hit the road for my local Giant Eagle (you really should check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest profiles) on a quest to find some goodies for this special basket I’m creating. When I walked in the door, it was like the heavens opened up before me. There, right before my eyes, was the sea of personalized Coca-Cola bottles. It was right there in the cold drinks section at the entrance.

It was glorious.

So I grabbed the appropriate Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles of Coca-Cola. I went over to the bulk area and got a bucket of cheesy popcorn and created a container of trail mix. Although i probably could have spent another hour or two wandering through the store, I had other things to get done that evening. That’s what’s great about Giant Eagle stores. I love the layout. I love the products they have. And of course I love their bulk confections. I’m never disappointed when I visit a Giant Eagle store.

An appropriate gift basket for a small nonprofit office

Share an Ice Cold Coke with an office gift basket #ShareIceColdFun #ad

In addition to some tasty treats and personalized Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles, I wanted to give some things that were fitting for our team’s setting. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are times where our equipment and supplies can feel cobbled together. Such is the nature of an organization like ours. Our time, money, and energy are focused on serving our clients to the best of our abilities. So, some necessities might become a little scarce sometimes.

I ran to a local discount store and found a few things that every office like ours must have. And I included them in my gift basket.  Our office has a refrigerator. It has a microwave. But it’s almost near impossible to find any eating utensils. So I included plastic cutlery in my basket. And speaking of the basket, I decided to use a stackable mail tray as the container to hold all of these tiny gifts. That will come in handy with keeping things organized. I also found some inexpensive buckets to add a splash of color to our office.

The nature of our work requires that we keep detailed records. There are timesheets and follow up sheets and sheets upon sheets upon sheets. Almost all of them require black ink. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard enough for me to keep track of my pens. It’s like they grow legs and walk away. Black ink pens are even harder to keep track of. So my gift basket included a package of black ink pens to support the cause. Because if we don’t have black pens, we cannot do our jobs effectively. They’re that important.

I considered putting the basket in the Break Room, but this is a gift for my team. So I sat it on a desk in the office that our team shares. Giving office supplies in a gift basket might be considered “out of the box,” but I thought it was a highly appropriate gift for my teammates.

I hope they enjoyed it. Because I know I appreciate them.

Share an Ice Cold Coke Gift Basket for my office #ShareIceColdFun #ad

Who will  you share an ice cold Coke with this Summer?

It’s time to finally start printing your photos the easy way. $1000 of Amazon Gift Cards to be won!

Thanks to Amazon for sponsoring this post about Amazon Prints and for providing prizes for the giveaway! You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Amazon Prints #AmazonPrints #ad

Summer Break is here! With all of the fantastic Summer memories that we’re going to have, now is the perfect time to remember that Amazon has launched Amazon Prints. It’s a photo service that allows all customers to print their memories. If you’re a Prime member, you can just upload your photos to your Prime Photos account with free unlimited photo storage. Then you simply choose the product you want and have it shipped for free. These products include, but are not limited to, photo books, photo canvases, calendars, and wall décor.  If you’re not a Prime member, you’re in luck, too! You get 5 free GB of storage with Prime Photos. You can store and print all of your favorites all Summer long! And the prints start as low as $.09 each.

It’s a pretty great deal.

From football to soccer to camps and a possible trip or two out of town, our family has a lot on our plate. I know we’re going to make some great memories along the way. I’m glad Amazon Photos is here to help me share the great photos we’re sure to capture this Summer.

Enter the Giveaway!

Now’s your chance to win an Amazon gift card! Head on over to Amazon Prints and check out all of the amazing things you can do with their photo printing service. Then share in the comments below what kind of photos you would like to have printed with Amazon Prints. In another comment, share your favorite Amazon Prints feature.  Then simply follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I was so close to winning the Spelling Bee

Our Fifth Grade classes (all two of them*) had gathered in our school’s Media Center/Library. Each Friday, our classes had held a Spelling Bee. And now, all of the winners of those previous competitions from both classes were together in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, Spelling Bee grudge match with One Speller to Rule Them All. The winner, of course, would represent our tiny Stockwell Elementary in the Regional Bee. An the winner of that went on to the National Spelling Bee. This wasn’t some run of the mill Spelling Bee. It was for all the marbles.

My 5th Grade School Picture

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

When our teacher announced who would represent our class in the Fifth Grade Battle Royale, I must admit I was a little shocked when she called my name. “I never won a Spelling Bee,” I protested. I honestly didn’t remember winning any of the Friday showdowns. But several of my colleagues disagreed with me. And my teacher disagreed with me. So I was included in the list of contestants.

I was a Finalist in my school’s Spelling Bee.

I felt ill-prepared and under-qualified. As we walked into the Media Center/Library, I’m not gonna lie: I felt like the proverbial lamb heading to the slaughter. I was doomed. I was prepared to be a quick Out, getting disqualified on the first word I tried to spell.

Things didn’t work out like that, though. They rarely work out the way they play out in a Fifth Grader’s mind. Do they?

I spelled my first word with no problem. Amazingly enough, I don’t remember what word they gave me. Then I got another one right. Contestants were dropping like flies, but I was still in the game.

Then a good friend of mine misspelled a relatively easy word. It was either “there” or “reed” or something like that – a homophone that you’re likely to misspell if you don’t ask for a definition. He spelled the wrong word. He chose poorly.

Things started looking up

I started wondering if I was actually going to win this thing. There were only FOUR contestants remaining. I was one of them! Yes, maybe so! I could possibly win the Spelling Bee!

Another friend misspelled a word. I knew right away that she did. The word was a piece of cake. Instead of getting harder, this thing was starting to get easier. Victory was within my grasp. And I was ready for it.

And then there were TWO.

Another friend misspelled a word. I don’t remember what it was, but I know I knew how to spell it. That left two of us. There was just one more person standing in between me and Spelling Bee glory. I saw myself as the Underdog, since I didn’t think I belonged there, anyway. I was David and I was ready to slay Goliath and claim my prize.

We battled back and forth. My competitor was tough. You could cut the tension with a sharpened No. 2 pencil. Neither one of us was going to budge.

“Spell the word, ‘Exercise.'”

That’s what the Teacher told me to spell. And my stomach dropped. I felt like Charlie Brown during the National Spelling Bee when he was told to spell the word “Beagle.”

Exercise…

exercise weights
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Exercise…

running shoes
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Exercise…

baseball tennis ball basketball tennis racket soccer ball
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Exercise…

vintage bicycles, bikes
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“E…

x…”

I don’t remember how I spelled the word. I knew there was a “C” in there. And I wasn’t sure if there was a “Z” or an “S” at the end. I might have spelled it “excersise” or “excersize” or something like that. The details don’t really matter at this point. I know I spelled it wrong.

The bell dinged. I was done. Finished. I finished second. Runner-up. It was quite an accomplishment. I was named the Alternate Representative for our school, and given a copy of a book of words to study for the Regional round of competition – just in case the winner was somehow unable to fulfill his duties. There was a lot to be proud of. But I was still disappointed.

“You never forget…”

When we sat around the dinner table that evening, I told everyone about how I almost won the Spelling Bee. I showed some disappointment in myself for missing the word “exercise.”

“Well, I can tell you one thing,” my Dad said, offering some encouragement . “You won’t ever forget how to spell ‘exercise.’ I still remember the word I missed in our school’s Spelling Bee. And I’ll never forget how to spell it.”

He’s right.

I’ve never forgotten how to spell “exercise.” I will never have to look it up again.

The same is true about street signs. When I took my test for my Driver’s License (on April 1, by the way), I only missed one sign: the car with the squiggly lines underneath.

Slippery When Wet Street Sign I couldn’t decide if it was telling me that there was a curvy road ahead or if it was slippery when wet. I knew there was another sign that actually says “Slippery When Wet,” so I said it was a curvy road. I chose…poorly.

This sign is etched into my memory. I will never forget it. I doubt I ever will. Even if I’m old and can’t tell you the difference between a Stop sign and a Yield sign, I’m confident that I’ll be able to tell you that this sign means Slippery When Wet.

Why do we do that?

When I began writing about my Spelling Bee experience, I was planning on asking why we focus on the negative? I finished second in the whole school. I was the Alternate Representative for our school. Pretty cool, right? Why focus on the misspelled word?

Why focus on the one sign I missed on a test 25 years ago?

Because that’s how we learn from our mistakes. That’s how we grow. That’s how we get better.

There shouldn’t be any surprise that I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. But I have a choice to make: I can wallow in self-pity, beating myself up for something as minor as a misspelled word, or I can get up, learn from that mistake.

I choose to get better. I choose to keep improving and to learn from my mistakes. 

Hopefully, you do, too.

* You read that right. We only had two Fifth Grade classes at our school. We were the Stockwell Woodsmen and we were a relatively small school. And I loved every minute of being part of that small community.

This is a major announcement for our family

Disclaimer: This is a relatively long post. And it’s not unlike a winding stream with other tributaries adding to it. But I feel like it’s important to give you the backstory to this announcement. If you can’t stand it and really just want to see what the major announcement is, just skip down to the “tl;dr” statement at the bottom.

Man Praying in Church
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A career shift?

I was in high school. We were wrapping up our home Bible study with some prayer requests. A good friend of mine shared with our group that his dad had just lost his job. They were concerned. We all were.

I don’t know his whole work history, but I do remember that he’d taken on a few different careers during his life. He had training as an engineer and had graduated from one of the top engineering schools in the country. He’d had some jobs in that field. But I also remember that he ran a print shop at one point in his life.

Not long after my friend shared this important prayer concern, his dad was hired by our church. He had already been handling many of the organization’s administrative duties on a volunteer basis. Why not go ahead and start paying him? Made perfect sense.

He served on the church staff for more than twenty years. And now he’s enjoying his retirement.

I don’t know if he felt a wandering in his soul. I never asked him. Maybe I should. But I do know that my friend’s dad eventually found the perfect “fit” for himself. And it seems like all of his previous professional and volunteer experiences prepared him for his administrative role with my home church.

It started this past January. I started to get the sense that I was on the brink of a major career change. Maybe my career was about to make a major shift, not unlike my friend’s dad. I told my brother as much while we were driving home from Mr. Gerhart’s funeral. I could tell that things were about to change. And maybe I’d find that perfect fit that aligns my skills, experiences, education, and passion into one dream job.

That was just the beginning of this journey.

So, what makes me tick?

I’ve come to realize that I am not happy unless I’m working to serve other people. It’s my passion. My heartbeat. It’s what makes me tick. When I worked at Slingshot SEO/digitalrelevance, I was drawn to the nonprofit clients who were spending a considerable amount of energy and effort to help others. As I continued down that digital marketing road, I began to dream: “What if I could take these skills that I’ve honed and the knowledge that I’ve gained and used it to help smaller organizations who are helping other people?”

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It was a wonderful idea. But it wasn’t one I could execute anytime soon. I needed something to pay the bills. So I cobbled together a couple of jobs. You might remember that I thought it was a little too…cliché…and predictable. Even after leaving the school to stay home with my son, I still wound up finding myself back in another Special Needs classroom less than a year later.

After looking back at my work history over the past decade or so, it’s become pretty clear that helping people and serving others. It was also clear that I wasn’t going to be able to retire at either the Christian retail store* or as an Instructional Assistant at a school. So I started looking for positions that would give me the opportunity to help people.

I had  a few interviews. Several, in fact. There was a local organization who brought me in for two separate interviews last Summer. I never heard from them again, even though they promised to keep me updated. I had another promising interview not too long after that. It went well. I thought it. Never heard from them again.

A brief aside:  How hard is it to send a simple rejection email after you’ve met with a candidate? If you can’t be courteous enough to let me know that you chose the other person, perhaps I don’t want to work for you. Or partner with you. Or support you. If you can’t handle the little things like a simple rejection email, what does that say about how you handle the big things?

But I digress…

It was just a dream

A few months, a friend of mine told me about a position with a local organization that I might be interested in. She sent me the job description. At first glance, I didn’t think I was the kind of person they were looking for. But I believed this was the type of job I was looking for. And it really didn’t hurt anything to send them my resume. So I shot them an email. I didn’t really have my hopes up. I’d gotten my hopes up for other positions that I thought were a “perfect fit.” So I just went about my business, just doing what I do.

They called me in for an interview. Things went really well. Then they asked me back for another interview with the whole team. Things went really well. And in the midst of discussions with this organization, we moved out of one house and into another. And we were gearing up for the final push towards the end of the school year at my school.

Transitions!

Transitions everywhere!

Then, these dreams started popping up…

It has happened at least three times during the past two months. And each dream has pretty much followed the same storyline. For some reason, I’m back at the church where I preached for several years. Things are arranged differently. And a lot of people have passed away. You know how dreams go: It feels different. It feels the same. I know exactly where I am and I have no idea where I am, all at the same time.

All of a sudden, I’m expected to preach. I’m woefully unprepared as I try to piece something together last-minute. As I step on stage to deliver a cobbled together sermon, I wake up.

I think I know why I keep having this dream

It’s because of the transitions. When things get unsettled, I wind up having dreams that are similar to this. The dream keeps happening at this small church because of the interviews I’ve had recently. During my conversations with potential employers, I’ve discussed my experience in this small country church – both positive and negative.

Believe me, I’m long past having any hard feelings about what transpired. God made sure of that when He kicked me in the teeth a few years back. But I’m convinced that all of the discussions about my preaching experience, coupled with all of the life transitions that are going on, I kind of had to emotionally and mentally work through the direction my life is taking. And that has happened through this dream.

I believe I’m ready to announce the new direction for our family. No, we’re not adopting again. No, I’m not returning to the pulpit. And we’re certainly not moving again anytime soon. I have accepted a position with a local organization. I will be serving as an Employment Advisor, helping adults with Special Needs find jobs and thrive at their jobs. That’s right. I’m going to be a job coach.

And get this: I’ll also be taking over their digital promotions. So I’ll be overhauling their website and coordinating their social media efforts. How cool is that? I get to help people and take what I’ve learned about digital marketing to help a small, local nonprofit improve their digital footprint!

The streams, they have converged.

Of course, this isn’t anywhere close to anything that was on my radar six months ago. There’s a lot I need to learn. I realize that. That’s probably why I kept showing up unprepared in my dreams. But I know that whatever I don’t know, I’ll be able to learn. I’ll be part of a great team and I’m sure they’ll help me as I try to help them. Am I a little nervous? Sure. But I’m also excited beyond words.

Will I retire with this organization? I don’t know. I certainly hope so. There’s definitely opportunity for professional growth. And a few of my teammates have been with the organization for several years. There’s some staying power here.

tl;dr – I’ve accepted a position as an Employment Coach, helping people find and thrive in their jobs.

While I’m sad to leave my teammates and students in our Essential Skills classroom, I know they are going to have an amazing year next school year.  I’m very excited to kick off this next chapter in my life. And I’m looking forward to what will unfold over the next few years.

 

* Family Christian Stores recently ended its 85 year run and closed all 240 stores. Even if I’d stayed with them, it’s a sure bet I would not have retired as an FCS team member.

 

They call me Baby Driver

This post about the film,  Baby Driver, contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Have you seen the trailers for the movie, Baby Driver? It looks like it could be a fun movie. It also looks like it’s similar to other movies with similar themes. But that’s OK. As of this writing, it has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And the American public is never wrong. Right?

Don’t answer that.

Every time I see this trailer, though, I expect to hear Baby Driver from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Are you familiar with this song? It’s pretty great. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I really think this song should be part of its soundtrack. I haven’t found it in any of the film’s soundtrack listings. That’s unfortunate.

If you haven’t heard it before, you should go ahead and check it out here. And if you have heard it, go ahead and click the link, too. Because I know you’ll want to hear it again.

I love this album. It was on regular rotation in the tape player in dad’s car. I learned The BoxerCeciliaBridge Over Troubled Water, Keep the Customer Satisfied,  Baby Driver, and the rest of the songs by heart. I was innocent enough that I took the songs at face-value.

This album entered my car stereo’s rotation when I crawled under my pop cultural rock and played my Metallica/Simon and Garfunkel mixtape quite frequently. I initially took the songs at face-value.

Then it happened.

I was driving along, minding my own business, when Baby Driver came on. I sung along with the lyrics when I came to the chorus. Paul, Art, and I started singing about engines and the skies parted before me and it was like my eyes had been opened for the first time.

I had to pull over.

I hit “rewind” and listened to the chorus again. Yes. I’d heard it right. I’d been singing it right the whole time. But I had misunderstood the song for years. Years, I tell you.

Much to my dismay, this song wasn’t about a kid who liked to play with toy cars. And it wasn’t about someone who likes to race cars. He wasn’t inviting someone to check out the car he’d been working on in his garage.

And he aint’ talking bout no race car engines.

Race car engine

Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

I was in shock. I was horrified. And I might have been a little bit embarrassed as I sat in my pulled over car, contemplating the song’s meaning that had been sitting right in front of me for years. Years, I tell you!

Baby Driver didn’t mean what I thought it meant.

I started to wonder what other songs didn’t mean what I thought they meant. Turned out that there were several songs on that album that weren’t quite as innocent as I originally thought.

Don’t even get me started on Cecilia

Has something like this happened to you? Did you misunderstand the meaning of a song or a phrase when you were a kid, only to find out much later that it had much more “adult” meaning?

10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)

Warning Beware of the Tuba Player

A few weeks ago, it seemed like everyone and their brother posted a list on facebook: 10 Bands I’ve Seen in Concert (1 is a lie). You know this list. Right? The poster shares the names of ten bands he or she has seen live and in concert. One of the ten is a bald-faced lie. You’re supposed to guess which one is the imposter.

It was kind of fun. So I decided to play along. I couldn’t just do it the way everyone else was doing it, though. No, I had to do mine with a little twist. I mean, what else would you expect from a life-long Band Geek? Here’s what I posted.

Marching bands!!!

10 Bands I’ve Seen (1 is a lie):

1. Evansville North Green Brigade
2. Harrison Warrior Command
3. Madison Scouts
4. Castle
5. Ben Davis
6. Indiana University Marching Hundred
7. The Marching Pride of Lawrence Township
8. Cowan Blackhawk Brigade
9. Center Grove Trojan Band
10. The Pride of Paoli

Can you guess which one is the lie? I was a little surprised that a few people picked it out right away. If you want to play along, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and share your guess. But come back here and find out the answer.

Warning! Here be the answers! Spoilers ahead!

Continue reading “10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)”