So tonight, I’m at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure chaperoning several thousand 8th graders as they enjoy themselves in their 8th grade Gradventure. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I imagined an absolute mad house of teenagers with a few hundred chaperones pulling their hair out. And then when Alexys informed me that the group I was charged with was made up of four teenagers that didn’t want to be grouped together……..well, yeah. You can probably imagine the nightmare that was playing out in my head. To my surprise (and relief), it’s been nothing like that.
So this week has been pretty taxing on me. Andrew has been in rare form, and really testing the boundaries of my sanity. It all started this past Sunday night when he announced that he didn’t want to go to school because he didn’t like it. Okay, nothing new or surprising there. However, he then proceeded to demonstrate how much he doesn’t like it over the course of the week. Trust me when I say that it hasn’t gone well. And it all blew up tonight and resulted in restrictions being implemented. A strong lecture. And the proverbial “shortening of the leash”. And no, he wasn’t happy about any of it.
After everything was said and done, I got the kids situated at their grandparents house and then went back home to prep for my Mens Bible Study. I love these times with my brothers in Christ. And I always feel great after our meetings. And tonight was no different. Except I did have some pretty incredible “ah ha moments” tonight. Let me explain………..
We were discussing our Bible Study topic “Stepping Up”. Tonights lesson was focused on determining at what point a boy becomes a man. I know, deep topic. Anyway, one of the men referenced a stone being dropped into a lake, and the ripple it caused that kept expanding outwards (can’t say what this had to do with the topic, but it hit me pretty good). The course of the conversation ultimately went down the road of “actions & consequences” (see “The Ripple Effect – Part 2). But I immediately thought about Andrew and how he has been pushing his limits and really testing my patience. And as I visualized that ripple moving outwards, I found myself stepping back a dimension or two and wondering if this frustration I felt towards Andrew, is how God feels towards me sometimes.
See, I keep telling Andrew the same thing over and over again. Wondering when he’s going to get it!! It’s so frustrating to watch him struggle with his decisions, and know that if he would just do what I tell him to do, everything would work out alright. And as our conversation continued I found myself wondering, “am I that different from Andrew in Gods eyes?”. How often does God sit there, look at me and say “if you would just do it the way I told you to, we wouldn’t be having this conversation”. This, of course, made me start thinking about my own spiritual age. Am I still a child when it comes to my faith? Drinking from a bottle? Or have I matured in my faith? Worked my way to a better understanding of who God is and what he want’s for me? I regret to say that I am not quite sure. I’d like to say that I am mature in my faith. But the cold reality is, I don’t always feel that way. And if I’m “still a boy” in my faith, when do I “become a man”?
Food for thought. I got no answers on this one. Except to say “thank you God, for your grace, and your forgiveness”.
Okay. So before I go too deep into this one…..let me just say, I HATE Social Media. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “But Steve, I always see you on Facebook”!? So, first off….no you don’t. Because I don’t really post a whole lot anymore. Second, you see me on Facebook, because I LOVE Social Media. I know. I’m crazy. So let me explain.
It’s been said that “time heals all wounds”. And to some extent, I guess this is true. But what about the scars that are left behind?
If you did a close examination of me….you will see a number of physical scars. When I was little, I had a bad habit of falling down the stairs, and smacking my head into the cast iron radiator that some genius had installed at the bottom. This resulted in many trips to the hospital for stitches. While the injuries are long healed, if you look closely at my forehead, you will see a scar in the shape of a cross. If you look at the left side of my head (after a good close haircut) you will see yet another scar. This one the result of a young child not listening to his father when he said “DON’T RUN UP THE STAIRS!!!”. So what did I do? Yup. You guessed it. I ran up the stairs. And found the nail that was sticking out of the wall. I remember another time when my brother was “teaching me how to use a chisel”. Lesson #1….when teaching someone how to do something, make sure you know how to do it yourself. As the chisel skipped across my left pinky and ring finger, I remember thinking “OUCH!!! That’s gonna leave a mark”. I went to my Mom and asked for a bandaid (holding my hand behind my back the whole time). She asked me “what for?”. So I showed her my hand. Of course, by this time, the blood from the cuts had just about covered my hand, and I’m sure my Mom thought that I had cut my fingers off. There were many other incidents. Some involved bikes. Trampolines. And most from my own stupidity. Most of these scars, I look back on and get a pretty good laugh. Others, I don’t even remember how they happened.
Today marked the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9-11. I have written several times about my memories of this day. Where I was. What was happening. The events that transpired afterwards. And like many, I still get a little choked up when I see footage of this event. I remember a trip I took to New York City back in 2007. I went to “Ground 0”. And even 6 years later, you could still see the physical scars on some of the surrounding buildings. A constant reminder of an event that occurred years before. These scars though, didn’t bring with them a chuckle like the scars I have. Instead, it brought tears to my eyes, and a lump to my throat. I thought of all the people that lost there lives that day. As I was recalling my trip, and thinking about the different scars that we carry, it occurred to me that every one of us that remembers this horrific day, carries with us a scar from it. Ask anyone where they were on that day. What they were doing. And they will be able to recall (likely in vivid detail) everything. They can recall what they were thinking. What they were feeling. These are the scars that we carry from 9-11. As time goes on, you can begin to see the wounds of that day healing. It’s evident in the way we press forward and refuse to let this get us down. The way we insist on rebuilding. We as a nation are healing from the attacks. But we will always carry with us the scar.
Scars come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, meanings. Some are visible, others aren’t. Some make us laugh as we recall what caused them. While others make us cry. The scar that got me thinking today, wasn’t a physical scar. It wasn’t even anything that happened to me. It was the scar that was left on the families of those who lost a loved one that day. The wife who lost her husband. The husband that lost his wife. The parent’s who lost a child. These scars, in particular, are the ones I’m thinking about today. And it all started with a song I heard on the radio, about a young girl who lost her father in the attacks on 9-11. I don’t usually cry easy. But it took all of about 10 seconds for this song to reduce me to an emotional wreck. And I’ll leave you with this. Hug your kids. Call your parents and tell them you love them. Don’t miss an opportunity to make someone smile, or express to a loved one just how much they mean to you. Because you never know when it will be the last time. And another scar is added to your story.
P.S. Get some tissues ready
September 11th, 2001. I was still high from the events of the last week. On September 7th, my daughter Alexys was born. Christina and I were so excited. We had plans to begin looking for a house of our own and to officially begin our life as a family, no longer just a “couple”. But the world would have other plans for us. I remember waking up (not really, I had been up with the baby all night) on that fateful morning excited to get a good report from our pediatrician. This would be Alexys 1st visit with the pediatrician. We got everyone into the car and started working our way to Dr’s office. I remember being annoyed that the only thing on my normal radio station was news, so I started surfing the airways to find some music. Christina and I both remarked to each other about how odd it was that none of the usual stations were playing the usual music. Then we started listening to reports. At this time it was just continuing information and we were still in the dark about what had actually happened. It wasn’t till we got to the Dr’s office that we found out what had happened from the receptionist. By that time, the first tower had already fallen.
We continued with our appointment as planned. Our baby girl was healthy, and we felt blessed to have her. On our way home, we discussed the ramifications that the terrorist attacks would have on our family. See, on August 4th of that same year, I had graduated from Army Infantry Training at Ft. Benning, GA. I had joined the Maryland Army National Guard in February because it was something that I had always wanted to do, but had not yet done. Christina and I discussed it over several months and finally decided to make it happen. I think at this point we were both questioning my timing for this particular adventure. We listened to the news and wondered what this would mean for all of our plans. When I got home, I had two messages from my Platoon Sgt. (who, by the way, I had still not met since I had not yet attended a drill weekend since my graduation from basic). I remember he sounded pretty excited and was saying/yelling something to the effect of “pack your bags, we’re going to war!!!”. This of course sent several people into a panic. The rest of the day was spent making plans for the unknown. I packed my gear as instructed. And the wait for the unknown began. We put our house hunting ventures on hold. Stopped our planning for anything that would require me being present.
In the weeks and months that followed, like many Americans, we began to get back into the routine of daily life. Media of course continued to update us with what was happening at Ground Zero. And while we continued to wonder about what would happen, the prospects of my unit being activated for service started to creep further and further into the back of our minds. Shortly after the one year anniversary of that day, we started looking for a house again with the hopes that we could start our life together as a family in our own home. (Up until this time, we were still living with Christina’s parents. Not a bad thing, but we did want our OWN place). Then life threw us another curve ball. In December of 2002, my unit was called to active duty and in January of 2003 we left for Ft. Dix, NJ for “train up”. We were fortunate in that we were staying stateside, but it was still a pretty stressful year for the family. We once again put life on hold and waited till my orders were complete in January of 2004.
A lot has happened since that day. In July of 2004 we finally purchased our house. December of that year brought us a new addition to our family when our son Andrew was born. I continued to serve in the Army National Guard. Spring of 2006 would see a career change for me when I left Law Enforcement to build a new financial services practice with New York Life Insurance Company. 2007 saw the end of my military career as I was Honorably Discharged from the Maryland Army National Guard. 2008 saw another career change as I gave up my financial services practice for a management position with New York Life Insurance Company and moved the family to Florida. So much has happened in the last 9 years.
In the Spring of 2007 I was fortunate to be able to visit Ground Zero. I can’t tell you the span of emotions that swept over me that day. Standing there and seeing the results of the terrorist attacks still visible on some of the surrounding buildings. And then also seeing that the area was in the middle of being re-built. I was saddened as I walked through the museums and saw some the items recovered from the debris on that day, that represented so many lives lost. But I was also proud to see that we as Americans have not let it keep us down. We are re-building. And we are moving forward. We all lost so much that day. But it has not stopped us. Yes, we were knocked down for a moment. But we have gotten back up, dusted ourselves off, and honored those who lost their lives………by living ours.
To all of those who lost there lives on that day. To all of those who have given their lives in the fight for freedom. And to all of those serving in our military, past, present, and future. To America. I salute you, and thank you. I Will Never Forget.
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, ‘What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?’
The young boy was apologetic. ‘Please, mister…please, I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,’ He pleaded. ‘I threw the brick because no one else would stop…’ With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car.. ‘It’s my brother, ‘he said ‘He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.’Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, ‘Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat.. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. ‘Thank you and may God bless you,’ the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar.
The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: ‘Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!’
God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It’s our choice to listen or not. Thought for the Day: If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning Face it, friend – He is crazy about you!Send this to every ‘beautiful person’ you wish to bless. God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, Sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. Read this line very slowly and let it sink in… If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.