The Notebook and Other Bittersweet Reminders

You know, sometimes you just have to wonder about God’s reasons and methods of communication. There’s a guy I know who believes with all his heart that God confirms things to him by the presence of stray pennies. If an idea pops in his head, and there is a loose penny on the ground, that means it is from the Lord. Other people feel God can use fortune cookie messages, or a song on the radio. Hey, who am I to say?

In looking back over the past week or so, I’ve run into several thought and emotion provoking moments which have been tender, and heartbreaking. It started one late night last week when I was unable to fall asleep. I turned on the TV and began playing cable roulette. Flipping from station to station looking for a channel upon which to land and settle in. I came across the Oxygen channel.

Yeah, I know.

What movie is on? None other than The Notebook. Hey, I’m a guy, but even I can appreciate this great story. As I watched it…again, it brought to my mind the love story of my parents in my mom’s final years. The unconditional and sacrificial love my dad had for my mom even after her passing in March.

Then yesterday, I was strolling through the grocery store after church, and noticed an elderly couple sitting in the little dining area inside the store. They had a simple little lunch. They weren’t even really talking together, but you could tell they were simply enjoying one another’s company while sharing a meal. As I walked by, I tried to imagine the thousands of meals they’ve probably shared together over their years. I wondered about the many memories, precious and tragic they’ve experienced together. I wondered about how it must feel to be at that age and sharing a simple meal in a grocery store with your life’s best friend.

Then last night, I watched an episode of a show I enjoy, Gene Simmons Family Jewels on A & E. In it, Gene’s girlfriend Shannon went to an antique shop and purchased an old end table. When she got it home, she found some old love letters inside. She tracked down the original recipient of the letters, and was also able to help her track down a vintage photo of her long deceased husband. When Shannon was able to present the photo to the woman, her face lit up as if, in that moment, she was transported to the day the photo was taken.

All of these moments happened within the past several days, and each one reminded me of my mom. The joy she had when thinking of her husband. The joy she had when I would call or visit. The love my parents had. The friendship they shared. It was wonderful, but also painful.

While those memories came, I was also reminded of how precious love is. To this day, I have been, as they say, unlucky at love. The one thing that breaks my heart personally is the thought of living the rest of my life alone. From the movie, to the elderly couple in the store, to the joy on the woman’s face when reunited with a long lost priceless picture…I tried to figure out what God might have been trying to communicate to me. He’s not a cruel God. He’s not really trying to rub my nose in what others have that I don’t, and may never have.

I still don’t know what it was all about. I may never know. But I’m trying to take these moments from the past several days and simply learn from them. I’m trying to appreciate the tiniest things which really define what love truly is. So many people are looking for travel and workout partners. They’re looking for people who like to dance, go white water rafting and hike. I guess that’s all fine. But I simply want a lifetime of stuff which make moments, like these ones I’ve described, possible.

Maybe it will never happen for me. But for those who are still looking for it, ask yourself if the person is substantive enough to thrill your heart when you’re in your 80s and sharing a simple meal in a grocery store. Are you with someone who, even when nothing is happening, there’s no one with whom you’d rather share that nothing, and everything. Are you with someone who, even when no words are being spoken, they’re communicating to you that their life is made complete because you’re in it. Are they going to be there with you when you can’t remember them or even your own name? Are they going to be there when illness has made it impossible for you to take care of the most fundamental and essential things for yourself? Will you do those things for them?

I know this post is pretty melodramatic, but at the same time, maybe it’s something someone needs to read and consider. I don’t know.

Mom, I miss you. I miss the joy on your face and in your voice when you’re surrounded by those you love most. I miss listening to you. I miss the way you made me laugh when you weren’t even trying. I don’t know that I’ll ever experience what you and Dad shared, but I hope to someday. Your story was the most wonderful love story I’ve ever seen.

Bad Breaks Are Opportunities

There are seasons in each of our lives which just seem brutal to endure. Sometimes we just feel beaten down by it all. Defeated. Demoralized.

I have to admit, I’ve been feeling varying degrees of all this recently. Don’t worry, it wasn’t necessary to hide the cutlery or anything like that. There just comes a time when, no matter how solid your faith, you just wonder if there’s any end in sight.

Here’s a little example of what I mean. Earlier in the week was a series of baseball games between the Giants and Dodgers. This is a storied rivalry that dates back over 100 years when both teams were in New York City. While the rivalry stirs up a lot of emotion, there was also a lot on the line because both teams are at the top of the standings, fighting for a precious playoff spot at the end of the season. With all this drama, each of the games included some unexpected challenges for the Giants. There were numerous bad calls by the umpires, each of which went against the Giants. This isn’t simply a fan’s overreaction to close calls. In each incident, the replays clearly showed the errors. And in each case, the calls went against the Giants.

The point is, life is complicated enough. Life has its own drama and challenges. Just like a baseball game, even in the midst of it all, there are moments of excitement and opportunity. Even happiness. But when stuff goes wrong that just shouldn’t, you have to wonder “are the breaks ever going to go my way?

Yes, eventually things will turn around. As in the case of the Giants game yesterday, they actually won despite the bad breaks. The key is to rise above the challenges. Rise above the things that seem unfair. Rise above the victim mentality. We must be of such character that when things are stacked up against us, something rises up within us to overcome the obstacles and win anyway. Even if the outcome isn’t as we had hoped, at least we didn’t quit. Challenges are simply opportunities to be an overcomer.

Sometimes life lessons come when we’re not even looking for them.

Hey, Lookit Me! Two Days In A Row!

OK, yesterday I was a bit melancholy. I admit it. That’s the first step, right?

When we’re in a funk, there comes a point when you have to practically will your way out of it. Some people are gifted at that kind of thing. Me, it takes me a while. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if one way is right and the other wrong. But whatever it is, I think I’m at the place now where I can accept the task of willing my way out of the funk.

Nothing changed today. In some ways, today was harder than yesterday. Whatever. The fact is, it’s time to move forward. Coincidentally, tomorrow is the beginning of a new month. For whatever reason, if I’m going to start something new, I like to start at the beginning of something. A week, a month, a year or whatever. I guess it’s just easy to remember “August 1st” than July23rd or something. But I specifically said it was coincidental that tomorrow is August 1st. It’s not like I’ve been wallowing in things just because it wasn’t fitting neatly on the calendar.

So here I am…a few hours short of August 1st. Realistically, nothing special is going to happen tomorrow or the next day to change anything. Further, I didn’t even wait for August 1st. I guess I just look at it and say, “OK, tomorrow is the beginning of a new month, and I’m going to make it better than last month!”

So God, I know you’re reading this. It’s You and me. I’ve kind of slipped into relying on myself lately, and that pretty much brought about the typical disastrous results. So I’m getting out of the pilot’s seat, and giving it back to You. Thanks for being patient with me. I’ll go back to my seat, relax, and enjoy the journey.