Springing to life

Today is March 20th. It is the first day of Spring. It is also the sixth anniversary of my IMG_4600mom’s passing from earth’s winter, into her eternal Spring, the arms of Jesus. I didn’t realize until about a week ago that her death, and her new life, came on the first day of Spring. Maybe that’s because in California, the first day of Spring doesn’t mean much because the weather is Spring-like for a good month or two by then. But in New England, Spring means you technically survived a long, rugged winter. I say technically because it snowed today for the first time in weeks. Figures.

Life is so much like our seasons. Some years, it seems like varying degrees of Spring. Maybe you have a storm here and there. But nothing major. It goes about as quickly as it came. But then there are the long, grueling winters that really grind at your resolve to go outside and deal with all the stuff that has piled up around you.

When my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and told she only had weeks to live, she was completely at peace. Completely. She was not afraid to die. She knew her destination. She knew that what was ahead was much greater than what she was leaving behind.

This winter has been brutal. In every sense of the word. Physically, emotionally, mentally. Even native New Englander say this winter has been one for the record books. And I survived it. It didn’t defeat me. It didn’t send me packing for the relative comfort of California. There have been times, not just during the calendar winter, but the life one, that it seemed giving up was the answer.

It can be tempting, when the going gets tough, to pack your things and move to a more comfortable “climate”. But it’s those grinding winters that make Spring more beautiful. More rewarding. Life is challenging. It can be downright brutal. But I have survived it. When the Spring comes, I will bathe in its beauty. I will breathe it in. But can I maintain that level of appreciation when the storm seems to be trying to kill me?

My mom sure did. That woman went through the storms of life that would break a lot of people. But anyone who knew her never knew when there was a storm in her life, and never knew the storms she endured earlier in life. Not because she was fake. But because she had a strength, grace, and peace that passes all understanding. And because she was more interested in how others were doing, than herself.

She has been gone for 6 years. And yet, she is still teaching and inspiring me to this day. God blessed me, and countless others, with her influence. I fall so drastically short of her example. Of her legacy. But I press onward. May this long, grueling winter make me a stronger, better man. And when that day comes, that first day of “Spring”, when I am face to face with my Lord, may I not leave this world defeated by the winters. But let them strengthen me, give me an appreciation and longing for what lies ahead. There must be nothing in this world that is more significant than pleasing my Father in Heaven. When that’s the case, there can be nothing on this earth that can break me. No matter how hard it tries.

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Course correction

Sunday, Sarah and I took her younger son, Jeremy, to Boston for a fun day. One thing I IMG_3780really wanted to do, and was met with unanimous approval, was to take a pedal boat out on the Charles River. It was an absolutely beautiful day for it. As an enthusiastic 10 year old, Jeremy wanted to be the one who steered the boat. Sarah wasn’t 100% comfortable with it, but she felt ok with it since I was right next to him and able to help guide him.

As you can see in the picture, there is a stick just under Jeremy’s right arm. This is the instrument that steers the boat. By pushing or pulling the stick forward and backward, you steer the boat left and right. As we were pulling away from the dock and making our way out to the open water of the Charles River, I would ask Jeremy to veer to the left. He would push the stick all the way forward. At this point, we would make a hard left turn. In doing so, we overshot where we really wanted to go. So I would ask him to take us to the right to get us back on course. So, he then pull the stick completely to the back. We serpentined our way along for a couple hundred yards, which at times made our journey a little less relaxing than we had in mind.

At this time, Sarah voiced her desire to have Jeremy and I switch seats so she could enjoy the excursion without being nervous we would run into something or someone. After we did this, I showed Jeremy that while the stick does turn us to the left and right by pushing and pulling the stick, we kept a straight path by keeping the stick in the middle, and making minor adjustments by pushing or pulling the stick a couple inches one way or the other.

How true this is in our lives. However, instead of a steering stick, maybe it’s our emotions. Our fears. Our unbridled enthusiasm. Our inexperience. Our ambition. Any of these things can cause us to steer wildly in a direction that completely overshoots our intended destination. Then we try to correct our course by flipping in the complete opposite direction. We end up zig-zagging our way along in a stressful, uncontrolled odyssey.

For me, my fears tend to be my white knuckled kung fu grip on the rudder. When I fear my dreams are slipping away, I tend to careen my way along the route that is set before me.

Yes, there are times when we must completely change our direction from something that is dangerous or fruitless. However, when we can see where it is we want to go, keeping our eye on the target, it’s just a matter of slight corrections when the tide is causing us to drift off course. There can be many obstacles along the way, but having clear vision and attention, while making these minor adjustments, we can keep ourselves from catastrophe, or just unnecessary stress.

By the way, Jeremy and I eventually switched back so he could steer again. He not only got the hang of it, he was the one who brought us back to the dock, safely, calmly, and efficiently. That’s when the photo at the top was taken.

Sarah-Jane’s Birthday!

Today is Sarah-Jane’s birthday. For no specific reason, necessarily, I have randomly <cough cough> IMG_2692-1chosen  40 reasons why I love and admire her. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Her amazing, loving, heart
  2. Her smile. It lights up a room, and my heart
  3. Her laugh. It is one of the happiest sounds I’ve ever heard
  4. Her mind. She doesn’t know it, but she’s brilliant
  5. Her style. It’s all her own, and expressive of her creativity and personality
  6. Her love of God. She inspires me everyday
  7. Her love of her children. They have never gone a single day of their lives unaware of her undying love and devotion
  8. Her love of music. I’ve been a musician nearly all of my life, but her love of music has given me a deeper appreciation
  9. Her humor. She is wicked funny! (New England is rubbing off on me)
  10. Her wisdom. I have never seen her give her kids or me bad advice. Even when it seems like it doesn’t make sense, time always proves her right
  11. Her humility. She does nothing for self glorification. She lives to make others look better, or even just good. She has a servant’s heart, and is often overlooked for this great attribute. But that’s often the plight of genuine servants
  12. Her friendship. When she becomes your friend, you have gained a fan. She will take your secrets to the grave, if you want her to. She will be there to listen to you when you need her. She will pray for you. She will weep when you weep, and rejoice when you do. Genuinely
  13. Her loyalty. She will not turn her back on you. Ever
  14. Her wit. It’s lightening quick, and equal parts humorous and deep
  15. Her emotions. I know she sometimes hates being an emotional person, but after being raised by one such woman, I appreciate a person who feels deeply, and is expressive
  16. Her beauty. Both inside and out, she is the definition of beauty
  17. Grace under pressure. She has endured a lot in life, and she never gave in to distractions and destructive behavior
  18. Her relationship with her family. I love watching them in action. Whether it’s talking about old memories, working together to get things done, or just sitting around cracking bad jokes and puns, I love that she is close to her parents
  19. Her sense of adventure. It doesn’t have to be some huge outing. It can be quite simple. But her appreciation to just getting out and experiencing life is fun and exciting
  20. Her integrity. She will not take a short cut that requires fudging on the rules. Even if something will take longer or cost more, she will do the right thing even when no one else would judge or fault her for cutting corners
  21. She is not materialistic. She gets more excited at the thought of a picnic in a park in Boston than sitting in a swanky restaurant eating food you can’t pronounce
  22. Her X-ray vision. No, not the superpower. Although it just might be, but not like in the comics and movies. She has a way of seeing in others what most people don’t notice. I am a chief beneficiary. She sees and appreciates qualities in me that make me feel bulletproof, confident and secure.
  23. Her faith. When my mom was dying, she questioned aloud who would pray for me as she did. I see how Sarah-Jane prays for those she loves, and I’m blessed to be among them.
  24. Her transparency. I have not met someone so open and honest with their disappointments, failures and difficulties. She doesn’t even know the extent to which these events have strengthened her and made her an even better person…and a great success in the most meaningful way
  25. Her love of coffee. This is probably an odd thing to point out, especially from a non coffee drinker. But I love that when I, or someone she loves brings her an unexpected cup of coffee, she lights up as if she was given a fuzzy little kitten
  26. Her authenticity. She is WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). She doesn’t put on masks to impress or get along with people. She’s who she is. She is consistent, no matter where she is or who she’s with
  27. Her singing. The girl LOVES to sing. And though she doesn’t believe me, I think she’s pretty darned good at it. I’ve never heard her miss a note. Plus, she’s a freak. She knows the lyrics to every song ever written (so it seems)
  28. Her love of baseball. What more needs to be said?
  29. Her punctuality. I appreciate being with a woman who has never made me wait…and wait…and wait…and wait…
  30. She is a dreamer. I love sitting and listening to her dreams. They are simple, but profound
  31. She is a great teacher. I have had the privilege to be around her for much of this school year. It has been a challenging year for her, but she is energized by her students and helping them succeed in their development
  32. Her compassion. I have seen her weep and rejoice, genuinely, for things that most people would hardly notice. Most of us, even when we notice people or animals in distress, will do something about it. She is a person of action
  33. Her character. Even when someone does her wrong, she will never return evil for evil
  34. Her approachability. It is uncanny how just about anywhere and everywhere we go, random people will just strike up a conversation with her. She is so friendly, people are just naturally drawn to her
  35. She knows me. Very few people in my life have known what makes me tick. No one has ever known me as she does. She instinctively knows what will touch and bless my heart
  36. She is protective. As a mama bear, she can be very mild-mannered…until someone goes after someone she loves
  37. Her dorkosity. Yeah, I just made that word up. But I love how we can walk into a Walmart, and she’s not afraid to grab a hula hoop and show how it’s done!
  38. Her receptive spirit. We have had many, many deep, introspective conversations. She is very open to my observations. She is not trying to compete with me. She is eager to see herself through my eyes, and that maybe she’s not as bad as she thinks
  39. Her values. She had many other options available to her when choosing who she would allow into her heart. But despite the inherent challenges of a long distance relationship, she was willing to give the guy in California a chance based on the unique connection they had
  40. She is my best friend. As much as we have a romantic connection, it would mean nothing were it not for the friendship we have developed. There is no one on earth I trust with my innermost thoughts and feelings. There is no one I’d rather spend my time with, even if the activity isn’t an enjoyable one. And even though I’ve been blessed with wonderful people in my life, I am more complete and fulfilled when I am sharing them with her, and her with them

I am blessed. I’ve said it many, many times. I am blessed beyond my merit. God’s grace is demonstrated when He gives us what we don’t deserve. I can’t think of anything I’ve done in my life, or ever will do that would make me deserving of Sarah-Jane and these relatively few qualities that set her apart.

I pray that this day, and every day after, she will be blessed beyond her wildest imagination. She gives and gives. She loves and loves. She expects nothing in return. From anybody. She inspires me every single day.

Thank you, Sarah-Jane, for changing my life. Happy Birthday!

Count the cost

There are times in our lives when we face significant challenges. When these times come, we are often presented with different options in how we resolve, or cope with these difficulties. These times, and these decisions, will reveal who we are at our core. Do we handle them with dignity, or do we look for an escape, or the easy way out. Do we face our difficulties, or do we curl up in the fetal position and pray it will all go away.

Every now and then, we face the temptation to go the easy route. But inevitably, that 10174800_10152333212342863_1643042142151823382_ncomes with a very high cost. Sure, the easy route can make things go away quicker, but at what cost? Relationships? Integrity? Maturity?

We must embrace these difficulties. When I was driving from California to New England, I spent the first two plus days going through a rather desolate stretch of highway. During this period, it was very easy to just kind of set my brain on autopilot. You lose good driver discipline. It’s so easy to get distracted. But when I started to reach populated areas, especially Chicago, I hit traffic. No one likes traffic. But this forced me to really pay attention and focus on what I was doing. Life is no different. Challenges force us to dig in to our values. To see what we’re made of. To see and prove what is of greatest value to us. In times like these, I often reflect on this quote:

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything it’s value.

~Thomas Paine

I would dare say that if you’re in a difficult stretch of life and there seems to be an easy way, and a longer, more difficult way, the correct way is the one you really have to work for. By grinding, by enduring, by persevering, we grow in so many important areas. Just like lifting weights, the resistance of gravity pushing down on us, and us pushing back, is what builds our strength and muscles. The path of least resistance yields only temporary relief. We will not be any better equipped for the next challenge that is sure to come.

Romans 5:So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

~Living Bible

I hate that I need grace

Life can be so overwhelmingly humbling. When that happens, it seems as if bad news comes from every direction. It’s relentless. How much easier life would be if I were never in need of grace. Whether that’s God’s grace, or grace in human relationships.

One thing I have learned throughout my adult life as a Christian; God is not concerned with my comfort zone. That’s not to say He’s not interested in my comfort. It’s just that He doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He allows troubles to come into my life. Not because He hates me, but because He loves me.

If you’re a parent, how does it make you feel when your child(ren) approach you when they are hurting? Life is heavy and complicated. They take time to sit down with you, pour out their heart, and just take time to listen to you. God is no different. When life gets heavy and too much for me to bear, He wants me to come to Him. He wants me to pour it all out to Him.

The thing about grace is that you must be humble to receive it. If you have a sense of entitlement, you’re not going to receive it. Being self sufficient is great. It’s wonderful. But my life is meant to be Goddependent. Even when I have the means to get through any problem, He wants me to depend on Him. He wants me to seek Him. His wisdom. His direction. Even ways that seem right to me, He may have another plan.

One thing I have learned is that the presence of troubles does not mean the absence of Sometimes-the-Lord-calms-the-storm.-Sometimes-he-lets-the-storm-rage-and-calms-his-cihld.God’s love and favor. It doesn’t mean we’re doomed or cursed. God’s glory is revealed in us when we trust Him. When He enables and empowers us to survive beyond what we think our breaking point is, He is glorified. When we overcome, through His power and grace, He is magnified.

I want you to know I’m not writing this because I have attained this. Not even close. I’m writing this for myself. I don’t expect this is for anyone but me. I know the answers lie within me. I have to put them out there like this, as if I were giving advice and a pep talk to someone else.

I can’t do this on my own. I end at the water’s edge. God lives not only on the shore, but in the stormy waters. He is calling me to reach out trust Him. I am human. I am flawed. Where I end, He begins. I can get so much further when I rely on Him than being self sufficient.

How I love that I need grace.

 

Where there is doubt, believe

When I first began getting to know Sarah-Jane, we were sharing deep and simple things about ourselves. Among the simple things was sharing information like what kind of cars we drive. When she told me about her car, I have to admit, I couldn’t picture it. I had heard of the model, but what it looked like escaped me.

You have, no doubt, experienced this phenomenon. Now that the make and model of her car has entered my consciousness, I see hundreds of them.

Did they all of a sudden appear, or have they been there all along, unnoticed?

Of course, they were around me all the time.

As I enter into this new chapter of my life, in faith, the road has not yet shown itself to be smooth, simple, and as had been planned. I certainly didn’t expect simple, but I had a game plan factoring in the understanding there would be inevitable obstacles. Even as much as you think you have planned contingencies, faith can only be stretched when the obstacles are greater than your plans and abilities. And like the phenomenon I described above, it seems that everywhere I turn, I’m seeing God’s assurance to me in a variety of formats, even in unconventional ways.

This morning, I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It is amusing to see it illustrated this way, 1238709_10152286434268469_691967694_nbut when you’re looking up the hill at the course, it certainly doesn’t give you an entertaining feeling. As I sit here at my computer contemplating the day ahead and the road before me, it is critical that I not focus on the road, as much as my Navigator.

Here is what He tells me:

Deuteronomy 3:22
Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.

 

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

 

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

 

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

Isaiah 12:2
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

 

Lamentations 3:25
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

 

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

As I was researching these amazing, comforting scriptures of hope and assurance, I came across one that, for whatever reason, stuck out above the others. There are times in our lives when things look so bleak, so discouraging, so fraught with challenge, that those who truly love us and have our best interest at heart, will look at the “signs” and try to speak logic to us. Their hearts and intentions are pure. But in Mark 5, we find the story of a desperate father of a dying 12 year old girl. He pleaded with Jesus to lay hands on her and heal her. While they were on their way, news had come that the daughter had died. Those around the father, trying to help him face reality, spoke logic to him. “Your daughter is dead.” They urged him not to bother Jesus about this any further. But then we see verse 26.

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Sure enough, as the chapter continues, Jesus spoke, and the girl was healed.

In the face of what seems lost, in the face of overwhelming obstacles, in the face of logic, remember His words:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

 

 

 

Ch ch ch changes

In late August of 2008, I felt the winds of change coming. At the time, I was living in San Jose, California. I had been there for 12 years, and loved it. I was part of a wonderful church, very active in ministry there, had the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had, and lived in a world class city with so much to do and enjoy. David-Jakes-on-Change-2.jpg.scaled.1000-400x533

But I knew God was sending me off into a new direction. I could have stayed where I was and been happy. But I felt God was calling me to the Sacramento area, for reasons I didn’t know. All I knew was that in following His direction, I would grow and mature in ways I wouldn’t experience by staying comfortable in San Jose.

Not to rehash stuff I’ve written before, but for the benefit of those who may be new to Crossing Paths, my first six months in Sacramento were among the most difficult of my life. I had been laid off from three jobs in those six months. The third of which came the day after my mom’s funeral. I seriously questioned why God would take me from where I felt at home and useful, to a place that seemed to be kicking me out of everything I did.

Now, five and a half years later, the winds are blowing again. In what will be no surprise to many of you who have been following the events of the last six months of my life, I am moving to New England.

In my head, the plan was that, if I were to move, it would most likely be summer, at the earliest.

But God has His own plan.

After the early professional frustrations in Sacramento, I started my own business. Building a clientele was a very slow process. Through a series of connections made through my clients, I ended up landing an association with a firm with offices in 29 states, in 80 cities around the country. When I began toying with the idea of New England, I checked out their website. No offices in the New England area.

Then, in late January, one of the attorneys in the Sacramento office asked me where Sarah-Jane lives. I explained to her where she lives in relation to Boston, the largest and most widely-known city in the region. The attorney then said, “well, you know we’re opening an office in Boston, right?”

Uhhh, no, I didn’t.

After more than 20 years in business, this firm chose February 3, 2014 to open an office in Boston. I happened to know and have a good working relationship with THE right person in the company. The one who makes the decisions on vendors for their offices around the United States. So, with one phone call, I landed the Boston office.

Without a doubt, God’s favor and blessings are working together. I don’t expect things to be easy. And other than the phone call that secured the Boston office, nothing has been easy.

By the time this entry is posted, I will be on the road toward Boston. The drive will be some 3,000 miles, and over four days. The weather will probably be challenging. There is much I’m leaving in the rear view mirror. But much lies ahead. I have been on the road of faith before. The entire experience of getting from California to New England is a metaphor for life. I don’t know how to get there, specifically. I’ll have to rely on a source to guide me to my destination. There will likely be storms and obstacles along the way. After the first two hours or so, none of what I see will be familiar to me. I will have to be smart with decisions, but also exercise some blind faith.

I will try to post updates along the way. In the meantime, your prayers are greatly appreciated!