Building A Better Kind Of Wall

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Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Early in the morning, inside a white-walled compound sitting next to a busy two lane highway. I stood in a large outdoor shelter waiting for my toast to pop up in the toaster. Scanning over the Spanish labels on the butter, jelly, and peanut butter containers spread across the table. I couldn’t help thinking, “why can’t grape be the universal jelly flavor instead of strawberry? It’s always strawberry”.

My useless morning thoughts were interrupted by a man speaking behind me, “Are you with the group from Kentucky?” I couldn’t contain my grin, being a proud Kentuckian and making no attempts to hide my heritage. No, I don’t walk around barefoot, carrying a moonshine jug. But I make no pretenses by speeding up my slow and thick Kentucky accent or correcting the grammatical butcherings that I avoid using when writing.

When I answered, “Yeah, I’m with the Kentucky team”, he immediately asked how our group ended up here. “Here” was the 1Mission home base.  1Mission is a community development organization that gives people in poverty an opportunity to earn a home by serving in their community. In the last 10 years, they have built over 800 homes in Central America (primarily in Mexico). Work teams arrive from the USA to work 2-3 day shifts, and new homes are built in only a few weeks time.

“How did a team from Kentucky wind up here?” was a common question there, as most of the other teams were from Arizona. And my grin got just a little wider when I was personally asked this question while waiting for my toast. “Well, a few years back, my daughter raised enough money to build a house. And our church has sent a team here to build every year since then.”

About the time I started to tell my patchy version of the events at a Christ In Youth conference that started things in motion, my daughter Maddie walked up and I gave her a chance to finish the story that started with her.

I walked away smiling because I knew that the reason we were here was because Maddie simply said yes to God on that day at CIY. CIY’s website today loudly proclaims, “Amplifying Christ’s call to be kingdom workers”. Another page states that “God is using high school students to change the world”.

How true that turned out to be! When Maddie returned home from her conference as a high school junior, she explained to me that she had taken a challenge card to raise $4,000 to build a home through 1Mission. At the time, it didn’t seem real feasible to me. I don’t know if she realized how much money $4,000 was, but she did realize how big her God was. I saw a big Goliath, while she (like David) saw a bigger God. And her faith was bigger than her obstacle. So she moved. And a lot of God’s people moved with her. Enough was raised to build a home.

Soon afterward, Maddie and her mother started plotting to take a trip to Mexico to participate in building a home. A team was assembled, the trip was made, and another home was built. Lives were forever changed both here and there.

How did a team from Kentucky get hooked up with 1Mission?

As I walked away that morning, I fully realized that the reason I was there, the reason that one house was funded, and the reason that our church had sent four teams to build four houses………………

Was that one young lady had said “Yes!” to God one time.

When we search for our own talents or spiritual gifts, if you’re like me, you probably have trouble confidently naming just one. But I’ve realized over the past few days that a simple yes to God’s calling, in all things, large and small, has a value that we can’t measure with human eyes. Because once we start a ripple, we don’t know what will happen once God carries that ripple beyond our sight. And we have no clue just how big of a wave that a big God can make out of one little yes.

I had personally run out of excuses for not tagging along on one of these trips to Mexico. Our youngest son turned 13 in December and we were the only remaining family members who had never participated in building a home there. So we helped make up a team of 19. I felt useless at times, due to my lack of construction skills combined with struggling with dry heat and headaches. But any negative feelings were overwhelmed by the feeling of being exactly where God wanted me to be. Serving others in the midst of a group of people that excel in the ripple starting business. Helping those who struggle to help themselves. Patiently teaching the next generation valuable and confidence-building skills. Modeling the true heart of a servant for both their peers and our youth.

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Yes, I needed to be there. Because I knew that the people who, year after year,  made these and other trips to selflessly serve others, were the exact same people who work tirelessly to serve God by serving others in their own community. I needed to change, to become more like them. To see the world just a little bit differently. To learn to say yes, even to some things that may sound crazy. Maybe you do too?

And maybe all of us, while all the bickering about a border wall is going on, could just learn to love just enough to help people where they are. Whether it’s in our own home, down the street, or even Haiti, Mexico, or other impoverished countries.

High school students really can change the world. Not with a vote, but with their heart and their faith. Maddie’s wave is still moving and growing. It started with a simple yes.

How hard will we look for our own yes today?

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Mister Magoo and a Dose of Gratitude

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I rushed out the door with my son Kal one fall morning, trying to get him to school on time.  As I started down the hill of our leaf-covered driveway, I sensed that something just wasn’t right with my vision.  It took entirely too long to realize that a lens had popped out of my glasses.  Driving with one good eye and one bad eye seemed to be more dangerous than simply removing my glasses.

Kal always took his morning flag-raising duties seriously.  I didn’t want to make him late.  There was no time to go back and find the missing lens.  I took my glasses off and drove on.  “Dad, can you even see without your glasses?”  Actually I couldn’t see well at all.  But I knew the route well, and I could at least make out images of large things like cars.

As a kid I never really understood if Mister Magoo was actually blind, or if he just couldn’t see.  I knew he caused a lot of cartoon chaos behind the wheel of his car, but I was pretty sure he never caused any real harm.  So I drove on.  “Yeah Kal, I can see good enough.”

After dropping Kal off at school, I drove back towards our home to hopefully recover my missing lens.  I knew there were only about two million freshly fallen leaves covering our driveway, and I was pretty sure the lens was somewhere in the middle of them.

My mind wandered as I realized how poor my vision had suddenly become and how I was struggling just to drive.  Thoughts drifted back to a time nearly twenty years ago.  Sobering memories rushed in of a time when my heart was full of gratitude.

I remember so plainly becoming a father for the first time.  The feelings of awe.  Experiencing in the most powerful way just how loving and awesome God truly is.  And getting a new glimpse of how small and powerless I am.

Those first times walking the floor at all hours of the night with a crying baby.  Feeling helpless as to what I was doing, unable to console our crying bundle of joy.  Singing, whispering, talking, and trying anything to get our firstborn Macy to stop crying and go back to sleep.

And praying. “Thank you Lord for this precious child.  Thank you that I have legs to walk, to carry her across this floor.  Thank you that I have ears to hear her cries.  Thank you that I have arms and hands to hold her.  Thank you for the privilege of being her daddy.  Thank you for this roof over our heads and food to eat.  And thank you that I HAVE EYES TO SEE this precious child.

But something happened to that grateful heart over time.  With child #2, #3, and #4, those constant feelings of parental uncertainty and fear diminished with experience, knowledge and lessons learned along the way.  I suppose routine and comfort tend to nudge away that feeling of closeness to and dependence on God that we feel in times of fear and uncertainty.  And I guess that life can become so full that we are so busy worshiping God’s blessings that we fail to honor the One who provided them.

It turns out that my missing lens was in the seat of my truck the whole time.  As I was popping it back into the frame, it became obvious what a lousy “blessing counter” I had become.

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For most of the past year I’ve struggled with a variety of small health problems that have made life……..just different.  Things that I’m used to doing or want to do, I simply can’t do them right now.  The phrase that comes into play often is, “it’s all relative.”

I can’t run, but I can walk.  I can’t use my right arm well, but I can use my left arm well (just not with skill).  I have pain, but I’m just uncomfortable and not miserable.  I struggle terribly with sleep, but I have a real mattress in a home with heating and air conditioning. I know where my next meal is coming from.  And I know Jesus as my savior.  Shame on me if I utter complaints.

 

It’s all relative.  I don’t have problems, I have inconveniences and disruptions.  If I allow myself to complain about what I can’t do instead of being thankful for the things that I can do, I risk crushing the spirit of a grateful heart.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
I still don’t know if Magoo was totally blind.  But I do know that we often choose not to see.  Give thanks.  A grateful heart see clearly what God has done.  And it can open our eyes to a broken world that we simply aren’t the center of.
Count.  Give thanks.  Love.  Take action.

 

The Strong-Willed Child Goes To College

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Disobedient.  Disruptive.  Defiant.  And sometimes downright mean.  These words all described what was then our chaos producing middle child Maddie as a two and three year-old.  At a loss for how to deal with it, I resorted to outside help in a couple of books; James Dobson’s “The Strong-Willed Child” and Kevin Leman’s “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.”

I’m not really sure if the books were helpful or not.  She might have just grown out of it. But I am sure that those who know Maddie today find it hard to believe that she absorbed more tongue-lashings and doses of swift and immediate correction than her three siblings combined.

A few weeks back, I was talking to a friend whose oldest son and Maddie’s classmate was departing for college soon.  He shared with me the same uneasy feelings that my wife and I had stumbled through two years ago when our oldest daughter went away.  I told him that it would be easier for both of us when the time came for our second oldest children to go away.

I was wrong.

My theory was that I had seemingly done more life with Maddie than I had with her older sister Macy.  As things worked out, I managed to coach Maddie’s youth soccer, Upward basketball, middle school basketball, and even help with her travel soccer team.  We had been through the battles together and seen the best and worst of each other.  I firmly believed that it wouldn’t be difficult to send her away.

For all the ways that Macy had taken after her dad with a quiet and laid back personality, Maddie seemed to mirror her mother’s strength and determination.  There would be no need to worry about Maddie or a struggle to let go.

But something changed in the days leading up to her departure for Taylor University (5 hours away).  When I was alone in my office each day with my thoughts, surrounded by pictures of our kids from birth to present day, I cried.  Some days worse than others.

I cried because I know the feeling her absence from our home will bring.  But mostly I cried tears of joy and gratitude.  She IS like her mother.  Her faith in God IS strong.  Our 17 year-old daughter is going away and I have zero fear for her ability to make good decisions.  I am grateful.

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Move-in day came.  Her mother and I accompanied her to a few orientation type events and meals around the Taylor campus.  I remained mostly quiet in the background, trying to study the looks on Maddie’s face and gauge her state of mind.

My thoughts drifted back in time more than once.  I saw Maddie once again as an undersized 7th grade basketball player with a big heart.

 

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Maddie stood nervously at the free throw line, ready to shoot, .2 seconds showing on the clock, with her team trailing by one point.  She’d already missed the first free throw.  When our opponent called a timeout after the miss, I explained to her that they had called the timeout just to freak her out a little more.  At this point I wasn’t a coach, but I was just Maddie’s dad offering assurance to my daughter, “Sis, it will be great if you make it.  It’s no big deal if you miss.  Just relax.”  Truthfully, she probably hit about 15% of her free throws on the year because she simply lacked the strength to get the ball to the rim.  As she returned to the line to make her attempt to send the game to overtime, I positioned myself standing in front of the bench so that she could see me if she glanced my way.  Fear and uncertainty showed on her face as the referee bounced the ball to her.  Everything about her body language screamed “what if I miss?”

She did look my way before her she shot.  “Hit or miss, it will be alright”, I could only hope she could understand that just from the look on her dad’s face.

As I walked across the Taylor campus with Maddie, I finally had to ask the question, “Well sis, do you think you’re gonna do alright here?”

Her answer was a simple, “Uh yeah.”  But the look on her face said it all.  “I’ll be alright.”

Second free throw goes in.  We win in overtime.

Gone today is the defiance and disobedience of her early years.  But the strong will lives on and plays out in her faith.  Maddie believes in herself.  She is strong, determined, and caring like her mother.

She’s in a great place.  Her dad is grateful.  And grateful for homemade cards:

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“Thank you for making me stronger.  Thank you for making me think. Thank you for showing me how to love and live through the eyes of Jesus.”  –Maddie Shay

I cried today also.  But I’ll be alright.

 

 

 

 

Men Are Just Stupid Sometimes

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Yeah, I’m a basketball coach again.  Sure, I’ll do it.  Maybe I trust God to get me through the situations He leads me into.  But maybe I worship the idol of self-reliance.

Yeah, there’s a backstory.  There was a period of about a year of feeling as physically bad as I ever had in my 48 years.  Many many headaches, lack of focus and energy, minor bouts with anxiety and depression.  The fight in me was gone.

“You’ll feel better if you get into an exercise routine”.  No, this wasn’t the voice of my marathon running wife.  This was my inner voice beating me with proven truth.  So I started lifting weights and running on the treadmill.  About 2 weeks into an actual routine, I started experiencing neck pain.  But I continued to workout (because men are stupid).  My wife noticed my discomfort as I ran on the treadmill one night.  I told her, “it hurts when I run.”

“Don’t run!”   Good idea.  World of exercise was done.

Pain worsened.  Problems from an old neck/spinal problem sent steady pain to my shoulder and arm.  Sleep became more difficult.

Next problem.  Family vacation.  I only take one full week off each year, and dangit I’m gonna fish nonstop from the beach while I’m there.  Cast after cast, many with 12 and 14ft rods, made things worse.  Sleep became very difficult.  I could no longer lay flat in a bed.  Pain worsened.  But I continued to fish, continued to cast (because men are stupid).  My son and I were gonna haul in something big, even if it killed me.

Upon returning to work I have been too prideful to ask others to help me with things that I am used to doing myself (because men are stupid).

One month later, I still can’t lay flat in a bed.  Sleep comes 30 minutes at a time sitting upright, and usually tops out at 4 hours a night.

Almost 3 weeks ago, I started another tour as a middle school girls basketball coach.  Working 45-50 hours a week, plus spending 3-6 hours in the gym each night, sleeping 3-4 hours, and trying to keep young ladies excited about the game of basketball……….I was scared.

“I can’t do this”.  My inner voice returned.  The pain was constant.  My movements became limited.  My doctor and therapy visits didn’t promise any relief in the immediate future.

I struggled mentally, focusing on the things that I wasn’t able to do.  I was no help around the house.  I felt like a 100 year-old man raising a 10 year-old son.  The idol of self-sufficiency was apparent even if I hadn’t struggled with living for achievement.

But the prayers were constant too.  I received texts from my wife, “I’m praying for you right now.” I knew that others were praying also.  I don’t know exactly what they prayed for.

I’m certainly not healed today.  The pain remains a constant.  But my perspective sure shifted in a hurry.

About a week into practice, I could see clearly that I am coaching a group of young ladies that will be a joy to coach.  A feeling of peace seemed to arrive so suddenly coupled with the thought of, “this is where you’re supposed to be, this is what you’re supposed to be doing”  (yes, my inner voice talks a lot).

And I soon realized that there’s a big difference in being uncomfortable and being miserable.  Yes, I’m uncomfortable all the time, but I’m not miserable.  Headaches are miserable.  I’ve gone the longest period in my life without having one.

When God leads us to the mountain, He will also lead us over the mountain.  He provides a way.

It’s all relative.  Sure, I could be better.  But I can see clearly now that I could be much worse.  Seems pretty lame to complain about discomfort when I look at the physical problems and the absolute heartbreak of others.  My eyes have been opened.

Maybe others have prayed for healing for me.  But maybe God just wanted me to not be so stupid and whiny.  And maybe He desires for me to be more compassionate toward the suffering and struggles of others.  I’m getting there.

We don’t feel the need to change if we don’t feel broken.  We don’t ask for help when we fool ourselves into believing we can do it all on our own.

Text from Kristy today, “How you feelin dear?”

“Hurting and overloaded, but in good spirits.”

Answered prayers.  By His strength and not my own.

I’m not quite as stupid as I was yesterday.  Trying to absorb those lessons in humility, trust, and surrender.

I’m not afraid anymore.

 

Get Up, You’ll Be Alright

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I guess most graduating seniors these days like to use the top of their graduation cap as a form of expression.  If this had been an “in” thing to do back in the 80’s, I’m sure my cap would have looked like a Skoal can or Van Halen album cover.

Our daughter Maddie graduates next week.  When I came across her cap last night, I held back tears.  “She knew who she was and whose she was”.

On our way to Maddie’s regional track meet today, her little brother Kal asked in that irritating little brother way, “why do we even have to go to Maddie’s track meet?”  Before I could reply in “dad tone” with a lecture, her sophomore brother answered beautifully from the front seat, “because it could be Maddie’s last track meet, and we love her, and we’re gonna support her”.  This was a day that was going call for support.

I’ve watched in silence many times as our kids have had disappointing finishes in sporting events.  It’s a struggle to hold your tongue when poor results line up perfectly with the amount of and the consistency of training that went into preparation for contests.  But that wasn’t going to be the case today.  Maddie had finished 2nd in region and 13th in state as a junior in the 800m run.  Excitement and confidence fueled her motivation for her senior season.  She had trained consistently in the offseason and supplemented her team training during the season with extra work with a trainer.  Maddie was ready for this day.

 

On an unseasonably cold May day, Maddie lined up to start her 800m run with high hopes.  She had turned in a season-best time the week before that was 6 seconds better than her previous best.  There was an outside chance of being a regional champ and a good chance of advancing to the state track meet, simply by matching her time from a week ago.

With her sister, two brothers, two grandmothers, and her mother & I nervously watching, she got off to a good start.  But as she got into the first straight stretch, disaster struck.  Her feet became tangled with another runner’s.  Maddie stayed on her feet.  The other runner went down.  But Maddie absorbed hard contact from the falling runner and spent 20 feet trying her best to stay on her feet.  There was no recovering.  The race was basically over for her.  Maddie finished 6th, almost 18 seconds off her time from her last meet.

I stood in silence, overwhelmed with parental emotions.  For all the times I’d thought and said, “I love to watch you play”, I knew I’d watched her play for the last time.  A sobering thought.  And the injustice.  For all her training and effort, her own efforts did not determine her place of finish on this day.

Little brother Kal stewed with anger.  In his eyes, Maddie got tripped.  She got cheated.  It wasn’t fair.  She deserved another chance.  He was distraught over the unfairness of it all.

I thought of all the complaints he has lodged against me.  “Dad you always tell me that, I get tired of hearing it”……….Life’s not fair.  You’ll live.  Get up, you’ll be alright.  But he doesn’t understand it yet.

I looked out past the finish line.  Maddie does understand it.  I saw her hugging the girl she got tangled up with.  Two upset young ladies consoling each other for disappointing finishes.  Life isn’t fair.  Bad things happen.  It doesn’t do any good to place blame or become angry.  What matters is how you respond to disappointment.  You can’t win every game or every race, but only you can decide when you’re defeated.

When her mother and I met up with her as she left the track, I couldn’t find any words.  She was visibly upset.  A perfectly formed shoe mark across her knee pretty much summed up her final 800m race.  I just hugged her in silence, knowing that if I tried to speak, my own tears would come.

And as I held our daughter, I knew……she was disappointed but not distraught.  Sad but not angry.  Hurting but not defeated.  She knows who she is.  She knows who she belongs to.  She is a child of the King.

Someone asked her mother and me recently what we had done as parents of our daughters.  I didn’t have an answer.  I do now.  It’s not what we have done as parents, but it is what they have come to understand.

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Their identity is in Christ.

Bad things will happen.  Life’s not fair.  Physical and emotional pain will come.  But they will not be defeated.  They will always get back up.

They’ll be alright.

As we parted ways to go in separate directions after the meet, I hugged her one more time. This time I found my words.  “I’m proud of who you are”.

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Let’s Pretend LIke We’re Not All a Bit Crazy

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“Hello me! Meet the real me!” From Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets”

Does anybody really have it all together as much as they seem? All the time? Outward appearances may make it appear that way for some. Most of the time I appear to most as a perfectly sane person whose life would seem to be in decent order……or as much as could be expected for a husband, father of four, manager of a family business, middle school basketball coach, church leader. Full plates cultivate character, I guess?

I’m not ready to reveal the secret of where the bodies are hidden, but I do know that most people have a fine line between order and chaos that isn’t visible to others. Between peace and hopelessness. And even for Christians who may have their hope firmly rooted in Christ, it’s easy to find yourself at times on a downhill slide that leaves you in a serious mental funk. And you know better. But you can’t jump for joy because you feel like you can’t even stand up from being knocked down again. It only takes a few events of the wrong type to knock us down. But how do we prevent the knockout? And how do we force ourselves to continue to get back up?

I can’t pretend to write or know about life’s hardest blows that I haven’t experienced…..broken marriages, terminal illness, financial ruin. But I can write about the ongoing weight of leadership as it relates to a mighty and loving God.

“Feeling claustrophobic, like the walls are closing in….”

Heavy burdens of responsibility and leading seem so light at times when our trust and hope are in Christ. Stress……worry……nah, not me.

Matthew 6 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

And then I return to work after four days of visiting with family over Thanksgiving. And serious computer and network problems have left me 5 days behind…….and I still have to coach basketball in my spare time (about 4 1/2 hours of time on the 3 game days this week)……and I still have to get my kids to school and juggle schedules……and did I mention that my wife is out of town until the weekend……and did I mention that there is no physical way to spend the time at work required to “catch up”…….and did I mention that I had a severe headache that required 2 doctor visits and 3 shots over a 3-day period?

“If the war inside my head, would take a day off, I’d be dead.”

And a week later, life has edged back toward normalcy. People close to me knew only of my physical pain. But no one on earth knew of the the war in my head as I struggled with physical pain and the inability to function, lead or accomplish anything as I edged near some type of breaking point. Why do I keep it bottled up? Beause I’m supposed to carry other people, lead other people, hold them up. I have to be strong. No outward signs of weakness. Right? Yeah, sort of.

“Just keep swimming.”

Yes, I did jump from Megadeth lyrics to a Finding Nemo quote. It’s hard to bang into the head of a leader (especially men) that the world doesn’t stop spinning when we fail to accomplish things. Colossians 3:23 tells us to do our best for the Lord, but it doesn’t say to die trying. Take care of yourself and don’t pretend to be invicible. We can’t provide for or enjoy our families from a cemetary (or find success in business, for what it’s worth?). Know when it’s time to swim at a slower pace. Slowing down does not equal defeat. Every day is not meant for world records……thriving. Recognize “survival” days.

I can have full understanding that my strength comes from the Lord, but if I fail to recognize my need for him in times of weakness…….

It gets harder and harder to stand back up, and I find myself be knocked back down again seemingly by smaller and smaller things. Don’t be afraid to slow down. Let someone else fight the fires at work that you’re convinced will burn the entire universe. Let someone else coach your basketball team. Step away from church duties. Do something you’ve never dreamed of doing, SIT STILL and recover. Circle the wagons and heal. As long as your children are fed, warm, and clothed….. take a rest from the rest of the world. Trust God to reveal to you what is really important, and peace will return. Sometimes it becomes necessary to simplify your surroundings, your outlook, and your ambitious nature. And be honest with yourself and with others. When people ask if you are ok, just say “NO, but I’ll be ok. I just need to be left alone.” If God places someone in your path that has the ability and willingness to “refresh” you in some way, don’t turn them away. Even though life does come in quick bursts, life itself is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Be there for the end.
As Moses told his people as they faced the Red Sea in the front and the Egyptians in the back, in Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

And google the lyrics for “Sweating Bullets” if I lost you.

Learning To Give

my boysBengals trip 2012.  Who Dey!

An act of kindness.

Some people aren’t very skilled or willing when it comes to recognizing opportunities and taking action.  I would be one of those people.   That’s where my wife comes in; recognizing needs of others, lending a hand willingly, and sometimes letting me know when I’m guilty of living in oblivion.

She became involved in an outreach program through our church where she became a “football mom” to 3 or 4 student athletes each year at Kentucky Christian University.  I assume the spirit of the program has been to give young men, that are many times 1000+ miles from home, a connection with a local family and to make the transition a bit easier for life far away from home and family.
A support system.

Typical football mom duties would include taking snacks, homemade cookies, etc.  to campus or inviiting football players into our home for a home-cooked meal.  Some kids don’t have a need or desire for this type of support system, so it basically has given us a chance to develop relationships with one or two “assigned” players each year.

Our family has had the pleasure of developing friendships with quite a few of these young men over the last three years, but one player in particular seems to have had a huge impact on my faith in ways that I never could have imagined.
Dominique wasn’t one of our assigned players but was a friend of some of our “regulars” and showed up at our house with a group of players one evening after a home game. Quiet young man, pretty hard to engage in conversation with. Reminded me so much of myself at that age. Pretty sure he fell asleep on a loveseat that first night and I convinced him to stay the night instead of driving back to campus, sleep in my son’s bed.
I don’t remember the conversation I had with my wife that night, but I remember how it ended, “Kristy, I really think he needs us, needs to be part of our family.” Of course I didn’t know what the heck that meant.
But God has a way of clearing things up a LOT…..when we trust Him even just a LITTLE. I’ve never been the “loving” type. I have crazy love for my family but I’m pretty private and stingy with the rest of the world. You know, just loving the people that are easy to love. Keeping a tight circle and being very reluctant to let others enter into it.  And I’ve said it many times, “we may not be able to see any particular way that we are gifted to serve God, but we can all love”. I knew it, but I never lived it.
Dominique became a regular at our house, sometimes showing up out of the blue by himself, sometimes with friends. And what may have seemed strange at times, seems so cool to me now. The times he would be at our house for a good length of time before we even knew he was here, settled in front of the tv watching a football game. The times he seemed discouraged with circumstances and I tried to find the right questions and give the right words of encouragement….and struggled. The times he helped himself to whatever was in the fridge and  did piles of laundry here (just like I used to do at my parent’s).
When I put all those things together, it paints the greatest picture. Dominique has become exactly like one of our own children, doing exactly as our children do in our home.
A level of comfort that has grown out of love and trust, I hope.
Small gestures here and there, nothing deep and personal.  Just a place to feel loved, welcomed…..comfortable.
At some point, I realized that I had a genuine concern for his wellbeing, and this was not a feeling that was common to me.
Clarity came on Father’s Day this year just how God has used him as a wonderful blessing in the life of me and my family. I was sitting in church on that Sunday morning when a text popped up on my phone (no I don’t text in church, but I made an exception).
Happy Father’s Day
“Thanks, that means a lot that you thought of me today”
You’ve always treated me like a son.
BOOM
Tears filled my eyes as I passed my phone over to my wife. It hit me so hard, the realization of my years of failure at loving others the way that God desires.  And I realized that I’m not the same man that I was before I met Dominique.

I love this young man. My family loves this young man.  I thought I could be a blessing in his life.

It seems clear now that God placed him in my life to change me, to teach me how to love.
Dominique plays his last college football game today. I hope I have honored him in some way by sharing this.
Good luck today, old buddy. And thanks for helping me find my way.  Thankful that God has placed you in our life.

dominique

Honored to be your “football dad”.