The Race Grows Sweeter in the Final Lap

There is a show on Amazon Prime called Modern Love.  It tells all sorts of stories about love – dating, marriage, adoption, young love and the episode we watched last night was about love between two older adults.

It starts with a road race.  A seventy year old woman has her eye on this distinguished, very slow running, soft-spoken gentleman.  She finishes the race before him but waits at the finish line to engage this man she’s had her eye on for some time.

At their first dinner together, Margo tells Ken, I have respect for your 35 year marriage and your sweet wife Betty, but I think you might have room in your heart for me.

He did.

It’s funny to think about folks in their 70’s having crushes and starting over.  But not being as far from that decade as I’d like, it is less surprising than it might have been ten years.  Julie and I are Margo and Ken, minus a few years.

The connection between them is sweet… and funny… and electric.  They sit in bed snuggled tightly together at night.  They read together, have afternoon drinks in their garden, run, go to parties – eyeing across the room – clearly more interested in each other than anyone else.

It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize there are two story lines in this show.  One is the building of their relationship.  The other is Margo dealing with the loss of her new lover.  It isn’t clear how much time they had together, but this touching love story wasn’t a long one.  It was, however, maybe the most powerful of the series.

As Julie and I sat in the den watching our TV, the tears just flowed.  As Margo shared at Ken’s funeral:

Old love is different – it’s more realistic. We had already been through many ups and  downs in life.  We had learned to compromise, survived loss and mistakes.  Yes, old love is different, and yet it is also the same.  Ken and I did everything that young people do – fell in love, traveled, planted a garden, remodeled a house.  He called me sweetheart and on nights when were out a party, we came home after and sat on the rim of the bathtub, flossing our teeth, and gossiping about the evening.  Every time we passed each other in the house, Ken made it a point to stop and kiss me or squeeze my shoulder or grab my hand (maybe because he was afraid he might lose one he loved again; I get that).  He and I often told each other we are so lucky. 

Young love, even for old people, can be surprisingly bountiful.

Margo’s words rang true for us.  We have had our own ups and downs.  We have loved before.  We have had hope.  We have lost.  We have grown.  Our life maturity has led us to an honest, real, and different sort of connection.

Many couples meet later in life.  I think many also reinvent their relationship as time goes by.  My hope is that all have the opportunity to experience mature, honest love.  It takes a lot to get there:  pain, suffering, loss, and a few hard knocks.  But if you’re open and willing, if you pour in, you might receive in beautiful ways.

Ninety-six Percent

I was at a concert last Friday night – it was an event for work.  I was excited when I ran into an old friend.  He knew Lisa.

I asked how he was doing.  He said, “96% great!  4% could be better.”  He teared up.  “Your experience taught me that can change at any given moment.”

I had some times where finding 4% good was a struggle.

My former boss gave me a journal the day after Lisa was diagnosed with cancer.  He told me to write down blessing that we found throughout the ordeal.  He had a son who had struggled with major health issues early in life.  He and his wife found value in listing the good things.

Lisa and I looked.  The good was very hard to see; in fact, I’m not sure there was any.

Now that I’m on the other side – much closer to a 96/4 good to bad ratio, you’d think I would spend my time focused on the 96%.  All too often, I zero in on the 4, looking for ways to get to 100.  The sad thing is that if I spend all my 96/4 time focused on the 4, I get no reprieve.  Surely I’ll have more times when the bad is the dominate percentage.  How awful to spend the really good times frustrated on the small things that aren’t going my way.

That 92.3 grade in English is not quite an A.  But it is damn near close!  Perhaps I shouldn’t remind my kid that she missed a 4.0 GPA by only .7 points.  She likely already knows.  Instead, we should have a party to celebrate that high B!

I have one zit.  But dag gone, the rest of my face looks pretty handsome if I do say so myself!

I don’t make as much money as that other dude at work (the one I clearly outperform), but I have a job I love, and I have plenty.

I want my kids to relish in the 96%.  I should too.  Life is so very good so much of the time.  To heck with the bad.  There isn’t really enough to waste time on.

The Deep Dark Rabbit Hole

I was listening to a podcast tonight.  A friend sent me the link four months ago.  It sort of got lost in my inbox.

It was about a woman who had been through the same sort of tragedy as I.  Her husband died two and a half years ago.

She said some really good stuff.

She talked about the fact that she was a perky, positive, happy person before her husband passed away.  The interviewer asked her if she lost that.  She said, “No.  I have it.  I just continually walk by this deep, dark rabbit hole that I know I can fall into at any given time.  But when I do, I climb to the top and someone grabs my hand and pulls me back out.”  She talked about how before she avoided boredom and sadness and anxiety, that she spent her life running from those things.  And now, she embraces those emotions.  That she now understands that those emotions allow her to live a more full life, to be more understanding and compassionate than she ever thought she could be.  She sort of implied that the harder emotions compliment the happier ones.

She described how her life has taken a disastrous, tragic, beautiful turn.  How contradictory.  Can sadness really bring about beauty, strength and fulfillment?  Isn’t it supposed to break you down?  Isn’t it, by nature, the killer of joy?

If done right, I believe that going through massive loss, heart wrenching grief can give you insights, can help you view life, can help you personally grow in ways that you never  could have before.  In so many ways, like the interviewee, I am unrecognizable to myself.  I am not the same man who lost his wife five years ago.  I feel more deeply, the bad AND the good.  I have more hope for what lies ahead, in this life and the next.  I am less uptight and fearful about the future.

Utter sadness and despair is awful.  It hurts like hell.  It can take you to some very dark places.  And then, after the worst is over, it can turn you into something whole.  Something that is deeper and richer than you could possibly have been without it.

Sunday Post 196: Thankful for Hope

You know what I’m thankful for this year?  I’m thankful for hope!

What if you lived life, day in and day out, with no hope?  No possibility that life could get better?  No sense that you could get through the hard times?  No potential to meet those you love in another life?  That would make me miserable!

I’ve heard some pretty compelling arguments not to believe in God.  I have listened to folks who can quite logically explain that this world could have easily been created simply through science.  There are those who are fast to point out inconsistencies in the bible adding evidence to their “There is no God” case.  I can see their side.  I see inconsistencies as well.  I have a lot of questions too.

But man, I have hope!  And I can guarantee you this, it’s a much better way to live.

I can picture heaven.  I fully plan on seeing Lisa again, and my buddy Trey, and my friend Brenda, and grandparents for days!  I sort of get excited when I think about it!  Maybe when my demise seems a little closer I’ll sing a different tune, but for now, I’m not scared to die.  I got stuff to do on the other side – so many stories to share.  They aren’t gonna believe I wrote a book!

I have hope for a good, long, happy life with good friends, grandkids, and close connections with my daughters.

Sometimes I’m scared or uneasy, fearful of the future or worried about some stupid little problem.  But overall, I have hope and faith that in the long haul, it’ll all be alright.

The opposite of hope is doubt.  It’s pretty clear which is the better alternative!

Sunday Post 182: Teaching to Pray

Last week my Sunday School class talked about prayer. We were discussing the news story about the woman who owns a restaurant and gives random discounts to customers who pray before dining.

The conversations in the room went from exasperation with those who would criticize the woman for her spiritual price cut to folks who felt praying in public was not what Jesus preached.

After reading the lesson, I was torn. It almost made me feel like praying with my kids at night, in particular my older two, wasn’t a great idea. Perhaps my push to pray at meals and bedtime was teaching my kids that those were required. Maybe we reviewed the same prayer list too often. Am I teaching my kids to have a conversation with God or am I teaching them an obligatory recitation?

That night I went to tell DJ goodnight. As I was walking out of her room I said, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.” And then I said, “Or not! I mean, pray if you want to – if it feels right. If not, don’t. You can pray later. Tomorrow. At 3:32 if you want. In the bathroom. Whenever. Goodnight.”

Later that week I ate lunch with a friend of mine. When we sat down at the table, with tons of folks around us, he looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s have an open-eyed prayer.” He then looked across the table at me and thanked God for our friendship and for our food.

He did pray in public. He just did it in an unobtrusive way.

After much debate and discussion, I think our class decided that there were two things we needed to keep in mind when praying:

Pray because you feel led to pray. Don’t pray for recognition or because you want others to see you. That ain’t what it’s all about. There’s no reason not to pray in a restaurant, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t. There isn’t an obligation to pray at any given time.

I don’t think God wants us to stand on a corner and shout at folks about His love or redemption. I think He wants us to quietly show.

I would rather see a sermon than to hear one.

Check the Tanners out in the September issue of Family Circle
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Sunday Post 165: A Second Chance to Live

I was at a conference last week in San Antonio. It was for YMCA staff and volunteers who raise money as part of their job. We do a lot of that – most Y’s use the support to help kids in need attend Y camp and tutor programs.

This year, we had a keynote speaker who really made me do some thinking. Her name is Amanda Lindhout, and she if the Founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation. Unfortunately, she landed in a position of remarkable philanthropy not because of something good. No, she was actually kidnapped when in Somalia to photograph a refugee camp. She was held by teenage terrorists for over 400 days in horrible conditions while enduring significant torture.

Her Canadian parents worked for a year to raise the $1.5 M ransom to free their daughter. She finally returned home – but not as the person who had left 14 months prior.

I suppose in this situation, most people would have holed up, filled with anger and fear. Amanda didn’t do that. Instead, she realized she could be bitter and resentful or, she could look at life another way. She spent countless hours thinking about her captors. She came to the conclusion that their actions were driven out of desperation – out of a lack of hope and opportunity in a country that is bombarded with war.

Her response was to start anew. So, she started a foundation that would support the people of Somalia, bringing them food, education, and hope. Instead of hatred, she found hope and love.

On my trip I also heard of another woman who had lost her husband many years ago. Her children are grown. She has nothing left. She is alone.  She is still struggling with sadness and questions.

What gives some the strength to move forward while others are unable to put their life back together after trauma?

It’s Easter. Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins or whether you don’t, there has to be a lesson in the story shared throughout the New Testament. Jesus was hung on a cross and killed, and his sacrifice, his horrific death, brought about peace and hope for people for centuries.

Whether the Son of God or the victim of violence – whether suffering extreme personal loss or the fear of death, we ultimately all have two ways to respond. We can crawl under a rock and quit. Or, we can get help and work toward a new beginning – one that perhaps does more good than our first one.

Sunday Post 143: Heather’s Story

I remember when we first learned that Lisa had cancer.  We didn’t have many answers, we simply knew it was a “large” tumor in the lower part of her colon.

I naturally assumed it was Stage IV.  I was right.  It had spread.

I tried to put on a good face, but in the back of my head I knew this was it.  A nurse friend of mine told me of Stage IV colon cancer patients who were beating the odds – 5, 8 years out.

“That’s not long enough!  What about year 9?  Do you know anyone who has survived 9 years??”

Literally every single month I hear of someone else who has been diagnosed with some form of this crappy disease.  Sometimes it seems beatable.  At other times, it just seems ominous.  But what I’ve found is that there is story after story after story of strong people who are kicking cancer’s ass!

While at Duke with Lisa, I ran into an old friend who has Stage IV esophageal cancer.  I said “HAS” – because he is still alive and well, it’s in remission, more than five years later.  It hasn’t been easy, but he’s doing really well!

Checkout this story:

Heather’s Story

Heather took names!  Her body did the unthinkable!  A death sentence?  Not for her – somehow her system responded to the medications and she is living, appreciating life like she never did before.

I haven’t yet met her, but one day I plan to. Part of her new life draws her to spread the word about cancers associated with asbestos – see the facts below.

Many of you are fighting – either yourselves or with those you love.  Cancer is NOT necessarily a death sentence.  There are victorious stories everywhere you turn.  Ha-le-lu-jah!!

Asbestos Facts

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