Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!!! We decided to send out our Christmas letter electronically again this year via email, posted on my blog at and on Facebook.

I hope this letter finds you healthy and enjoying the holidays. It’s hard to believe that another year is almost over. It’s been a typically crazy year in the McKay house. In March, the five of us went on a cruise to the western Caribbean. We flew down to Florida a day early to hang out on the beach before boarding our ship. We then spent the next week on the ship visiting several countries, including Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize. It was the first time the kids had been out of the country and we all really enjoyed the uniqueness of each country’s culture. I think Guatemala was probably our favorite as we had a great guide that took us out of the tourist areas so we could experience more of the culture. Everyone’s other favorite thing, especially Caleb, was the food on the ship. The rest of the year was busy with school, church, sports, and other activities.

Marisa started 4th grade this year and remains very busy at school and church. She continues to be involved in Girl Scouts and playing the violin in the school orchestra. She played volleyball again this fall where her team took first place in their division. She also started Crossfire at church, which is our youth group for 4th and 5th graders, and really enjoyed the Crossfire lock-in this fall. She was also very excited that we got to celebrate her 9th birthday on the beach in Mexico.

Sarah started 7th grade this year and seems to get busier and busier all the time. She loves middle school and is very involved in Crash, our middle school youth group at church, and likes to stay for after school activities. She played on 2 softball teams this year from March to October. One of her teams finished first in their division and the other finished second. She also plays basketball from October to March. The basketball team hasn’t fared as well, but she still has a lot of fun playing. Sarah also loves to babysit every chance she gets.

Caleb started his sophomore year in high school this year and is really enjoying high school life. He’s still very involved in Krew, our church high school youth group and hanging out with his friends. Caleb had surgery on his left knee in October to correct some joint pain he has had for some time. We are very thankful to have found a good doctor that has been able to identify the problem and correct it. Fortunately, he is recovering very quickly from the surgery. Over the summer he got his driver’s learning permit and has been driving quite a bit. He’s really looking forward to getting his license early next year after he turns 16.

Mandi, besides going crazy sometimes trying to manage the insanity that is our household, started back with the Pampered Chef this year as a consultant. So far she has done very well and her business is really starting to take off. She’s glad to be back doing something that she really enjoys. She recently started going to boot camp a couple of days a week and is really enjoying the tough workouts.

Besides still being a little freaked out by turning 40 this year, I (Dave) have had a great year. I continue to work at Aon Risk Services as an Associate Account Executive and stay very busy coaching basketball and softball. I love to spend time at the gym and try to get there as much as possible. I continue to serve as a deacon at church and enjoy the opportunity to serve those in our church family.

I hope that this Christmas is a time of renewed hope for you as you reflect on all that God has blessed you with over the last year. May we especially remember the amazing gift of His son, Jesus, whom He sent into the world to redeem all of creation.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

The McKay’s (Dave, Mandi, Caleb, Sarah, and Marisa)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

As I've written on numerous occasions, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's one of the few times throughout the year that I take some time to slow down and really reflect on all the God has blessed me with. Which is a shame really because I have a lot to be thankful for and should pause more often and give God the thanks He so truly deserves.

As I write this, I'm listening to U2's song Yahweh and my thoughts are drawn to not only the fact that I should be more thankful, but to how much I take for granted at times. I'm not only not thankful, but I'm often a spoiled brat. Instead of loving others as I should and helping those around me in need, I'm often more interested in just getting what I want.

I'm reminded of the old 77's song, "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life", where Mike Roe sings:

"Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don't worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I'll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don't need
And Lord, please don't ask me what for"

The gospel message is really very simple, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We so often try to complicate it with so much other junk. I can't help to think how much happier we'd be and how much more effective we, as the church would be if we really took a hold of this and lived it. If we stopped worrying about all our differences, our agendas, our desire to get ahead at all costs and just loved people for who God created them to be.

If we could just get rid of all the nonsense and embrace what Jesus was trying to teach us, think of the impact we could have on the world. I know it sounds like some idealistic, hippie dream from the 60's, but I guess I'm just so burned out on the so called American dream and the damage it's done to people's lives here and around the world. We so often try to equate this American ideal of individualism and getting ahead with Christianity and I think we couldn't be further off base.

God created us to walk this journey in communion with one another, loving those around us unconditionally as He loves us. But we're too often worried about what's in it for us. So I guess my prayer this Thanksgiving is that God would change the desires of my heart to line up with His desires and that I would care about the things He cares about. My prayer is Bono's prayer:

"Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don't make a fist no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
His love is like a drop in the ocean
His love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it brave"

"Yahweh" - U2

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Big 40!!!

Well, it's finally here. The big number 40. I have to admit, turning 30 didn't bother me that much. It was kind of cool to be in my 30's, but 40, well that just seems strange. It's odd to stop and think that I've been married for over 18 years, am the parent of teenagers (yikes!), own a house and 2 cars, and have a job where businesses actually seek my opinion to make decisions that effect their bottom line. When did I become my parents?

Physically, I feel pretty good. I wouldn't mind shedding a few pounds, but I try to get to the gym 2-3 days a week, lead a fairly active lifestyle, and eat healthy. Though I have noticed that it takes my body longer to recover these days after a workout and I wake up every morning with a backache, which I know is only going to get worse. I don't think of myself as old, though I'm reminded daily by my kids that I'm not as young and cool as I think I am. This is especially true when the topic turns to music. They are constantly trying to convince me that the music I like is old and dated. However, I just write it off to the ignorance of youth because we all know 70's and 80's music rocks. I mean that's just a given really and some day they'll realize it. But I digress.

It's just odd to think that almost as much of my life is behind me as is in front of me and I admit that freaks me out. Where did the time go? What have I done with the last 40 years? How much time have I wasted on things that don't really matter and what opportunities have I missed out on because of it? Will the next 40-50 years go just as fast, or faster?

In the midst of struggling with and reflecting on these questions, I realize that my first 40 years have actually been truly blessed. God has given an amazing wife to walk with me on this journey and there is no one else I'd rather walk it with. He's given me 3 amazing children that I get the privilege of watching grow up and become the men and women God created them to be. I couldn't be prouder of them and am thankful for the relationship I have with each of them. He's given me supportive parents, grandparents, in-laws, and extended family. He's given me great friends, many of which I've been friends with for almost 30 years. He's given me the opportunity to get a good education and a good job. He's opened doors to give me the opportunity to coach and hopefully make an impact on the next generation. He's given me a wonderful church family that encourages and challenges me in my spiritual walk. He's given me the opportunity to travel to some amazing places. He's placed some amazing people (pastors, teachers, coaches, friends' parents) in my life over years that have helped to mold and shape me.

I pray that I haven't wasted too many of His blessings over the years and that I would embrace the opportunities He presents in the future.

In spite of being a little freaked out, I'm looking forward to this next era of my life. In looking forward it's been helpful for me to look back over my life and be reminded of God's faithfulness. This was really brought home for me on Saturday as we attended my cousin's wedding (congratulations Melissa and Ryan). Weddings are such a great picture of hope for the future. It was encouraging to see the bride and groom laughing and enjoying themselves with a hopeful anticipation of their future together. At the same time we sat at a table with several very dear friends that I go way back with. It was great to laugh and just enjoy each others company. As we reminisced about old times and talked about future plans (and gave each other a hard time about all of us being over 40), I was actually encouraged about getting older. I realized that even though I'm entering a new phase in my life, I have just as much to be hopeful for as my newly wedded cousin. Because God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be the same in the future, I can have the confidence that He will remain faithful and that He will continue to mold and shape me into the man He wants me to be.

Because of His faithfulness and the people He's put in my life, I can embrace turning 40 and not dread it. It may take me a while to adjust, but I know in the end this may be my best decade yet.

God Bless,

Monday, September 5, 2011

Everything Matters

It's interesting, at least in my experience, that God typically speaks to me in subtle ways where I have to be paying attention to hear. However, every so often, God hits me over the head with a very large 2x4 that's hard to miss. That's what happened to me on Sunday. It wasn't a message I hadn't heard before or some new revelation, but it was unavoidable that God was trying to get me to focus on something.

It started with Sunday's sermon in church where our pastor preached on the passage from Colossians 3:23 that talks about "whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord." I've always tried to live by this verse and instill this idea in my kids that God gave us all certain talents and desires and that the reason they are passionate about certain things is because that's how God made them. I firmly believe that we are to work hard to develop those talents and pursue our passions and as long as we do it acknowledging God is the source, it is an act of worship and ultimately brings glory to Him. You see I believe we were not just created to endure this life and get prepared for some future heaven, but to have a fulfilling and enjoyable relationship with Him in this life and partake in His blessings here. Yes, there is great struggle here at times and it can be very hard work as we walk the path before us. But if we look at life as an opportunity to get to know the creator of the universe, we can find great joy and fulfillment in everything we do, whether that's preparing a meal for our family or negotiating peace between two warring nations. Everything we do matters.

After church I went to the gym and while I was working out I started thinking about how to better apply this philosophy in my coaching. This is an idea that's always permeated my coaching philosophy, but I often struggle with communicating in as clearly as I'd like. I've been looking for ways to teach my athletes to pursue excellence, but not just to bring glory and accolades to themselves, but for a greater purpose. I want them to think outside of themselves and to understand that even the way they play sports is important to God. Everything matters.

I thought I had gotten the message, then 2x4 number two hit me later that evening while watching the movie Soul Surfer. For those not familiar, it''s the true story of a young girl with a bright future in professional surfing whose arm was bitten off by a shark while training one morning. Instead of ending her career and destroying her dreams, it allowed her the platform to, as she says, "embrace more people with one arm than I ever could have with two." It was her faith in Christ that allowed her to not give up on her dreams, that I believe God gave her, but instead to pursue them with a higher purpose in mind. She is now a championship surfer, despite only having one arm, and provides encouragement to millions that are struggling with their own situations. Her journey was certainly not easy. In fact at her lowest point when she was about to give up, her eyes were opened when she looked beyond her circumstances and realized there were people struggling with more difficult situations than hers and that by her not quitting she could provide hope to others. Everything we do matters.

Then as if that wasn't enough, 2x4 number three hit me as we watched another movie, To Save a Life. This was a difficult movie to watch as it deals with teen suicide, cutting, teen pregnancy, abortion, divorce, teen drinking, etc. However, the movie really strikes home the impact we can make on others lives, both in a positive and negative manner. There are millions of hurting and lonely people out there just waiting for someone to show them they care about them; to show them God cares about them. How many "invisible" people do we ignore everyday? Jesus said, "as you have done unto the least of these, you have done to me." Again, everything we do matters.

Truthfully, it really wasn't until I was laying in bed that night that I put it all together and realized there seemed to be a theme to my day. (I know, I'm a little slow) It's not just one area of life that matters, it's every area. It's not just what we do on Sunday or even how we take care of our own family. In everything we do we should be committed and focused on honoring God, from the menial tasks to the more important ones. No, it doesn't earn us favor with God and our works certainly don't save us, but doesn't the God of the universe who willingly gave his life for us deserve to receive honor and glory. Isn't that what true communion with God is, acknowledging Him in the small details of life? This is how we grow closer to God and truly become who He intended us to become. And in that regard, everything matters.

God Bless,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbye Summer, It's Been Fun

It's hard to believe that summer is over. The kids started back to school last week and the craziness of our fall schedule has already started. As I reflect back on this summer, I realize how much I enjoyed it. It was busy as usual and it went by way too fast, but it was fun having a less rigid schedule. I always enjoy the fact that the kids are up later (we're all night owls) and we get more hang out time. I like the constant activity of their friends in and out of our house at all hours. It makes me happy that their friends enjoy being at our house and feel at home there. I consider many of them a part of our family. Of course they spend a lot of time at their friends houses as well. I'm proud of the choices they've made in choosing their friends and I'm glad they can feel at home there as well. It's encouraging to be a part of a community where you know your kids are in a good environment when their not at home.

We didn't take a trip this summer since we went on a cruise back in March, but we did do a lot of fun things around town: Zoo, Art Museum, Six Flags, Magic House, Cardinals game, Rams game, MO Botanical Garden, sports camps, church camps, movies, and eating out probably more than we should have. Mandi and I also celebrated our 18th anniversary this summer. It's amazing to look back over 18 years of marriage and see the path you've walked and realize how faithful God has been along the way.

As those that know us well know much of our time revolves around the kids' sports schedules (which is more than fine with me by the way). Sarah played on 2 softball teams this Spring/Summer so we spent a lot of time at the ballpark. One team took 1st place and the other 2nd. I'm very proud of her and all the girls on both teams. She started the season with a knee injury which took forever to heal, but she really gutted it out and played in spite of the pain (of which she seldom complained about). I get the privilege of assistant coaching both teams, which allows us to spend a lot of time together doing something we both love. Caleb and I spent a lot of time at the gym as usual and Marisa came once in a while to play some volleyball.

I guess I enjoyed this summer so much because it reminded me of my summers growing up; hanging out with friends, staying up late, etc. It was fun to watch them enjoy themselves.

Looking ahead...

With Fall comes trying to coordinate the kids sports schedules, getting into a homework routine, school activities, church activities, etc. Normally, Fall heavily revolves around Caleb's football schedule. Unfortunately, he's continuing to struggle with some injury issues that will prevent him from playing this year. He played last year and also played basketball over the winter in a tremendous amount of pain, receiving multiple injections into his ankle and hip just to try and control the pain. I'm not sure I've ever seen a tougher 15 year old. Ultimately, the pain was getting worse and he had no choice but to decide and take this year off while the doctors provide treatment. I'm extremely proud of his maturity and the way he's handled the situation. You see, football was/is extremely important to him and has been a major part of his life, so this was not an easy decision. However, he's handled it with tremendous maturity and perspective and it's fostered some good discussions about life not always going the way you want it to. It's easy to let our circumstances get us down, but it takes a mature and wise person to find the positives and learn to trust that God has a plan that may be different than what we expected. As Bill Mallonee sings in the song Crescent Moon, "life is coming to grips with what your worth when God says one thing, but your heart says another."

Fall also means volleyball for Marisa. She played in a training league last year for the first time and discovered she really loved it. This will be her first year on a team and she's very excited. So is her dad.

Fall also means Fall softball and the start of basketball for Sarah and I. Since I also get the privilege of coaching her basketball team, August and September are very busy times for me as I prepare for the season. It's a long season with 2 practices and 1-2 games a week from October to March, but I love every minute of it. I've only got 2 more years with these girls before they go to high school and then I'll have to be content to drive my wife crazy watching them from the stands.

Indeed I will miss summer, but I do look forward to the fall weather, watching college and NFL football, the kid's games, etc. I just wish we could skip the winter weather that I know is looming out there. In the meantime, I'll try and enjoy the last few weeks of warm weather and reflect back on a wonderful summer.

God Bless

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on Making a Difference

I've been thinking a lot lately about what kind of an impact I'm making in my life on the people around me, my kids, and the world in general. I guess it's that looming 40th birthday rearing it's head again, but I suppose everyone gets to a point in their life where they wonder if they are making a difference. It's interesting as I look back over my life and see the path I've taken to get where I am today, there is one common thread binding it all together: God. He has definitely been guiding and leading me, sometimes in surprising directions I would never have gone on my own. I often look back and wonder, "how in the world did I get here?"

As I've admitted before, while I believe in God's sovereignty, I really don't understand how that works with our free will. It's a mystery we won't fully understand this side of heaven. Nevertheless, looking back with some perspective, it's clear that God is in complete control even as we go about our lives making decisions on a daily basis. I truly have few regrets in life. That's not to say I haven't made some bad decisions, believe me I have, but hopefully I've learned from those decisions and grown through the process. I believe that everything we go through shapes who we are and what we will become. We can either let our circumstances steer us in a negative direction or ask God to help us grow into the person He wants us to become. I find a lot of comfort in the fact that I can royally screw something up and yet God will take that and turn it into a positive. It doesn't mean there aren't consequences to our actions and decisions, because there certainly are, it just means that we don't have to be destroyed by them if we mess up. Isn't that exactly the message of the gospel, God's unmerited grace coming into our messed up lives.

Of course not everything we go through is because of a decision we've made, sometimes God allows things to happen that we have to deal with, both good and bad. It's not only the negative things that shape us. In fact as I reflect on my journey thus far, there has been much more good than bad and I'm just as much shaped by those experiences.

So how does all of this impact those around me now? While I believe this life is about God's pursuit of us and us growing closer to Him, it's just as much about us connecting with other people. We're not walking this journey alone, we're all walking it together and if my story can encourage those around me to pursue a deeper relationship with God, I can find great fulfillment in that. As a society that worships celebrity, we often feel like we aren't making a difference if we can't touch millions of people on a daily basis. But in reality, if we are touching those around us and they in turn around them and so on we are making a bigger impact than we realize. We're strengthened as we share our story with others and as they share theirs with us.

As a father my prayer is that I can use what God has taught me thus far and impart it to my kids in a way that they will understand. I know they won't always listen or take my advice and that's fine. They need to walk their own path and learn to trust God as He guides and leads them. But I do hope that they will take my words to heart and that it helps them in some way. I believe it is my role as a parent to prepare my kids for the journey God has laid out for them not to control every detail of their lives. Though I admit I struggle with letting go of that control sometimes.

I pray that as a husband I would love and serve my wife in a way that is honoring to God. I pray that as a coach I can teach more than basketball and softball to my athletes and that I can impart life lessons that will help them on their journeys. I pray that as a deacon, I will serve humbly and willingly and be more aware of those in need around me. I pray that as an employee that I would honor God through my work and serve my clients in a way that glorifies God. I pray that I would love my neighbor as myself. I pray that the little bit of money we give to Compassion for our sponsored child in Columbia would go a lot further than I can imagine and will be used to deepen his relationship with God and end the cycle of poverty in his family.

I'm not sure I've done a very good job at any of these things at times. Yet, my hope lies in the fact that God is not through with me yet. I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago and I won't be the person I am today 10 years from now. That's the beauty of having a relationship with the Lord and creator of the universe. He's always molding us into something greater than we can become on our own.

Lord, continue to make me into the person you want me to be.

God Bless,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summertime Musings

Well summer has finally arrived and in a big way here in Missouri. We went from a very wet and cold spring to record temperatures, which to be honest is fine with me. I much prefer the heat to the cold. With summer comes the summer schedule. During the school year our schedule is busy, but structured. Once summer arrives it seems that the schedule actually gets busier, but our days are less structured (i.e. kids have no bedtime, their friends are in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night, different kids at different camps each week, etc.) I'm not complaining though, I actually kind of like the chaos and in spite of it feel like everyone is a little more laid back.

Speaking of chaos, we're also at the beginning of the presidential race heading into next year's election. To me this is one of the most interesting times of the election process as candidates are jumping in and out of the race it seems every week. It's way too early for me to know who I even like at this point. I can't say that I'm particularly thrilled with any of the potential candidates, but it's a safe bet that I won't be voting for Obama unless the republicans do something really strange. I do wish that Donald Trump had entered the race. I probably wouldn't have voted for him, but he made the race much more interesting. It was refreshing to see someone actually speak their mind and not worry about what the media or his own party might say. He would have been great in the debates and made them much more entertaining. In fact, while I don't think he could have won the nomination, I do think he would have pushed the republican platform in a positive direction.

My run down on the other potential candidates: I don't think Palin will run. She's not built up enough political capital and is too dividing a figure even in her own party. I sort of like her, but I don't think she's ready to be president. Bachman is an interesting candidate. Similar positions to Palin, but may have a difficult time reaching beyond the Tea Party voters. We all know what we get with Romney, a moderate. Probably the most electable, but hard to get too excited about. Gingrich has too much baggage. He's intelligent and has good ideas, but won't draw in the moderates. Ron Paul, who's really more of a Libertarian, has some interesting ideas as well, but he's crazy. Just when I think he's making sense, he says something from out in left field that makes me scratch my head. Pawlenty is too boring. He may have some good ideas, but he's not going to excite anyone. Don't really know that much about Cain, though I am intrigued and will be looking more closely into his platform. Besides, who doesn't love Godfather's Pizza?

Regardless of who decides to run, it'll be an interesting race. If the republicans can't find someone to unseat a president presiding over the worst economy since the 70's and out of control debt/spending policies, they don't deserve to win.

While we're on the subject of politics, can someone please tell Congressman Weiner to just resign now and get it over with. We all know he will eventually resign and this way we won't have to listen to several more weeks of this nonsense. I mean how stupid can one person be to think their not going to get caught engaging in this type of activity. I don't want someone that stupid running this country. I understand that what he did wasn't illegal, but what a dirt bag, and a stupid dirt bag at that. The arrogance of these folks never ceases to amaze me. To quote Homer Simpson, "Doh!, why do all my actions have consequences?" I think Homer is about the level of intelligence we're dealing with when it comes to most of these clowns.

Enough politics for now. It's summer and I for one plan to enjoy it. My oldest daughter plays on 2 softball teams (which I get the privilege of assistant coaching) that are each in first place in their respective divisions and is at a church camp this week with her youth group. My youngest daughter just finished volleyball camp and is getting ready for Vacation Bible School next week followed by Strings Camp and Art Camp in July. My son is getting ready to take his driver's test to get his learning permit. I'm starting to put my plans together for basketball season. My wife is just trying to not go crazy running everyone around. Yep, bring on the chaos, it's summer.

God Bless,

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Springtime and a Man's Thoughts Turn to...Well Some Really Random Things Actually

Seems like a good day for some random thoughts. I'm not sure why, but it just does. Enjoy.

As those that read this blog know, I seldom agree with this president on anything and overall feel he is a weak leader. However, his handling of the Bin Laden situation is one of those rare occasions where I feel the president got it right. They took their time to validate the intelligence and then when it was confirmed, they went in without hesitation or seeking permission and did what needed to be done finally bringing this man to justice with minimal collateral damage. I also thought his speech was excellent and his informing Presidents Bush and Clinton beforehand was very classy.

I have to admit though that I felt a little uncomfortable with all the cheering over Bin Laden's death. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we finally found him and I am glad he is dead. He was an evil person right up there with the most evil people throughout history and I do believe that justice was served. I also hope that the families of those who were killed on 9/11 can find some solace in this as well and am proud of and grateful for the soldiers that risked their lives to accomplish this task. But is it really appropriate for us to cheer and celebrate someones death? Don't we get upset when we see our enemies do this at the death of one of our own? As Christians, shouldn't we take a more somber tone as it relates to the death of an non-believer? Something to think about.

It really sucks watching your kids suffer with injuries and unable to fully enjoy playing the sports they are passionate about. It's hard to stand by and not be able to fix it.

At the same time, I'm very impressed with their toughness and determination to play with the injuries in spite of the pain they are in and hope this is a lesson they take with them throughout their life. God often uses obstacles in our life to build character.

Will it ever stop raining in Missouri? At this rate we'll be playing double headers everyday in July to make up all the games that have been rained out.

Initially, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the draft choices of the St. Louis Rams in last weekend's draft. However, as I've had time to research some of their selections, I think this might end up being a good draft for the Rams after all. Only time will tell. It kind of depends on what they do in free agency.

It was also great to see 2 University of Missouri players drafted in the top 10 of the 1st round. This should do wonders for recruiting. Go Tigers!!!

It's frustrating when you finally discover what it is you're passionate about and would like to pursue on a full time basis, but see absolutely no path to get there. What was that I said earlier about obstacles building character? I hate it when my own words come back to haunt me.

I'm really looking forward to Cornerstone this year and hoping I'm able to go. Some really great bands both old (classic Petra, Phil Keaggy, The Choir, Daniel Amos, Lost Dogs) and new (Anberlin, POD, Flatfoot 56, Josh Garrels, Photoside Cafe) and many I've never heard of, which is one of the greatest things about the festival, discovering new artists.

Speaking of music, for those that have not discovered the music of Mumford & Sons or The Avett Brothers, I would strongly encourage you to check them out. Amazing songwriters and musicians.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Mother's Day this weekend. I'm thankful God blessed me with a wonderful mother who has always supported and loved me. I'm also very grateful for my wife, who is a tremendous mother to our children. I can't imagine being on this journey with anyone else.

Even in the midst of difficult situations, God remains good, faithful, and trustworthy and His word remains true.

God Bless,

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fastpitch Player

I can't take credit for writing this. I found this on a softball blog by an unknown author and thought that it described my oldest daughter to a tee, except for the part about wearing pink and playing with dolls (she never was into that). Other than that this description of a softball player couldn't describe her more accurately. So this post is dedicated to her.

The Fastpitch Player
Author Unknown

At one time she looked cute as a button dressed in pink with ponytails. She had tea parties with her stuffed animals and dolls and helped Mom bake cookies. She has been, and will always be Daddy's and Mommy's little girl. Today the fastpitch player still has the same little girl attributes. The only difference is she looks cute in her sliders and shorts. If she's wearing ribbons in her hair, they are the team colors. She has become Mommy and Daddy's little hitter.

The fastpitch player is proud of how dirty she can get. On a normal family dinner outing, she takes up to an hour primping to get ready, and she still feels somewhat self-conscious. However, between tournament games she'll strut into any restaurant with a streak of dirt across her face, ratted sweaty hair, a dirt stained shirt, bloody knees, and brown socks (they used to be white) with sandals with a toe sticking out, and yell, "Let's eat!"

The fastpitch player typically has an extensive wardrobe. She has several old uniforms, which she has outgrown, but has not discarded because, well, you never know. She has several hundred tee shirts and boxer shorts from camps, leagues, and tournaments around the country. When her parents say wear something nice, she wears stuff from regional or national events.

The fastpitch player needs to get a scholarship, because her parents are broke spending thousands of dollars paying for camps, batting lessons, pitching lessons, catching lessons, hotel rooms, out to eat between tournament games, league fees, equipment, etc., etc....

The fastpitch player is a fierce competitor. She is willing to stand 40' away from a pitcher and take a pitch with a measured reaction time that even a major league baseball player would struggle to hit. She might only be 5'3" and 100 pounds (soaking wet), but she'll dig in at 3rd or 1st, 25 feet away from the batter and challenge them to drive one down her throat.

The fastpitch player has more spirit than any other sport. She'll go home hoarse from cheering and rooting her team on into the final innings. She plays the sport for all the right reasons, she loves the game. She could spend the weekend watching TV or out at the mall with all her non-sport friends, because all her sport friends are at a tournament somewhere, but she chooses to spend her weekend in the 100 degree heat, waiting to get in the game.

The fastpitch player is diligent and hard working. She knows the value of hard work. She understands that you get out of something what you put in. She is competitive and doesn't give up very easily. She learns teamwork and spirit. Most of all she learns to respect all, but fear none.

God Bless,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vacation 2011

Last weekend we got back from what was maybe the best vacation we've ever taken as a family. We decided that with our oldest starting college in 3 short years and the other 2 following quickly after, that this may be the last chance we'll have to take a big vacation for a long time. So with that in mind we proposed to the kids last year that our main Christmas gift be a family cruise to the Caribbean for spring break this year. They all agreed it was a great idea and it turned out to be the best decision we could have made and the trip came at just the right time. With our incredibly busy schedule being gone almost every night, this was the perfect opportunity to slow down and really spend some quality family time together. When you can get a teenager, pre-teen, and 9 year old to actually be excited about family time, it's always a good thing.

So off we went. We flew to Cocoa Beach, FL to spend the day on the beach before boarding the ship. The moment we got on the plane, it was like all the stress from work, sports schedules, activities, etc. was all gone, which is very unusual for me. It usually takes me a few days to unwind, but not this time. God truly blessed us as we left. It was like the whole family was able to take a long, deep breath and just relax. Florida was warm and beautiful, especially after a long, cold, snowy winter in Missouri. (I hate snow and cold weather by the way). We enjoyed our afternoon on the beach and had time to visit Ron Jon's Surf shop in the evening. Despite a minor issue with a small fire in another part of the hotel that had us in the parking lot for about 30 minutes in the middle of the night it was a good day.

The next morning we boarded our ship, the Norwegian Sun. This was my 4th cruise, my wife's 2nd, and the kids 1st. The kids (and adults) were very excited about the food and anxious to try new things and the ship did not disappoint. We're blessed with kids that are very adventurous, especially when it comes to trying new and unusual food. The food was wonderful the entire cruise. I think the teenager actually found enough food to fill him up, which is no easy task. One night he ordered 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, dessert and then finished what his sister didn't eat.

We visited 4 very different ports on the trip: Cozumel, Mexico; Guatemala; Belize; and Key West, FL and had 2 days at sea. Sea days were very relaxing basically just sleeping in, hanging out by the pool, and playing games in the Observation lounge and Las Ramblas Tapas Restaurant. Port days were much busier, but very fun. My wife and I have traveled internationally before, but this was the first time the kids had been to another country so they were very excited to see different cultures.

In Mexico, we decide to just catch a taxi from the pier and spend the day at Paradise Beach. It was a good decision. The beach was beautiful and had a lot of fun toys in the water. There was also a beautiful pool on the property and a good restaurant right on the beach that had some excellent guacamole. We headed back to San Miguel in the afternoon and did a little shopping, which gave our kids their first, but not last, taste of street vendors. They did a great job handling themselves in the craziness and it produced one of our favorite quotes of the trip, "I'm cheaper than my neighbor".

The next day in Guatemala we decided to take a river cruise up the Rio Dulce. While probably the poorest place we visited, this turned out to be our favorite port of the trip. We boarded a small boat from the pier, which took us around the coast to the mouth of the river, where we headed up river through a beautiful canyon. It was very interesting to see the local children in dug out canoes paddling up to the boat to sell us things and show us their small animals (turtles, crabs, etc.). We had about a 25 minute stop at a women's, Miss Silvia, house on the river, where we got to see how people live along the river and we got to make tortillas in a very rustic kitchen. Afterward we headed back down river to the town of Livingston. Our guide, who was outstanding on the whole tour, took us on a walking tour of the town and gave us an excellent history and cultural lesson along the way. While very poor, it was still a very lively place with very friendly people. It was a very eye opening experience for the kids to see the difficult conditions that other people around the world live in and to realize how blessed we are. But at the same time I was encouraged by the sense that these people were not living in despair. They may not have much, but they did not let that rob them of their joy. As I said this was our favorite port because we all felt like we got to immerse ourselves in the culture more than anywhere else we went. We also ran into the most aggressive vendors here, but the kids really handled it well and never seemed too bothered by it.

The next day we visited the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha in Belize. This was a really interesting site. It was a little smaller than the site my wife and I visited in Tulum a few years ago, but it was a little older and we were able to climb up the temples, which we could not do at Tulum. For the history buffs in our family this was a great excursion, though I think everyone enjoyed it. The only complaint was that we didn't have much time to explore on our own after a long, hot, bumpy bus ride from the pier into the jungle. The formal 30 minute tour was good, but we only had 20 minutes to see things on our own. Would have liked to have an hour or two. Afterward we headed back to Belize City and had lunch on the pier and did a little shopping before going back to the boat.

Our last port day was in Key West, but since we only had a half day there, we just visited the aquarium and walked around town a little and headed back to the ship for lunch. Nice day, but nothing too exciting.

Fortunately we decided to stay an extra day in FL after the cruise and enjoyed a day at the pool and the beach, while it was snowing back home. By the time we got home on Sunday, most of the snow had melted. Overall, it was an amazing trip. The best part truly was getting the opportunity to spend so much family time together and build memories that will last a lifetime. God has truly blessed me with an amazing wife and kids that are a blast to travel with. As different as the 3 kids are in their personalities and interests, they all love to travel and really do get along amazingly well. It was a great experience for everyone and really went a long way toward recharging my batteries. Now it's back to reality. But I find that reality is a little easier to take when I can look back and reflect on the great time we had. I'm glad the kids got to experience traveling internationally and hope that they get many more opportunities to do so in the future. It really broadens your perspective on the world when you realize that people are people no matter where they live. We are all created in God's image and traveling this journey together.

God Bless.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Strange Waters

Have you ever felt like you had something to write about that is like a heavy weight on your chest that you want to get off, but you can't quite pinpoint what it is? That's where I've been since my last post. I've sat down to write a few times, but was never happy with what I wrote. I'm still at that point. I've been in a very strange mood the since the holidays. I have a lot of things on my mind that are all kind of swirling around in one great big jumbled mess. In spite of that, maybe because of it, I've decided to just forge ahead with this post and see what happens. There's no telling where this might go, which may make it kind of interesting or really pointless. It may be a bit more melancholy than usual, but I guess we'll find out.

Maybe the fact that I'm turning 40 this year has me a little freaked out. I don't feel like I should be that old, not that 40 is really all that old. In my mind I feel much younger, not what I pictured 40 to be like when I was a kid. I like to think of myself as a young, fun dad, but I realize more and more that my kid's friends see me as the old guy in the same way I used to see my friend's dads when I was their age. That's a reality check I was not prepared for and I have to admit is a little shot to my ego. It's that moment when you realize other people see you differently than you see yourself, especially the younger folks.

I admit that I feel very restless lately and find myself thinking a lot about what I've accomplished so far in my life. While I'm extremely busy between work, coaching, church, kids activities, and a myriad of other things, I find that when I do get a moment to rest and unwind, I can't relax. My mind is always going in a thousand directions and I feel like a lion pacing the cage (thank you Bruce Cockburn for the reference). I don't know maybe I'm just tired. Like Bilbo Baggins said in the Lord of the Rings, "I feel like too little butter spread over too much bread."

I find myself thinking a lot about my career and trying to decide if I really want to spend the next 25 years doing what I'm doing now. Don't get me wrong, I have a very good job and am not complaining. I know a lot of people are out of work and would love to be in my position, but I can't help but feel like I'd like to spend my time pursuing something I'm passionate about, not just going to work. At the same time, I know God has placed me here for a reason. I have a tremendous amount of flexibility in my schedule that allows me to be very involved in my kid's activities and that is extremely important to me so I'm not planning any changes that would interfere with that while they're young. I'm thinking more long term once they are all in or through college. But at the same time I'll be 50 when my youngest goes to college and am not sure that's the best time to make a career change so I'm feeling a little caught in the middle at the moment.

Truthfully, the thing I find the most energizing is coaching. I'm privileged to coach my daughter's 6th grade basketball team, assistant coach my son's 9th grade basketball team, and assistant coach one of my daughter's softball teams. There is something very exciting about working with young athletes and watching them progress and grow more confident in their abilities. It's a real thrill when that light bulb turns on and they really start to get it. It's a real joy to watch them play purely for the love of the game and I'm encouraged by their dedication, hard work, and time they are willing to commit. It's exciting to look back and see how far they've come. I'm humbled by the fact that parents would entrust their kids to me and hope that I can teach them about more than just sports. I hope that I can impart life lessons to them that will help them regardless of where their athletic career takes them. But most of all, I hope and pray that I would always model Christ to them in my words and actions. I look forward to seeing them move on to play in high school or some maybe even college and hope that the small part I played in their development helps them at some point along the way. You can bet I'll be following them all closely. Once you've played for me, you're always one of my players.

In the same vein, I've really enjoyed training with my son and teaching him how to prepare himself physically and mentally for football. I'm constantly amazed at how hard of a worker he is and how dedicated he is to his sport. But even more than the physical training, I've enjoyed the father/son time together at a critical time in his life as he moved from middle school to high school and as I mentioned earlier I hope he learned about more than just sports. As he enters into his sophomore year of high school, he's starting to do most of his training on his own or with friends, which is the way it should be. At 15 it's appropriate for him to start to pull away and be more independent and I'm extremely proud of him. I know I drive him crazy sometimes (and probably push him harder than I should) and hope that he forgives me for when I go overboard. The bond we formed during these last couple of years is very strong and while I miss spending that much time together I know that it's time for me to start letting go. It's hard, but I know it's time. As long as he occasionally agrees to play me in a game of one on one (of which I know I'll lose badly) and lets me run him though some drills once in a while, I'll be fine. He is and always has been in God's hands, which are much more capable than mine. I pray that through God's grace we've built a solid foundation for him to grow on as he continues to mature.

With all the things crammed into our schedule, we don't get as much family time as any of us would like. It probably affects our 8 year old the most. Sometimes I forget that she is as young as she is because she acts so mature for her age, but she really needs that time together and I need to be better about respecting that. I think she sometimes feels like she's in the middle of a tornado of everyone else's schedule. It's tough being the youngest, but I never want her to feel slighted and hope she knows how special she is to me.

I believe God is working on me and is probably the reason I've been so introspective lately. It seems as though He usually brings me to these places in my life to draw me closer to Him. I pray that I would be open to His voice and trust Him to lead me where I need to go to accomplish what He has called me to do. Whatever that is.

"Lord you've been leading me besides strange waters,
streams of beautiful lights in the night.
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?" - Strange Waters by Bruce Cockburn

God Bless,