We just got back from a two week trip to Europe with the family! I've dreamed of this trip for a very long time.Over the years, I recall times of wanting to travel to Europe so badly I could hardly stand it, but were unable to for various reasons. As I reflect on it now, I see that NOW was the perfect timing. Any earlier and it would have been just that- too early. God has a way of working things out such that the timing is always better with God than if it was left to me to determine! In fact, it seems that in God's reality, things always take longer than anticipated but its worth the wait because He brings a fullness that just wouldn't be there otherwise. For us, in this situation, the fullness had to do with the kids being old enough to engage the trip and be more significantly influenced by it, as one example.
The renovated and staged kitchen
Last Fall, we purchased a house in foreclosure that needed some TLC. I've always wanted to do this; buy a house, fix it up and put it back on the market. I've looked at a lot of different properties over time, but either the house wasn't the right one, or the timing wasn't right. Last fall, we found the right house and it was the right time! Our offer was accepted and we got possession the first of December. We spent all of December, including Christmas Break working on it (the kids thought they were the only kids in the world who had to work over Christmas Break). We put it back on the market in mid-January. We took a risk.We worked hard. It was inconvenient at times. We were uncertain what the outcomes would be in this economy. But all along we had a deep sense that somehow this was something that God was doing in our lives.We hoped that if the outcome was good, we could take a big trip somewhere.
The house sold in short order. We were able to take this trip. Dreams do come true. But more on that later.
I was thinking about people that I personally know who model this principle to me of leaving deeply missed (see yesterday's post). One of the people who came to mind is my own dad.
Dad had a rough start in life which led to some serious orneriness as he became a school aged boy (I didn't let him tell my own boys the stories until they became old enough to know better than to emulate their much admired Grandpa!). Often in trouble at his little country school, the teacher's were unable to see the raw potential in him. In seventh grade, he went to see the school guidance counselor about his future. The guidance counselor told Dad that he would never amount to much of anything and that the best he could probably do would be to become a mechanic. Hard to comprehend, but true. That interaction, while hurtful to the core, became a motivation to prove everyone wrong.
Dad went on in life willing to work hard for every penny he earned. He started out by delivering eggs. He was the best egg delivery man there ever was, I'm sure. Eventually he landed a job in a small but growing tool and die company. There, he began to see possibilities for his life that he had never seen before (see my earlier post, "You Can't Be What You Can't See"). As Dad, because of his integrity, strong work ethic and good inter-personal skills, began to move up the ladder in this organization he began to catch a vision of one day not only being an employee but of being a business owner himself.
Eventually the opportunity presented itself and Dad, with Mom by his side in it all, started his own business. Dad would often get up at 3 AM to be at work before any of the other employees. He'd plan and organize the day, the work, and his strategy for growing the business.Everything Dad did came out of his passion for the business and his passion for people.. His guiding principles became:
Always go the extra mile; don't just meet people's expectations, exceed them
Do for others what I would want them to do for me; reward generously those employees who work hard and give their best
Follow through and do what I say I will do; if I said a product would be delivered in 1 week, then it will be delivered in a week at all costs
Always be honest; no BS'ing anyone, if I don't know the answer just admit it.
Care about people for who they are; don't just care about them because they keep the business going.
Be generous; the business is blessed to be a blessing so no hoarding allowed
Dad worked hard and gave it his best. He was able to retire early, having built a very successful business that impacted not only the business world, but the lives of his employees, customers, and those who benefited from Mom and Dad's generosity. Dad sold the business to someone he knew who would take good care of it. The day he walked out of the doors of the business he and Mom had built for the last time, he left a hole so big that no one could possibly begin to fill it. This many years later, people still talk about how much they miss Dad running the business. He left deeply missed.
Thanks, Dad and Mom, for your incredible example of giving whatever you did your very best! I am blessed to have been in the front row as I have watched you live out your exceptional values and principles.
This morning I happened to catch the last part of the Today show, just in time to see the farewell for Meredith Vieira on her last day with the show. It was very moving and inspiring for me. Clearly, she was well loved by many. The kind, honoring and loving words spoken of and to her indicated a deep appreciation for who she is and what she brought to the show. Behind the scenes, she worked hard, was committed, showed up every day (at 2:30 AM no less!) fully present and ready to engage, and to bring all that she was to the table, so to speak. She gave it her best and she gave all she could for the 5 years she was there.
It's a great reminder that whatever sphere we are given in life, give it the best. Whether that sphere is a family, a job, a calling, a place to volunteer- it doesn't really matter- just show up fully alive, present and ready to give our all. Most of us won't achieve celebrity status in the spheres we serve, but we can, at the end of the day, know that we lived and loved in a way that deeply touched and impacted the lives of those around us. And hopefully when we leave for the last time, it will be evident that we lived, loved and served in such a way that we will be deeply missed.
I am reading the fascinating autobiography of Elizabeth Murray, Breaking Night, where she tells her story of going from homeless to Harvard. She recounts growing up in the Bronx with parents whose drug addictions were so great that all of the family's scarce resources went towards feeding and nurturing the addiction rather than feeding and nurturing the 2 children. She and her sister went for days with no food to eat while her parents shot up around the clock. Because living with hunger had always been her reality, she believed that this was just how it was, that she would always be hungry. Then one day she met a boy who had found ways to hustle money from strangers by offering to pump their gas for a tip. In so doing, he made enough money to buy things he wanted. As she watched her friend collect money from strangers, the author tells of realizing for the first time ever that she didn't have to be hungry every day after all. She had believed she was powerless over her situation until that moment when she saw the possibility of a different reality. She writes, "And I began to wonder what else wasn't set in stone."
What an empowering realization- that she could change her situation- and what a great question to ask ourselves! What do I believe is set in stone that maybe really isn't? Some things literally can't be changed. They are what they are: our race, our past, our parents, for example. But when you think of it, there really is very little that is truly set in stone about our lives. We can so easily accept as set in stone things that limit us and hold us back because we just can't "see" another reality.
Now I want to be careful here. What I'm not suggesting is that this is the quick ticket out of a difficult situation. Its likely that there is a way through such situations that we just haven't seen or realized yet, that we probably have more tools and resources at our disposal than we've realized. We aren't to simply flee from difficult situations, but with God's help find the power to go through them towards a better reality.
I think its a question to at least ponder. Jesus came in part that we might experience the abundant life. Maybe one of the reason's we don't more fully experience the abundant life is because we have simply believed, often unconsciously, that there are things that are set in stone that really aren't. We can intentionally ask God to help us to "see" those areas of our lives that he wants to bring more to.