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meaning to life

Remembering Rock

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Remembering Rock

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38

My dad is no longer in pain.

This is something I have to remind myself as I reflect on the loss of my father.

I knew this day would come, but for some reason I never thought it would be so soon— or so sudden. When you lose a family member (especially when it comes unexpected) you reflect on your final conversations with them. Was I there for him when he needed me? Did we end on good terms? Does he know he much he really meant to me? Did I tell him I loved him?

It’s hard not to wish you said more, did more, and, most importantly, loved more.

Even though parents fall short, they are the people that love you more than anyone else. They are the ones who love you unconditionally. Being a new father myself, I am now experiencing this more and more everyday with my own son.

So as I reflect on my own father I want to highlight the good. I want to remember the ways he shaped me into who I am today and the positive impacts he had on my life.

Everyone will have different memories with him, but here are just a FEW of the highlights with my dad:

My dad loved the water. Especially salt water. Salt water was the cure for all things in life. Sore throat? Gargle with hot salt water. Foot infection? Soak it in salt water. Those things make sense. But sometimes it went way beyond that… Nightmares keeping you up? Salt water. Lost the championship game? Salt water. HA!

But in all seriousness, he loved the water so much I think he would have permanently lived on it if it were up to him. Several different times in life he lived on a sail boat out in the water. We he moved on shore and bought a house in Weaverville (where he practiced dentistry) he bought a ski boat which we took out to the lake.

My memories out on the lake our some of my favorite of all time. I loved boating! Tubing, knee-boarding, skiing, fishing, or just exploring the waters. The photo above is me performing a “whoa baby” jump and staking claim on what I saw as a newly discovered island. After we moved from Weaverville it would be years before I got to go back out on the lakes and rivers again (Thank you Erickson family!).

Growing up I wasn’t the most athletic kid (I think Knute, Teagan, and Brayden got those genes), but my dad never gave up on me. We tried various sports until we found one that I thrived at— hockey. I remember roller-blading around the whole neighborhood with my dad or working on in the garage with him on my wrist shot. We practiced and played together until I became the lead scorer in my league. That was a proud moment for me. At the time I thought he was proud of my success, but now looking back, I realize he would have been proud of me no matter how I performed. He was just happy to see me trying my best and having fun.

I loved growing up in Weaverville. As a kid, you don’t need “things to do” like you complain about as a teen or an adult. You just need places to explore! And Weaverville has plenty of that. The population of Weaverville is probably less than the amount of people at Coronado Beach on any given Saturday. There was so much wilderness to explore and all the neighbors had animals everything from goats and pigs to parrots and chinchillas.

I don’t know if this is because it was back in the 90’s or because it was out in the sticks, but I remember how everyone burned most of their trash in what we called “burn piles”.  My dad taught me a lot about fire and how to be a pyro. Don’t know if most people would consider that good things but it sure was fun… until Teagan burnt our trampoline down :(

My dad was really handy. My 2 favorite things he built while we lived in Weaverville was our go-kart and our backyard tree fort. This was the most legit tree fort I have ever seen. It was three stories high with various ways to get up and down including nets, ropes, and stairs. This made for the perfect play place for any kid who dreams of being a super hero (isn’t that every little boy?).

After meeting spider man and introducing me to the world of super hero comics he taught me how to climb all the walls of our house like spider man.

One Christmas my dad surprised us we woke up to quads! I didn’t even understand what a cool Christmas present this was at the time. To be honest, I think I was more excited about the micro-machines and Hotwheel tracks I had received the night before. But regardless of my comprehension, this would change family reunion vacations forever!

As we acquired enough 4-wheelers all the cousins learned to ride and soon this became one of my favorite activities I have ever taken part in! My dad also used these quads to help teach us boys responsiblity. After we rode he had us wash and put them away properly. He taught us how to change the tires and repair the parts that we were capable of.

My favorite house we have ever had growing up was the one we lived in when we moved to Redding.

My dad really wanted a pool and I’m pretty sure we spent every single summer day in it. At this house there was acres and acres of undeveloped land that we rode quads around all the time. Between the quads, pool, and family I really do believe these years of childhood are hard to rival. I have VERY fond memories of my childhood at this house.

After he taught me how, my dad would let me put up the Christmas lights each year. My dad was never afraid to teach me new things, (even things that now I look back on and think “whoa, scary, would I let Bryer be up there by himself??).  

I remember the first winter he took all of us kids up snowboarding for the first time. Anyone who has been snowboarding knows how frustrating it can be the first day. But somehow he got us all down the mountain in one piece (he even got Natalie boarding and I don’t even know he young she was… If I was 12, she had to be under 7).

My dad also taught me how to workout. Pushups, pullups, and weights, he showed me how the ropes of fitness.

I’m thankful that my dad was able to make it to my wedding…

And attend bible studies at my first home!

And I loved watching how much he LOVED Warren! He was always healthiest, happiest, and at his best whenever Warren was around.

My favorite memory of my dad was how he instilled within me faith at a very young age. I remember how he used to tuck me in each night as a kid and pray with me. That is something I will always cherish and hopefully will continue to do with my own son.

I am thankful for the parents God blessed me with.

All of us have things in life that we struggle with and some more than others. Some of us struggle with things openly, while others internally. But regardless, our struggles do not define who we are.

Our identity comes from Christ, and from Christ alone.

I don’t know how people go through life’s heartaches and maintains their sanity without the peace and love of knowing the Lord.

I know that when I meet my dad again, he will be restored. He will be everything he was meant to be. This brings me comfort, peace, and joy— the joy to celebrate the everlasting life made possible by our Savior.

 

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Gift Giving

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Gift Giving

Gift Giving and Receiving… it’s what Christmas is all about, right???

As we celebrate giving gifts this holiday season, let’s reflect on the reason WHY we give gifts. It is in remembrance of God’s gift of eternal life in heaven for all those who desire it, made possible through the sacrifice of His Son, JESUS CHRIST.

Mark 10:43-45

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

As I read these verses I reflected on all the joy that comes with this Christmas season. We celebrate the birth of Christ because of all the things that this signifies— salvation, everlasting life, hope, love, peace, and so much more.

I heard an amazing sermon the other day at Church about what kind of “peace” was delivered when Christ came. So many people thought Jesus was going to be a warrior and overthrow the government with physical force.

Others thought he was just going to clap his hands and just like that all the evil in the world would disappear. No more disease, death, rape, divorce, or any other type of tragedy.

This type of peace will come, and “one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord”, but that isn’t the type of peace that is being celebrated by by the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ first coming brough PEACE between God and man, which technically is the most important. We have now been justified.

The ultimate judge of good and evil is the one that will give us the verdict of whether or not we have EVER sinned (which we all have). The peace we have been given is the judge declared us “NOT GUILTY” because someone has come to pay the price for our sins. That justification brings about a sense of peace that surpasses all understanding.

So why doesn’t God come now and restore the final peace?

The short answer is because he loves us and is patient with us.  God wants to give all tribes, all nations, and all people a chance to choose Him before his final coming.

So this holiday season, no matter what hardships are going through, hopefully you can find a sense of peace knowing that you are redeemed and loved in the eyes of the Creator. Next, go out and spread love and kindness to everyone and help bring Peace on Earth and Good will toward men!

Merry Christmas!


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4D Sonogram: ProLife vs. ProChoice

Just went to our 4D sonogram last week. Absolutely incredible experience watching my unborn son smile, move his arms, and dance around inside Annalisa.

The most important thing in life is life itself. You really can’t say anything else. If you say love is greater than life, how can you love if you aren’t alive?

It makes me wonder how anyone could be opposed to ProLife???  If you don’t support ProLife, that would make you ProDeath.

I’ve always known what I believed, but going through this pregnancy with Annalisa has made everything so much more real. It is crazy to me that people are allowed to kill little, fully functioning babies.

An UNBORN baby has all of its internal organs after only 8 WEEKS! I could go on and on about the beautiful and incredible developmental process, but I’ll just cut to the chase and say these are little people that we are deciding to “terminate”. I get there are rare exceptions that make this an actual debate. “What if the woman was raped?” or “What if the mother’s life is in danger from an ectopic pregnancy?” This are true controversial topics and to these I honestly don’t have an answer.

However, these are the EXCEPTION, not the rule. LESS than 1% of all abortions take place because of rape and/or incest. Here are all the other reasons for abortion...97% of the millions of other abortions are due to reasons such as “not ready for the responsibility”, “life would be changed too much”, “inadequate finances”, “too immature” (yes, 11% of people actually cited this as their reasoning to kill someone), “I already have all I want” (ugh, 8% of people gave that selfish response), and “problems with relationships”.  People seriously! We are letting millions of abortions happen for these reasons.

I would much rather be accused of anti-choice than Pro-death. But the crazy thing is I am ProChoice. I’m both! ProLife and ProChoice. Every woman has a choice (aside from rape). If you choose to have sex you know there is a chance for pregnancy! It is YOUR CHOICE if you want to have unprotected sex, or even sex at all. There is a sad, startling fact that by age 45 one third of American women will have had at least one abortion... 😟  

I will say one final note… 3% of people cited reasons for abortion because the baby was noted to have possible health problems. I still don’t think that is a reason for abortion. I have seen real life examples of why this could be a terrible mistake. I know a woman who was told that she should have an abortion because her daughter will be born with extreme retardation and never be able to live a fully functioning life. The doctor highly recommended an abortion. Thank God this woman stood firm and refused. The doctors were wrong. This baby was born, never had any problems, and grew up to be one of my friends who is one of the smartest/ most athletic people I know.

Let’s not dance around this debate because of the exceptions in life which occur LESS than 1% of the time. Some things in life we do not have a choice in and no one seems to have a problem with it. Stealing is illegal. Abuse is illegal (you don’t get to say, “It’s my CHOICE how I raise my kids”. If you are physically abusing your kids, you can end up in jail for 10 years or more You can’t make the argument that it is your choice aka Pro-Choice).

Murder is illegal, you have no choice in that. Killing babies in utero should be illegal too.

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Kylie

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Kylie

My wife and I just celebrated our 3 year Anniversary and it was so wonderful looking back on our past year and seeing how blessed we were.

We also went through so of the hardest moments of our life with the passing of Kylie and wanted to take time to celebrate her life.

My wife and I reflecting on our sweet little niece as we looked back on this past year. These are just a few snippets and memories. My favorite is Kylie's laugh and her "fake" laugh. So dang cute! We love you and miss you Kylie.

After watching this video my wife and I made, I reflected on some comments people made throughout Kylie’s journey.

Many people say that fact tragedies such as children suffering prove that GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

Or at least that an ALL POWERFUL, ALL GOOD God does NOT exist.

After all, God can’t possibly be both ALL LOVING (GOOD) and ALL POWERFUL and still allow such unnecessary atrocities in the world to exist. Right?

Wrong. I’m here to prove the contrary.

Suffering PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. Here’s how:

Whenever someone is tortured, murdered, or dies from so unpreventable disease such as we feel a sense of heartbreak, helplessness, and often anger.

First we must breakdown the types of suffering:
Those brought about by our choices, i.e. moral evils such as murder
Those brought about by nature, i.e. cancer, tornados, etc.

The first can be explained by free will. The fact that humans have free will explain why when people commit an immoral act, consequences of suffering ensues. Otherwise, God would have to make all bad choices have no consequences which would therefore not make it a bad choice, or take away our free will and we could all live as ROBOTS forced to always do the right thing that brings about no suffering.

So the fact that people make evil decisions in the world does not disprove God at all. If there were no God, evil would be subjective and at best we could as a collective group of people decide we don’t like certain actions. But we couldn’t say that universally RAPE and CHILD ABUSE are evil unless an absolute moral standard exists… and the only way an absolute moral standard exists is if God exists.

Which leads directly to the 2nd type of suffering. This is more frustrating and at times more difficult to explain. How do you explain a child (or a person of any age for that matter) suffering from an incurable disease such as neuroblastoma?

The most natural response to finding out a child suffering from a disease such as this is to say,
“Wow, this is so sad.”  
“This is so wrong!”
“This just shouldn’t happen!”

Any of these are APPROPRIATE responses, however they are completely irrational if you don’t believe in God.  

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it is not right. On the contrary, IF you don’t believe in God, diseases such as cancer are completely natural and should be accepted as a part of life. You have no reason to be outraged or upset. These are SUBJECTIVE feelings in response to what is happening. You shouldn’t then be objecting to NATURAL SUFFERING.

IF there is no GOD, there is no good or evil… just nature acting perfectly naturally.

Nature is only about survival, so the fact that we feel something is unjust or wrong proves that we have a private, objective standard of what is right or wrong. And if that standard exists… so does GOD.

I could not have written this without the research and help of others. Thank you Peter Kreeft (Professor at Boston College) for sharing your words of wisdom and insight as I researched this topic.

 

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Kylie

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Kylie

Kylie Strong

Happy Birthday Kylie!

Kylie, you have touched the hearts of thousands of people. But I shouldn’t use the word “touched” because it is past tense. Correction: You TOUCH the hearts of thousands and your legacy continues to shape, mold, and grow others including myself.

Is it weird that your love for a person can grow even after they pass? I have always loved baby Kylie, but somehow I feel my love has even grown stronger. She continues to teach me things about life even though she is far younger than I.

These are just some of my thoughts and feelings as I reflect on the beautiful Kylie Rowand and all that she has taught me (and continues to teach me). I wanted to share this is because originally I didn’t know how to comfort someone going through heartbreak or death of a loved one. I know I would have found this helpful and my hope is that maybe someone else will feel the same. And by no means do I think I have mastered any of this in anyway.

Kylie Strong

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be terrible at comforting others. I just thought I would share some of what I have learned along the way.

There are (and will be) highs and lows every day following the death of a loved one.  

Anyone who hears of Kylie’s story is heartbroken. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I’m no stranger to Kylie but I’m not the parents either: I’m the uncle.

There are no magic words to take the pain away, but there are definitely expressions to steer away from.

Things I have learned to avoid: “Back to normal” and “getting over it”.

Prayers for Kylie

When someone loses a child, there will never be a “back to normal” or a way to “get over it”. Losing a child transforms a person for life. So instead of expecting the grieving parents and relatives to go back to normal, your support should be directed toward who they are becoming. Rather than likening the grief to a physical illness that we can recover from, it should be thought of as a life-changing physical injury.

“How are you?” In our culture this is such a commonplace greeting that it’s hard not to let it slip out. But really this should be avoided. Obviously, they are doing bad. A child just died. So when you ask that question what kind of response are you really looking for? What you really mean is I care about your well being, so find a way to express that without asking the obvious, and almost offensive, question. It’s hard enough as is. Don’t make them answer that awkward and ill-timed inquiry.

Refrain from, “I know how you feel.” Unless you have had a child die, you probably don’t know how they feel, and it sounds presumptuous to say so.

Trent and Kylie

DON’T say, “It was God’s will” or other cliche churchy expressions. This is a harmful one that I have heard Christians use with the best intentions in mind but the worst outcomes. These words don’t make it alright that the child has died and quite frankly, I believe they are wrong!

God doesn’t want death. He is the one who offers eternal life. He sacrificed His son so that we could have life eternally, and live life on Earth to the fullest.

What God does do is take a terribly tragic situation and bring as much light and beauty as possible. God does not create evil. God takes evil and uses it for good.  So even if God brings miracles and changed lives through it, it is NOT God’s will for a child to die. So don’t say it.

Definitely AVOID, “At least you have your spouse,” or if applicable, “At least you have other children.” This should be obvious. You should never try to minimize a child’s death by counting your blessings.

I don’t know who the heck says this but I caught wind of someone telling a grieving mother, “At least you are young enough to have more children.” Seriously? Not helpful.

Everyone will handle it differently and there is no need to pass along judgements about what is appropriate or how they should be healing. Don’t critique if they display “too many photos” thereby idolizing the child, or “not enough photos”. Seriously, I don’t know why you would need to critique anyone about these things but it is some of the expressions I have heard.

Bottomline, if you have never lost a child, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to say to someone in that situation due to the nature of the tragedy. It is unnatural and unfair.

So, what to say?

Sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all.  Learn to be comfortable with silence and just be present with those who are grieving. Sometimes people need the silence and sometimes that gives them a window to open up about feelings. It can be cathartic.

Some people are afraid to bring up those who have passed because they don’t want to hurt those grieving. Yet often they need and want to talk about their loved one. Don’t treat those who have passed as taboo words. When appropriate feel free to bring up memories or stories if you knew the person. If not, don’t be afraid to ask gentle questions to get to know them better.

Don’t be afraid to cry. Your tears are a tribute to both to those who have passed and the grieving ones who are left behind. However, just make sure that your grieving is not so intense that those you went to comfort are now having to comfort you.

Side note about crying: Even though it is a normal response to sadness, it isn’t the ONLY response. Just because someone is not crying (or crying as much) does not mean they are not sad. They may feel the pain just as deeply as others but have different ways of showing it.

Sometimes a hug or loving touch is all that will suffice. Your presence is what matters most.

Don’t be afraid of laughter. It helps heal the wounds.

Expressions that are almost always okay:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I’ll call you in a few days to check on you.”
“You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.”
“I love you.”  

Something I’ve learned through this experience is don’t say to the grieving family, “Call me if there’s anything I can do for you.” That call will probably never come.

I’ve been guilty of saying this dozens of troubled people in my life. But as I deal with my own anguish of Kylie’s death, I have had multiple kind hearted people offer up these same words to me. Yet, even though I am sad, I would never actually call upon these people. I didn’t want to inconvenience them, even when it was something I felt like would really help.

The best thing to do is take initiative. Find out things that the grieving family needs and do it. Start with the basics. Help out with chores, errands, and basic necessities. So when you find yourself about to say these words, instead figure out what needs to be done, and do it. Just know your boundaries of course. The better you know someone the more initiative you can take.  If your invitation is initially declined, don’t give up!  

A hand written card sent in the mail is also a very nice gesture.

Even if you feel like you have nothing to say, just letting someone know you are thinking about them can mean a lot.

Everyone grieves differently. Even though grieving is an individual and highly personal experience, love is a universal language that we all can speak, and as humans we all crave.

The biggest mistake you can make is not knowing what to do or say, so not reaching out at all.

The beautiful part about my faith in Christ is that even though I miss Kylie, I don’t have to be stuck in a state of permanent sadness. In fact, when I think of Kylie I can truly rejoice knowing that she is in a much better place than I am. I hear that expression thrown around a lot when it comes to tragic situations such as these, but with a solid faith in our Creator I’m not just saying those words for comfort, but with genuine meaning.

It is my faith in a loving and ever-faithful God that enables me and all those around me to recover from the death of a child.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible from 2 Samuel 12.  King David (yes, the same David who killed Goliath) had a child who had fallen deathly ill from sickness. He mourned, fasted, prayed, and wept the entire time his child was sick. He begged God for healing and had all his attendants do everything they could. Yet, the child died.

This is how David responded (2 Samuel 12:20): “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.”

The part that stood out most to me was that he “went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” Honoring God after a crisis sometimes can be very hard to do but it is an important and powerful demonstration of our spiritual confidence in our God. David turns loose what he cannot change.

David’s servants were stunned by his behavior and asked him about it. David’s response from 2 Samuel 12:23 is powerful:
“Now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David was fully confident that he would see his son again in heaven. It does NOT mean David didn’t grieve. He just grieved differently than someone who does not believe in life after death.

Face the future with hope. Recognize that we are not alone. We have God who promises us life and we have each other. WE need to lean on each other to help us recover.

I’m trying to learn from David’s example. David worshiped the Lord in his time of deepest sorrow. We need to give God what we cannot change. Worship the Lord for restoring Kylie. Praise God that death is not the end, but only the beginning. I am fully confident that I will meet Kylie agin in heaven.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 2:14

 

Also, please check out my wife’s blog and thoughts about Kylie: analisa-joy.com/kylie

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Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo

Why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

cinco de mayo
cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a deceiving holiday because even though the name is in Spanish, it is mostly celebrated by Americans.

Many of us will go out today, eat some tacos or other traditional Mexican food, and use this “holiday” as an excuse to consume more alcohol than the ordinary day would allow.

On top of that, a few of us (like me) use it as an excuse to dress up.

But how did this day, Cinco de Mayo (which means 5th of May in Spanish [and if you didn’t know that, I feel really bad for you]) come to be?

While you are out celebrating today, ask those around you what today is celebrated for?

 I can bet you will get a lot of “I don’t know” and a few who say, “Mexican Independence day”.

Wrong.

Mexican Independence day is celebrated on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the miraculous victory for the Mexican forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexico was having difficulty repaying war debt that was owed to a majority of Europe and so the French army, led by Napoleon III, invaded.  Even though the French army was far superior in numbers and equipment, the Mexican forces were victorious at the Battle of Puebla. Unfortunately, this only temporarily halted the French army, who after receiving reinforcements proceeded to conquer the capital and take control of Mexico. It wouldn’t be for over 5 years that Mexico would regain control.

battle of puebla

This day was traditionally celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as a reminder of how many times Mexico has been invaded by other countries and yet on this day they overcame the odds and were victorious. But now it is more of an American holiday than a Mexican one because the holiday has in large part lost its roots and meaning.

So now you know.

How will we apply what we have learned to our lives?

1 Timothy 2:1-4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Any time there is a cultural holiday or national event it is a good reminder to pray for one’s country or specific cultural group. Even though there is no direct religious significance tied to Cinco de Mayo, we can take time to reflect on God’s blessings on our country.

Praise God for our religious freedom here in the United States. Thank the Lord that we are not being bombed and invaded by other countries wondering if we will even live through the day. Pray for the people in Mexico whose government has been corrupted by the powerful drug cartels and other groups of organized crime. Pray for leaders with unwavering morals to be given positions of power.  Pray that God will help Mexico to eradicate evil forces who kidnap children for sex slavery and seize power through a myriad of violent crimes and terrorism.

So before or after you enjoy your margarita and fish taco, make sure you take a moment to bow your head, praise God for the freedoms we have and pray for the leadership of our country and our neighbors in Mexico.

cinco de mayo drinks
fish tacos cinco de mayo

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