On Pilgrimage of the Heart (The Trip to Grandma’s)

I know many of you were not blessed with strong families or parents growing up.  Many of my friends and people I hold close to me have grown up without a family at all, severely broken families, parents that abandoned them, and current families who are too interested in their own selfish goals and lives to focus on what matters most.  It pains me to see this, but I’m encouraged by watching the majority of my friends break the cycle as they start families of their own, complete with new traditions, pledges of love and protection, and the goal to encapsulate all that is a family within their own they are creating.  In my eyes, doing something so noble without a past example is probably the most powerful legacy one can leave.

I can’t say that I fall into the group of broken families.  I was blessed, and am blessed, with a great and large family.

At any rate, The Holidays often bring or force upon (depending on your perspective) situations where we reconnect with family. This year, I had the opportunity to take my entire family to Ohio to spend Christmas with my Mother and Father, my Grandparents, my Aunts and Uncles, and my cousins.  For those of you who have children, you know that traveling long distances with any number of children, especially with three children sucks.  Halfway through the ride you start to question your sanity for taking trip.

But then you arrive.

In the span of three days, I enjoyed conversation and meals with my parents, a ceremonial viewing of It’s Wonderful Life with my Dad, special time sharing memories of my childhood Christmas’s with my children, laughter with my wife, a visit to the Gravesite of my Great Grandmother and Grandfather – and a Christmas dinner with 4 generations in the same room.

As I looked around the room at family members from 4 generations, and then back at the patriarch and matriarch of the family – my Grandparents (my children’s Great Grandparents – how cool is that?) I wondered if my generation, or the generation of my parents would be able to keep the glue that brings my family together strong even after my Grandparents move to their Celestial home.

Certainly, each generation that passes seems to grow more connected, but less filled with deep relationships.  Sure, I’m friends with all my cousins on Facebook – but ultimately, I know little about them beyond childhood memories and quick catchups during the Holidays.  I often share more personal thoughts with my coworkers.

I’m convinced that shouldn’t be.  I’m convinced that Family will become more and more important than ever as the years go before us and life on this Earth eventually gets darker and less intimate.  I have a certain reverance above and beyond respect for my Grandparents.  They’ve managed to keep my family together through decades of changes, growth, and mileage.

People come not out of obligation, but because it’s become a pilgrimage of the heart.  The more and more I think about it, the more I realize I intend to find out what creates that pilgrimage, so that my children – and their children still will take that trip to Grandmas.

I think I’ll just call Grandma and ask her the secret.  After all, she likes when I call.

– Grant

On Christmas

I’m going to tell you a story that has changed my way of thinking so considerably, I doubt I’ll ever look at Christmas the same way again. Over a month ago, I asked my wife to start figuring out the Christmas wishes for the children.  We’re a single income family, and while we do just fine, we’re on a tight budget – so I like to know as far as advance as possible how to adjust the household finances for the Holiday season.  While we always have plenty, my wife would be the first to tell you I am always stressing about the finances.  Stressing about finances is one thing I happen to be really good at.

Anways, I got a call from my wife at work shortly after making the request.  It went something like this:

Tori: Um, we might have a problem.

Me: Oh, great? What now? What broke? How much? Who needs to see a doctor? Who got in trouble this time?

Tori: No, not that. It’s Emma – she’s decided she doesn’t want anything for Christmas.

Me: What? Why?

Tori: We got this unsolicited catalog in the mail where you can buy items like medicine, farm animals, food, etc. for poor countries and their people so they can help themselves.  Emma started flipping through it and decided she wants to use whatever money we’d spend on Christmas for her on these things instead.

Me: Oh, wow. Well, I’m sure she doesn’t understand that means she won’t get anything.  I wouldn’t worry. She’ll forget. We can talk later.

Now, I’m ultimately ashamed at my first reaction: I was completely certain to myself that my 7 year-old daughter couldn’t possibly understand the sacrifice she was suggesting. In truth, I was worried. As I mentioned before, we are on a tight, one-income budget with 3 children.  Forgoing Christmas presents for these gifts would really mean that – forgoing Christmas presents.  My wife and I have a strong pact we won’t go into debt for anything but an emergency, and I wasn’t about to jeopardize our finances for that.  It’s simply really: if we buy the items Emma wants to give, there’s really no money in the pot for Christmas gifts for Emma – not that we are poor – but we would never go against our budget.

I started having these visions of Emma waking up on Christmas morning, realizing her brothers had gifts and she didn’t, and then realizing the cost of her decision.  I spent the better part of two weeks trying to talk her out of it. Explaining to her what her sacrifice meant. Worried, as a parent that she’s too young to understand such a sacrifice.  I mean, a 7 year old without Christmas morning? What kind of memory is that?

We asked Emma to pray about it, giving her every out we could.  Giving her another chance to donate “less” to another cause so she could still have some for herself.  The next morning, she told my wife that she had a conversation with God in her dreams, and God told her the little kids needed the farm animals and food, and she should give those things more than anything else.  Oh the faith of a child, to have a conversation with God in her dreams, and speak of it so nonchalantly. How have I missed such an opportunity in my adult life?

That’s it. We were stuck. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. We had to move on.

So, the next paycheck we set aside the money for Emma’s ducks and chickens that she would be buying a village. She explained to us that with the ducks and chickens we were buying, some would be used for food, and some would be used to help grow a farm – and years from now, the number of ducks and chickens would grow based on her gift.  Not only did she understand giving – she understood the eventual reaping of her harvest.  My wife placed the order.  We were worried, but we were proud.

Shortly after, actually – the same day – I got unexpected word of a small financial blessing.  Not large, but not tiny either.  I wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t even thinking about it – but there it was.  All of a sudden, I realized it’s purpose more than ever. And with that, I began to understand the true meaning of Christmas more than any sappy movie or song could ever tell me.  I understood the spirit of giving, of Christ, and the fat jolly man we call Santa Claus.

So with a bursting sense of pride for our children, my wife and I sat down tonight and wrapped Emma’s new American Girl doll, and a couple other small gifts for her.  I realized, at that very moment, that my 7 year old daughter understands Christmas more than I ever have in my 29 years on this Earth.  One day, I’ll share with her the secret I will share with you all below – but for now, tonight, my daughter will experience a little bit of Christmas magic, courtesy of her own heart.  Attached to Emma’s new wrapped doll, I wrote this note:

FROM THE DESK OF SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE, THE ARTIC
DECEMBER 23, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE DELIVERY

 

Dearest Emma Hope Dawson,

 

I have learned from my sources in Africa and South America that they have received a shipment of ducks and chickens!

 

I have also learned that these ducks and chickens came from you! It has come to my attention that you have done a selfless deed, and have asked your parents to forgo purchasing Christmas presents for yourself, in hopes that these funds can be used for other little children in need of food and animal friends.

 

Here at the North Pole, we have been touched by your generosity.   While your parents may have an agreement with you to not purchase gifts in exchange for the ducks and chickens, Santa Claus has some extra buying power for such wonderful little girls  as yourself.

 

I hope you enjoy the extra-special gifts that my elves and I have put together for you.  Keep being you Emma. Your parents and Santa Claus are very proud.

 

Your friend,  Santa Claus.

 


P.S. continue to Be nice to your brothers and parents. They love you.

 

On Roller Coasters

When I was a teenager, about 14 I think, I went on my first roller coaster.  It was with my father and brother at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida.  I really didn’t know what to expect. Back then, I wasn’t much a thrill seeker – but I was a seeker of the approval of my Dad and my brother.. so I think reluctantly, that’s what made me get on the ride.  Truthfully, I hated every moment of it. It may have been obvious from the fact that I spent the entire time staring at the floor of the roller coaster car promising my inner conscience that I would never, and I mean never do that again.  After getting off that ride and feeling as though I might truly lose my Busch Garden’s Hot-Dog stand lunch, I honestly meant to keep my promise.

When I walked away from the ride with my father, there was never a moment where he pulled me aside and said something like

“Son, what you just experienced? That roller coaster? That’s how life is.. Up, then down, then up, then down – and when you fnally think you have it all figured out? Yeah, that’s when it twists you around so you’re not sure which way is which and you’re so confused you feel like you could just lose your hypothetical Busch Gardens Hot-Dog stand lunch.  Yeah, son – that’s what life is about.”

That moment never happened.  Arguably, it could have been a great moment for a Hallmark movie, or something Ron Howard could put in that show “Parenthood” that my wife likes to watch – but let’s be honest for a moment – nobody talks like that.  Instead, my Dad and my brother had a good laugh at my dizziness, a quick cheer and a slap on a back, and we moved on to the Gorilla cages.  If I recall, after that I spent a good amount of time staring at the Gorillas.

Anyways, fast forward about 15 more years from that moment.  Throughout the years, I’ve become more of a fan of roller coasters, willing to ride them when the opportunity presents itself.  But I’ve also learned the lesson that roller coasters might be the best analogy anyone could give you for life.  My boss makes a lot of house and car analogies.  We give him a hard time for it, jokingly, even though most of the time his analogies do make some sort of sense.  I think my legacy might be roller coaster anaologies, starting first with life:

Roller coasters are scary. If you stand next to a roller coaster and look up, you’ll be a little intimidated.  They stand high, usually have plenty of loops and twirls, and are mostly loud.  They’re built to thrill. Life’s also just as terrifying.  There’s plenty of stuff to be scared of.  Bills. Jobs. Friendships. Relationships. Illness. Kids. Parenting. Future.

Roller coasters don’t travel in a straight line.  They go up and down, over and out, sideways and upside down, then right side up.  Life? One minute, your healthy – then you’re at a Doctor’s office. One minute your kid’s a baby rolling around on an activity mat, and the next thing you know they’re 2, 3.5 and 7 – talking, walking, and asking questions you don’t have the answers to but lie about anyways.  One minute your’e on the right track and cruising, making the promotions and banking the money, and then the next minute you’re not sure how you’re going to pay the rent.  One minute, you’re deeply in love with someone, the next minute you’re fighting like you’ve been war enemies your whole life.  Life’s complicated.  Life’s not a straight line.

Roller coasters are fast.  They’re designed to fly by, thrill, then get you off to get the next passengers on.  By time you have a chance to not be scared or understand the intricacies of the ride, to map out your expectations for the next loop and corkscrew – it’s over. Life?  Your kids grow up. You grow up.  You go from in-shape to out of shape.  From young and dumb to old and wise.  You want back on the ride, to open your eyes this time and raise your hands and scream with happiness, rather than close your eyes and hope it’s over soon – but the rides over. Get off. Next on board.

But most of all friends? Dear readers of my inconsistent, rambling mess of a blog…The most important analogy? Roller coasters are fun.

So is life.  Because even though we grow old, even though things break and life throws us the sudden dips, we know in the end – it’s worth it.  That the ticket we were given to the theme park is so extra special, that in a fleeting moment, that day is done – one for the scrapbookers. One for the memory books.  One, that if we could, we’d do all over again.

Remember my thoughts on my Father, and that he never gave me the life lesson over roller coasters you might see in some sappy movie? You wanna know what he really said?

He slapped me on the back, grin on his face, and said “Wasn’t that a blast, Grant?”

Something tells me when my roller coaster ride of life is done, my Father upstairs might have the same question.

Me? I’ll answer “You bet!.”

On A Short Thought About Sleeping

Promised myself I’d be in bed by 11 tonight, but here I am again.

I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.
Henry David Thoreau

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with the ability to sleep a good night’s rest.

My body will shut down, but my brain won’t. Mostly, it sucks. Sometimes, it’s enlightening. I do my best reading / thinking / writing when I should be sleeping. I even do my best work for my company. I wonder if Thoreau was the same way. I once read that Leonardo Divinci hardly ever slept.  Same with Einstein. Good company or bad examples?

I hear people talk about the ability to clear their thoughts and meditate, to truly shut out the outside world.  How does one do that? That’s such a foreign concept to me.

I just can’t stop thinking.

On Ten Truths I’ve Learned Lately

Nothing major to report here, just 10 quick things I’ve been thinking about / have learned lately.

1) The hardest lesson I will ever teach myself is the ability and power to say “No.”

I heard a quote the other day, in a TV show I’ve been following, Terra Nova, on Fox.  One of the guys, the leader of a group of people on the show states something rather profound “You could die trying to please everyone.” He’s right.

2) Don’t break a promise to your children.

Trust is something I think we abuse in our children.  We use the theory of legitimate authority to get them to do what we say, when we say it. The truth is, without trust – it doesn’t matter if you’re the Dad or not.

3) Relationships are way more important than just about anything else.

I need to start working on them more.

4) If I’m waiting for my career to define me, I’m doing it wrong.

Whenever we meet new people the first thing we usually ask is “Well, what do you do?”  I’m going to stop answering Network Analyst and start answering “I play with my kids, laugh with my wife, read – write, and then during the day – I goto work.”

5) Engaging the opinion of others – soliciting true feedback -is one of the most vulnerable and awesome things you can ever do.

I’ve made ie a point lately to solicit feedback from the people at work and otherwise I’m certain will have negative things to say.  I’ve been nonetheless shocked by the realization the things I think people care about – they really don’t.

6) Nothing beats warming up a cup of Apple Cider and a good book.

I’m starting to figure out how to wind down.

7) The best joy and motivation I’ve ever experienced is giving others around me the motivation and ability to succeed.

Being the “hero” of the moment pales in comparison of the quiet, honest recognition you helped someone else get there.

8 – I’m fascinated by the talents of other people, especially artists.

My wife has started to paint and do artwork again.  It’s amazing what she’s able to create. Amazing.

9) All things considered, I over analyze life.

Sometimes, I think too deeply. Sometimes.

10 – I’ve underestimated in the past the value of “Simple.”

I’m starting to give up some of the past things I’ve held onto in favor of “Simple.”

 

 

On Origins of a Passion – My Tribute to Jobs and Others

Steve Job’s passing yesterday got me thinking about where I am and who I am because of technology.  Looking back, although many people contributed to my career choices and my passion for technology – one person sticks out personally – someone that was my personal Steve Jobs: My Grandfather.

Growing up, I remember idolozing my Grandfather for what he did: He played with computers for a living.  I still don’t know everything about his past (some Air Force, some IBM), but when I came into the picture he was teaching for a technical school – even more – he was teaching computer classes.  At the time, computers were still exotic and new and interesting. (Today, at least for me, they are still exotic and interesting.) My Grandfather used to let me tag along with him sometimes to see these great big machines and one thing most importantly: the robots.

They had these robots that would talk to you, do rudimentary things like hand you something from their mechanical pinchers, or just ultimately stand there and blink. For a gradeschool kid, it was like stepping into Science Fiction.  I used to peruse over his programming books – everything from Cobol to QBASIC, to just Basic – to Perl: it didn’t matter. I was hooked. I used to spend hours plugging in different code examples into his Monochrome 8088.  Once, I spent two weeks with him one Summer and all I did was stay glued to his computers.

People often tell me I have a gift for technology.  That may or may not be true, I think it was more that a passion was instilled at me at a young age.  My father also embraced it. While every other kid on the block was getting a new bike or an autographed football – I was getting things like an external Iomega Parallel Port Zip Drive, or a US Robotics Courier Everything.  I remember the day my Dad brought home an EGA Adpater so we could have more colors on the home computer.  I’m pretty certain that a lot of the toys my Dad brought home were way over our normal household budget – but he made sure to embrace something he saw in me and my brother. For that, Dad, I’m eternally grateful.

As I got older, I ran with my passion – eventually winning my parents over to multiple phone lines in the house so I could dial into BBS’s (local dial-in message boards before the Internet).  It opened up a whole new world of possibility.  By 13, I was running my own BBS.  I remember one night me forgetting to turn off one of the speakers on a modem and waking my parents up because someone was calling in to download the latest message forums for that day.

We got dial-up Internet the day it was available. Years later, we were the first on the block with Cable Modem access. By Middle School, my room consisted of nothing more than computer parts, cables, laptops, servers, and whatever piece of junk I could dive out of the dumpsters at the local ATT Telecom area (no, I’m not kidding).  You could barely sleep at night in my bedroom because of all the blinking lights (come to think of it, not much has changed).

Throughout all of this, I grew increasingly fascinated with the leaders that were making this technology possible.  I read everything I could get my hands on about these visionaries – from Gates, to Jobs.  From Jobs, to Linus.  I could not get enough.

In high school, I grew increasingly bored.  I hated school.  My Senior year, I somehow (by the grace of God) convinced my guidance consoler to allow me go half days and work at a local computer shop in the afternoon for school credit.  I learned amazing things at the store, under the wing of a boss that was eager to teach.  To this day, I still hold Grant Thompson as one of my technical mentors to success.

Eventually I went on to make it a true career after technical college.  I now work for a great company, doing what I love in a capacity that somedays still blows my mind.  Not a day goes by that I don’t look at my servers, the blinking lights, or a technical diagram without remembering what got me here.

To some extent, as I watch the generation come behind me get into the technical field I see that sense of amazement and wonder – that passion, slowly fading or sometimes even nonexistent.  They are more accustomed to it than I was.  I will always value that I grew up with the world buzzing around me at a pace that I had the chance to embrace that passion.

And for Jobs?

Jobs managed to bring some of it back : people waiting in lines for iPhones, iPads – the Apple stickers on the bumpers of cars..  Jobs might be gone, but there are others out there that grew from his inspiration, and that of those like my Grandfather –

I want you to know, Mr. Jobs – we’re still around – the guys that still look at these things we all take for granted  – starring at them with the wide-eyed wonder of a Grade-school kid figuring out a programming language with his Grandfather for the first time.. we’re still there.

For everyone who helped spark that passion, Including you Steve, Grandpa, and Dad – Thanks for making that possible.

– Grant

On the Only Perception That Matters

One of the most powerful things about walking in Faith is taking a worldly concept we always knew in the back of our head and revealing it in new light. I’m facing this revelation that I haven’t completely been able to comprehend or build yet, but It’s profound enough for my life that I felt sharing it, even in it’s infancy – is warranted.  I have a tendancy to be VERY hard on myself at times – very critical of who I am and the mistakes I make.

In fact, I’d argue that all of us spend the better portion of our lives concerned with the perception others have of us.  It’s human nature. Some of this perception we see as noble – for example, how a spouse would view us – or a close friend, and even perhaps – depending on where your value system lies – your coworkers.  After all – that’s not “Keeping Up with the Jone’s vain perception” – but rather “Perception that Matters.” Right? I’m not so sure.  If we leave it to man to perceive us – we will always fail. The revelation I keep hearing as I take this journey of “spiritual fence hoping” (that’s what I’ve coined it) – is that the only perception that matters is that of God.  And when you come to think about – the perception he has differs most differently than how many view God as this judgmental and negative being towards humanity and even that of the perception the world shares of us –

Don’t believe me? – check out Psalm 139:17 – “How precious are your thoughts about me,O God! They are innumerable”

When was the last time you could say that you’ve thought so well about yourself or others that your thought’s were truly labeled “precious” and you lost track of how many times you thought about it?  But – that’s exactly how God sees us.  In his eyes – he’s always thinking precious thoughts about us.  Not about how we are all “fallen sinners” but rather precious thoughts.  Good thoughts. Happy thoughts. I bet he even cracks a smile.

When you wrap it up that way – if God sees us as precious – how could we justify seeing ourselves as any other way?

That my friends –  is powerful – mind bending stuff.

– Grant

On a Storm Rolling In

Life brings storms.

It’s true.  Right now, out my window I hear one approaching.  I had the news on earlier, and the weatherman had one of those fancy radar screens up with the reds, greens, and oranges.  I knew the storm was approaching before it got here, because I was warned.  I was given the opportunity to prepare.

I’m fascinated tonight with the fact that most of us find solace, even peace of a storm coming in.  We sit on our back porches, on the beach. We draw the curtains back, pull up the blinds.  We take pictures of the lightning; we sleep soundly to the sounds of rumbles of thunder.  We find peace in storms.  Why? Because even in the uncertainty of thunder and lightning – we feel safe, protected.  When the storm is raging and we have nothing to fear, we enjoy its presence.  We draw it in, we stand in awe.  Children, however, don’t. They cower in fear under their blankets, they run to Mommy; they keep us up all night until the storms have passed.  They have no experience with the sounds of thunder; they see lighting only as the enemy – something different and frightening.  They’ve never weathered a storm, or have experienced enough of the power of nature to feel safe in its presence.  They need affirmation the walls will hold.

The real storms of life – the one’s that no weatherman warned us about, the one that occurred when we least expect it, the one’s we didn’t see come over the ocean or out our window – those are the ones we as adults, in our earthly wisdom, still struggle with.  The one’s that do the opposite of their counterpart, and turn us into children… They keep us awake.  They have us close our blinds, draw our curtains down and hide.  There’s an uncertainty and uneasiness to them. I know friends going through such storms now.  Job loss, children who are fighting serious illness, struggles in faith, identity crisis, financial devastation, loss of a loved one.  These are the storms of life we don’t stand in awe in, but ran away from.

What comfort do we lend our friends? What do we tell ourselves? This too, shall pass? Who will comfort us as a child when the thunder rumbles a little too loud and the lighting strikes a little too close? To whom do we run?

Come to think of it… It’s just interesting, that we find solace in the real life event we use as a metaphor for chaos and uncertainty. I often wonder if this metaphor was divine inspiration for some greater reminder. Perhaps, as a reminder that we still need someone and something greater than ourselves whose arms are available to climb into and offer comfort.  Perhaps, we need our own affirmation from a higher power.  One day, I’m sure we’ll all find our comfort from the storms.

Sleep well friends.

– Grant

On Writing a Manifesto For My Children

Dear Emma, Ephraim, and Noah –

You’re only 6, 2, and 11 months now – but your starting to learn the ways of the world.  Of right and wrong, of good and evil.  I’m only 27, but I wanted to make sure to have something recorded for you. They say the greatest contribution is what you leave behind.

If that’s true – and who you are now is any indication of who you will be – they should just give me the Nobel Peace prize now and be done with it.  Anyways – let’s talk for a moment –  if you lose your Dad before he’s had a chance to throw catch in the backyard or walk you down the aisle – this is so you know what he stood for.  What he believed in for you and for others.  Granted, I’ve borrowed from many great mentors – both friends and families (and some who called me enemy as well) over the years to create this list. I’m probably the biggest rule breaker of this list – but I try. It’s all I can ask of you. It might change over the years – but the core values won’t change.  I hope one day you can write one for your children as well.

So kids, here you are:

Everyone needs a manifesto.  A set of rules and principles to live by.  Here’s mine for you:

1 – Work hard.  But not too hard. Find a balance in what you do and realize that they call it work for a reason.  That said, if you consitently get out of bed and dread the day – change.  Your happiness at your career is directly reflective on the happiness of your family.  Hate your career, your family will see a side of you that you wish they wouldn’t.  Bottom line, enjoy what you do.  If you don’t – find something else.  A paycheck is never worth misery. Ever.

2 –Be affectionate. Your Dad’s not an affectionate person.  It’s not really a known nature.  But he’s found out that a hug, a kiss, and wrestling on the floor go a much longer way than any words he’ll ever tell you.  That doesn’t mean words are not important.  Look, I’m okay with going to bed angry – as long as you said I love you as you walked away.  Also, it’s okay to cry.

3 – Laugh. Be silly. It’s vitally important you laugh at yourself. Allow others to laugh at you.  They might be doing it for the right reasons, but even if they are not – life’s too short to let it rub you the wrong way.  Your Mom and I fell in love because we had way too serious of jobs, and weren’t serious people.  Our first date was the Zoo (we skipped out on work), we spent more time laughing with each other than looking at the animals.  Be goofy.

4 – Find someone to trust and give them your trust. Even if you are betrayed, at least you gave it all you had.  Living your life in fear of being lied to or manipulated will bring you great misery.  When you are lied to – give grace.  One day, you’ll betray another and hope for it as well.

5 – Don’t do it alone. Relationships are so vitally important.  Make friends.  Be a friend.  Be a lover.  Don’t be afraid of rejection – it will happen if you fear it or not. If you find yourself “catching up with old friends” more often than hanging out with your current ones – reevaluate your priorities.

6 – Pray. Love God. Jesus Christ will never fail you. That’s right, Jesus.  People are okay with you saying “God.” But not Jesus.  Don’t let that deter you.  Jesus died on the cross for the sinful person you are.  If all personal relationships fail in your life, he’ll still be there. There have been two or three times in your Dad’s short life so far where the last thing left to do was to hit his knees. Jesus is good for anything. Just keep this one thing in mind – he’s your friend – your best case lawyer in life’s trials.  He’s on your side.  He’s not there to judge.  Remember that.  I have a feeling by the time you read this and comprehend it’s purpose – you’ll be persecuted for even saying his name.  Say it anyways.

7 – Save.  Spend wisely.  Give often.  But realize it’s just money.  There will be days, I’m afraid, when you have will no idea where the next meal will come from or how you’ll pay the rent.  Dig deep and count on faith.  Realize that the God you serve is bigger than the stack of bills.  Also realize that not having everything is more of a blessing than any checkbook balance.  There were many nights your Mom and I made five dollars seem like millions.

8 – Take care of each other. Family is the most important thing you’ll ever have.  There are 3 of you.  The odds of success are in your favor if you stick together and love each other through the hard times and the good times.  Never, ever, ever let anyone mess with your family.  Fight for it – in the end, they’ll be the ones there by your side and the last to leave it.

9 – Find your passion and embrace it. Don’t let anything stop you from going for your passion.  The cold hard reality is you can’t be anything you want to be – but I’ve never heard of anyone who had a passion for something and wasn’t able to be successful at it.  Passion is a harder driving force than any other sort of motivation.

10 – When you see injustice – scream loud and fight it with every fiber of your soul. I honestly believe the calling on our family is to fight injustice. Never, ever be content.  If we leave one legacy to this world – I want it to be this: “The Dawson family was never content.”  They were never luke-warm. When you see something you love – embrace it and consume it.  When you someone is in need – give them the shirt off your back.  When you laugh – laugh so hard it hurts.  When it comes time to work hard, leave nothing undone and give it all you have.

Look, not everyday will this list become easy.  But someone once told me the secret of life is not in accomplishing everything – but to goto bed each night and be able to honestly say these words in your prayer:

“Well, God, I tried. I gave it all I got. Tomorrow’s a new day.”

– Dad

On Fall and a Letter to God

Dear God, It’s about time I wrote you a letter.

I watched that movie about the kid with cancer who used to write you all the time.  Apparently,it was based on a real story.  Even more so, I’m told it’s cathartic.  You see, sometimes it’s hard for a guy like me to formulate my thoughts into a prayer.  I get distracted.  Also, when I get to talking I start making mistakes.  My wife says I say “um” a lot and I shouldn’t.  I speak before I think, I verbalize before I consider consequences.  It may be no matter to you, you know my heart.  But I digress, maybe you just like to get a letter.  Everyone likes getting a letter.  So, proverbially speaking, I hope this one finds you well.

The leaves are changing here.  The sticky humidity of late Indiana Summers has started to make way for a crisp, Autumn air.  I’ve traded Air Conditioning in the morning for the red part of my temperature dial on the way to work. Pumpkins paint the landscapes of the front porches in our neighborhood, as the last of the “my lawn is the greenest” neighbors succumb to the reality that brown is the new green.  It’s fall.  And I love it.  I wanted to let you know when you designed this season – you got it right.

With every fall comes a little bit of reflection.  Fall maintains it’s significance above and beyond the changing weather as it ushers in another year of my life.   This year, I’ve learned more about myself and who I am than any other year I’ve been alive.  I’ve watched my daughter grow from a little child to a girl, my first son graduate from baby sign language and rattles to ABC Flashcards and YoGabbaGabba (do the kids in Heaven dance to YoGabbaGabba too?), and I see my youngest struggling to take his first steps earlier than perhaps Dr. Spock’s Baby guide ever intended.  I’ve learned that the person I’m married to is more amazing than I first thought when I met her; full of grace, strength, and a desire to love me throughout my significant inequities.  I’m pretty certain you created her just for me.  Well.. I’d like to think me only, but seeing her touch other people’s lives has me facing the reality that I’m not the only one who get’s to benefit from your wonderful creation.

I’ve really made a lot of mistakes this year too.  I’ve had my priorities so messed up that I’ve hurt the people that should have been my priority.  I’ve placed things that are more important second. I’ve neglected asking you what you thought first.  Not that I did it maliciously.  It was more me not listening to you.  Instead, I was listening to my own plan, thinking that was best.  Hindsight is 20/20, I guess, because my plan surely didn’t yield expected results.  What’s cool though, God, is that you took my plan, and still blessed it.  Regardless if it was what you really wanted for me, It was as if you still wanted to make sure I was okay.  That’s pretty awesome of you, come to think of it.  If we ever get a chance to eat dinner together, I’ll pick up the check.

I’m also a little scared.  The world seems to be getting scarier everyday.  I look at my kids and wonder how long I can shelter them from evil.  I look at the economy and wonder how long I’ll be able to provide.  I look at my country and wonder how long any of us will be able to feel safe and united again.  I know my parents often tell me how easy I have it compared to them, but I often wonder if they looked into their generations future with the same dread and uncertainty that I look today. Or for that matter – my children.

I know, I know, I’m not putting faith into you that you have everything in control.  I’ll have to work on that.  Ask my wife – I like to try and fix everything.  Some things, I can’t fix – I get that.
Look, I’m not really sure what else to say.  I just wanted to let you know that in general, things here are pretty awesome. You’re pretty awesome.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

Your son,

Grant