Doing the Heavy Lifting

Doing the Heavy Lifting

Death is never easy. The death of a parent even less so.

When my mother passed away in August, my focus was on logistics. I had to make arrangements to drive from Dothan, Alabama, to Miami (580 miles), stay at a hotel, and factor in picking up AND dropping off my kids along the way. My priorities were internal and as a natural problem solver, the overall task was not very hard.

All the details, however, regarding the viewing, memorial Mass, and burial were handled by my brother. As a function of him living in Miami, it made sense for him to grab those tasks by the reigns and manage them. What I didn’t anticipate, though, are the countless hours he’s spent in post-burial administration.

We decided to sell my mother’s house and property, and given my mother had established a trust, the specifics of that real estate deal needed to flow through the trust. As did the coordination of beneficiary payments for the few financial holdings my mother possessed. Long story short, it’s been a ton of paperwork, an avalanche of phone calls, and miles and miles of driving to and fro for my big bro.

It’s easy to sit here one state away (although given Florida’s length, it may as well be four states away) and respond to an email on occasion and perhaps field a phone call from an attorney. What is insanely difficult is balancing a full-time job, a household that includes a high-schooler and college student, and Miami traffic while trying to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s of this administrative endeavor.

It’s insane and unfair.

Yet through it all, my brother has not complained and has really stepped up to resolve all the issues along the way. He’s been so on top of this the only word that comes to mind is heroic.

My brother turned fifty this year and our relationship over the past decade was weakened by distance, complacency, and a lot of thick-headedness (mostly mine). However, my mom’s passing has brought us closer, and I feel blessed to feel the admiration I do for my brother. It motivates me to be better ands more intentional with the guy who was my best friend growing up.


Lenny,

God renews us with His love, and I am so glad he’s given us an opportunity to renew our relationship together. Thank you for all you’ve done. Thank you for all you do. And thank you for being my big brother. I love you.

Brotherhood

Brotherhood

I know I’ve written before about my brothers, but I need to take a moment to share my thoughts about a man who has been everything from a friend to a counselor to a teacher to a sophomoric counterpart.

I’m spending this weekend in Hahira, Georgia, with my friend (and brother) Jeff Smith. While his wife Lindsey and my wife Lee take part in a women’s retreat at their house, he and I have been banished relegated to the cozy confines of “Nanna’s House,” Lindsey’s grandmother’s house in Cecil, Georgia.

We have the four-wheelers, a fridge full of beer and a whole lot of nothing to do. And truth be told, it’s nice to have this downtime where we can just sit back, catch up on everything, and sip a cold one (or six) to our heart’s content. With the exception of a couple of to-do items in support of the ladies and their retreat, Jeff and I have had the weekend to ourselves.

And I find it invaluable to be able to strengthen the steel-like bond he and I share. Along with my other friend Jeff (Wilson), I am never lacking in terms of strong, solid men of Christ to whom I can turn when I need help.

So thank you, Jeff Smith, for being my brother and for helping make me a better man in the process.

 

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A Man and His Hound

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
– Psalm 133:1 (NASB)

 

Trust Circle

Trust Circle

The hardest part of my transition into full-time mission work is the knowledge I will be leaving my son when I expatriate to the Dominican Republic. He lives with his mother, so the impact on his daily routine will not be great. However, he and I get together often and I feel sad at the notion of not being readily available to him in the future.

It’s for that reason I asked my friends to come together tonight. As we met at World of Beer, we sat in a circle around one of the restaurant’s fireplace tables on their patio. From former co-workers to guys I know through my music family, they took turns telling Daniel who they are, how they know me, and what resources they can provide to him going forward. My goal was accomplished: to introduce Daniel to the men in my life whom I trust.

I know he will take this evening to heart and store the contact information of each person that was there in his phone. My hope is that should he ever need a man’s perspective or direction on any issue, he can turn for help to anyone of the guys that came out tonight.

What was truly a blessing, in addition to how many men showed up, was their enthusiastic willingness to be there for my son. There was no sense of hesitation or reservation. Instead, I feel the general consensus was this was their way of supporting my missionary efforts. It’s as if Daniel picked up seven new uncles/friends in one night.

For me, I can better prepare for my move knowing my son is in good hands once I leave, and that knowledge is priceless.

A Man and His Truck

A Man and His Truck

I love pickup trucks.

From the period of 2004 through 2015, I drove a truck. I graduated from a Ford Ranger to a Mitsubishi Raider to a RAM 1500. Along the way, I used the functionality of those trucks time and time again. From moving furniture to moving other people’s furniture and everything in between, there was a Tim Taylor type of manliness that comes with closing the door to a full bed of the truck.

For financial and practical reasons, I no longer have a truck, and I miss those vehicles whenever I have projects to do around the house. Today, it was the need to take varying types of junk and trash to the garbage dump.

So I am very thankful for my buddy Joe who graciously allowed me to use his truck for the day. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me, he was a life-saver. In preparing the house to be ready for sale, there were some items sitting in the backyard or along the side of the house that just needed to go. There was also an old bed frame from IKEA (i.e. lots of pressboard) that needed to go.

I may be oversimplifying or steering into a stereotype, but there’s something brotherly about a guy letting you borrow his truck. It’s almost an unwritten rule, and it’s a gesture that creates and strengthens bonds. And it was yet another blessing from God.

My Brothers

They say insult is the language of intimacy among men, and there is truth to that. Still, there remains a sense of hesitation and reservation when it comes to men expressing their love for other men.

A couple of years ago, I put my thoughts on this subject together in a poem. I was reminded of that today when a friend of mine shared the new video for NEEDTOBREATHE‘s song Brother. The video is fantastic, but I prefer this recording from a live performance just a little bit better. I truly shows the amazing experience that is NTB live.

To my brothers: Thank you all for being mentors, inspiration, pillars, and safety nets in my life. It goes unsaid all too often, but know with bedrock certainty that I love you.

Brotherhood

You answered the phone when I called late that night
You had my back when I got caught in that fight
You helped me up all those times I fell
You guided me out of my personal hell

It’s strange how strangers can come together
And for this circumstance we are both better … off
Both as individuals and as men
And through it all we’d both do it again

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way

Our kids come together and they play
And we hope that their kids will do the same one day
We watch some football and have some beer
We talk about life and those things we fear

We’ve redefined what it means to be family
‘Cause you and I don’t share a branch on a tree
Yet we share an unspoken love that bonds like no other
A bond that can only be defined as that of a brother

It’s in the lyrics of a classic tune
It’s in the games we watch on Saturday afternoon
It’s in the motorcycles rides that take us away
It’s in all those bar tabs you decided to pay
It’s our respective better halves keeping us straight
It’s knowing because of them we’re able to be great
It’s in keeping perspective every time we compete
It’s in living a life that is full and complete

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way

Called to Drink

It’s been my experience that life is found in the spontaneous moments.

“Dude. Whatcha’ doing right now.”

“Talking to you.”

“I mean …. do you have anything going on this afternoon.”

“No. Why?”

“Want to go get some beers?”

“Are you in the need for some beers?”

“Dude ….. I’m always in the need for some beers.”

“Let’s do it.”

As so ‘it’ happened, and so my buddy and I got together for some beer and some grub. Totally off diet, but totally worth it. There was no rhyme or reason. We weren’t planning anything. He didn’t need to give anything to me or I return anything to him. We just got together because we could.

And we got together because I told to do so.

I know a lot of people will roll their eyes at the notion that God speaks to them. Statements like those often lead to bizarre follow-up questions or awkward silence. So I can only imagine how it will be received as I tell you that God told me to go drink beer with my friend. “Dude. I turned water into wine at a party. Go share in some suds with you bud.” {As an aside, I love the notion of surfer-dude Jesus. Jesus calling out to the first disciples in their boat: “Sup, dudes. Catch anything? No? Try the other side, man.” Jesus telling Peter he will deny him three times: “Duuuuuuude. Before the rooster crows, you’re gonna like totally deny me three times. Bummer, I know.” This would make for an excellent play. Anyways….}

It wasn’t a voice. There was no sign. It was more of a feeling. At the moment I reached out to my friend, I felt a conviction there was nothing more important that I needed to be doing. It was the feeling of, “Go. Leave now. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.”

As it turns out, my friend had a lot on his mind. As a guy, I was someone to whom he could simply turn and just talk, vent, inquire, wonder, etc. By the end of the third beer, I could see his demeanor had changed. He was tight when I met up with him. As we headed home, he seemed more relaxed and a little more at ease.

Whatever the reason, be it divine intervention or simple random impulse, this evening meant a lot to me. I am quite sure it meant a lot to my buddy as well. At the end of the day, we don’t need a special occasion to make an occasion special. All we need is the motivation to reach out to each other and be to others the type of friend that makes a difference in someone’s life.

That and beer.

Beer

Missed A Day

So much for posting every day. I’m a little bummed that I had no post on my blog yesterday (Wednesday), but it’s not without good reason.

There are times you have to drop everything for what’s important. Sometimes there’s a phone call or an incident that takes your previously scheduled plans and throw them out the window. There are times when relationship, be it by blood or by choice, takes precedence over whatever it is you thought you needed to do. Wednesday night was one of those nights.

I am very blessed to have many brothers in my life. One is by blood, the others are not. The others are men with whom I interact the most in my day to day (my blood brother lives in South Florida and we see each other only a couple of times per year). The others are the ones with which I get together for beer and barbecue. They are the ones with whom I travel. They are the ones that make up my inner circle, and are the first ones I’d call if something bad happened.

I am also blessed to be considered in the same way by them as well. I’ve maintained for some time that the only thing better than being able to love someone is the knowledge that you are loved. It’s reaffirming and reassuring to know you’re appreciated and, well, needed.

There is something about the love brothers share. It’s seen in locker rooms. You read about it from the battlefields. It truly is hard to explain. So rather than try, I will simply share the poem I wrote several years ago.

You answered the phone when I called late that night
You had my back when I got caught in that fight
You helped me up all those times I fell
You guided me out of my personal hell

It’s strange how strangers can come together
And for this circumstance we are both better … off
Both as individuals and as men
And through it all we’d both do it again

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way

Our kids come together and they play
And we hope that their kids will do the same one day
We watch some football and have some beer
We talk about life and those things we fear

We’ve redefined what it means to be family
‘Cause you and I don’t share a branch on a tree
Yet we share an unspoken love that bonds like no other
A bond that can only be defined as that of a brother

It’s in the lyrics of a classic tune
It’s in the games we watch on Saturday afternoon
It’s in the motorcycles rides that take us away
It’s in all those bar tabs you decided to pay
It’s our respective better halves keeping us straight
It’s knowing because of them we’re able to be great
It’s in keeping perspective every time we compete
It’s in living a life that is full and complete

We don’t share DNA, we don’t even share a name
Yet through it all, you’re my brother all the same
We live our lives and go about our separate day to day
But I’m with you, brother, every step of the way