Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

A year ago today they took my father to the hospital. He was so weak he could barely get down half a popsicle and he missed the last day of fishing season (for those of you who know him, you know this is a GINORMOUS deal). The hospital admitted him when they realized his liver, kidneys, and heart were failing. They didn’t even have time to figure out what strain of meningitis it was. We were told we could have lost him; that we’d nearly lost him. The only reason we didn’t was because his doctor’s father had died of undiagnosed meningitis and he was being overly careful.

I’d like to say this was mercy. But how do you see anyone’s loss as mercy?

A year ago today I was weeks from closing on my house. Once they got my dad stabilized, he made legal calls on my behalf to make sure the deal went through. That’s the kind of man he is.

A year ago today I had an agent reviewing my book, my fairytale, my love. The best thing I’ve ever written because it came out unbidden. The agent ultimately turned it down.

A year ago today the world was full of promise and full of despair. I had hopes for career and home while facing serious concerns I’d lose my father. The least of my worries was that we didn’t get to join Sister Kate and family on vacation in New York. We called it the year of ‘it is what it is’. Everything broke and we just kept spinning.

Today, things aren’t much different and they are incredibly different. It’s still the year of ‘it is what it is’. I’m still working toward my fairytale, but I still don’t have an agent. My dad is still sick; we didn’t lose him, but we did lose his brother—a man who set the world on fire in all the right ways, a man I can’t even write about because my words will fall short. My family is still planning a vacation with Sister Kate, and I think we’ll make it this time. I’m still stressing about my house (tenant and renovation issues, not to mention the fly-apocalypse), but I’m the proud owner now.

And I’m still wrestling with this question: How do you see loss as mercy?

My health has failed me. That’s the unvarnished truth. You’ll probably find that out when you watch my upcoming interview with Monsters Inside Me on Animal Planet so I might as well tell you now. And when God isn’t a genie who heals you or saves your finances or makes people behave honorably or allows you to move mountains, what does trust look like? Just what am I trusting Him for?

Because He IS trustworthy. And He IS kind. And He IS good. These things are non-negotiable. And instead of the silence I referenced in the Answers post, I’m getting a very steady answer of, “I’m here.” That’s the extent of the message, but it is message enough.

I wonder, perhaps, if I’m trusting God to be there. Not to prevent tragedy or difficulty or loss, but to be in it with me. To make sure I face nothing alone—not the sweetest joys or the worst terrors. Because, really, isn’t companionship what we crave most? A friend to laugh with. A friend to hold you. A friend to challenge you. A friend that never fails to be there at your best moment and your worst—even if they don’t say a word. And I’ve got the best friend I could ask for in God.

Sometimes, the mountains aren’t meant to be moved. Sometimes they are meant to be climbed. So grab your climbing buddy and get going.

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I’ve been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Creativity and a general intelligence have led me to excel in writing and music and speaking and business and oh so much more. I’ve always felt a little guilty for those gifts because I can’t possibly put them all to use at the same time. I feel the pressure every day to pour myself out and, even when I do, I still have a talent or two that didn’t get used. By not using my gifts I assumed I was putting them on the shelf to accumulate dust or being the man who received one talent and buried it (see Matthew 25:14-30) instead of doing something useful that would earn his master interest. But I’m wondering now if I’ve been looking at things upside-down.

For the last fifteen months music, in the form of worship leading, has taken precedence over writing (as evidenced by the postponed release of Rise of the Dark Sprite). Five weeks ago, I set down the guitar. I’ve set down a lot of things lately–but more on that another time.

It was a hard decision, perhaps one of the hardest of my life. Worship leading fulfilled so many parts of me, satisfying deep needs to minister to others and to celebrate the goodness of God. I miss it profoundly. In the five weeks since I said goodbye to my church I haven’t touched my guitar, either out of a deep sadness or a perpetual busyness. Probably a combination of the two. And, yes, I have been feeling a little guilty for not sharing my gifts as a musician and worship leader with a church who needs it.

But then I got to thinking…

What if my talents are like a deck-building game? Bear with me here. We’re nerds in this family. We save the world from super-villains over the holidays; hit every premiere weekend for Marvel movies; own the extended version of anything involving Middle Earth; and planned our vacation around seeing the new Star Wars move in IMAX. So it should come as no surprise to you that we delved right into a deck-building game based on The Fellowship of the Ring. The purpose of the game is to buy cards, worth abilities and victory points, that then go into your deck. Each round you deal yourself five cards, use them, and put them away to be re-dealt later. One round I’ll be wielding Legolas Greenleaf’s bow like a young Katniss Everdeen and the next I’ll have moved into defensive position with Boromir’s shield. I get five, usually awesome, cards per turn and it is up to me to put them to good use.

Now, back to my point. Perhaps my life is like a deck of cards. Each year I add a few new weapons to my arsenal (maybe a new passion for the banjo–that would be cool), and deal myself out a hand of talents. In 2015, the focus was worship leading and a new job. In 2016, I hope my focus will be writing and healing (surprise, surprise, when you have Lyme’s disease apparently you can’t work 80 hours a week). It’s not that I’m letting my God-given talent for song-writing and worship leading go to waste this year. It’s that He has handed me different cards. If I put them to waste, shame on me. But if I spend 2016 playing a great game with Legolas’ bow and choose not to pine for Boromir’s shield, then I think I will have done well.

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On this quiet morning, with my parents still asleep above me and the furnace warming the house, I find myself with an unfamiliar ache. I woke up missing my Sister Kate (she’s on vacation with her husband. Good for her!) with a furry that actually made me stiff and sore. That I would miss her was no surprise at all. Kate and I have been joined since I entered the world of men. But, being a reflective sort of person, I thought that the pain of her being on vacation was a bit over dramatic. Pretty soon I realized that I might have been misplacing some of the longing for a sister.

When other sister was four years old, she stood up in church and told the congregation what she was going to do with her life. Now, twenty-six years later, she’s in the Middle East to do just that. When we traveled through the ice and snow last weekend to say our goodbyes and join in her farewell service at her home church in New York, I felt very little other than a healthy dose of affection for her. In the first place, she has lived away most of my memory-making years (for college, grad-school, and a year and a half in Southeast Asia). And in the second place, I have been prepped since birth to accept her leaving. So while I was prepared to miss her, I wasn’t prepared to feel this. It is not missing, really. I probably wouldn’t have spoken to her in the last week anyway. No. It is the deep understanding that as she pursues her calling, life will not return to the way it was. Twice-yearly hang-out trips turned shopping and Broadway in New York City are behind us. Teaching a class together, editing a novel, watching Netflix on the couch until we both fall asleep, coffee dates… Those things may or may not ever happen again.

But that ache I woke up with, once understood, could be turn to joy. Because while life will never be the same, that may be the best thing ever. Just imagine, teaching together at a University in the Middle East instead of New York, or sharing a cup of coffee as tourists in Jerusalem, or creating a novel based on the things I witness when I visit her. Yes… Life will never be the same again. And that is perfectly okay.

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IMG_3207There is an odd mix of minds for me today. There is the vacation-relaxed (aka easily-distracted) mind. There is the mind that is semi-cognizant that I should be editing because I have a print deadline in a week. And finally there is the mind that spends time comparing figures as I deliberate between printers. What I am left with is a jumble of numbers and characters and Disney theme songs that my consciousness slides between rapidly. Yes, this is the result of vacation. I amble my way back into work-mode far too slowly…Dino

Since I cannot possibly hope to sum up two weeks of sunshine in a single blog post, I shall slip in a few pictures and a few sentences about my trip today and leave the rest for another time. First of all, let me say that when you are standing underneath an animatronic T-Rex to take a photo, you should make sure he is not about to start roaring and bending his teeth towards your head. We started our vacation here, at the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney.

My father had the wonderful idea to leave for vacation well before the sun had even thought about rising. I groaned and complained on the way out of bed, but truly enjoyed having an extra half day of vacation thanks to his good planning. I could tell you all about our wonderful resort but that would take much more space than I have today so I leave it at this: it was epic. After running ourselves ragged in blistering heat in mad dash to thrill coasters and kiddie rides that were often even more daunting to my creative mind, it was a true pleasure to be able to come back to the Art of Animation Resort and curl up on our colorful couch and my pull-down table-bed.


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The Energizer bunny in me was ticking last night, even though I knew we were leaving at four this morning for our fourteen hour drive home. When I awoke I could not have been more confused. Since I have been writing better at night, my mental clock has gradually shifted to going to bed later and getting up later. From waking at 9ish to waking at 4ish was a big jump.

Groggily I packed and made it to the car. It took us a while to figure out how to escape Pittsburgh since the bridge we wanted to use was closed down, but once we got on the highway I completely zoned out and awoke only when tempted by coffee. I have not had coffee in far too long! It tasted delicious. The drive was less arduous than I had expected. I was reading a new book that drew me in with a strange style and unique characters. I finished it a few moments ago. The first two hundred pages were wonderful and then… I cannot believe I wasted a day on that book.

Imagine you think you are reading a thrilling government conspiracy novel with incredibly self-sacrificing characters. Then at the end you discover that it was about aliens and that your heroes are selfish bimbos. That is how this book felt. It was pretty funny actually, but I don’t think I was supposed to be laughing. I try not to tear apart other authors work but I guess I am a critic.

By the time we got home, my brother’s family and my sister’s family were waiting with chinese food. It was really great to see my nephews, hang with my siblings (both the blood-related ones and their spouses), relax out of the car with my parents, and tell baseball stories to the three-year-old. Now my Red Sox hat lives atop the head of one of my first inspirations–Flibbert the frog. Countless tickets and maps await scrapbooking on my desk. My brain is teaming with new ideas for writing and business, new goals for school and the postponed (but not dead) book tour and high hopes for a Young Christian Writers’ Guild it looks like I will be helping to get started in the area.

I have come back from vacation refreshed and ready to go. Here’s hoping that my energy lasts!

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The Pirate fans brought their brooms to PNC stadium today, hoping to sweep the Boston Red Sox. Thankfully, we won the game four to two, with as many errors for the two baseball teams. That made the record of the games I have seen 3 to 1. Pretty good.

My father and I jumped in my little car this morning and followed my GPS in the strange Pittsburgh traffic that was well beyond our Mainer-skill. It did not help that my GPS decided it could not understand downtown traffic, but between his brain, my brain and its brain we made it to the stadium an hour and a half early. It was really awesome to get to watch Becket and Crawford sign autographs for fans and see Lester talking on the field.

The game had much less energy without my long line of family surrounding me, but it was still a lot of fun. If only I could express the joy people had when David Ortiz got up and hit a ball into the river–unfortunately a foul ball–or that when our closer, Papelbon, got up to finish the game for us! Afterwords I drove with my uncle, Matt, to Outback steakhouse. We talked about life, love, family, past, future. It was great to connect. Tomorrow we leave early in the morning and head back to Maine, but this vacation has certainly ended on a wonderful note.

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Tonight was one of those nights that make you believe that maybe magic does still exist in the world. David Ortiz is the Red Sox’s Mickey Mouse—making us believe that anything is possible. Although he got up in the ninth inning and was not able to change the outcome of the game, just his presence sent energy through the Sox fans.

The Pittsburgh Pirates team beat the Boston Red Sox team tonight, but the Sox fans certainly beat the Bucs fans. We out-cheered them even when they were the most energized. We out-numbered them too, if I had to take a guess. The entire stadium was sold out, thanks to us. We came to see a good game and we did. Five home runs. Final score six to four, with a real chance to win up until the very last out. I did not expect to feel giddy when I entered the PNC Park, but the fourteen-year-old girl who loved what her father loved was back and the wonder of the world of live baseball sent happiness through me! I had been to Fenway twice as that younger girl, but the magic of the Sox is apparently strong enough to survive outside of Fenway.

Pittsburgh fans and Boston fans interacted with friendly jests and all came together for a wave that looped the stadium several times. My Pittsburgh relatives and my father and I threw insults about the teams back and forth all day and throughout the game. We had a TON of people, so many that we got a flashing welcome on the game board! I was able to sit next to my father (Red Sox games are our thing) and my sister and her husband. I never thought I would see the two of them have so much fun at a baseball game. Our group stretched out behind us and beside us, every single person having a wonderful time.

It was a day full of jumping on trampolines, eating food and, laughing; and a night full of entertainment, cotton-candy eating, and firework watching. Those were, by far, the most outstanding fireworks I have ever seen. They danced and moved and flared like nothing that even Disney had ever done. Not even the after-game traffic could kill my joy. The family was great; the game was fun; the day felt like vacation, just how it was supposed to be.

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