Take Time To Get Organized

“I’d like to tidy up the entire planet. I would go anywhere if there were something that needs tidying.”

Maire Kondo

Over two years ago, we moved into our new house. Before we made this move, we did a lot of purging. We sold things. We gave away things. And we threw out things. At our last house, I had a large shed that contained a rather large work shop. I had a lot of indoor tools and outdoor tools. My wife would probably tell you that I had a lot of things I would never use. Needless to say, I condensed a lot of my tools as part of our downsizing efforts.

When we arrived at our new home, I set up a crude workshop in the basement for my indoor tools, and I relegated my outdoor tools to the garage where they eventually found their way to shelves and wall hangers. Many of my indoor tools have remained in boxes and bins. It can often be a challenge to find the exact tool I am looking for when the appropriate home project comes along.

Today, I made significant progress in changing this. I picked up some peg board at our local hardware store. I hung it up on the wall of my basement workshop. And I began organizing. Hammers, screwdrivers, levels, pliers, tape measures, and the like all found their way out of their boxes and bins and onto the wall of my workshop.

There is something satisfying in taking time to take stock of things and to put them in order.

In my post yesterday, I talked about taking 17 minutes a day to work towards a goal.

As we look towards our goals, it can be helpful to do some reflection and to get organized. Do you understand where you are now? Do you understand where you want to be when it comes to achieving your goal? Do you have a plan to get you from here to there?

As you contemplate your own goals, I encourage you to take some time for reflection. Ask yourself these questions: What is going well? What isn’t going so well? What do I need to keep doing? What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to do differently? What is something new I should be doing?

Next, spend some time organizing your thoughts. You may not know all the details yet, but I’m pretty sure you could set some SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) goals with meaningful action steps that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

Finally, take one step at a time. What is the one thing you should be doing TODAY to move you forward on your path to goal achievement? When we create goals – especially at the beginning of the year, it’s easy to start with a bunch of energy and enthusiasm. We have this unrealistic sense we can do it all RIGHT NOW! While these are great intentions, we would learn from the tortoise who took it slow and steady on his path to the finish line.

Well, my 17 minutes are up. It’s time to step away. Two days in a row though, and I’ll take it!

What step do you need to take today to better organize yourself to achieve your goal?

17 Minutes A Day

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”

Bill Russell

Imagine with me for a moment what you could accomplish if you took 17 minutes a day to focus on a single goal – if you used 17 minutes of action everyday to move you closer to a target.

Earlier this week, I was listening to The Jody Maberry Show. This is a podcast in which Jody Maberry shares his own insights and the insights of his guests to help people further develop themselves – as leaders, as creatives, as communicators, and as entrepreneurs. Several years ago, it was Jody who inspired me to begin my discipline of getting a minimum of 10,000 steps each and every day (today is day 1,693 days in a row for me).

In the episode I was listening to, Jody was interviewing Matt McWilliams about his upcoming book, Turning Your Passion Into Profits. For those who may not know Matt, he and I have been connected for a long time. I guest posted on his blog several years ago, and he has guest posted here. He wrote one of the quotes in the front of my first book, On Track – Life Lessons from the Track and Field. And if you look closely at the cover of my second book, Rooftop Reflections, you might notice that I am wearing a Matt McWilliams World Changer T-Shirt as I stand on the rooftop of a house in Guatemala. Matt left his pursuit of becoming a professional golfer to become an affiliate marketing guru. He has helped many, many gifted authors, leaders, and entrepreneurs as they have launched their products into the world.

Matt shared something in his interview with Jody that really stuck with me – and perhaps inspired me to get back to writing more regularly here at Jon Stolpe Stretched. Matt shared that he wrote his soon to be released book one day at a time giving himself 17 minutes a day to write. Matt wrote over 110,000 words during these 17 minutes slots that have now been reduced to just over 80,000 words in a ~300 page book.

Who says you can’t accomplish anything in 17 minutes?

I don’t know about you, but I have found myself using the excuse that I am way too busy to go after some of the goals that can be found on the perimeter of my day to day work and thoughts. One of the reasons for not writing more here over the past four plus years is that I am simply too busy.

In the past, writing on this blog has gave me a chance to STRETCH my brain, to explore my passions, to articulate ideas, and to encourage others. If I’m being honest (and I generally am always trying to be honest), I could probably benefit from using 17 minutes a day to write – just like this.

I don’t know what goals you’ve been putting off because you are too busy, too distracted, or just plain lazy. Maybe today is the day you stop making excuses. Maybe today is the day you begin to carve out 17 minutes a day to do something new, something different, something that changes you, something that changes the world.

I want to encourage you to take the next step along with me.

Are you with me? What are you going to do with your 17 minutes today?

It’s Been A Minute

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

Carl Sandburg


It’s feels as though I need to start again.

Logging in again this morning, I see it’s been since November (2021) when I last posted on Reflections on Hardship. Where has the time gone? What happened to my discipline of writing almost daily and then at least weekly?

Life continues to happen. I have seen God move and work through some of the hardships which prompted those reflections. Sure, life has brought new hardships and challenges, but I remain confident that God cares for me – He loves me – He provides in ways I don’t always understand and in ways I often don’t appreciate.

Since November, I turned 50 (I know this is hard to believe). I celebrated Christmas with my family. I received a promotion at work. I traveled to Bonita Springs, Florida with Leanne to spend time with my in-laws. I have continued my daily discipline of 10,000 or more steps each and every day. And I’ve done many, many other things.

What is God teaching me these days?

A couple of weeks ago while I was reading in the book of Deuteronomy, I was struck by the story of Moses who led the Israelites through the wilderness to the very edge of the Promised Land. Moses knew he would not have the privilege of leading God’s people into the Promised Land, yet he led with strength, energy, and a long-term vision for God’s people. Leadership can be challenging. There are days in which we lose hope. There are days in which we want to give up. And there are days in which we realize God has us in a leadership role for a specific season. In my job and in my role as a leader where I work, I have had to navigate significant organizational changes along with changes within my team. Despite my tendency to despise change, I have had to see the vision for the future despite the cloudiness of the present. I’ve had to remain positive and hopeful when it would seem easier to be negative and desperate. I was encouraged by this story of Moses to keep leading well.

I’ve also been witnessing significant changes in some of my family members. My Mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s is not getting easier. Her short term memory is getting worse and worse. My Dad has shared other details of Mom’s decline. It’s not easy to witness your parents as they age. Mom will turn 74 in early May. We don’t know the number of her days. Despite having confidence in her eternal destination, it’s hard to navigate how to be a son who lives 850 miles away. The writer of Psalms 90:12 reminds us, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” As I witness my parents’ aging while I also see the growth of my own kids as they reach exciting milestones in their lives, I think God is teaching me to enjoy each day, to celebrate the good days, and to trust Him during the harder days. I want to honor God with my life. For me that starts with thanksgiving to God for each day.

God’s showing me that leadership isn’t a popularity contest. As a natural people pleaser, I want people on my team to like me. This isn’t always going to happen. Leaders make tough decisions. Leaders carry the blame even if not directly making decisions that impact team members. Leaders set the tone. Leaders put in the time. Leaders carry the burdens. These burdens are related to achieving business success, to ensuring customer satisfaction, to providing accountability for team member performance, and to the health and welfare of those we serve. I had a team member comment to me the other day that I looked stressed. I explained my struggle with sleep the night before which contributed the the bags under my eyes. As a leader, I’m learning again and again that I have more to learn.

What’s on my radar?

Much of my energy and attention is going to my job right now as I seek to build my team for the next stages of our business. I will be spending a lot of time recruiting, interviewing, and planning. It’s exciting to envision the future of my team and the success we will have as we grow.

I’ve been preparing to take on the President’s role for the Rotary Club of Blue Bell. I am learning that delegation and building the right board will be essential for staying balanced and for making a difference as our club seeks to serve our community and our world.

I recently accepted a request to join my church’s leadership team. I’m excited to serve in this capacity at the church I’ve called home for over twenty years. I won’t go into detail now, but this recent event has taught me a lot about my pride, about humility, and about God’s timing.

My son, Isaac, is getting ready to graduate from Grove City College. Leanne and I are overjoyed at the man our son has become. We are praying for the right job for him as he enters this next stage of his life.

Leanne and I have navigated some health challenges since I last wrote. God is good! And it’s been a blessing to see God’s faithfulness and healing hand over these last months. We are excited about some upcoming things I may share more about in the future.

How about you?

The blog world is different than when I started this thing so many years ago. How are you doing? What is God teaching you? What’s on your radar? I’d love to catch up with you and hear about you. Leave a comment.

Reflections on Hardship

“There is no success without hardship.”


At one time or another, we all endure some time of hardship in our lives. I’m not hear to measure or compare hardships; I’m simply making an observation that from time to time life can seem really hard. I’m kind of in one of those seasons right now. Without going into detail, I feel like I have the weight of the world hanging on my shoulders. I wish I could simply snap my fingers and everything would be fixed, but it’s just not that easy. The hardship I’m enduring will take time to resolve.

Often, hardships take time to navigate and even slog through. Patience is required as we take one difficult step at a time.

When we find ourselves in times of hardship, I’ve found it helpful to do the following:

  1. Lean into God’s Word. God’s Word can provide hope and encouragement. I have found that in verses like Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:2-4, and John 14:27. Look them up! God’s Word can also provide a reminder that we are not alone in our hardships. I have found the book of Psalms to be a tremendous blessing even in the Psalmists laments. God’s Word is a lamp and a light (Psalm 119:105) and will provide guidance and wisdom when times are tough.
  2. Lean into helpful friends and family. It’s easy to feel all alone when we face hardships. We often become so self-focused in times of hardship that we forget to ask for help or to accept help. This week I leaned into several friends who took time to listen and to pray. Helpful friends and family members will listen, pray, and lend a helping hand.
  3. Lean into God’s faithfulness. God has a record of being faithful. You can find this in the Bible, but you can also find this if you look back in your own experiences. How has God been faithful to you? Learning to process one to three reasons to be grateful each day is a healthy discipline whether your are experiencing hardship or not.
  4. Lean into professional help. Let’s face it, sometimes we need to go to the experts when we find ourselves in times of hardship – a therapist, a counselor, a doctor, a mechanic, etc. Asking for help can be really challenging, but it can also be the thing we need to accelerate us through the hardship we are currently experiencing. Help! is one of the most courageous words anyone can proclaim.
  5. Lean into a healthy vision of the future. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have a hope that God will use my times of hardship to grow me closer to others, to draw me closer to Him, to stretch me personally, and to equip me to help others in the future. It’s easy to become hopeless when we face hardships of many kinds. We must fight this natural tendency and learn to put on a more positive outlook for the future.

I don’t know what hardships you may be facing in your life right now. I pray you’d find hope, peace, courage, and wisdom to persevere. If you are like me, you desire the easier, more comfortable road. Perhaps, God’s working through the junk in our lives for a better purpose, a bright future. We may not understand fully the reasons for our hardship, but we do have a God who can work through and redeem the tough times in our lives.

Reflections on Balance

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Albert Einstein

When I was a very young child (a baby), I couldn’t walk at first. I didn’t have the strength required to stand up and to move forward. When I first started to test out walking, I fell often as I struggled to maintain my balance. I don’t remember this personally, but I can surmise this to be the case given the struggles I remember my own children having when they initially attempted their first steps.

Over time, walking became easier. Walking eventually turned into running, skipping, and hopping. Then I learned to balance on two wheels as I rode a bicycle for the first time without training wheels at the age of four. My ability to balance was becoming stronger. I remember doing pretty well on the frozen ponds of Wheaton, IL as I balanced on the thin blades of my first pair of ice skates.

Balancing has been a fact of life for my entire life. As I grew older, physical balance continued to develop and grow on the gym floors, athletic fields, and outdoor venues. But I learned that balance also has a time component and a focus component. For example, I often find myself trying to balance my schedule. After all, I can’t do everything at the same time. I must learn to prioritize. I must learn to say “No”, so I can say “Yes”. This is also the same in my areas of focus. What gets focused on gets done. If I spread out my focus too broadly nothing gets done.

Just this week, I had something in my life happen that threw things off balance. I felt like I had been heading in a good direction in this area before an imbalanced, outside force came in and disrupted things. While many of us want to discover the “zen spot” where everything is balanced, I think it’s important to remember that there will always be outside forces which require us to make adjustments to rediscover that balance point.

Is balance worth pursuing? Or is balance – a balanced life, a balanced checkbook, a balanced appointment calendar, etc. – a waste of time and effort?

These are interesting questions. As a disciplined person, I’ve come to depend on balance in my life. It helps me stay the course. Balance keeps me on the right path (at least that’s what I like to think). I probably need to make sure I’m not so self-reliant on my ability to create balance in my life though.

When outside forces or events come in and disrupt my balance, I have often been reminded of the importance of trusting in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “Trust the Lord with all our hearts. Lean not on our own understanding. Acknowledge Him, and He will make our paths straight (paraphrased).” Perhaps restated Proverbs 3:5-6 might read, “Rely solely on God for balance in your life. He’s there for you even when life seems out of whack.”

Where do you find balance in your life? What areas seem balanced right now? Where do you need God’s help right now to reclaim balance?

A few weeks ago, my Mom fell and broke her hip. She is 73 years old, and she suffers from Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Over the past few years, we have seen a decline in her ability to balance physically. She has been using a cane more regularly the past year or two. She is currently using a walker as she relearns to walk with her repaired hip. Mom’s physical balance more than likely will not get a lot better on this side of heaven. Having said this, I feel blessed to say that even as parts of Mom’s mind begin to disappear, she finds balance in the the Lord. A month or so ago, while we were in Minneapolis celebrating my Grandpa Miller’s life, Mom could be heard singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. God is faithful even when the rest of life feels out of balance. Thanks for this reminder, Mom!

Reflections on Genius

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Aldous Huxley

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a genius is a very smart or talented person : a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable. People often name Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton as geniuses in the world of science. A few years ago, the BestSchools.org website listed 50 of today’s living geniuses which included: Warren Buffett, Jackie Chan, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates, Wayne Gretzky, Tony Hawk, Stephen Hawking, Michael Jordan, Stan Lee, Yo-Yo Ma, Cormac McCarthy, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg.

When we think of the word genius, we think of someone really smart from our school, from our places of employment, or perhaps from our community. We think of people who have achieved success and prominence through their brilliance. We think of other people, but we don’t typically put ourselves on the list.

I was exchanging messages earlier this week with my friend, Cliff Ravenscraft. Cliff left his job in the insurance world to pursue podcasting. He became known to many as the Podcast Answer Man. More recently, he pivoted and became the Mindset Answer Man. Through his coaching, he has helped many take their lives to the Next Level. In our message exchange, he suggested I take another look at The Big Leap (Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level) by Gay Hendricks. Specifically, Cliff encouraged me to identify my Zone of Genius.

I first read The Big Leap in January 2018, and I remember it making sense. Sometimes it takes a friendly reminder and another look to turn the lessons learned from a book like this into action. On Friday, I took some time to go to the beach by myself. It was a beautiful day. I took time to walk, to clear my head, to stick my feet in the warm ocean, and to re-read the first two chapters of The Big Leap.

In The Big Leap, Hendricks defines our Zone of Genius as “the set of activities you are uniquely suited to do.” He separates this from the Zone of Excellence (“the activities you do extremely well”), the Zone of Competence (the activities you can do, but others can do just as well), and the Zone of Incompetence (“made up of all the activities we’re not good at”). So many of us stop at the Zone of Competence or the Zone of Excellence, but we fail to make it to the Zone of Genius. We do our jobs adequately or even well, but we fail to do what we are uniquely suited to do.

I still have a lot of work to do to re-read and process this book. Working in our Zone of Genius requires thought. It requires us to identify what we are uniquely suited to do. And it requires us to shed the activities in the other zones, so we have more time and energy to operate in our Zone of Genius. We must learn to say “No” to things outside our Zone of Genius. We must learn to delegate. We must learn to let others help us with tasks outside our Zone of Genius. I was talking to some friends last night, and I realized that this may mean asking someone to paint our house for me. I was a painter the summer in between high school and college. I painted all the rooms in our last house. I have painted the garage and the dining room at our new house. I know how to paint. I do an okay job at it. But if I’m honest I’m not uniquely suited to paint. My height helps me, but I don’t have the most steady of hands and I tend to take longer than those who paint for a living.

I don’t remember if Hendricks says this in his book, but I think it is imperative for us to discover and live in our Zones of Genius if we want to be good stewards and live the lives we were meant to live. I don’t imagine I’ll ever show up on a list of the Top 50 Living Geniuses of the World, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue my own Zone of Genius.

Thanks, Cliff, for the reminder. I’m excited to share with you in the future where my journey to my Zone of Genius takes me.

What were you uniquely made to do? How do you live out your Zone of Genius in your everyday life?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

Reflections on Restlessness

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”

Thomas A. Edison

I have found myself dealing with restlessness the past several months. I’m contemplating change, but I’m not yet convinced change will solve the restlessness I feel. Besides that, I don’t like change (I’m sure I’ve shared that here before). Change in itself is disrupting. It requires a new direction, flexibility, and an ability to adapt.

For so long, I’ve talked about the importance of stretching and growing as a means to really experiencing life. And now, I’m fighting to find the courage to follow my own advice.

Thomas Edison’s quote above provides a reasonable perspective to embrace restlessness. But I also think there is a balance between restlessness and contentment.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians indicates that finding contentment in any and every situation is possible and is a worthwhile pursuit.

So how do we in our human condition experience true contentment? Can we be content and restless at the same time?

For one, I know I must rely on Jesus. God and His Word must be my first priority, my go-to for wisdom, and my sustainer – even when life gets crazy around me. Too often in our restlessness, we fail to seek God first. Our priorities are out of alignment and our sense of contentment suffers as a result. Does God come first in your life? How does that reflect in your schedule? Are you making time to spend with the Creator? Jesus reminds us that “all these things” will be given to us when we seek first the Kingdom of God. This sounds like contentment to me.

I know I must look to wise advisors. Obviously, I lean on my wife when it comes to my restlessness, and I also have other individuals in my corner who do a great job listening and providing wise feedback based on their knowledge and experience. Who is in your corner? Do you have advisors in your life who you can trust? Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 15:22 that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

I know I must practice daily gratitude. When we fail to recognize the good in our lives, we ultimately drive ourselves deeper into restless and eventually into despair. Why are you thankful today? What happened in your life today that deserves appreciation and gratitude? Who do you need to thank today? A thankful heart is a heart on the path towards contentment.

I know I must keep pursuing my calling, my purpose, and my mission. I believe God made me on purpose for a purpose. I must embrace a certain level of restlessness as I pursue my calling, my purpose, and my mission. As I’m learning, these things can push you in new directions as you navigate the pathway of life. I don’t want to be content if I’m failing to use my God given gifts and talents to serve others and if I’m failing to make a Kingdom difference in this world. Are you pursing your calling, your purpose, and your mission? Do you need someone to help you figure this out? A life on mission is a life heading towards contentment.

As I approach my 50th birthday, I’m growing to understand that restlessness is probably a common condition at this age. While I want to keep working in some capacity for the rest of my life, my most productive remaining years from a career perspective are probably the next 10-15 years. How do I want to spend these years when it comes to work? I’m also realizing my own mortality. Watching my Mom be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 67, seeing my Dad’s hair turn completely white, and saying goodbye to my Grandpa Miller who used to run circles around everyone have provided a poignant reminder that our earthly lives are short. I want to live my earthly life with a confident gusto.

The more I think about it, I think there may be a difference between regular restlessness and holy restlessness. Regular restlessness happens when we chase after the things of this world – possessions, wealth, fame, recognition. But holy restlessness happens when we chase after God and His Kingdom in our lives. Much of my restlessness has been the regular kind. If I’m going to be restless, I want it to be the holy kind of restlessness.

God, give me a holy restlessness and help me find contentment. I want to honor you with my life.

“What does a man acquire from all his labor and from the anxiety that accompanies his toil on earth? For all day long his work produces pain and frustration, and even at night his mind cannot relax. This also is futile! There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in their work. I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God.”

Ecclesiastes 2:22-24 (NET)

Reflections on Age

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.

George Burns

Friday night, I received a bit of a jolt when I went to get our mail. When I opened the mailbox, there was an envelope addressed to me from AARP with an indication on the front “Notification of Member Benefits.” According to the AARP website, “AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.” In order to be eligible for AARP (which I believe stands for American Association of Retired People), you have to be 50 years of age. Early in December (the 8th if you want to mark it on your calendar), I will be turning 50; hence, the invitation to join AARP landed in my mailbox this week.

Age is a funny thing. When we are younger, we can’t wait to get older. Somewhere in our twenties or thirties, we are happy with our age. In our forties, we just wish things would slow down a little bit. And I’ve heard many in their fifties and beyond wishing they were younger again.

When I was in Minnesota just over a week ago to celebrate my Grandpa Miller’s life, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents. My dad, who just turned 75 this week, is no longer graying. His hair is pretty white now, and to be honest he looks more and more like my Grandpa Stolpe. My mom, who is 73, is experiencing the impact of Alzheimer’s. She needs more and more help to manage medication, to dress, and do other things that used to come so natural to her. It is humbling to realize I will be there age in 23-25 years, and I may have my own battles that come with aging.

My Grandpa Miller used to say he still felt like he was 18 years old – even into his early 80’s he would make this proclamation. As he moved more into his late 80’s and early 90’s, his comments changed a little bit. From his waist down, he felt like he was in his 90’s. Above his waist, he still felt like he was in his 20’s or 50’s depending on the day. I had the opportunity to see him in March in person and then again via Facetime in his final days, and it was clear to me that Grandpa was ready to hang up his cleats on his earthly life and continue on with Jesus in Heaven. Grandpa lived to 94 years old.

A couple of years ago, I listed to a book by Dan Sullivan called “My Plan for Living to 156.” After listening to this book, I began to tell people that I wanted to live to 129 years old. This would give me the opportunity to live in three different centuries. It seems kind of idealistic now that I think about it. After all, most people who live into their late 80’s and beyond deal with significant physical and cognitive impairments not to mention they frequently experience more loneliness as friends and loved ones face their own mortality. Watching Grandpa suffer the past few years has perhaps caused me to rethink the goal of living to 129.

As I approach my 50th birthday, I don’t want it to be a reason for sadness. While I may take time to reflect (like I’m doing right now), I want it to be an opportunity to celebrate what God has done in and through my life and what He plans for me in the future.

I recently listened to another book by Michael Clinton called “ROAR into the second half of your life (Before It’s Too Late).” In the book, he encourages readers to embrace their age and to celebrate and use the wisdom gained from age and experience. I shared this with my Dad the other day, and he too talked about the excitement and sense of peace he has at this stage of life. This is how I want to be. I don’t want to look back with regret. I don’t want to look forward with fear or anxiety. I want to embrace the present. I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to keep stretching. I want to keep learning. I want to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to do a little more research to see about signing up for AARP.

They will still bear fruit in old age,they will stay fresh and green.

Psalm 92:14 (NIV)

Finding The Light When Life Shatters Around You

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.

Helen Keller

Last night, I returned from an eventful trip to Minneapolis to celebrate Grandpa Miller‘s life. If you talk to anyone in my family, I think they will agree that this was not the trip we had planned.

I’ll spare you all the gory details, but I will tell you that the hotel glass shower door exploded as my Mom was getting out of the shower on Friday morning right before the scheduled visitation and funeral for Grandpa. Mom ended up taking an ambulance ride to the local hospital to get 12 stitches in her wrist and foot, several bandages, and a tetanus shot. And the funeral ended up being rescheduled to 2pm later that day. Needless to say, the whole family was a bit shaken by the morning that shattered our plans.

Yesterday morning as we gathered in the hotel lobby from breakfast and goodbyes, it was reassuring to see the shared smiles and laughter as we recounted the events of the previous day and as we reflected on time together.

We cannot always predict when life will send us a roadblock or an experience that leaves us shaken, but I there are things we can do to prepare us for these events and that we can do even when we find ourselves in a pile of broken glass and blood.

First, we can sing. Crazy as it sounds, my Mom, who has Alzheimer’s, began singing Great is They Faithfulness as my sister-in-law and my wife tried to stop the bleeding until the paramedics showed up. God is still great and faithful even when we find ourselves in a mess. Mom’s instinct to sing this song was right on.

Second, we can practice flexibility. I don’t like when things interrupt my plans, but here’s the deal: Life happens despite our calendars. No one could have planned for the exploding shower door. We had no choice but to adapt, and so we did. We changed the funeral time. We changed our lunch plans. And we moved forward.

Third, we can learn to be thankful. I am thankful my sister-in-law was in the room when the shower door exploded as she was able to help Mom and call for help. I am thankful for the hotel staff who helped us switch their room. I am thankful for the paramedics who arrived and quickly brought Mom to the hospital. I’m thankful for the funeral home who flexed when we had no other choice. I’m thankful for my family who rallied despite the circumstances. I’m thankful that God heals.

Helen Keller’s quote above is very appropriate. At one time or another, there will come a time when it feels like the world is shattering around us. We must have faith that the light will emerge. Keep on hoping. Keep on looking for the light.

You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Job 11:18 (NIV)

Grandpa Miller

Tuesday morning, September 7, 2021, I was walking a job site for a project my team is working on when I received news that my Grandpa had passed away. While I wasn’t surprised given his recent health, I was still taken aback – sad and happy at the same time. I was sad, because I knew I would never see him again in this earthly life. I was happy, because I knew he was no longer suffering and I would one day see him again in heaven.

I’m still trying to capture all my thoughts and memories of him. Some initial things come to mind:

  • Grandpa had some responsibility for my musical skill and interest and for that of our family. While Leanne’s family rightfully gets most of the credit, Grandpa gave me his silver alto saxophone when I was getting ready to start fifth grade. That instrument led me into many practices, performances, and interactions I might never have had otherwise. My senior year in high school, I played in three separate jazz groups that went to states (in New Jersey). I still have the saxophone, and I’ll treasure it as a memory and connection to my Grandpa. Both my kids pursued music starting at a young age, and Isaac (my son) is pursuing a career in music.
  • Grandpa took a lot of steps in his life. As a USPS mail carrier, he loved his route and the people he met along the way as he delivered the mail. I think of Grandpa often when I’m out on my daily walks (today is day 1,240 in my streak of 10,000+ steps a day). While the last several years haven’t been kind to Grandpa’s mobility, I will always remember him as a man in motion.
  • Grandpa made the most of every opportunity when it came to sharing God’s love and God’s message with others. In my wallet is a card from Grandpa that includes two questions: (1) Do you have a prayer request for me? (2) Have you come to a place in your life where you know that when you die, your are going to Heaven? Grandpa gave these cards out, and he asked these two questions whenever he had the chance. He is responsible for introducing perhaps hundreds of people to Jesus Christ. While Grandpa was far from perfect, I think this is a model worth following.

As I continue to process Grandpa’s life and his passing, I will perhaps have more to share. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy getting to know him a little better. He has been mentioned in several of my past posts. Here are links for you to learn more:

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things….

Teach Us To Number Our Days

Always say “I love you” for you don’t know if/when you will see each other again. I recall as a young first or second grader, I had a fear of never being able to see my Grandpa Miller again. He had just dropped me off at school, and he and Grandma were getting ready to travel from Wheaton, IL back to Minneapolis, MN. I remember the school called my home after the school day started to give me a chance to talk with my Grandpa. He ended up walking or driving back to the school before his trip back to Minneapolis just so I could say “I love you.” Now, Grandpa is 93 years old, and the last few years haven’t been kind to him. I don’t talk to him nearly as frequently as I should, but every conversation ends with “I love you.” This is how it should be with everyone we love. We don’t want to live in regret thinking we left things on a bad note.

Renewal Through Shared Disciplines

Recently, I was on the phone with my Grandpa Miller. Grandpa recently turned 94 years old. Physically, he is definitely showing signs of his age. He can’t run around like he used to when he was in his 70s and 80s. And while is mind isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be, I’ve been impressed by how well he is doing mentally and spiritually. During our phone conversation, he shared with me his pattern for prayer….

Teach Me To Count (last week’s post)

This fact has been hitting home for me on a much more personal level these past two or three weeks as my family watches my Grandpa Miller in his last days. At 94 years old, he has lived a long life. He is a retired USPS mail carrier (he loved his job). He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in World War II. He was always very particular about his lawn and his cars for which he always paid cash. Grandpa was frugal. He was a meat and potatoes guy. More than these things, he loved Jesus, and he loved introducing people to Jesus. Over the past few years as his physical body has been failing, he has remained committed to praying (I wrote about this in a recent blog post).

Grandpa is tired and worn out. He is ready to go home – to his heavenly home….

The Discipline of Preparation

As long as I can remember, I have always taken great pride in keeping a nice lawn. I may have been influenced by my Grandpa Miller who always kept his lawn green and well manicured when I was younger. My obsession with a nice lawn may also have been shaped by my experience as a teenager cutting people’s lawns throughout the area….

8 Things You Need To Know About A Positive Attitude

(This post was more about Grandma Miller, but Grandpa is mentioned in the post.)

When you think of someone with a positive attitude, who comes to your mind?

The first person to come to my mind is my Grandma Miller. Grandma passed away several years ago, but her positive attitude still impacts me. Grandma struggled with multiple sclerosis for most of her life. Her knees failed her. She suffered from seizures. And towards the end of her life, she could barely hold her head up. Despite her physical ailments, she remained positive. She often had a song on her lips, and she was friendly with every single person who crossed her path. If there was someone I know who had a positive attitude, it was my Grandma Miller….