Working on a Dream




Monday, January 30, 2012

My Testimony

Life changed.
New Direction

When I fail, I fail forward.  Heart changed forever by God.  I sin daily.  More than I like to admit.  But every time I get up. I find my way back to You. 
I have a feeling it is because of you that I do this...

People have mocked me, put me down, and written me off...
But I'm still here.
You are the Compassionate One.
The One that Understands.
You meet me with perfection each and every day.

Taking up the cause.
In spite of myself, I go on.
Heart of a champion, following The Leader.  Every new endeavor in Your name. 
It's a cause to worthy to quit & a fight to noble to settle on.

Others may look and jeer...
But only by Your grace I dive into an uncertain future with boldness.

I am waiting. 
With eyes emboldened. Passionate.  Glorious. Like a prophet uttering a brighter future and waiting for brighter tomorrow...
For a future that is better than the Past.
Because that is what I've come to understand about  You.

King of newness.
Prince of tomorrows.
Glory to Glory.

I step into an eager future.
Knowing that I am not alone.
But in the line of great men and women that sought after You.

Take my hand as I take yours...
I am sure to let you down.
But I know that I cannot say the same thing about You.

Let's go together.
I'll take on your cause right here. Right now.

Nothing more noble.  Nothing more worthwhile.
I have dedicated my life to mirroring yours.
Forgive me when I get offtrack.
Restore me when I fail.
Bow down and gather me to Yourself.

Here is my life.
Use it.

Craby Old Man

Keith A. Wells Sr.'s photos

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in... North Platte , Nebraska , it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

After you read it, you will see why....

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . What do you see?

What are you thinking . . . . . when you're looking at me?

A crabby old man, . ... .. not very wise,

Uncertain of habit .. . .. . . . . . with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . .. . . . . and makes no reply .

When you say in a loud voice .. . . . .. 'I do wish you'd try!'

Who seems not to notice . ... . the things that you do .

And forever is losing . . . . .. . . . . . A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . . .. . . lets you do as you will,

With bathing and feeding The long day to fill?

Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . you're not looking at me .

I'll tell you who I am . As I sit here so still,

As I do at your bidding, . . . . . . as I eat at your will.

I'm a small child of Ten ... . . . . . with a father and mother,

Brothers and sisters . . . ... . . . . . who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . with wings on his feet

Dreaming that soon now . . . .. .. . . a lover he'll meet..

A groom soon at Twenty . my heart gives a leap.

Remembering, the vows . . . . .. . that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . . . . I have young of my own.

Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.

A man of Thirty . . . . .. . . . .. My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other . . . . . . . With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. . have grown and are gone,

But my woman's beside me . . . . . . . to see I don't mourn.

At Fifty, once more, babies play 'round my knee,

Again, we know children . . . . . . . My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . my wife is now dead.

I look at the future ... . .. . . . . . . shudder with dread..

For my young are all rearing . . . . . .. young of their own.

And I think of the years . . .. and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man . . . . . .. .. . . and nature is cruel.

Tis jest to make old age . . . . look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles .. . . . . . . grace and vigor, depart..

There is now a stone . . . .. . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . a young guy still dwells,

And now and again . . . .. . . . my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys . . . . . . . . .. I remember the pain.

And I'm loving and living . . . . . .. . . . . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . . . gone too fast.

And accept the stark fact . . . . . .. that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people . . . . . . . . open and see.

Not a crabby old man. Look closer . . . see ME!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is it Live or is it Memorex?

---Is it Live or Memorex?
Remember that commercial? I do. 

The commercial was trying to sell the audience that music recorded using the Memorex brand was indistinguishable from the real thing. 
Whether or not the Memorex motto held up is debatable, but something that is not up for argument is the fact that the real thing is always the best. Have you ever noticed how imitations can be detected? Maybe not at first, but there always seems to be something that shows the true markings of authenticity.

I remember sitting in an old Cadillac from the early 80's.  You know the type...they take up two parking spaces (I am not talking about side to side either).  The leather in the car was aged -yet not broken.   Then it hit me, aged leather on its worst day is more effective than pleather at its best

-What is the point of all this?
There are many who will stop at nothing to fit-in. They focus on all the wrong things like using the right language & wearing certain styles of clothing. They monitor their every move because they are fraudulent at heart.  What a sad life!  E.E. Cummings once said, "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."  

Remember how I began this post with the Memorex motto?
--Is it live or is it Memorex? 
Well, I might have fibbed a bit up front when I said that I was not sure if the Memorex product sounded like the real thing.  The reason is that because over time we can all spot a faker.  No Memorex, there is nothing quit like the real thing.
That is precisely the reason why we stay up for hours, form long lines and dish out our hard earned money to see our favorite performer in concert.
Becuase we all know the difference between is it live or is it Memorex

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Losing your Marbles

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the kitchen, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

---Let me tell you about it.
I turned the volume up on my radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning talk show featuring a story about "a thousand marbles."
-I was intrigued and sat down to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital. " He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic.
The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about 75 years." "Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime."

"Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part.
It took me until I was 25 years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. "I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. "So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. "I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in my workshop next to the radio.
------Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.
"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.
This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then God has blessed me with a little extra time to be with my loved ones......
"It was nice to talk to you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your loved ones, and I hope to meet you again someday. Have a good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished.

Even the show's moderator didn't have anything to say for a few moments. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to do some work that morning, then go to the gym.
Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast." "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

"Oh, nothing special," I said. "It has just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids.
-Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

"We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born.
We can’t take our riches with us."
– Ecclesiastes 5:15

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Carpenter

Once upon a time,
two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John's door.
He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I 'm looking for a few days' work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with?

     Could I help you?

"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day -- measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.

--It was a bridge.

-A bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other-

A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his
hand outstretched..

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

"No, wait! Stay a few days I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.

"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said,
                  "but I have many more bridges to build."

Ephesians 4:32  
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Now I Lay me Down to Sleep

  • During this trial, the charity, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep ( [came for free] to the hospital to take pictures of baby Anthony with his mommy & daddy.
Because Christen and I have been blessed with such wonderful photos of our son, (many photos you have seen on my blog are from this company) I would like to help them as they are totally non-profit.

For every person that simply joins the over 300 followers of this blog, I will donate 25 cents towards the charity. 
-That means for every 4 people, a dollar will be donated.
-For every 100 people, 25 dollars will be donated.
And if you can help raise 100 dollars, I will match that with another 100.000 for a grand total of $200.00!

Perhaps you are like me, and everday you look for a little way to make a difference; to add significance to your life. By following this blog -you just did.

---Please consider this opportunity.

I know how much it meant for Christen and I to have these pictures taken and I want this company to be around for any other family too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baby Anthony: 1 Year later, "The Rest of the Story" part 2.

In those 9 months, your mom and I talked a lot, and not surprising, you were the center of most of our conversations…

--We would dream together about you.
------------What were you going to look like?
---Who’s personality would you take?
-Would you come out of the womb singing Bruce Springsteen?

It is very hard to not have the answers to those questions.
They linger in my heart at all times, serving as a sweet and pungent fragrance reminding me that I will never know…

Not many people know this, but one of the hardest things that I ever had to do in my life was the day that I baptized you. As I took the water and the oil in my hands, I prayed over you, anointed you, and before I could end … I lost it. 
-I totally broke down.
I can remember speaking through my tears saying that, “I wanted to have done this in front of the church, Not here in a hospital.” A person never dreams of a situation like the one Christen and I went through.

Now I lay me down to sleep:
Another unbearable situation was the day the charity, “Now I Lay me Down to Sleep” came to the hospital to take pictures of you. It is hard to wrap your mind around discussing family pictures with your soon to be deceased son. I can remember filling out forms with questions like: “Do you have any favorite Bible verses you would like to add?”, and other types of questions like these before I flung the stack of papers across the table and rivers of tears gushed down my cheeks.

--Like I said a year ago, if you are trying to imagine what Christen and I went through.     

Advice: Now before I end, let me give you a bit of advice. Thankfully, this does not apply to most people, just a small select that are basically the most ignorant and selfish humans grazing the earth.

*If you ever run across a person that has lost a child, please never say the following:

“You’re young, you will be OK”
“The good news is that you will have more in the future”
“Start focusing on the positive”
“The loss of a child is the same as any other loss in a family”

*Yes, the above is real, and for the sake of decency I will leave off the other comments that I just could not muster up the strength to write, because they might cause you to punch through your computer screen. Truly.

The responses I give to people that say such things may strike you as harsh, but I like to tell them one of two things:

1) I have seen how you live your life. You are the most fragile human I know. A crumbled up piece of paper has more stability in a windstorm than you do on a good day. Your whole world is ruined when you break your nail. If what happened to Christen and I happened to you…you would have a permanent residency on the 5th floor.
-Now go home and continue watching your soap operas.

2) Go to your house. Now go to your tool shed. Find a saw. Cut off your limbs. Now get over losing those.
-Have a nice day.

-I digress.

Honestly, there are things in life that are meant getting over and then there are things that are not. Getting over your favorite football team losing in the playoffs and not getting what you wanted for Christmas are things you get over. Losing a living, breathing person isn’t. It is something you carry with you. Inside of you, till the day you die.

I am not sure what to say about my faith.
I can say with certainty that it is a lot more difficult to pray. Not that I am mad at God or holding some type of holy grudge. I am not. It is just something inside of me seems to have died with Anthony. I think it is the childlike element that has passed away for me. The thrill of it all has faded. On the other hand, I know without a doubt that without the Lord’s help, my wife and I would have been totally leveled to a pile of ashes.
At the end of it all, God is still good. And like David, I await a reunion with my son…it will just not be here in this life.

A year ago I wrote a poem about how little Anthony will always be a mystery to me .
-I can’t believe how right I was.
One year has passed and I just cannot help but be filled with wonder.
I constantly think about how our lives would be entirely different now and how it seems that Christen and I were robbed of the most precious gift any person could ever imagine.
I don’t know if this is strange or not, but every once in a while I find myself envying parents with their kids … especially dads with their sons.

----------------Anthony, I am sorry I will never know you like they know their kids.

Usually it is pretty easy for me to end something when I write. But tonight it is not.

I feel like when I close out this letter, I am shutting some kind of imaginary door of memories…like somehow as time passes the memories of those 9 days will somehow get a little foggier, a little harder to recall.

Please God, I beg You that does not happen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baby Anthony: 1 Year later, The rest of the Story...

Baby Anthony: 1 Year later. 
The UNseen pictures, the UNrelenting pain of loss & the rest of the story.

Written before Anthony's Birthday, during a sleepless night.

-I don’t even know where to start.

Today is Anthony’s birthday. Shouldn’t I be busy buying candles, a cake and whatever else a 1 year old gets? The stark reality is that today, there will be no decorations and no cameras to capture the highlights.

Today my house has none of the above, just memories.

Memories of the most thrilling 9 months, followed up by a mixture of the most terrifying 9 days of my life.

About a month ago, I went to buy a new phone and as I was going to turn in my old one, I checked the videos/pictures to make sure there wasn’t anything important on it before I threw it away.

There was.

The beginning of the video started out kind of fuzzy, but then I zoomed out to find Christen 8 months pregnant with you. You were in your mommy’s belly and she was rubbing you. Then, totally out of the blue, you started moving like crazy. As I watched this, it felt like the world stopped spinning and time just paused.
-There you were. OK. Alive.
-Everything in the world was great.

-Then the video stopped-

It goes without saying: I kept the phone.
This is kind of weird but I can actually remember the last normal day of my life. It was New Year’s Eve 2011. That day your mom and I were really excited. Mom went to get a new hair cut; dad stood home cooking the traditional meal on New Years. When mom came home, she was full of smiles, dragging in some bags containing a brand new coffee maker and a “daddy gift.” This was my last truly great day.
--It is something; I can actually mark the last truly great day of my life.

-That is the last day that I consider my life being normal.
My mind often races back to those 9 months.

Your mom drove me crazy at times as she literally watched e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g she put into her body; she adhered to every “jot and tittle” of what a pregnant mother should and should not do. I am not just talking about things like Tylenol or Advil either; I mean she even watched to the CALORIE.

-She did this because she loved you and wanted to ensure that you had the best start possible. I guess God is ironic, because when you were born, you were surrounded by other babies that had parents that didn’t seem to care so much about them. You see, you were in a room with other tiny babies that were fighting for their lives too. Some because of natural problems like you –but most were 1 or 2 months premature because of their parents addictions. I felt bad for the other babies because they never had parents that came to visit.

But you on the other hand,
had an entire community of people that was pulling for you.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends...and not to mention, people from around the globe.

One night in the hospital, everyone in the family had the privilege to hold you in their arms. Christen and I were happy to share you with such wonderful people. We wanted you to experience your family from day one…we just never thought it would be under such dreadful circumstances. I am certain that everybody that looked forward to holding you for the last 9 months never thought that their first time would be their last too…

Anthony, we were all there with you the entire time and you were literally never alone without 2 or 3 people right beside you.

--Talking to you, praying for you, reading the Bible to you.
Friends of ours graciously got us a hotel about a minute away from West Penn, but your mom would not stay there. She would not leave you. Not for a second. She stood by your side, fighting through the pain of a fresh “C” section and sleeplessness to be sure everything was OK.

On another night in the hospital, I recall a beautiful, yet sorrowful memory when your Aunt Lindsay and I were reading a part of the Bible out loud to you and you opened up your eyes. Anthony, I am sure you recognized the familiar passage as it was the same part of the Bible that I would read to you while you were in mommy’s belly:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious to you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,

and give you peace.

I chose those verses for you from day 1 because I wanted you to hear about God, His grace and His marvels before you were even born.  My heart's desire was that as the Lord blessed you, you would in turn, bless others.  I kinda think that is what happened during those 9 days of struggle, but I cannot say for sure. 
-What I can say for sure is that you became an evangelist, calling people back to Jesus. 
-You transformed into an instrument of God's grace, a living angel and displayed for us all a fighting spirit that transcends the normal...

-Like father, like son-

For the sake of space, I will share part 2 tomorrow
-Please stop back and finish this with me. 
I know I can't see you and you can't see me, but trust me when I say that every little comment, like, and share means something to me.  It shows that little Anthony's life still impacts us all. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baby Anthony: 1 Year later. The UNseen pictures, the UNrelenting pain of loss & the rest of the story.

-Baby Anthony
1 year ago,  The Unseen Picture's.

Above:  Me holding Anthony.
I was so nervous that I would to drop him!  Christen had to hold him and tell me how to place my arms so he didn't wiggle away.  Even today, it is very hard for me to look into my sons eyes. I feel as through he is crying out for me and I cannot help him.  I am haunted by this.  

Above:  This is one of my favorite pictures with little Anthony.
Those 9 days were endless; it seemed like they all morphed together...
Christen snapped this pic while her two boys were sleeping.
-I wish I could hold him like this now-

Above:  In Mommy's arms.
I watched Christen transform into the greatest mother in the world during this time.
Her strength, faith and unrelenting love were second to none.
Above:  Baby Anthony sleeping in his yellow hat. 
I swear he is the cutest little baby!  (and not just because he is my son or anything...)  
Above: A parent's worst nightmare.
It was really hard to be cheery during this time.  As you can see, little Anthony had to be attached to so many tubes just to give him a fighting chance. 
-This picture is both a joy & a terror for me to look at-

Above:  Me being dad.
It was very hard for me to adjust and to know what to do with Anthony. 
I am not the most gentle person in the world, so Christen was always an arms length away making sure I didn't do anything wrong!  It breaks my heart that I never had the chance to get the hang of handling Anthony.  I know that over time, I would have adjusted, and became comfy with my little sweat heart. 

I want to thank you all for lifting Christen and I up in your prayers over the past year.
I know that the short life little Anthony had here on earth has caused many of you to reflect and rethink your own life.
My hope and prayer is that all of this, from beginning to end, causes your knee to bow downward and your face to turn upward, to find the Savior, Jesus Christ. 

-Tomorrow, I will share with you some memories that did not make it into my blog last year.  For me, writing is a very therapeutic tool that helps me process and find healing. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Anthony & Christen hit the BIG APPLE! (voted best pic)

-Anthony's favorite pic of 2012-

 Standing in the middle of Times Square is always a delight.

And having your cousin ready with a camera to snap such a great shot is even better.

But grabbing Christen, picking her up & squeezing her like a jelly bean is the best!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anthony is FAT

Let's keep this post short and sweet, like my Uncle Mario.

If I were to boil down leadership into 3 principals, I would use this simple pass-on-able acronym that sticks easily in your mind.

F:  is for Faithful.  Faithful to the cause, faithful to your people, faithful to God. 
A: is for Available.  Show up & show up often. 
T: is for Teachable.  This is huge.  This is the hinge that allows you to be flexible and open to learning new things.  Without a teachable attitude you become dry, rigid and set in your ways. 

Here is to getting FAT together in 2012! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Anthony's New Year Resolution: Get Smoving!

Every once in a while you and I need a new motto. 
The one I am adhering to for 2012 is not very specific in nature but motivates me to be a better person. In 2012, I will become a Smover.   

Smover ('smoov-er) noun: 1. a person who smiles and moves 2. someone who matters to the world, all with a smile.

Let's break this down further: 

To smile is to...

-Be awake & engage others
-Be thankful
-Be approachable to others
-Complain less
-Smile (really)
To move is to...
-Start early and go long
-Exceed expectations
-Have a sense of urgency
-Be resourceful & resilient

Smile & Move™ poster

There you have it.
-Now get Smoving-