“You can’t take a selfie with a horse.” – Pat Watson
It’s been three and a half years.
Three and a half years ago I was closing down my company. Julie and I were staring into an unknown future. We had no clue what we were going to do to provide long-term financial security for our family. I had a part-time job working at Comprehensive Mental Health as an LPN. We both knew that our options were limited with that type of medical license. After an evening of intense conversation we made a final decision. We decided that I needed to begin the process of bridging from an LPN certificate to an RN degree.
Tomorrow marks the completion of that goal. Tomorrow morning I start my first job as a Registered Nurse at Northcare Hospice.
Our family has made great sacrifices to achieve this goal. Julie has spent hundreds of evenings and weekends as a single parent as I have either been studying or out of town. The girls have had to have just one parent at their activities. They have had to leave me alone for many hours as I have studied in the basement. Friends have had to help pick up kids from school and be a sounding board for many a frustrating night. They have all done it willingly and without complaint.
Tomorrow it all becomes worth it. Tomorrow I get to just focus on my new career Monday through Friday without significant incursion into my family life. No late nights studying. No long trips out of town for more clinical rotations. No more of my poor wife trying to keep everyone upstairs so I can study for the next test. We get to have a regular schedule like regular folks.
There are too many people to thank for all the support over the last few years. You know who you are, and believe me when I tell you that your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed. To Julie, it is completely impossible for me to express to you my gratitude. You have sacrificed more than anyone can even begin to imagine. I owe everything I have accomplished over the last three-and-a-half years to your incredible support.
I love you, Julie. You are my best friend, and nothing will ever change that.
Verses fourteen through twenty-nine in the ninth chapter of the book of Mark connect with me, and many other parents, in an intimate way. In just 331 words the disciple Mark relays a story that has had me deep in thought for over a month now.
A father has brought his son to Jesus’ disciples. The father explains that his son is possessed by a spirit and cannot speak. He also explains that his son experiences seizures and falls into the fire frequently.
After the father explains these circumstances to Jesus, he asks him, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responds by repeating the question: “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father responds: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”
In a moment of painful honesty, the father shares the deepest secret of his heart. He was afraid. This father just wanted his son to be safe. As he got in touch with his own heart he realized that even though he believed in Jesus’ ability to help his son, he was still afraid.
I’m afraid. All I want is for my daughters to be safe. I realize this is a very American way to think. I can’t even drive down I-70 without being reminded of safety. It seems like every five miles there is some kind of sign warning me to slow down, turn off my cell phone or buckle up. I scrutinize every choice my daughters make, looking for the safety rating associated with each decision.
I have spent countless hours in prayer over each of my daughters. Many mornings I could be found kneeling outside a daughter’s door early in the morning with Bible in hand. I can honestly say that I believe that God can help my daughters. I believe it like I believe the sun will rise in the morning. In the middle of my belief is fear.
Today I’m forced to bear my heart just like the father in Mark did. In my personal prayer time, I bear my heart and soul to my Father in Heaven. I ask Him, “If you can, will you help my daughter?” His voice returns to me: “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Through tears I reply, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”
Julie and I have celebrated a lot of anniversaries. For the last 10-15 years we have made sure to spend a weekend out of town. We have stayed as far away as Mexico, and we have stayed as close as the Sheraton on the Plaza.
This year doesn’t get to be like any of our last few anniversaries. This year we are buried in my college experience. This month I get to spend three weekends in a row out of town right in the middle of our anniversary. I have also had to use all my vacation time for my trips out of town for school-related activities, so we won’t be taking any time off during the week either.
We are trying to stay focused on the task at hand. We are trying to remind ourselves that it is just this year that we have to sacrifice our yearly celebration for a more immediate goal. This year our anniversary is simple.
Today we celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. It won’t be the most exciting anniversary we have ever celebrated, but it’s not our yearly celebrations that have made this relationship what it is today. It is our unwavering commitment to each other and our faith. In our 24 years together we have never once used the “D” word in a conversation. Neither one of us has had to sit and wonder if the other person was considering calling it quits. We have faced all of our challenges together. We have always believed in each other, and we have not been afraid to verbalize our support and love for each other.
We get a lot of compliments on our marriage. I’m here to tell everyone that our marriage is every bit as great as it looks like it is. We are really still in love after all these years. We have always described ourselves as a great team. That hasn’t changed at all. We continue to support and love each other in all circumstances. We continue to look the other way when our faults flare up. We continue to forgive unconditionally. We continue to love deeply.
Julie, I’m so very happy to be your husband. May the next 24 years be just as much fun and a lot less dramatic!
It has happened to a lot of medical professionals. We are sitting in CPR training and thinking to ourselves, “I am never going to use this stuff.” Something happened a couple of weeks ago that will keep me from ever thinking that again.
It was an afternoon just like any other. I left work at my regular time. Since I live out east, I always drive by Blue River Community College here in Independence. As I turned the corner on Jackson DR, I noticed a couple of ladies standing next to a man who was on a bicycle. As I got closer one of the ladies waved at me, and I noticed a look of panic on her face. I did a U-turn in the elementary driveway, drove back down Jackson and pulled into the college driveway.
When I got out of my car, I noticed that the gentleman was no longer on his bike. Instead, he was lying on the ground. One of the ladies told me he was bleeding, so I looked at his head first. He was bleeding, but on closer inspection I noticed that his color was incredibly pale. “Hello, sir, can you hear me,” I asked him? There was no response. I rolled him onto his back and put my ear next to his mouth, and I tried to feel for a carotid pulse. I couldn’t find one. He was dead.
“I’m going to have to do CPR,” I thought to myself. Just as I had finished checking for a pulse, a Jackson County Sheriff Deputy came around the corner. One of the ladies standing next to me ran out into the street and flagged the officer down. The officer put on her lights, pulled over, got out and grabbed an emergency kit from the trunk of her patrol car.
“I rode an ambulance for nine years before I became a police officer,” she told me.
“I’m an LPN,” I responded.
“Okay, let’s do this,” she told me.
She instantly moved over to the gentleman’s chest. She found his xiphoid process and began chest compressions. I grabbed a CPR mask from her emergency kit, and we started CPR.
“Help me count,” she told me in a very calm voice.
“One, two, three, four, five, six…” we counted together till we reached thirty.
“Breathe,” we yelled in unison and I gave my two breaths, blowing oxygen into his mouth twice.
We continued thirty-to-two cycles for a couple of minutes until Independence Fire made an appearance. We continued CPR while the paramedic on the fire truck got the gentleman connected to a defibrillator.
“He’s in v-tack,” he called out to us. “Get clear so I can shock him.”
He administered one shock and told us to continue CPR, and we did. After a couple more minutes the paramedic informed us that the gentleman was still in v-tack, which is a rapid heart beat, an irregularity that often results in death. He needed another shock.
“Clear,” he yelled and delivered another shock. “I’ve got sinus rhythm,” he called out to us.
I looked at the gentleman and the paramedic was correct. He was breathing again. The firefighters got him onto a backboard just as the ambulance showed up. The paramedic from the ambulance quickly checked things out, look at the sheriff deputy and me and said, “You guys just saved this man’s life.”
So the next time you are in CPR class, and you’re tempted to feel like you are wasting your time, think again. You never know when a complete stranger will need you. On that day, you will be glad you paid attention on training day.
The man on the right is my father-in-law, Brian. In 1968 at the age of 17 he lied on his entrance paperwork and joined the Marines. He was at Camp Lejeune.
He was at Camp Pendleton.
Then he traveled across the Pacific Ocean and joined the most notorious war in US history, Vietnam.
The marines are notorious for being sent into an area first. Because of his job as a heavy equipment operator, he had the daunting task of being the first of the first. It was his job to dig artillery emplacements and clear fields of fire around small bases.
By his own accounts, as he operated this heavy machinery, he could hear the constant sounds of bullets whizzing by his head. He doesn’t talk about Vietnam much. I don’t think it’s because he won’t. I think it’s because he doesn’t want to burden us with what he saw and experienced while he was there.
After two years, in 1970 he returned to America. As he got off the plane he couldn’t even get a cup of coffee because the American Red Cross was charging $0.10 each. He returned home to his family in Odessa Missouri, and without any fanfare, and without any thought for himself, and without crawling into a corner like so many of us would, he went to work.
For the next 40 years he provided for those he loved. He worked in factories and machine shops for the first 20 years. Then he got a position at UMKC in Kansas City and worked on the college’s boilers and in maintenance for 20 years. During all this time he has suffered the lasting effects of Agent Orange. He has suffered severe hearing loss due to artillery fire and small arms fire. He has suffered a variety of physical limitations. He didn’t complain, he just did what a man does. He provided. Last January, after 40 years of work, he retired.
When I first met Brian I was kind of afraid of him. I have family members who were in Vietnam but Brian was the first man I knew who was willing to talk about it a little. He didn’t share a lot with me but when he did, and I realized how much he had been through, it just made me nervous. Simply put, I was intimidated.
It’s not like that today. I truly enjoy being around him. I can see the love for my family in his eyes. In the way he treats my daughters so well. Never a cross word, never an insult. I see his love in the way he bends down on a knee and checks the tomato plants my daughters are helping him grow. In the way he rubs the leaves between his fingers to gently smell the odor of the tomatoes that will eventually grow. The way he watches them work the ground, and the way he coaches them in the fine art of gardening. Something he is learning with them.
He’s a man who does the best he can with what he has. That jungle so far away tried to steal his spirit, but it couldn’t. He’s still a strong man who knows his place in this world, and he isn’t going to stop living his life.
Today I honor this man. I honor this man because 40 years ago, before I was even born, he honored me.
Editor’s Note: This post isn’t about money, so don’t freak out!
If you have been through the Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University than you are familiar with his description of a woman’s security gland.
Basically, Dave teaches that much of a woman’s sense of security is attached to her financial wellbeing. During our 23 years of marriage Julie and I have seen several ups and downs financially. I can attest to the existence of the female security gland. It may not show up on any medical scans, but believe me, it does exist.
Just as many women have a security gland, many men have a fix it gland. The minute we are confronted with a problem we go into fix-it mode. The biggest challenge for men is trying to figure out when to try to fix something and when to just be an observer.
Two of my daughters are knee deep into their teen years. My fix-it gland is in a state of constant spasm. They make so many poor decisions, and they lack so much experience that teachable moments abound.
Last night Julie and I were lamenting some issues that we have been wrestling with for a while. We both agreed that we needed to spend some time in prayer, but as we examined the issue at hand we both found ourselves discouraged. We both felt completely prayed out. We have spent so much time on our knees in prayer that we both have run our words dry.
Last night we didn’t pray about the problem directly. Last night we prayed about our ability to rest in the midst of the storm. Just as we are not always the cause of the problem, we aren’t always going to be the solution either.
Sometimes, it’s not about fixing anything.
Sometimes, it’s just about having faith, and sometimes faith is harder than anything else.
Here, charge these batteries for the flashlight.
I have seen hundreds of water baptisms in my lifetime. I have spent just about every Sunday morning for the last forty years of my life in church services. Over those years my favorite baptisms were the ones where the pastors were able to baptize their own kids. At our last church, parents were encouraged to baptize their own kids, so when Lydia and Jessica decided to be baptized I took advantage of the opportunity and baptized them both. It was a great experience for us all.
A couple of months ago Elaina told me she was interested in being baptized. She is such a daddy’s girl that I knew she would agree to let me baptize her. Since joining our current church about four years ago, I haven’t seen anyone besides our pastoral staff baptize anyone. I approached the leadership team and got permission to baptize Elaina.
I don’t usually get very nervous, but last Sunday we were both pretty nervous as we sat through the quick baptism class during Sunday school. There was a pretty small group of us in the class. Pastor Barry went through all the instructions. He explained what the baptizer would say and what the baptizee was supposed to say in response. We then went on a tour of the baptismal in the main auditorium.
Our church does the baptisms half way through the worship service, so we were instructed to find our way to the baptismal at the start of worship. Once the music began, Elaina and I made our way behind the stage. Everyone was engaged in nervous chatter. Our youth leader, Pastor Brandon, would be performing all the baptisms so he kept us engaged in small talk. Elaina was noticeably nervous, so I rehearsed all the movements and our lines with her. We were third in line, and when Pastor Brandon announced us as a tandem I moved into the baptismal first and announced her. The lights were bright but low enough for us to see the thousand, or so, people in the auditorium. It was a little overwhelming, but we were ready.
“Good morning,” I started, “this is my daughter, Elaina Dibben. I had the pleasure of baptizing our two older daughters, so I wanted to baptize Elaina as well.”
Elaina moved down into the warm water with me, and I turned her towards the audience and motioned towards them with my left hand.
“Elaina, before God and these witnesses, do you publicly profess Jesus Christ as your Lord And Savior?”
“Yes,” she said so loudly we got a few giggles from the crowd!
I helped her rotate to the left into the traditional baptizing position. She lifted her left hand to her nose; I placed my right hand behind her back and put my left hand over her nose to help keep it closed. She turned her head to look at me, I made eye contact with her and continued.
“Elaina, upon your profession of faith I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We made eye contact, she smiled at me, and I lowered her backwards into the water. She closed her eyes just as the water rushed over her face. As I raised her back into a standing position Amanda Lapore took this photo.
I don’t even remember who baptized me. I barely remember where I was baptized. A baptism needs to be more memorable, and I can’t think of a more memorable way than to have your own dad baptize you. I would love to make this more common in our church. I want to see more fathers step up and baptize their children.
Elaina and I will certainly make a lot more great memories together. I don’t expect very many of them will be as memorable as December 29, 2013.
Julie: “When was the last time you took a shower?”
Julie: “The baptism doesn’t count.”