In the News · Life · Politics

Opting Out of the Dark Winter

I try not to get too political these days. There’s too much hate, too much strife–on both sides of the aisle, and I’d just as soon none of it be directed at me. As I write this, we’re 10 days from a contentious Presidential election that I fear will leave our country even more divided than it is now.

But something was said in the debate this week that I feel led to talk about. In speaking about COVID-19, former Vice President Biden claimed more than once that the US is “about to go into a dark winter.”

The former VP is inferring that the upcoming months will be bleak, filled with sickness, death, and mourning. (although it’s important to realize that although many, many are likely to be infected with COVID in the coming days, weeks, and months, as it is a highly contagious illness, 99.75% of those infected will survive).

I don’t like fear mongering and I think we’ve seen a lot of it over the last nine months. So when I heard the phrase “dark winter” and the message that was clearly meant to play on our fears, I was immediately unhappy. For so many reasons.

Life on earth could basically be one long dark winter if we allowed it to be. Satan would love that. He’d love for us to just sit with our darkness and refuse the light and turn away from the hope.

But I firmly believe we have to CHOOSE to live in the light EVEN THROUGH THE DARK WINTERS. Choose to see the bright side. Choose to realize that GOD is the bright side.

I suspect that regardless of which candidate wins the upcoming election, there is the potential for a “dark winter” that’s likely to be filled with sickness, death, riots, and unrest. And it all feels so heavy. It would be so easy to slip into that dark winter and let it just consume us all.

But friends, there is still light in the future! It’s there. He’s there. God turns the darkness into light. Always.

And I know…you’re thinking, “but 2020 is a crazy year–nothing like this has ever happened in the whole history of the whole world.”

But that’s not really true. And remember that not one single thing that’s happened in 2020 has been a surprise to God. Covid, riots, lockdowns, even murder hornets–no surprise to Him. Remember that there’s nothing new under the sun. Our ancestors went through some pretty tough times. Wars and famines and illnesses and droughts. Resilience is in our DNA! Don’t give in to the fear. Choosing faith over fear isn’t always easy, but I think as Christians it is vital.

And now, we have a choice. We can spiral into the long dark winter and focus only on the bad—because let’s face it, the world has a LOT of bad. Or we can choose the light even through the dark times.

So while there may indeed be a “dark winter” approaching, I think I’ll opt out. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is always light to be found if you seek it out.

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” 2 Samuel 22:29.


Twenty Years Ago

The lyrics from Kenny Rogers have been on my mind lately. Tonight is my 20 year high school reunion.

Twenty years.

Truth be told, I don’t feel much older than I did back when I walked the halls of McCrory High.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t have cell phones.

Or e-mail addresses.

We passed notes between classes. Handwritten ones, we wrote on notebook paper during class.

Twenty years ago, when someone wanted to ask you out, they called. Some even asked face to face. No texting. No Facebooking. No Tweeting or Instagramming.

We didn’t document what we ate at every meal. We weren’t glued to screens. We talked to each other. A lot.

I wrote my research papers by hand…and then by typewriter. We didn’t have a computer at my house, and certainly not a laptop. I can’t think of anyone who did. We used the computer lab at school sometimes. Mostly to play Oregon Trail.

Class of 94
Class of 94

We had to wait for photos to get developed, unless they were the kind you shook.

It was…a simpler time. My childhood, my teenage years—I didn’t worry about terrorist attacks or public massacres at schools or at malls. The worst thing we experienced collectively was the Challenger disaster when we were in elementary school.

So maybe Kenny was right. Maybe life was easier twenty years ago.

I keep up with many of my former classmates on Facebook, and although twenty years has definitely changed (and aged) us, when I look at them I still see them as they were—boys on the football or basketball team giving their all for the Jags…girls I cheered with for so many years and spent so many hours with making spirit signs or working on new routines for pep rallys…friends I sat beside from kindergarten through senior year who helped me cram for tests because I procrastinated. We’ve grown up. We have spouses and children and in some cases even grandchildren. We’ve gone on to careers in cities and traveled around the world. But in my mind, in my heart…we are still gathered together outside the high school auditorium waiting for the first day of school assembly or making mains on Friday nights after the game.

Those were good times. Times I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Our last game.
Our last game.

And if I could go back in time twenty years to my senior year of high school, and give myself some advice, this is what it would be:

  1. Enjoy it. For a few years, you really have no responsibility except to learn and to become the person you’re going to be. Enjoy it. Don’t stress over Senior English. Don’t worry about not having a prom date. Stop and smell the roses.
  2. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less because you come from a small town. Small towns are wonderful. Small towns are the heart of America. Big things can happen to people who come from small towns. It’s not a limitation, it’s a blessing. Embrace your roots.
  3. Talk to your parents. Get to know them as people, because they are people—not just parents. Someday you will be the age they are right now and you will still be figuring out life. Cut them some slack.
  4. Talk to your grandparents. Really talk to them. Find out everything you can about their lives. And hug them a lot. You won’t regret it.
  5. Please, please don’t go to the tanning bed ever again. You were just not meant to be tan. Accept it.
  6. Before you go to college, go to a salon and get a hair style. Seriously girl. Do it. Layers are your friend.
  7. Don’t throw away all those novels you’ve started. Trust me. Someday you will want to re-read them.
  8. When you go to college, don’t take accounting no matter what your advisor says. You know you aren’t really going to major in business so don’t hurt your GPA on a whim.
  9. Trust your instincts. They will rarely steer you wrong, yet you will ignore them a lot. If you can learn this lesson now, you will be better off.
  10. Pray more often. I know you think you pray a lot now. Do it more. Be thankful, all the time. You are blessed even when you’re having a rotten day. Remember that.
Family · Life

Ashes to Ashes

The last family photo made at Grandma's house. Christmas 2013.
The last family photo made at Grandma’s house. Christmas 2013.

A house isn’t a living, breathing thing. Not really.

But a house that is full of love, full of happy memories is beautiful and warm. It’s a place of comfort. A soft place to land when you fall. A beacon of light in what can otherwise be a dark world.

My grandparents’ house was that for me. As a child, it was more magical than Disneyland. I learned to roller skate down the hallway, learned to cook in the kitchen. Some of the happiest times of my life happened between those walls.

Once upon a time...
Once upon a time…

Over the years, we played football and volleyball in the yard. Put a baseball diamond in the field across the dirt road. My grandpa played with us sometimes, barefoot like he had when he was a boy. For a time, my grandmother allowed her dining room table to be replaced by a ping-pong table so we could have family wide tournaments on Sundays after lunch. We gathered for holidays, sure, but we also gathered for Sunday lunch. The house was often filled to capacity, but it never felt too crowded.

We’ve celebrated births and mourned deaths in that house. Even after my grandpa was killed a few years ago, being in his house made me feel like he was still around. I almost expected to hear his voice, calling to us from the living room like he used to do.

In January, on the coldest day of the year, the house burned to the ground. I’m thankful that my uncle and my grandma made it out. That overrides the sorrow over losing such a special place.

But it still hurts.

There are some places that become part of us. That help shape us and form us into the people we will become. Their house was that for me. We prayed as a family before every meal. An American flag flew out front, a testament to my grandparents’ patriotism–something they passed along to their children and grandchildren.

Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma's. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard...
Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma’s. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard…

Grandma is 94, and planning to rebuild. Her remarkable faith and courage is something that we can all learn from.  And I know that her new house will soon be filled with the same love and laughter as the old one.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times that I’ll wish for those old paneled walls and tiled floors and red brick. That I won’t miss seeing Grandpa’s old recliner and the photos that lined the hall.

But time marches on, whether we’re ready for it or not. The older I get, the more thankful I become for my family. And while I know it’s normal to miss the house because of the memories it held, I also know that the bricks and the concrete aren’t what made Grandma’s house magical.

It was the people inside.

Grandpa and Me
Grandpa and Me. If I could go back in time to that moment, I’d give him a hug.