Sunday, November 10, 2013

Has There Been a Better Weekend? How About Two?

Oh what a marvelous couple of weekends I've had. Those of my soccer family are probably wondering how a tie and loss last weekend could seem wonderful but even those games had positive moments. But if you're looking for a game re-cap, you'll be sorely disappointed as I found joy in so many other experiences.

Working in no particular order, I'll start with our church's "fast and testimony" meeting where members of the congregation come to the podium and share their love of the Savior, witness of the truth of the gospel and work on lifting one another. When you're centered and focused on the messages that each member shares, the Spirit of God eases your own worries, griefs and burdens and the fellowship in Christ becomes real and alive. The sharing of our faith is not the most important event of the service but it is certainly a powerful one.

There were two individuals who shared their personal experiences that had a profound effect upon me. One came from a new member to our congregation and another has been with us for a while. Each witnessed of God's love in a truly unique way and it helped me to approach my faith with opened eyes. While the concept certainly isn't new, the review of the principle was timely: all of God's children are spiritual beings trapped in human form, some looking to perfect themselves in Christ but all falling short of His glory, groping along, line upon line, grace to grace, until the perfect day is realized, hopefully to their eternal reward. I felt so grateful for a small peek into other struggling individual's lives, knowing that my own challenges are not unique or isolated. The hope and faith that all imperfections are swallowed up in Christ Jesus and all burdens and challenges preventing us from moving towards Him can be strengthening us, should we endure them well, and drawing us to Him. The logic seems flipped but without adversity we can't be strengthened. It's the endurance and faith during the challenge that makes the success so enjoyable. I'm grateful for these little reminders and the meeting was a good time to bring that back to my memory.
My Ensemble All Day on 11/3

Most of the day on Sunday was spent keeping up with many well wishes on Facebook. It seems like such a waste of time to thank people for wishing me a Happy Birthday but as I told a good friend, if my friends and acquaintances took the time to wish me well the least I can do is thank them. With some I engaged a little more to connect a little deeper and it was a great opportunity to say hi to many who have lurked in the shadows or with whom I've just not made a great effort other than to request a connection. Others were sufficient to just thank them and leave it at that. But I noticed something else. What you sow you reap.

The crowning event last weekend was having my wife throw me a surprise 40th birthday party at our best friend's home. A few weeks back she had asked if I was OK going over to the Waldens to go hot-tubbing and to hang out. Sounded great to me as I knew it would be a long day of soccer and just relaxing, enjoying the best of company, maybe playing some Truth-or-Dare (please read tame by the world's standard) and maybe eating some cake would be a great way of ushering in a new decade at the midpoint of my life (hopefully). She didn't really say much else and I really wasn't expecting anything else but honestly something was nagging at the back of my mind to understand a little more detail about the event.
Q: Are the kids coming?
A: No, couples only
Q: Just cake?
A: Yes

By this point I got a feeling I just needed to stop asking and so my subconscious subconsciously prevented itself from asking further questions so that my conscious self would be able to enjoy what my subconscious was already beginning to put together. Confusing, I know, but it works for me.

When we arrived at the Waldens, having left the kids to go to a Dallas Sidekicks game with tickets won from Keller Soccer Association's Facebook giveaway, we were armed with a delicious Snicker's Cake that Rebecca had labored over for a couple of days (truly fantastic), swimsuits and towels and an expectation for fun and relaxation. Dan opened the door, greeted us and mentioned something about Lindsay running to the store for something. He also said he had to go up stairs to check on the boys as they were watching something on the iPad and that he would be right back. I put the bag of swim stuff next to their couch on my way into the kitchen and then I heard him ask me to check on their youngest out in the hot tub. He knows me all too well, knowing that I'm more than willing to do just about anything they ask of me, especially when it feels and sounds like service.

I made my way to the back door to check on their daughter in the hot tub when something clicked in my mind. Why was their 4 year old daughter left alone out in the hot tub, even for a couple of minutes while Dan was fully dressed and Lindsay was at the store. It hit me just before I had a hand on the door knob and in doubt I turned back to Rebecca to figure it out. She was looking at me with a silly little grin on her face that was such a huge indication that I was now about to be surprised but it didn't fully don on me either. She asked what I was doing, as my hand kept reaching for the door but was about a foot too short of the knob. I found myself groping for it but kept touching the wall instead. I must have looked really silly and she was a bundle of anticipation and excitement of what was coming next. She probably asked me the question 3 times and then the full weight of the surprise hit me. I then walked around her and pushed her out the back door first, realizing what was coming next, fully excited and anticipating a great party to come.

I certainly wasn't disappointed as my closest and truest friends were all waiting outside, armed with silly string, warm and inviting choruses of "Happy B-Day" and a willingness to love me regardless of my flaws and weaknesses. The silly string must have gone on for a few minutes (not sure how many cans they had in reserve and maybe it just felt like a long time as my life sometimes goes into slo-mo during dramatic moments). At one point either Dan or another friend sharing my name came in for the "silly string kill" at point blank range, hitting my open eye and sticking the goo directly to my contact. I'm not sure how the contact stayed in but it stuck in my eye, causing me to pluck it out, nearly losing the eye all together. Wouldn't that have made a great story. "Tell us again how you lost your eye, Papa." "It was on a dark and balmy November night in Texas..." would start the dramatic storyline of an old guy sitting in a rocker with a patch over his eye, sipping Dr. P with his grandchildren at his feet.

Snicker Cake w/40 Candles
After milling around outside for a few more minutes, thanking the guests for coming and not knowing what was next, I was saved by the invitation to come in and blow out the candles on the cake Rebecca had been laboring over. A full 40 candles were painstakingly lit in my honor. Rebecca took the pictures and as my friends began to sing, Dan offered to take more pictures with my iPhone. I told him Rebecca already had it covered but he said he'd just take more from his angle. I summarily handed it over and noticed he placed it on the counter which should have been a clue that the excitement wasn't over. But I was distracted by the singing and my duty to blow out all 40 candles in one breath. Upon doing so (with no spittle mind you), I was suddenly bum-rushed by Dan who heft me over his shoulder (dude's a stud) and made a quick exit for his pool. After emptying my pockets (electronic key fob) and taking off my running shoes, Dan dumped me in his pool which he graciously spent the day heating up to 92 degrees from 62 earlier in the day (I'm still dreading to hear about their gas bill for such an amazing offering that was fully under utilized). In his good natured way, Dan joined me in the pool, fully clothed. Oh how I love that man and his adventurous spirit as we were the only ones compelled or willing to enjoy the cool pool.

[VIDEO] Greg Get's Thrown in Pool (if you're not on FB and friends with my wife, sorry, out of luck on the video link)

The rest of the time I spent in their hot tub, being joined later by another couple and our wives. The friends that celebrated with us eventually all dispersed, leaving their well wishes (or commiseration) for my 40th. Rebecca, Dan, Lindsay and I all enjoyed the hot tub for another couple of hours. I've gotta say how much I love our friends as Lindsay was just recovering from bruised (maybe torn) rib ligaments from bronchitis and Dan was still in the throws of pneumonia. So to throw a party and enjoy more time in the cold with us was truly a sacrifice, one I won't forget and for which I'm am truly thankful. My awesome wife also braved the elements, something she doesn't like to do, and enjoyed the warmth of the hot tub, fun conversation, and yes, some Truth-or-Dare. Here's some evidence of what my friends like to dare me to do.

[VIDEO] I'm a little TeaPot

My family blessed me with some thoughtful presents on Sunday morning as did Lindsay. The laughs just kept coming. See below for more pictures.

Savannah showcasing my present, running gear which
I desperately needed coming into the cold months of TX

Creative box filled with thoughtful goodies from Lindsay

 And because I'm late at actually posting this entry, I thought I'd combine last weekend's events with this weekend's details and express gratitude for two fabulous memories.After another trying week of personal ups and downs, family sickness, questionable weather and last minute decisions on whether to cancel, we spent a relaxing mini-camping trip up at Lake Ray Roberts. Isle du Bois campsite was a perfect combination of lake front access, wooded seclusion and close access to the restrooms. We were joined by the Walden and Stark families, having a range of kids from 17 years old to 18 months and fun was truly had by all. Again, a few Truth-or-Dare moments that stand out include a brisk morning swim by my oldest and friend, "All the Single Ladies" dance/singing by Summer, clogging by my oldest, some not so graceful round offs (rolled my ankle) and grub eating by a few adventurous young men. There were some relaxing times spent fly fishing, something I've never taken the opportunity to try before and which I think I could really enjoy - but maybe not so much in TX. Thanks Dan for being patient with me, at fly fishing too. The campfire was mesmerizing and it's warmth felt wonderful on a chilly night. It's amazing how 3 different families with unique interests, concerns, bias and preferences can all enjoy a great time when gathered at a fire telling stories, sharing, caring and being willing to have a good time. How grateful I am for wonderful friends and family with whom I can share these moments.

Cute little princess

Master fly-fisherman Dan - serious snags but he managed to pull out a sunfish

We topped off yesterday's excitement with the last game of the season for our youngest son's soccer team. The game was a blow out compared to much of the season and it was somewhat expected to be. One of our players had a hat trick which was great as his dad was celebrating his birthday and it made for a very unique gift. And considering this player is usually our top defender, it made the gift that much sweeter and unexpected. To carry on the Walden/Hanson Truth-or-Dare momentum, our youngest son was issued a dare from the campout for his game which we knew could have caused him to receive a yellow card. He was dared to take his shirt off at the end of the game, run around swinging it around his head and yelling, "I'm a wiener" which sounds a bit like "winner." He complied but I'll spare you the evidence so as to not get in hot water with the league. One of the refs saw his antics and verbally cautioned him but gratefully I coached the ref recently in middle school so I think he cut us some slack. Either way, the dare was completed kept to the ongoing motto of "No Dare Left Undone" - a theme of my oldest son's Goon Project.

I'm settling into the thought of a few docile weekends coming up where no particular events have been planned and relaxation will likely abound. With a roller coaster 5 months since summer ushered in a new dynamic in our lives of great friendship, I think a few weekends of less excitement may do us all some good. The soccer season has come to a close and I have a little bit of time to switch modes from soccer to basketball coach, something I've never attempted before but which will require more than a little effort. Running continues to help me find a balance in my life and I continue to keep odd morning hours (but now I'm equipped with more warm gear so it will be more pleasant). I'm continuing to write a book, now 30+ chapters in with maybe 20 more to go on the first pass through. Thanksgiving is coming up which we hope to extend our friends circle and be truly thankful for a bounteous year, celebrated after a family Turkey Trot (9th annual, a fun tradition for our brood). We need to get the home in order for Christmas decorations to be brought out, hung and showcased which will keep us all busy for a while. We're looking forward to family pictures and a visit from our lovely niece. Some temple worship, at least one awesome double date night and some serious gingerbread building are also on the list of todos over the next couple of months. I'm personally looking forward to continuing to center myself on the Lord and all the wonderful blessings and challenges He sees fit to throw my way.  It seems a little overwhelming when I start to enumerate it all and I wouldn't have it any other way. Did I start this section with something about relaxation? Hmmm, guess I was wrong.

But in reflection of the past two weekends, I'd say we had a great time and I'm certainly grateful for my family, friends and fun times.

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