This Christmas …

All I can say is … Wow!!!

When I look back on 2016, I really had no idea everything God had in store for Nicole and me.

Our New Beginning

wp-1482593477830.jpgThings really started coming together in August, where a series of unexpected events unfolded to bring us together into a home that was only placed on the market three days before … exactly in the village where we wanted to live. No doubt, God was involved in making things happen, especially after all the prayers that had been voiced.

From our first date (November 2, 2013), having a baby together was a dream we shared together. So, we started trying to have a baby together right away.  During this time, we were fortunate to attend a special showing of “To Joey, With Love,” which certainly put things into perspective and truly described our love. We both realized just how important this goal was for us.

We didn’t conceive during the months of August, September and October, which started to play with our emotions. Everyone told us it will happen if it is part of God’s plan. We agreed, but that did not make things less emotional for us. After all, we are in our 40’s, not our 20’s. Time wasn’t really on our side.

Honestly, the hardest (mental) part of wanting to get pregnant is the fact that every little sign or symptom Nicole was feeling can be a sign that she is pregnant and that she is NOT pregnant too. October seemed to be filled with those signs and it was really tough when we realized she was not pregnant.

Friends would tell us, “you’ll get pregnant as soon as you stop thinking about it.” Nicole and I really had no idea how to even do that! A baby together is all we talked about, even during our workouts or evening runs through the village.  How do you stop thinking about something that you desire so much?

Then November Arrived

November came and we were certain that we were not going to be pregnant, at least according to the ovulation predictor that told us we missed the “peak” day. We accepted this reality and decided to focus on December.

A couple weeks later, day 27 passed without Nicole starting her new cycle. We justified this by telling ourselves that she started late in the day, so her cycle will begin the next day.
The next day was Saturday and it came and went without her starting her period. This time we justified the delay due to her having a 28-day cycle the month before … which just happened to be the only time in the years we have been together that she wasn’t on a 27-day cycle.

Then, Sunday came and went without starting. At this point, both of us were thinking about Nicole being pregnant, but neither of us were talking about it. She could not be pregnant, right? I mean, this is just day twenty-nine.

So then, Monday came and passed, then Tuesday… again nothing. We talked a little about what was going on, but we were still convinced we were not pregnant.

wp-image-2038588289jpg.jpgWhen Wednesday came and Nicole had not started her period, she could not wait any longer. She went to the pharmacy and picked up a pregnancy test. Then, shortly after 10 am, Nicole called me and when I answered the phone all she said, through a sea of joyful tears was, “John, I’m pregnant!

Hearing her news made me the happiest guy in the world! I drove to her as quickly as I could, with a bouquet of her favorite flowers in hand. The entire way to see her, I could not help but reflect on just how lucky we are and how great our God really is!

While we knew we should wait to tell anyone, especially at our age, that was simply not an option. As soon as possible, we told our children, family, close friends and social media. God had blessed us! We are so grateful for His love and blessings!

The December Miracle

On December 22, just three days before Christmas, we visited Nicole’s OB/GYN. The appointment was originally scheduled months ago, to talk about taking Clomid to increase our chances of getting pregnant. Instead, we used the time to talk to Dr. Perry (who both delivered Nicole’s daughter and is a friend of my mother’s) about the pregnancy.

At this point, Nicole is 6 weeks and 6 days along with the pregnancy. She has been really struggling with nausea and weakness, even though she is the most fit and healthiest person I know. In fact, a lite workout was taking a toll on her recently.

During the appointment, we asked Dr. Perry if we could hear the baby’s heartbeat. He told us it was too soon to listen via a stethoscope, but then told us they could try to do a vaginal ultrasound.

I was thinking he meant in a few weeks, but he told us to sit tight when he left the examination room. Dr. Perry reinforced his statement that there is a good chance we are not going to hear anything, but we were excited for this opportunity.

Nicole was on the table and the ultrasound process started. I was sending text updates to her identical twin (Danyel) in Las Vegas as things happened. She wanted a play-by-play of what was transpiring.

Andrea, the technician performing the ultrasound, announced “there are two sacs.” I saw Nicole smile, but she didn’t react.  She was trying to keep from getting too excited at this point.

I didn’t know what that even meant, since my only son (Eric) was adopted. This was definitely a new experience for me.

I knew it must have been a huge thing, when her twin reacted extremely happily. She even accused me of lying about it.

I could see the two sacs on the screen. One of them definitely had something inside it. Then, I heard …

(baby heartbeat, baby heartbeat, baby heartbeat)

The tears began to flow down my cheek. I looked at Nicole and saw her tears too. God is so good!

I asked Andrea why it looks like the other sac is empty. She calmed my nerves by letting us know that she had not focused on that sac yet.

Andrea had to tell Nicole to be still, because Nicole’s excitement was causing the equipment to move out of position. Then, we heard that same awesome sound from the second sac …

wp-1482593558326.jpg(second baby heartbeat, second baby heartbeat, second baby heartbeat)

God is giving us twins! My wife, an identical twin, is carrying our babies. All of a sudden, everything made sense to us on why she has been so tired and nauseous.

This Christmas

I cannot express the joy I have this Christmas. My relationship with Nicole is stronger than it has ever been, our relationship with Eric and Syd continues to grow stronger, as has the relationships with our family and friends.

There is so much more that we have been blessed with in 2016, but they simply do not compare with the blessings we have received with our family.

We don’t always know what God has in store for us. Sometimes the road we are taken down doesn’t always make sense at first … or it is tough. In the end, as in our case, I could not imagine being any happier with His blessings.

I hope this Christmas is amazing for you as well!

Have a really great day!!!


Signs …

me30bSigns … mostly unexpected, can range from something that is seen, to hearing a piece of music, breathing in a certain scent, having a random dream, or experiencing a particular emotion. They capture one’s attention – giving the feeling that the occurrence is more than a simple coincidence … maybe even an destined milestone.

I’ve often wondered if such signs really do exist – if they are the work of God … or even the devil.  Along those same lines, I wonder if consequences exist for ignoring such signs when they appear.

I have come to understand that my personality will always maintain attachments to sights, sounds, scents and experiences.  While I don’t believe that is the case for everyone, I know it is part of who I am.  Overall, I feel that such an attribute is a quality that allows someone to make the most of every situation – which makes me feel like this is the part that is a gift from above.

However, the biggest consequence of such a trait is when those signs trigger a memory that is linked to a not-so-great situation.  In this case, you can find yourself reliving that situation over again – which makes me think this may not be a gift from above.  🙂

So … do signs exist?  

I believe the answer varies from one individual to the next.  If your personality is similar to mine and you tend to tie sights, sounds, scents and experiences to life events – then the answer is probably yes.  If the answer is not yes, you probably stopped reading this article a few minutes ago.  🙂 

For those who maintain this personality trait, I encourage you to realize that this is a gift which offers you the ability to experience life at a slightly elevated level.  In the spirit of living life to the fullest, I trust you will not deny yourself this opportunity.

So what do you do when these very signs trigger a not-so-great emotion?  I recommend keeping the following items in mind:

  • Accept the fact that the not-so-great emotions exist – life always has challenges.
  • Seek the lesson or the good from those moments – which may take time to recognize.
  • Understand those situations will play a key role in a future segment of your life.

Like any struggle, we often cannot wrap our mind around the greatness that can be found after we navigate through the darkness.  However, once the burden is lifted and the darkness is gone, it is easy to reflect back and comprehend things which we thought we would never understand.  When this happens, those signs which used to trigger not-so-great emotions morph into signs that are part of a bigger destiny.

What consequences exist for ignoring such signs?

Ignoring signs when they appear before you is similar to trying to run away from your struggles.  (That, in itself, is probably the topic for another post.)  The key is to realize you are robbing yourself from an amazing attribute of your personality.  Instead, take time to accept, seek and understand the meaning behind the signs (as noted above).

As we close out 2014, I wanted to thank you for reading my posts.  It means so much to me, as writing is certainly a passion I maintain.  My goal is that my thoughts can help you in one way or another.

I hope that the year 2014 was everything you wanted it to be and I wish you only the best for 2015 – that your dreams become realities.

Have a really great day!!!

Unconditional Love …

me28bToday’s topic has been on my mind for quite some time now and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I want to say about unconditional love.

When I think about unconditional love, two easy examples come to mind.  The first, is the love that most parents exhibit towards their child – sacrificing anything for them, without hesitation.  The second, is God’s love towards us – which is described in the Bible as agape love and referenced throughout the New Testament.

My focus, however, is the challenge of showing unconditional love when it is anything but easy.  Perhaps a decision was made by someone you care about deeply which unexpectedly rocked the foundation of the relationship, or you find yourself drifting apart from a loved one.  There are several situations that come to mind, but they all lead us down this difficult path.

So what do you do when you love someone to the moon and back and their actions or decisions place such a huge challenge on your heart?

  • Do you stop caring for them?  (the whole “dead to me” idea)
  • Do you stop praying for them?  (the “no longer worth your time” concept)
  • Do you just move on?  (the “good luck with your life” thought)

If we follow God’s will and direction, the answer to all of these questions is the same. No.

  • While we may not agree with the decision or action that was taken, we shouldn’t abandon them – because it could be part of a larger destiny where they will need your love even more.
  • We should continue to pray for them, considering the fact that the content of your prayers may need to be adjusted.
  • Abandoning them isn’t the answer either – especially when there could be additional circumstances that you were not fully aware of when their decision was made.

I’ve found that when I have unconditional love for someone, that admiration never seems to fade or go away … but actually increases with time.  When faced with this type of challenge, instead of trying to “manage” it (like some type of illness), I try my best to embrace the situation and be as positive as possible … never giving up – similar to the agape love that God maintains for each of us.

Certainly, taking my approach doesn’t come without sadness or struggles, but I know in my heart that this is the best approach … at least to me.

Have a really great day!!!

Looking Beyond The Waves …

me24bRecently, I found myself sitting idle in traffic on the drive to work. Glancing briefly into the windows of the vehicles surrounding me, I noticed variations in activities taking place while the commute had paused.  I saw the animated facial and body expressions from cell phone conversations underway, bobbing heads and mouthed words (hopefully in sync with a music source), some using the unexpected downtime to catch up using their mobile device … and then I noticed those who appeared to be in some form of deep thought.

I realized that I could relate to each of these observations at some point in my life.  The one that truly caught my attention were those submersed in deep thoughts as they sat alone in their vehicles.  I wondered the source of each thought underway.  Were they trying to work through a complex situation, focused around prayer/meditation, or facing some form of pain/struggle?  While the true source wasn’t for me to know, observing these fellow travelers did make me recognize the collection of stories that surround us on a daily basis … most of the time without us ever realizing it.

The solitude of a long drive can be an ideal conduit to face challenges racing inside our mind.  However, if not handled properly, these challenges are more likely to increase rather than subside.  The key is to face the source of each struggle and deal with it head on.  Because, nothing we avoid emotionally ever goes away … no matter how long we try to wait it out.

I recently heard the phrase avoidance creates the pain of absence.  This falls right into line with dealing with our challenges at the source.  So, if you find yourself struggling to complete a task – perhaps due to past memories that trigger some linked emotion – the key is to face that situation head on.  Because, the more times you complete that task, the easier it will be … and eventually any associated triggers will drift away.  Conversely, avoiding the trigger doesn’t resolve the situation – it only creates the pain of absence.

As a part of my walk in life, I have been focusing on keeping my eyes above the waves.  At the same time, I am looking beyond the waves to see what God has in store for me.  This approach requires being able to recognize any emotional triggers and deal with them at the source.  I realize this isn’t full-proof or flaw-free and I expect there will be days when I find myself being knocked down when an unexpected storm arrives. However, after the storm passes, we should always …

  • realize we have fallen and get back up
  • regain our focus to look beyond the waves
  • remember to keep our emphasis on what matters to God

Years ago, I had the pleasure to write a song called “Safe In His Arms” with a good friend of mine – which continues to be a favorite.  The chorus of the song relates to what I have been talking about:

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel
There’s a calm at the end of every storm
There is no better feeling, feeling now I know
Because I’m safe
Safe in His Arms

I decided to use the “waves” metaphor because of the similarity to how our emotions can span from high and low – often transforming from one state to the other very quickly and often without warning.  With this in mind, I think it is important to appreciate the waves – floating with them (as if we were on an inner tube) and trying not to fight the direction the waves take us.  Always remembering that God has his plan for us and he is using those very waves to guide us toward His intended destination.

Have a really great day!!!

Letting Freedom Ring…

me22bMartin Luther King Jr. Day will always hold a special place in my heart, as I have some amazing memories associated with that very day.  Additionally, I have always been a fan of Dr. King and his contributions to our society.  So, it only seems fitting that I publish this month’s article on MLK Jr. Day.

I recently took some time to re-read the transcript of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech.  I am amazed at the power this speech still holds with me – over 50 years after it was originally delivered.  If you haven’t read the text in a while, I certainly recommend spending a few minutes to review Dr. King’s words.  Regardless of your point of view, background or situation, there are three key items I feel we can take away from the “I have a dream” speech:

#1 – Appreciate & Take Advantage Of Our Freedoms

Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech makes references to the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution.  One thing rings true at the core of all of these references … freedom.  Countless individuals have spared their lives protecting this concept of freedom for our nation.  Honestly, it is probably the single most valuable attribute of the United States of America.  Let Freedom Ring!

With this in mind, I stress that we always appreciate our freedom and take full advantage of the freedom that has been given to us and preserved over the years.  Find ways that you can use your freedom to make this world a better place.

The adoption of my son is a direct benefit of the efforts made by Dr. King.  I cannot imagine going through the process in a world stuck in 1963 ideals.  So, I truly appreciate everything that Martin Luther King Jr. did to improve our society in such a way that I can experience the amazing emotions of being a father to my son.

#2 – Equality for All

Dr. King’s main focus in his speech was to resolve the issue that no person should “be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”  That everyone deserves an equal opportunity – building upon the freedom by which our country is based.

This is probably the easiest item to apply in our daily lives.  If we simply treat others in the way we wish to be treated, we will naturally be more apt to provide a stance of equality and avoid introducing any unnecessary judgement.

In my lifetime, I have been blessed with the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of individuals – both in my career as an Information Technology professional and in my personal life.  Truly, I believe this has been a blessing – with the results of such interactions far exceeding the otherwise-limited accomplishments.

#3 – Dream like Dr. King

The world of 1963 was a far different world than 2014.  Dr. King had a dream that his children and their children would not have to experience the same world of 1963.  So, he wrote a speech – speaking directly from his heart – on how he hoped things would change.  While his dream and views ultimately led to his death, his contributions and sacrifice did play a huge role in the improvements that have been made in today’s world.

I believe we should all have dreams and strive like crazy to reach them.  If you are not happy in your current situation, figure out what really makes you happy and take that leap of faith to get there.  Sure, it will be scary and certainly there are unknowns, but no dream or goal comes without some form of risk.  However, when that dream is reached, the feeling of accomplishment and success is second to none.

Thus, on the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I challenge you with the following:

  • remember to appreciate the freedom that has been given to us
  • always treat others with respect
  • search deep inside your heart and soul in order to find your dream
  • figure out how you can make a difference – with yourself and those important to you – to ultimately make the world a better place

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, everyone!  Let Freedom Ring!

Have a really great day!!!

Taking Mary’s Approach …

me17bWith Christmas approaching and the year 2013 coming to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this month’s article to Mary and the challenges she faced – without hesitation – in following the will of God.

If we put things into perspective, nothing could have been worse for Mary – to become pregnant out of wedlock.  By today’s standards, such a situation is far from uncommon.  Back then, however, the emotions that Mary felt and pain she endured were certainly the most challenging of her lifetime. Nothing could have impacted her more, than to walk this earth for nine months carrying a child without the baby’s father standing by her side.

But Mary did not let these things get to her.  Instead, she simply put her trust in God.

Through these last several weeks of the 2013 holiday season (which I will admit have been challenging to endure), I have meditated over the following points to give me strength:

  • God is Respectful – He wants to bring (and keep) dignity into our lives.
  • He is Eternal – God’s promises will last forever … and never be broken.
  • Trust in God – we should always trust in Him … even when we don’t understand.

I will likely not post another entry before 2013 ends, but I will admit that I am not sad to see 2013 drift away.  This year has been filled with quite a bit of pain and sadness, broken promises, and situations that I don’t know if I will ever fully understand.  While I often feel like I am in a similar position as Mary – I know that I am nowhere close to the pain and suffering she endured.  However, I am going to follow Mary’s lead – take her approach – and put my trust in God, even when I don’t fully understand everything that is going on in my life.

In two days, I am going to start a new tradition on Christmas day.  I will ask everyone celebrating with me to state one thing they are thankful for that has happened over the last year.  Perhaps, this can be part of your Christmas tradition as well.

On 01/01/2013, my Facebook post was “Happy New Year!!!  Hoping your dreams and wishes become realities.  Have a really great 2013!!!”  I truly meant everything I wrote in that post and was excited for the days ahead.  For 2014, I am going to try again, with the same thought for 2014.  I do hope for better results this time … and with God’s help, I believe that will be the case.

Thank you for reading this article and my goal is that you can gain something helpful by reading my thoughts. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Have a really great day!!!

Being Thankful …

me16bAs I prepare my “amazing turkey” this year, I find myself struggling with just how different my life has become compared to the plans and goals that I thought had been set.  While things have gotten better, I wouldn’t be truthful if I were to say that the consequences of those events no longer affect me.  Instead, I have accepted the fact that I will continue to deal with those emotions – which I believe are the result of the level of love and admiration that I will always maintain.

However, my focus with this article is being thankful.  Since I very much enjoy lists, I thought I would provide a bullet-list of the items in which I am thankful for this year:

  • My amazing son.  I can’t express how much Eric has blessed me by being introduced into my life when I held him in my arms for the first time 5,006 days ago.  It is hard to believe he is 14 years old now.  He is simply amazing and has inspired me more than I ever would have imagined.
  • Family.  When my new reality unfolded earlier this year, it was my family who stood by my side and helped me when I needed them the most.  You certainly don’t get to pick your family, but I honestly feel like I hit the jackpot with them.
  • Friends. A pure extension of my family is my network of friends who have been at my side.  When my best friend slipped away, I saw current friends, new friends and friends I had lost touch with over the years reach out to help bridge that gap.  They listened and have endured the challenges with me and I will always be forever grateful.
  • Those who protect our freedom.  I must thank everyone who has given their careers and even their lives protecting the freedom that exists in our country. Without them, it is likely I wouldn’t be able to perform the simple task of maintaining this blog.
  • My health.  I am certainly thankful to maintain a very good bill of health.  You are only as old as you feel, which still keeps me feeling like I am in my 30’s … if not younger.  (grin)
  • A wonderful career.  I could not ask for a better career, especially working at E-gineering.  They have been a tremendous blessing on so many levels – far above a simple job and corresponding paycheck.  Honestly, the group at E-gineering are a subset of my friends and family – for the same reasons noted above.
  • My God-given gifts.  I am modestly thankful for the ability to perform music, which has led to some memorable moments and individuals being lead to Christ.  I am also thankful for the ability to capture my thoughts and emotions on this blog, as it has been quite a therapeutic medium.
  • Mags.  I am very thankful for my Golden Retriever, who has always been the definition of unconditional love.  I know it may sound crazy to some, but I really think she understands at times – especially when she will do something to make me laugh, just when I needed to laugh more than anything else.
  • God.  Last, but not least, I am endlessly thankful for our God.  He has been on the receiving end of each and every prayer I have spoken, which has been quite a bit in 2013. He has directed me to the right scripture when I needed inspiration.  He has given me peace and helped calm me down when I needed it the most.

At the top of this article, I indicated that my life is different from the plans and goals that had been set.  While I will tell you that I believe those plans and goals were set with God in mind, I am certain God either has another set of plans and goals for me, or He is not ready for those plans and goals to be put into place at this point in my life.  I am thankful for God and will continue to put my trust in Him.  In the meantime, I promise to not lose sight of all the wonderful things in which I am truly thankful for this season!

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!  Have a really great day!!!