Life is about relationships. To really make meaningful connections with others, you have to be transparent about your own life experiences, the good and the bad. Hopefully over time, I will have the opportunity to learn more about you. In the meantime, let me share my story so you can understand what has influenced my mindset, my beliefs, my drive, my passion, my perspective, and my testimony.
Well, let’s start with something that you might know about me and use that information to provide some perspective on my life going forward. I’m a big Dallas Cowboys fan. I have the Big Blue Star on the back of my car, and it’s not uncommon for me to wear my Dallas helmet during big games. The Cowboys had such a wonderful 2016-2017 season. Sure it ended sooner than we Cowboys fans hoped for when the visiting Green Bay Packers kicked a 51 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Cowboys 34-31 in the 2nd round of the NFC playoffs. When the kick went through the uprights, I was down. However, certain experiences in my life reminded me, this wasn’t a bad day, it was just a tough ending to a wonderful season (13-4) full of great memories.
Now, let’s rewind my life to 10 years earlier. As you’ll see, I had a completely different reaction to a couple of similar moments. On Jan. 6, 2007, the Dallas Cowboys were playing the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the NFC playoffs. Dallas hadn’t won a playoff game since 1996 and was playing the defending NFC champions on the road. I didn’t give them much of a shot to win (hard to win in Seattle), however, with just a few seconds to go in the game, the Cowboys were preparing to kick a 19 yard field goal to win the game. I was so excited– a 19 yard field goal is shorter than a high school and college extra point– I could make that kick. Well, the ball got snapped to the holder, and he dropped the snap. He quickly got up and tried to run it around left end into the end zone for the touchdown and the win, but he got tackled at the 1 yard line. Game over, Dallas lost 21-20. I proceeded to go nuts: yelling, screaming, throwing things, etc…. — wow, what a terrible day (or so I thought).
Two weeks later, on Jan 20, 2007, I was coaching a basketball game in which we were up 7 points, with the ball, with 57 seconds left in the game. What if I told you, we turned the ball over, missed free throws, ran press breaks we hadn’t practiced all year, took quick and bad shots, didn’t rebound, and the other team banked in a 25 foot three pointer at the buzzer to beat us in regulation by one point. I was so upset in the coaches’ office after the game. Wow, what a terrible day (or so I thought).
Unfortunately, I was failing to grasp how truly blessed and great my life had been to that point. I had a phenomenal mom and dad, great siblings, an academically and athletically successful high school experience, a comprehensive college education, an unbelievable wife, a great job, a great church family, a beautiful house, good health, etc… Unfortunately, that all changed just a few weeks later on Feb. 7, 2007. I was coaching my basketball team at practice after school, preparing them for the area tournament. About an hour into practice, I got a phone call that my wife of 7.5 years, the love of my life, my dream come true, my best friend, my bookkeeper when I coached, a phenomenal teacher, had been killed in a single car accident on her way back home from work. In the blink of an eye, for the first time in my life, I learned what it was truly like to have a bad day—to have my world turned upside down without warning. I was devastated- a humbled and broken man. We were actually in the process of trying to start our own family. In my mind, I not only lost my wife and best friend, I lost my chance to be a dad. Thus, I faced a true crossroads in my life. I had always talked a good game, but hey it’s easy to talk a good game when life is going well. How was I going to respond to this tragedy? Making the daily choice to keep going after my wife’s accident was the most challenging thing I have ever faced, and at times, I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but in the process, I re-discovered my foundation: my faith, my family, my true friends, and I gained a testimony.
I actually had a student write me a letter at the end of that school year that went something like this: Coach, every day when you started class with a character education quote, I just tuned you out. I thought to myself, your life has always been good and it’s easy to be positive when life smiles upon you. However, after your wife’s accident, as I saw you stand before our class, many days rolling in tears, continuing to talk about positive character, doing things the right way, leadership, hard work, attitude, etc…, it really moved me. By the way coach, I don’t know if you know this or not, but I lost my mom when I was 2.” That’s so powerful. Wow! Well, what’s my life like today?
I have learned to cherish and make the most of every day- to laugh, live, love, smile, and be thankful. Life is a journey. Enjoy the journey. For so much of my life I was on the mountaintop and didn’t take the time to appreciate. Then, suddenly, I was in the deepest of valleys. Now that I’m back on that mountaintop, I have such a greater appreciation for how blessed I truly am. I’ve also come to value the fact that God has everything under control. Even in terrible times of tragedy, God is with you. Trust in Him and allow him to use your situation to further His kingdom.
In closing, please remember something I heard recently as I visited a school in a surrounding state. Everyone reading this article has a story- it’s still being written. It’s possible that it may be in the best or worst chapter right now. However, the things that have happened to you or may happen to you, don’t have to define you. It’s not what happens to you, but what happens through you that tells your story.