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We lost our rescue retriever last year…it was hard. She was a senior when she came to us, an orphan after suddenly losing her senior parent. Though we only had the privilege of providing her retirement home for a few years, she quickly wormed her way into our hearts…she was a sweetie.

The day we lost her, the gray March day outside matched our mood inside. We decided to get out of the empty, too quiet house and get lunch out. I swung into Tractor Supply on the way to pick up a quick item. It was a fateful decision. That Saturday morning, the dog rescue people were there with a small pen set up inside the store. By the time I was fully inside the entry, Megan was already cuddling a small creature in her arms. It stayed there the entire time I shopped and internally debated this unexpected dilemma. Megan and the senior dog had been especially close, finding in each other a kindred spirit who understood pain and loss. I think I knew from the moment I saw the pen and realized my unexpected predicament what I would do. The small, odd creature came home with us. We never made it to lunch.

As has now happened enough times in my life that I’ve come to expect it, when you let love win, wonderful things happen. We have no idea what our mutt is (we say she’s a “Ginny”), but she’s special. She’s loving. She’s adorable. She’s funny. She makes us smile. No matter how bad your day is, she makes you feel better. She’s a gift. Love won.

“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: they bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.” –Bruce Cameron



The daffodils are blooming. These little spot of sunshine along the country drive on my way to work are a sure sign spring is here. But it’s not just when daffodils bloom that makes them special, it’s where.

Daffodils bloom from bulbs and are not as easily spread as seed wildflowers. They’re not spread by the wind or wild animals; they generally require human transplanting. That makes their seemingly random placement along the road, where there is no other apparent evidence of human habitation, not a mystery but a historical marker. When I see an unexpected clump of yellow by the side of the road, I know to look closer. I can then often see what I’d have otherwise missed: a long unused driveway; a pile of rocks, perhaps from an old chimney; or just a telltale cluster of trees, planted to provide shade and hope.

As the daffodils’ sunshine warms my heart, I wonder about the hands that planted them and the family she loved. Was their life happy or hard? Was this a place of love or tragedy? Or, as is generally the case with humans, a bit of both? I can’t ever know these answers, but I can be grateful for her endowment to those of us who followed her. Her investment of time and energy has left us with a small bit of the beauty and hope that were, I believe, the reasons that drove her to plant them in the first place. It is her legacy.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” –Greek Proverb


A bone marrow transplant (BMT) donor recently posted on the Facebook page dedicated to the rare blood disorder our daughter had. He’d never learned what happened to his recipient, and he was looking for information. Thanking him on behalf of those anonymous parents made me cry.

When someone gets to the point they need a BMT, it’s generally their last shot. It’s a Hail Mary treatment carrying significant risks. Basically, doctors pump poison (chemo) into your body over a series of weeks through IV’s. The poison wipes out your immune system so your body will accept someone else’s healthy immune system via their bone marrow. The actual transplant itself is an anticlimactic process: just one more transfusion no different than the countless others you’ve had by then. But that’s the easy part.

The hard part is surviving the significant risks your poisoned, weakened body now faces. Your complete lack of (read zero) an immune system makes the smallest infection life-threatening. And unless the donor is a 10/10 match, there’s significant risk of rejection. That, too, can be fatal. Plus not all transplants “take”. It’s not uncommon to need a second transplant, and it’s not unprecedented to have a third. And all of this is only possible if your underlying disease, by definition a killer itself, lets you remain strong enough to attempt the transplant in the first place. Before this terrible treatment option even became an option in the last few decades, generally the only other alternative was to die.

Back to that donor who reached out. He didn’t have it completely easy either. The donor has more pain than their recipient, generally a soreness in their hip (the donation site) for a couple of days. They will miss up to a week of work, for up-front testing and then for the procedure itself. And the process has to be at least a little emotional, as you wonder how your recipient is doing until many months later when information can finally be exchanged, but only if both parties are willing. All of that said, I told the guy the truth: that what he did was an amazing thing, even if he doesn’t get a happy ending. Because even if it’s not, he likely gave some kid’s parents the peace of knowing that their child had every chance to live, and of knowing that there are good, caring people out there willing to go through a week of personal hassle to give their kid that shot.

If you’re under the age of 50 (60 in some cases) and in good health, please consider registering to be a bone marrow donor. It’s simple and literally painless. Simply answer some basic medical questions and swab the inside of your mouth. And you’re even more needed if you’re not Caucasian. While white Americans have a 97% chance of finding a donor in the registry, the odds of not finding a match are 1 in 5 if you’re Hispanic; 1 in 4 if you’re Asian or American Indian; and a staggering 1 in 3 if you’re African American. Mixed race patients can have an even more difficult time finding a match. Will you consider taking a few minutes TODAY to go online and sign up? You, too, could give someone hope. You could save a life!


When we celebrated Christmas with my parents last weekend, my dad walked around asking all of us what our Christmas memories were. What a great idea! That got me thinking way back.

Only a few memories stand out. There was the year I got a small plastic nativity from my beloved grandmother when I was about four. Though I was disappointed at the time that it wasn’t something I couldn’t play with, it’s now one of my most prized possessions and sits proudly on my mantel every Christmas. I also still have the set of children’s bibles she gave me a few Christmases later; I read them cover to cover. I remember the year I decided to look for the Christmas presents and found them. I was about twelve and found the air hockey table in the attic space in my parents’ closet. It ruined the surprise, and I never looked again. I remember more presents that I gave than those I got, with a child’s pride in having found that perfect sweater vest for my dad (that I never saw him wear) or the rocking horse music box I knew he needed or the multicolored camel that no home could be complete without. I remember the red and green plastic bells that hung over my grandparents’ front door 50 years ago and now hang over mine. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

But what I remember way more than the stuff is family. Christmas for me as a child was what Christmas has always been about, since that baby boy was born in a stable 2,000 years ago: love. Family and food and music and love. Many of the loved ones I shared my childhood Christmases with are gone now, replaced by new family members in the inevitable circle of life. What I wouldn’t give to have them all together. Instead, I’ll focus on creating new Christmas memories for this generation and wait until that day when we are all together at last.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11


A powerful idea recently presented itself to me, seemingly out of nowhere, yet from somewhere deep within:

Without God, there is misery.

With God, there is joy.

This truth is so simple and powerful, that I wonder why no one shared it with me sooner.

Except I can’t pretend that I didn’t know. We humans have great capacity to not listen, simply because we’re human. We convince ourselves that we have it under control, that we’re independent, that whatever personal demons possess us can also fulfill us. But it never works, and we’re left–by design I’ve come to believe–searching for what will.

When I was young, because I got good grades, I thought I was smart. As I’ve matured, I now appreciate the significant difference between wisdom and intelligence. I’m still a beginner at wisdom. But this new nugget is a big step in my learning. Now to make sure I really listen to it…

“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.” –Swami Vivekananda

Taking Stock

Having passed the halfway point in my life, I’ve been taking stock. Though every passing year seems to bring a deeper awareness of what I don’t yet understand, I am beginning to make out a few shapes in the fog. So far, I have found three patterns.

The first is that life has not been what I expected. Though my youthful naïveté now seems silly, I suppose it was as predictable as time. From the time we’re very young, we think we’re seeing what it’s all about, yet all we can see is the outer mechanics. We can’t see what struggle does to someone, both positive and negative. We can’t predict what loss–of people, of our innocence–will do to us. We can’t know, sometimes until too late, that all relationships require constant investment and deliberate choice to remain in them, even with those closest to us. We too easily fall for the myth that these bonds are a given.

I also hadn’t expected to be so changed at this point. While I still feel far from wise, or even good, I am living proof of God’s faith in human redemption. I am beyond grateful every single day that He won’t ever give up on me.

But the biggest surprise of all is my intense need to find a Purpose for my life. I do find occasional small purposes, but the big Purpose continues to elude me. Sometimes I think I glimpse it in the distance, but after letting me gain on it a bit, it moves ahead again out of view. I wonder if I won’t ever find it…maybe the small, daily acts of meaning are all I can hope for. If so, I must look harder for them and dedicate myself to doing them well.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” –Pablo Picasso


She was our discount dog, the one we’d have never even gone to look at if I hadn’t misread the price on the ad. Luckily she was the last puppy and already getting a bit long in the tooth at ten weeks; we were able to strike a deal with the breeder. She turned out to be the single happiest accident ever in the history of our family. She was wonderful. And this week we lost her too young, at six, to cancer.

It happened so fast we didn’t see it coming. She got a couple of infections not long after removal of a benign cyst. Looking back, it’s easy to connect the dots, but at the time we were blissful and assumed we still had years with her. After all, we needed her. This creature was pure love, the only dog I’ve ever known to perfect hugs. She had an uncanny instinct for knowing when you needed one. She’d come smile at you with her shining face and then gently push into you. There was no way not to feel at least a little better afterward.

But now she’s suddenly gone, and there’s a void in our family, a void of pure love. That’s not a void that will be easily filled. We miss you Winnie. You were unforgettable.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” –Josh Billings