Our grandson, Braden, was captured in this photo by our daughter-in-law, Ashley.

Our grandson, Braden, was captured in this photo by our daughter-in-law, Ashley.

Although it’s been a while since Lee Ann Womack had a big radio hit, her music is still among my “go to” list of recordings. In what may have been her biggest, “I Hope You Dance,” one of the verses opens with “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” The whole song is about the hopes and dreams a mother has for her child, but this line seems especially appropriate today.

Recently, I have been reminded in many happy ways that life is a precious gift. I have also been reminded of, and jolted by, the reality that life is also fragile.

Just like Braden’s thoughtful pose in the picture, I find myself looking out my life’s windows and wonder what’s really going on. For example, I’ve seen the joy in the glowing faces of first-time parents and grandparents, whether by natural birth or adoption. But I’m also aware of faces stained with the tears of searing loss.

I think of Mike Boswith, my friend of many years who serves as a pastor in Huntingdon Beach, California. He and his wife, Carol, were the quintessential happy, great-looking, talented couple and they had an amazing life, including awesome children. Then Grant, 19 years old at the time, fell ill and now clings to life trapped in a body that will not respond in the ways that a normal body should. Mike and Carol were devastated, as any parent would be, to see their son in such physical torture. Shortly after Grant’s problems set in, Carol became very ill. Without going into detail, her physical problems were so severe and her heart so full of hurt, Carol passed away, leaving Mike with Grant and Brittany and a world full of questions.

Pastor Mike had done all the right things, had preached all the right words, prayed all the right prayers, and yet calamity became his most constant companion. How can this be? What does he see when he looks out the window?

Jeremy Adkins, married to beautiful and sweet Kristina, was looking forward to the birth of daughter #5. Just days after celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary, Jeremy and Kristina headed to the hospital for the new arrival. The baby was perfect upon delivery. Kristina, however, had severe complications and ended up without oxygen to her brain for almost 10 minutes – a medical eternity. This beautiful wife and mother lay on life support systems for almost a week before she passed from this life. Jeremy looks at his daughters, and out the window, and sees things much differently than he did just a few days ago.

This morning, I learned that two dear friends are suddenly dealing with potentially dire diagnoses. One knows he has a rare cancer. The other knows she has a nodule on a lung. They are both strong believers in the God “who sees us!” I’m pretty sure I’m a strong believer, too, but there are questions I can’t answer right now.

When I study the photo of Braden looking out the window, I imagine his little mind trying to process a year and a half of experiences that are new and exciting. There’s just so much wonder to behold.

Braden is already a charming prince of a boy. His smile is infectious and his tears are sincere. He loves his parents intensely, mostly because he knows he can trust them.  Sure, it hurts his feelings when Brian or Ashley rebuke him, but he’s already finding out that they know more about what lies beyond that window than he does.

There’ll come a time when Braden will test the boundaries. And Brian and Ashley will have to measure their responses. But there will never be a day when Braden will not be loved with the kind of love that would be willing to lay down its life.

Looking out my office window today, I see a high-rise apartment building whose residents are mostly older. Trevecca Towers is mostly comprised of residents who’ve lived long enough to know their time is short. I wonder what they see when they look out their window?

The truth is, none of us knows what a day might bring forth. As trite as it may seem, today is the only day we have to do what we ought to do. Every moment can be precious to us – or at least it should be. Make your exchanges with people count for something good!

In 2007, the dermatologist found a suspicious mole on my back. I didn’t really think much about it till her nurse called back and said the biopsy revealed a malignant melanoma.

“Can you come in on Friday, Mr. Johnson?”

“Sure! I’ll come in right now if you can fit me in!!”

I waited for the appointment on that Friday and then spent a week wondering. They said they had caught it early and it was still shallow in the tissue. I need to go back for a check-up, but they didn’t find anything a couple of years ago, so I’ve already sort of forgotten the urgency of the moment five and half years ago.

I remember looking out the window of that doctor’s office after she’d taken the second larger, deeper section of tissue from my back. I thought of my friend, David, who’d died at 44 from a melanoma cancer that started in his foot and then spread like wildfire throughout his body. I remember telling myself that I’d be more appreciative every day for all that I’d been given.

I think, for the most part, I am grateful for every moment and gift I’ve been given, but sometimes it’s good to see it in writing.  Here’s just a partial list.

I have more friends than a man could fairly ask for. I have a place to work that is more than a paycheck to me. I have a church that reaches out to more types of people than just about any place I’ve ever known, led by one of my dearest friends in the world. My parents and extended family have been an unbelievable gift of love and encouragment. I have a brother that I not only love, but truly respect.  I have a wife who grows more beautiful to me with each passing day. And I have three amazing sons, two gorgeous daughters-in-law, and now little Braden. I am blessed beyond measure!

Every so often our church has baptismal services.  Since we started multiple outreach efforts into the jails and various recovery ministries, we often have testimonies at baptisms that rival some of those “true crime” reality shows.  These incredible stories of God’s redemptive work are soul-inspiring reminders that miracles still happen.  I love seeing the faces of people who once felt so lost and alone  that now shine like the sun does when a storm has just passed.  Their sense of newness is refreshing!

But I’m also greatly encouraged by folks whose lives haven’t necessarily experienced any great new breakthroughs.  The kind of folks who just keep showing up, even when they can’t see how, or even if, God will come through for them.  That kind of tenacity is just as inspiring to me.  Mike and Jeremy and a hundred others like them are great examples of “the miracle of showing up.”

So, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder!”  Remember not to forget all that you’ve been given.  It may not be everything you’ve hoped for, but you’re here!  You’re alive!  You have a chance to bless someone else with a kind word or deed that may give them hope to carry on in spite of a struggle that’s even worse than yours:)

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