Monday, December 15, 2014

Dear old dad


 As I sit here for the first time alone and having the chance to reflect on your recent passing. I can’t help but have tears stream down my cheeks. Although I realize that the last thing would ever want is to have us cry over you being gone, I cannot stop. I take comfort in the fact that although you wouldn’t want me to cry, I had the opportunity to see you cry a few times in my life. It showed me that even the toughest of the tough sometimes had to show their emotions. Another lesson I’m glad I learned from you.

 We had our ups and downs over the years. There is no denying that. Lots of times I didn’t understand you and you didn’t understand me. We were different and you recognized that. I remember when I was 13 or 14 and you were teaching (trying) to change the oils in your car you reached a realization and too me, “son, maybe you better go to college. I don’t think you’ll be able to eat if you try to work with your hands for a living”. Maybe a harsh comment to some, but a loving reality to me. I wasn’t like you, Treffie or Grandpa. I couldn’t fix anything. You could fix anything and if you didn’t know how something worked you had the curiosity to take it apart and learn it, understand it, and be ready to fix it. If it didn’t work, I had the curiosity to wonder which of you three I should call to fix it. And I did. And you fixed it It turned out that didn’t matter if it was a mechanical problem or a personal problem. You wanted to fix it. That’s what you did. That’s how you showed love.

You would often say that the most important thing to you was giving Treffie and I a life that was better than the one that you had growing up and then you went to work and provided that for us. While we didn’t have everything, we had enough. More than you would have. Even without a high school degree you finished your GED and lived the American Dream. You pulled yourself up, made a family, and owned a house. And you showed me that love was waking up every day, going to work, putting your best effort in while at work and taking care of your family. My wife says that it isn’t always the most romantic way to show love. I understand it. But that was the way I always knew you loved me.

 You taught Treffie and I to be our own men. Not to run with the tide but to go against it. Develop our own beliefs and opinions and never waiver from what we believe is right. You wanted us to stand up for the weak and be friend to the less fortunate. And so we both went off on our own in the world. I believe we have taken that with us. If the mark of a successful parent is having kids that think for themselves even when those opinions aren’t popular, then you and mom met the goal. It's a lesson that Andrea and I are trying every day to share with Matthew. I'm prayerful that the next generation of Cole men will get it and hopefully do better than me as well.

 As I sit here with pad and pen (screen and keyboard) I can’t help but be thankful for the every day lessons that were taught just by being you. Rough, tough, hard nosed, stubborn yet loving described you. I would say you passed many of those characteristics down to me for better or for worse I own them. And dad although we weren’t always clicking on the same page and didn’t always understand each other I always knew when the chips were down I could come back home and you would help regardless of where we were at in our relationship. I’m thankful because i know some people don’t have that.

 I’m glad you were able to go out on your terms at home and not having people fuss over you as you were transitioning from this world. Although the last thing you would want is a tribute I’m happy to let my life be a tribute to you and mom. I know that what you really wanted was to leave this world in the dark, quietly and on your terms. 

And as a man who did what he said, that’s exactly what you did.

 I love you, pops.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Iowa Values

The other day I saw a post on a wall from someone back home asking what Iowa values are. She further expressed that it appeared that if she didn't vote a certain way then she must not have those values.

I think it's a fair statement/question although it's a sad message on just how divided we are today as a country. I'm not going to try to define iowa values for everyone, but I will share what it means to me. 

Iowa values mean being kind. Iowa values mean being nice. Iowa values mean helping others when they need it. 

That's all. It's really simple to me. It's three of the things Andrea and I struggle with in our daily lives of raising an 8 year old. I want him to have the best of Iowa. And since we chose to raise him away from Iowa we are doing all we can to make sure he is those things plus the best of everything else. If he reaches those, I'll be satisfied. 

But the negative part of the conversation is harder for me to swallow. Quite predictably her post turned political and not a positive political dialog but one "my belief is better than your belief". 

It was at that point I started feeling bad for Matthew. I was faced with the reality that no matter what we tried every two to four years he will be exposed to lessons of hate just because he may have a belief that is different than others. 

We will teach him to remain strong. March to his own drum (which he already tries to do) and continue to love others even when he doesn't get that back from others. 

I understand that politics is decisive by nature. Even our independence caused strong feelings, and yes hate, while the people in Colonial America tried navigating the New World. 

But the basic principal of what this nation was founded was one of having the right to believe what you feel is right. Certainly, I understand trying to persuade others to believe as you do. I think it's healthy to have discourse as a society but lately the far left and far right are taking it to far. 

I promise that neither the average Republican or the average Democrat is trying to destroy America. They are just exercising their Constitutional rights to have an opinion. 

I pray Matthew sees the best of that process and doesn't become disenfranchised because of the ugliness of politics. 

I hope one day he walks into an election site and executes the basic fundamental right of voting. He will be proud that a  peaceful transfer of power can take place here in the United States where in so many places around the world it doesn't happen that way.

And on his way to the polling station I hope he drives someone who can't drive, holds the door open for them, and he smiles as they welcome him to the polling station. 

That's what real Iowa values are about. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Striving to be more like Him

Lots of things have happened since my last decision to publish my blog. My parents have moved to Vegas, I'm working at a high school, and most importantly I was saved. 

 For years I danced back and forth between atheism and agnosticism. Usually ending up on the side of atheism and in my mind (or out loud if I was drinking) ridiculing the people out there who claimed to have found a savior in Jesus Christ. It was easy to do. I would use flawed logic, intellect, and skepticism as I implored folks to prove it. Smirking as I saw you pray or read the bible. "Where's the proof" I would say. Or when times were tough, "where's your God now"? 

 Of course I didn't know there were people in Las Vegas (and beyond; I would later learn) praying for me on a regular basis. Nobody would ask if they could pray for me; the answer would not have been in the affirmative. 

 Like most instances of change mine came during difficult personal tragedy. Over about a sixth month period Andrea and I lost a child, lost my Grandma, lost a close family friend, and lost Treffie. I was hurting and angry. The things my family went through proved to me that God couldn't possibly exist. But like true Christians should, people continued to be there for me and not ask but tell me they were praying for my family and I. 

Meanwhile I continued to try to push those same folks away by diving into a life of sex, alcohol, and self loathing. If you've been to Vegas you'll realize there may not be an easier place to do this then in Sin City. And if I lived in Sin City I was determined to be the biggest sinner the city would ever know. It didn't matter to me how badly I hurt those people around me. If I had to hurt, so they should they my flawed logic went.

 But a funny thing happened on my way to an early demise. I began to feel hope. Hope in the people around me and that there may be something out there bigger than me. A couple of years earlier I had read a book called The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel that made a solid argument for proving that Jesus was the unique son of God and had very much walked the earth. Typically, I wasn't ready to admit I was wrong (no Cole male ever is ready!) so I continued doing what i wanted when I wanted and how I wanted while secretly reading everything Lee Strobel had written. 

 Then in early February of 2011 it happened. I accepted an invitation to Central Christian Church. It was surreal as I found myself walking through the door wondering what a broken sinner like me was doing walking through the doors of the biggest church in Las Vegas. I couldn't believe how many people were there. Were there really people in Sin City that believed in God? 

 Then the band started playing music. It was the first time I heard the Chris Tomlin song "Our God". It felt like that song was written especially for me and was not only speaking to my ears but directly to my heart. With the exception of holding Matthew for the first time nothing had so instantly brought me to my knees. As a rookie attending church I had no idea at the time that it was the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I was confused, scared, and curious all at once. Then a man walked on stage and said, "Welcome to Central. We want you to know that Central is a place where it's ok to not be ok". I literally chuckled to myself as I thought, "that's because you've never met me". 

 But something was different after that day. The hope I had felt over the last few months was turning into something more as I again dove into The Case For Christ. Then in my bedroom a few weeks later I was again visited by (I had by then learned) the Holy Spirit. As I was texting back and forth with a friend and tears streaming down my face as I searched for a few more answers I lifted my hands and acknowledged Jesus as the unique Son of God, my Savior, and leader of my life and I asked for forgiveness. I was baptized a couple of months later. 

 Two years later I acknowledged to Andrea that I wasn't the husband she deserved. During that very late night conversation we allowed the whole house of cards to fall. With anger in her eyes and hurt in her heart she forgave me. The struggle continues for us both. Day to day neither of us knows how the hurt, guilt, and anger will effect the other. We suffer wounds that only God (and perhaps time) can heal. (This journey is a whole other blog) we are still trying to figure out where this journey is leading our relationship. 

 Every day remains a struggle. I continue to hurt those around me on a daily basis. I continue to selfishly put things other than Jesus first in my life. I still struggle for worldly desires that Las Vegas makes so readily available. Fortunately through grace I'm able to wake up and strive each day to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I've learned to forgive those who have hurt me and more importantly I've also given myself forgiveness for the bad things I've done to others

 But I'm no longer alone.  

 How big is my God? I only have to look in the mirror to know. My God is Mighty to Save. So thankful.