Sunday, July 28, 2019

Reflections from the Home Team – July 28 2019

“My conversation with young Taylor simply reminded me that in a moment, your life can change for the better! I told Taylor that our fateful meeting is proof that no matter what we are going through at the moment, our lives and teams can change for the better.”

Greetings from Cedar Falls,

I am writing to share that the past week has been an emotional “roller coaster” for me and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you today about those emotions. Being a part of my “Home Team”, I’ve never been shy in reaching out to you because being on a team is a privilege, not a right. You give up the right to be selfish, average & apathetic when others depend on you, and honestly, I’ve depended on all of you for the strength, love and support needed when those challenging times have come my way. THANKS for that!

My week started out in Iowa City checking in for my 6-month follow up.  While waiting for my appointment, I was once again blessed to run into my young friend Taylor and his parents.  For those who may not remember, Taylor was the young boy who I had a game of catch with in the pharmacy waiting room toward the end of my treatments. I’ll never forget that day, as it was Taylor, a third grader at the time, who asked me a question that completely changed my attitude… “Mr. when are they going to let you go back outside and play?”  Taylor provided me a perspective I needed to hear, and it was a simple thought that made me realize I had a life to live. Time to get on with it and not succumb to the challenges that may accompany the “cure”. So often, I find myself overthinking things, and with this chance encounter, God provided us both with the simple gift of each other.

We have bumped into each other several times over the years in Iowa City.  He is now a senior to be in High School and continues to be in remission and enjoying his passion for baseball. (Still wearing the Braves hat I gave him as well.) Taylor shared with me how our conversation that day helped motivate him to not give up on the things he truly enjoyed in life, like baseball and the many other activities he has enjoyed as a survivor. I had to smile as he shared, and I told him that he was the “shining light” in that moment of my life when I was feeling so down about the struggles I was facing during treatments. I told him I thought he was part of God’s plan for me at that moment, not only to help me heal physically, but to help me heal emotionally, making me feel whole again.

My conversation with young Taylor simply reminded me that in a moment, your life can change for the better! I told Taylor that our fateful meeting is proof that no matter what we are going through at the moment, our lives and teams can change for the better. You never know where your next opportunity will come from… You never know how your life can and will change from a meeting, an event, a call from an old friend, or a chance encounter like we had back in 2009. We can’t get stuck thinking that our lives can't and won't change for the better. We can’t go through life focusing on our problems with our head down. Instead we need to keep our eyes open and our heads up, being open to new possibilities while being kind to people along the way.

Taylor and I also talked about our experiences with the negative feelings we both have experienced throughout our cancer journeys. Even though we both have a tendency to resist and fight against them, we agreed that we shouldn’t be scared, or worried, or upset because it is a natural tendency that when we get upset at ourselves for being scared worried, or upset, we feel even worse. It’s like a spiral that can lead us down the rabbit hole of emotions. 

We talked about an alternative, where we can simply acknowledge that we’re scared, worried or upset and allow those emotions to pass through us, because they will pass if we just let them! You’re likely to notice how much quicker the emotions pass through you and how much less they drain you when you don’t resist them.

Our conversation leaked out many emotions for me, both past and present. It reminded me of a post I recently read from a poem, author unknown, titled “If You Give a Boy a Baseball”.  There are so many lessons I’ve learned from the game of baseball that I have loved so much and that in turn have helped me navigate the curveballs that life has thrown my way. It also has taught me the importance of team, and the many sacrifices made along the way by “teammates” in each of our life’s journeys.

It Reads:

If you give a boy a baseball, he will want a bat to go with it.

You’ll buy him the best bat you can find, and then he will probably want a bucket of balls and a glove and some cleats too.

Then, he will probably spend hours begging you to go out in the yard to play with him, even though you may want to sit on the couch and watch tv. He will insist. And his insistence will win.

And when a boy gets a jersey, he will need pants and socks and a belt to go with it. And a TEAM…..
And then life as you know it will end.

There will be no more lazy weekends watching tv. You will see more sunrises than you ever thought possible. Every spare minute of your time will be spent hauling buckets and bags and stinky cleats and crazy boys all over tarnation for hours to practice for a game. 

And your house will be a mess. And your car will be dirty. All because you gave a boy a baseball.

Your weekends will be spent freezing or burning to death on a fold-up chair. And his weekends will be spent gaining confidence and friends, and learning new skills and having fun and getting dirty. So dirty in fact that you will have to learn how to do laundry in a whole new way, like maybe at a carwash using the pressure washer.

And you will be there the day he hits his first home run, first strikeout, and his first double play. And he will make you SO proud. The other parents will congratulate you. But you feel weird saying thank you because it's not you at bat or on the mound. It's everything him. He did this.

And right before your eyes, your little boy will be transformed from the baby who spun around with his head on the bat, (because he loves attention), into a pitcher. Because he loves attention still.

When you give a boy a baseball, you give him more than just a ball. You give him a sport, and talent, and hope, and dreams, and friends, a new family, a place to learn about the life, room to grow as a person where he can push his limits, and bravery, and courage and LIFE, and memories. And he will have ALL of these things, simply because you gave a boy a baseball.

Because you gave a boy a baseball, you too will develop new/lifelong friendships, developed solely from the same passion for the game and love of your team. You will root together. And spew PG-13 things out of your mouths together. Because you gave a boy a baseball.

Then one day, many years from today….he will be in his room and a baseball will roll out from an old dusty bat bag underneath his bed. And he will pick it up and realize instantly that when you gave that boy a baseball, you also gave him a childhood that he would never forget. And then he will hug you, and your eyes may leak – because you realize that everything YOU gave up along the way…..was worth it!

All because you gave a boy a baseball…

My conversation with Taylor and his folks helped reinforce our mutual love for the game of baseball as well as our love for each other! Both of our lives have definitely had some bumps in the road, but our “Home Teams” (both human and divine) has given each of us the strength, love and support needed to overcome them. We all agreed that when life gets us down, and we may be filled with uncertainty and fear, we also need to pray.

As James: 1:5 shares:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault and it will be given to you.” 

As we prayed together, we realized that God is right there, where He’s always said He would be. He’s never left us and will never forsake us. The next time we face a difficult situation, we need to pause and remember that there is more than what is just in front of us. There is challenge, a lesson, and a plan. 

As Pastor Brian King, my good friend recently shared in his message to us at Nazareth; “No matter where we are going, never undertake any journey in life without prayer.  It’s prayer that enables God to be present and direct our path.  As we sail through life, storms can happen in a heartbeat that can throw our direction off. We need to be ready to navigate those storms, no matter how out of control life may seem through prayer.”

When we are full of emotions, as I was this past week, it has helped to remind myself that all good gifts come from God and that he always wants the best for us. We just need to talk to Him and develop a relationship with Him, allowing those emotions to pass through us and into His loving hands.

Blessings your way!


Are you or someone you know fighting cancer... struggling with the physical, emotional and spiritual issues that accompany a cancer journey or other serious health issue? Making ourselves available to others can open up the doors of opportunity for deeper relationships, healing, and transformation. For many, time is one of the most valuable commodities in today's fast-paced world. Sharing time with others is a wonderful gift. It says, "Here I am. . . for you. To listen, to care, to serve." The power of presence should never be underestimated!  

Be an encourager in someone else’s life!

To learn more about being an encourager, and to view the Reflections blog, visit the Reflections from the Home Team website at: