Lessons from Life’s Most Precious Moments

On My 25th Anniversary Moments that Change Your Destiny

There are moments in time that change everything.

Lightning strikes a tree and alters the course of a stream causing two rivers to join.

You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, where one small creature flapping its wings and creating a small wind current causes a chain reaction that alters hemispheric weather patterns half a world away.

When I think back on my own life, there are a few of those major moments that changed my life. Had just one person, one event, one little part of the equation been altered, even the slightest bit, who knows how different my own life would be.

 

“A good life is a collection of happy moments.” -Denis Waitley

 

Pay Attention to Chance Encounters

Skip & Anita PrichardOne of those moments happened in 1990. I walked into a crowded room, looked up, and met eyes with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Everything slowed down for a moment, the world tipping on its axis, freezing time long
enough to suspend us for a few seconds. It was immediate. It was intense. It was like nothing I’d known before.

Only a short time later, this week in 1992, she stood in the back of a church, the light flooding in through a stained-glass window behind her. She seemed to almost float there, as if she were an angel who was given the option to become fully human and was making her choice by joining her life with mine. From the front of the church, I sang to her, and she walked up the aisle and then we sang a duet together. Our lives forever changed. Yes, it was exactly like one of those Hallmark movies, the story line either inspiring or sickeningly sweet, depending on your perspective.

 

“Forever is composed of nows.” -Emily Dickinson

 

Harness the Power of Now

Moments change us. Looking back, I realize the power of the moment, the importance of noticing, the beauty of mindful observation, the strength of awareness.fullsizerender-2-2

So many people who were there with us on that day twenty-five years ago are gone:

  • Our matron of honor and my best man that day were my grandparents. They were so surprised and honored to be asked. It was one of the highlights of their lives together.
  • Others are gone, too: aunts, friends, my other grandparents, who were so gracious that day. My grandmother looked in the camera and thanked my wife “for being one of us now.”

Time marches forward. I’m now that guy that can tell others how to make a marriage last twenty-five years.

There are other moments that stand out:

Buying our first home together. How we managed, I’m not sure, but we did on a shoestring budget. We remember our near panic when we received that first utility bill, wondering how we would pay it.

The birth of our daughter in 1997. We recall every single minute. My wife’s elated cry out to me when her water broke. Hours later, my daughter surprising the nurses by tracking me by my voice.

A health scare. Only months afterward, we were surprised again with another altering moment. I’ll never forget the doctor coming out, telling me that my wife had breast cancer, and that she was about to come out of anesthesia. We would have to tell her together. It was advanced enough to require radiation and chemotherapy. She lost her hair but never her spirit. In a few months’ time, her faith began to sprout faster than her hair, and she has never wavered in her belief.

 

“It is in our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” -Aristotle Onassis

 

Life-threatening disease. Years later, we learned she had another cancer. This one even more insidious, threatening once again to steal her away, to shatter the glass of our lives. We’ve learned to pray more in these moments. No one prays in good times quite the same as in challenging times. We don’t know the why behind them. Perhaps God uses them to get our attention, perhaps because we’re finally still enough to see what is always there, and yet we miss it as we race by the important on the way to the meaningless.

Fortunately, she once again beat cancer. This one showed us the incredible blessing of friends who were there for us through every moment.

 

“Flowers grow out of dark moments.” -Corita Kent

 

Then there are the career moments. When she left hers to fight cancer and stay home to raise our daughter. When my promotions started. Her belief in me fueled my success. From the outside, my job promotions looked miraculous. The truth behind them was more struggle, political battles, and more work than you’d want to know. Nothing came easy. And it seems we moved so often that my wife put our furniture on wheels. In fact, it was our move to Columbus from Nashville that opened our eyes into how much junk we were carting around, stuff from decades ago, some of it in boxes not opened in several moves.

Lead With Friendship (Bread)

 

When we first moved to Nashville, someone gave us a “starter” for Amish Friendship Bread.

It looked like a Ziplock bag of liquid glue.  It came with instructions.  It was the “starter” for Friendship Bread.  Follow the instructions and mix in other ingredients, and you will end up with magnificent dessert-like bread.

We loved it.

And my wife loves to bake, too.

When you bake this bread, you end up with more of the “starter” mixture.  It seemed to be a mixture of yeast, flour and sugar.  Before long, my wife was baking this bread as if our kitchen was a commercial bakery.

If you visited our house to change the locks, you walked out with Friendship Bread.  Same for the plumber, the handyman, the electrician and the alarm salesman.  Basically, if you walked within one hundred yards of our house, you were going home with Friendship Bread.

 

 

Still, it kept growing.  Our kitchen counters were literally overflowing with this stuff.

Until, one day, we had enough.  My wife gave all the starters away, and we were finished.

(I’m not sure how much weight I gained during this period, but it was worth it.)

Friendship Bread really was named perfectly.  It was a great gift, a good conversation starter, and who wouldn’t immediately like someone giving them homemade bread?

The experience is a good lesson for leaders:

 

Leaders Give With No Expectation of Anything in Return

What Some Birds Taught Me About Friendship

Image courtesy of Joy Prichard Studios

Unexpected Friendship

My wife does an amazing job decorating our home.  Maybe too good of a job.  She changes colors and decorations with each holiday or season.  Admittedly, I’m often clueless about the passing months and her changes remind me just where we are in the year.

 

“A friend is someone who will sacrifice for you even when you don’t know it.” -Skip Prichard

 

This past spring she changed the wreaths on our front doors.  I suppose some birds took a look and thought they were inviting enough to build a nest.  When we opened the door one day, the mother bird flew off.  We realized there was a nest in the wreath and that changed everything.

Until those eggs hatched and the new birds were safely flying on their own, we would not use the front door.  For any reason.  Deliveries?  We’d just walk the packages around the house.  Visiting us?  “You can’t enter the front door,” we shout from a window, “Come through the garage!”  The air-conditioning repairmen who came to replace a faulty unit?  Well, they had to take some extra steps.

We were careful to watch the birds’ progress, but not disturb them.  We didn’t want to scare the mother bird off.  All through the spring we took pictures and waited.  Finally, one day they were all gone.

They never even knew we were there.

They didn’t know that we were going through all these inconveniences for their benefit.

Buzz Bissinger: From Friday Night Lights to Fatherhood

Image courtesy Buzz Bissinger

A Personal Journey

Buzz Bissinger has so many awards for his writing that I’m not sure where he can keep them all:  the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, the National Headliners Award among many others.  He is best known for his nonfiction book Friday Night Lights.  His newest book is called Father’s Day, a deeply personal and moving book about his relationship with his two sons.  Born premature and just minutes apart, his twin boys ended up very different because of a few precious minutes.

After reading his newest book about his son, I spoke with Buzz Bissinger about this very personal story.

I described this story, or as the subtitle aptly points out, this journey, to someone recently.  I’m curious, though, how would you describe the book in a few words?

Father’s Day is a journey across the country. But it is really the journey of a lifetime, both to discover a son who is different from the mainstream and also my own journey to better understand myself and the degree to which my relationship with my own father, my ambition, my insecurities, have informed me as a parent and father.

In this very personal, and remarkably candid journey, we meet your entire family.  But obviously the focus is on your extraordinary son, Zach.  You take a cross country trip in part to know your son. I haven’t met him, but you can’t finish the book without feeling you know him as well as it may be possible to know him.  When I finished, I flipped all the way back to the first pages where I underlined this: “I love my son deeply, but I do not feel I know him nor do I think I ever will.”  By the end of the trip, did that change for you?

Yes. I found all sorts of emotions and abilities in Zach I never knew were there—remarkable empathy, his determination to be responsible and independent, his powers of observation even when I didn’t think he was paying any attention, his steadying influence upon me when I grew volatile. 

What if your closest friend is someone you haven’t met?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/Greensquared

There’s an old story I want to share.  Like most old tales, I’ve heard it told in various forms.  True or not, the point is a good one.

There was once a university professor who visited a Japanese Zen master (I’ve also heard this was a Buddhist monk, but you get the point).  The professor wanted to learn more about Zen.

After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked if he would enjoy some tea.

Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.

The Zen master disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea.  The master smiled back as he poured tea into the cup.  The professor watched the cup fill, and continued to watch as it overflowed.  He put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop!  It’s overflowing.  You’re wasting the tea and no more can fit in the cup!”

The Zen master nodded and calmly explained.  “You are here to ask questions.  Yet you come full.  You have your own ideas and have no space.  Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information.”

How Full is Your Cup?

It’s a powerful reminder about preconceptions.  We all too often have such strongly held opinions that we are not really able to take in all of the new information.  That part is obvious.

But today I thought about the story in a different way.  What if, instead of ideas, we thought about our relationships?  How many of us think, “I have enough friends.  I have no room for any more.”  We hit a certain age and we are comfortable with the people around us.  What do we lose by not making room for new people in our lives?