Posted by: Ed Deiss | September 6, 2019

You are Worth It All

I have always been one that can’t sit for too long, and having a desk job, got to get up and move from time to time.  I am fortunate to work next to the scenic Virginia State Capitol grounds in Richmond and will walk at lunch to get outdoors.  It was May 1st, 2014. As I walked I stopped and listened to a man talking about fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith.  It was the annual National Day of Prayer and I realized quickly it was David Gallagher, who had just lost his daughter Cameron less than 2 months prior after she crossed the finish line at the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 16, 2014; it was discovered that she had an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia.  As I listened, and having children of my own, I thought how did that Dad muster the strength to encourage so many of us listening when he is hurting from such a tremendous loss of his daughter?  As I learned more about Cameron’s story, her dream of a new tomorrow, and what she stood for, I realized that he had her by his side that day and always.  It was as if she hugged him around the waist, as daughters do with their dads when they are younger, as he spoke and reassured him, in her own words that:

“You are worth it all.” -Cameron Gallagher

Having witnessed from the beginning Cameron’s dream become faith in action, and getting to know Dave over the years since Cameron ran her last mile in life where The Mission at Mile 12 began, I thought it would be insightful to hear from him, Cameron’s Dad.  When we sat down in his office at Dominion Payroll (in chairs made out of skis overlooking Scott’s Addition and the office pool table, incredibly cool Dave!), it was simply a couple of Dads talking about the love they have of being Dads, what we have learned from our kids, and learning from each other. We shared both laughs and tears, sharing joys and pains. I felt that opening up about Cameron, being her Dad, and the story of SpeakUp, would ‘pay it forward’ for so many other parents/siblings/friends who are struggling right now on how to deal with a loved one who suffers from this invisible illness as it has no borders or economic boundaries.

Family Dynamics, we all have them

Cameron is one of five siblings for Dave and his wife, Grace Gallagher.  As I have learned with three of my own, two of whom are daughters, each child has their own DNA.  We both know there is something about a daughter that adds another dimension to a man’s soul, as it has done for both of ours.  It softens and adds tenderness yet at the same time makes it more valiant and protective; a daughter’s eyes can melt a father’s heart.

When it came to being her Dad, it took way north of half of Dave’s (and Grace’s) parenting energy from when she turned twelve (when her depression and anxiety was first noticed) and on up. And they have four other kids.  Though her siblings came to understand the situation, there was a yearning for a more evenly distributed parental energy pattern.

Dave cherished his time with Cameron, she was awesome to be around and her words were captivating; she was wise beyond her years in many respects. Having read her quotes and positive notes she wrote to herself to cope with her depression, I can certainly see it.  When it came to parenting Cameron, it was akin to driving a Ferrari that was slightly out of control; she struggled in school and there were days she did not want to talk to anyone and they did not know what was going to happen or what she would say. She had a small group of friends and Dave conveyed she did not think in a linear way (i.e. in order to do this, you need to do this), it was more seeing a problem or issue and wanting to jump right in and do something about it.

As her depression and anxiety became more pronounced, it was thought she would get over it and he tried to convince her to do so.  After all, with a roof over your head and meals, it is hard for us to understand what is there to be depressed about?  What Cameron taught her Dad during this time is that parents underestimate the way mental health is viewed as the pain they are dealing with is worse than grief itself.  His learning was to offer love and support, and be there for her with the realization it was her battle.  He wished there were more family centered programs with others they can relate to in order to help navigate this dark road.  From this experience, Dave now leads groups of other Dads that are dealing with this issue in their children.

So, when was SpeakUp first spoken about?

Cameron was one to honor herself, and she fought the good fight of fighting her depression.  She was an avid swimmer.  Dave always woke her up at 4:06 am and out the door at 4:13am.  She also decided to train for the Shamrock Half Marathon and as she ran more and more, it made her feel fantastic.  On a training run with her Dad and Mom in January 2014, she talked about this idea with both of them.  Their response was to give it a throttle, which is a natural response from parents.  In essence “Are you sure Cameron, you want to raise this stigma and flag?” Her response was in essence: ‘Mom, Dad…this is exactly why we need it’; it is ‘go big or go home.’ The need and awareness around reducing the stigma is there and when Cameron goes all in on something, it is huge, rather than a small test the neighborhood kind of idea.  You know what, she was right.  We can all be reassured, as I have been and wrote a letter to her, that it is ok to not be ok.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown  

This was the greatest gift she gave to her Dad, having a clear sense of mission and purpose.  Dave realized that though he did have purpose before he lost Cameron, it was unguided, not centered, more agitated and he felt compelled more than passion fueled.

What a gift, Cameron.  Kids teach adults too, especially what is to be valued.

The weekend of March 14-16, 2014

There was not a dry eye for either of us as Dave shared about the day Cameron ran her last mile in life.  They had been in a difficult spot with her before the race, however she was really happy the week leading up it.  They had a wonderful family dinner the night before, and on race day she and her best friend, Abby Donelson, were up early and ready to go. The excitement was contagious.  After they saw them both off at the start, Dave and Grace rode up to Mile 3 and both Cameron and Abby looked great and running strong. They then saw them at Mile 10, and Cameron looked fatigued and thought it was to be expected.  They awaited at the finish and spotted them 300 yards out as they ran down the boardwalk next to the Atlantic Ocean towards the finish.

She crossed the finish line with Abby and was very disoriented, and came over to her parents.  She put her arm around her Dad, and she fell.  He caught her and held on to her with his arms around her head and back thinking that she fainted, which she had done before.  Dave and Grace were not sure what was going on, fortunately there was a paramedic right close by and they took a look and put her on a gurney.  They then started doing CPR, and then took her to the ambulance to go to the hospital.  All were in a state of disbelief, it was if time stopped and went in massive increments.

Grace went in the ambulance with Cameron, Dave in a car with Abby’s family.  As he went into the hospital, and the doors opened, he saw six to seven doctors in the room and blood on Cameron’s shirt.  It was then that it hit him, she is gone. From her Dad’s arms to her heavenly Father’s.

“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” – Corrie Ten Boom

It was heartwarming and brave for Dave to share this pain and scar with me, and I thought about the wisdom above of Corrie Ten Boom.  It was as if Cameron’s life and story was the baton when she fell into her Dad’s arms and it was passed to her parents to open another route and their love for her to travel.

How Pain became Purpose

Dave and Grace got back home to Richmond, which seemed so different than they ever expected or imagined. They went in their house, and could not go there. It took a while, a week and a half to be exact. Namely, into Cameron’s room. When they did, it was how she had left it with all that was familiar that reminded them of her, they longed to relive the moments with Cameron that happened there from childhood to her teenage years, even just one more time.

What they did not know is what the pile of papers was on her desk.  And then they looked through it, and realized what it was.  It was the plan to Speak Up, including letters to potential sponsors, speakers, and the vision. Before she died, Cameron was also promoting her idea of SpeakUp on social media and was organizing a SpeakUp 5k through a campaign. The press was asking if they were going to go ahead.

Dave then heard from his Dad, Tom Gallagher, who conveyed he got a phone call.  He was informed that a foundation has been setup and donation checks had been pouring in.

He then read what Cameron’s speech would have been:

“Ladies and gentlemen this young girl is now nearly fully recovered from depression. This young girl is me. If it weren’t for you guys running for what I suffered from and what so many people around the world struggle with, I would be stuck back in what I thought was an interminable tunnel. No matter how we feel, it is the love and support of those we surround ourselves with that gets us through the days.” – Cameron Gallagher, taken from the speech she wanted to give at her inaugural SpeakUp5k.

It was if Cameron was saying to her Mom and Dad: “Get Up, Speak Up, and take this baton and run with it!”

That other route for their love for her was being presented and opened; a beacon of hope for a world full of “Cameron’s”.

Growth and how SpeakUp continues to SpeakUp

The reduction of the stigma has been huge.  It is hard tireless work, yet Dave and Grace are fueled by their love for Cameron and the world full of “Cameron’s”.  I have experienced this firsthand, as when I went to Singapore in 2016 (where I was raised) and inquired at the schools I attended if they wanted to learn about SpeakUp. It was a resounding yes and next thing I know I was making two presentations to hundreds of students. There are no borders when it comes to Depression and Anxiety.

When it comes to growth, first and foremost, Dave wants to make sure it is done the right way and is natural, sustainable, and not forced.  As in running, pace matters.

For anyone wondering how to get involved with SpeakUp?  Presently there are SpeakUp 5Ks in Richmond, Tampa, Nashville, Metro Washington DC, and San Diego.  Volunteering at one of their events is always welcome.  There are also workshops for parents and kids on mental wellness and mindful living, that can be used for various audiences (e.g. school assembly, health class, guidance counselors, teachers, community groups, etc).

Ways to get involved can be found on the CKG Foundation website.

Seeing through the eyes of another

I’m convinced that the world would be a better place if we apply what Cameron reminded us.  What if we saw the world through the eyes of another, such as Cameron, and envision the deeper connection that comes from understanding.  We would understand better where they are coming from and vice versa;  personally and professionally.   Having grown up in Asia, I experienced that understanding and relating to friends from other cultures, backgrounds, and countries helped me walk in others shoes.

So, what if we put our hearts into others, shared each other’s experiences, be there for one another, empathize during tough times, and rise up (SpeakUp) for the common good of others.

Songwriter John Ondrasik does this well and conveys what Cameron stood for and her legacy by asking What if:

 

Dave, and Grace, grateful for you.  As are so many others.

Thank you for taking the baton and running with it.  Cameron is saving lives, and your love for her is fueling others to SpeakUp.

Let’s continue to Fight the Good Fight, Keep the Faith, and Finish the Race.

Until Next Time,

Ed

 

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Posted by: Ed Deiss | August 6, 2019

Turning the corner at Grace

It was just after mile 20 of my first marathon in November 2015. I looked at the clock as I crossed the timing gantry, it was at 3:05.  I had long forgotten how tired my legs were, I just kept urging them to keep moving.  Then it hit me, the wall…hard.  Both my calves cramped suddenly, nearly brought me to my knees.  Through what is known in Richmond, Virginia as Pope’s Arch, I saw the head coach of my training team (Sports Backers).  He came alongside, saw that I was struggling and said “Just walk as fast as you can and stretch each calf with each step.” That’s what I did, for 4 miles.  Thought I had nothing left, doubt crept in on actually getting to the finish line.  Made up my mind that if I had to walk to it the rest of the way, I would.  Then when I turned at the corner at Grace Street, the cramping subsided and I could run again, and finished off the race.  I won’t forget going down the hill on 5th Street where I could see the James River and the finish line, it was finally in sight.  Crowds line both sides of the street cheering loudly, with cow bells ringing in my ears, and my running teammates who I trained with for months were waiting for me.  26.2, we got you….talk about some good news!

Just like any long distance run, and what is not news to anyone reading this, life can be hard, very hard.  You’re weary, giving it your all day after day and this race of life you’re in is more draining than you ever expected.  Full of potholes, puddles, hills that seem to go on forever; you just want to catch your breath.  I’ve been there too. As I learned during that first marathon experience, and have experienced first hand in life, there are times I just don’t know what is coming around the corner.  It could be getting through a Tuesday, running down Wronged Road looking for that bridge to cross, and then realizing the strength from scars.

Know what?  I have also experienced God’s unwavering grace at a street corner perfectly named.

The corner of Lombardy and Grace.  Having now run three marathons in Richmond, it serves as a lighthouse bringing me home and reminds me of a lesson learned.

What exactly? That we are conditioned that we get what we deserve, to work hard and try harder. To a large extent, very true. As with running, you get out of it what you put into it.  However, the more I think about it, it can sell us short of our daily struggles and add false expectations.

When I decided to take a chance and follow my heart I quickly learned to focus and just run the mile I was in. One of our coaches taught us that we all can run any mile with a purpose in mind.  So I thought, what fuels that purpose and ultimately the endurance needed to run mile after mile after mile? Is it putting the hard work in?  Trying harder?  What is called ’embracing the suck’?  Not really, rather it is love; that is what motivates endurance and provides the fuel to stay the course. I wouldn’t have made it to the finish without it.

When I turned that corner, I got that second wind, the cramping stopped and I could run again.  The crowd support was amazing; it was as if my eternal Teammate who has already finished His race, had come back to champion mine with heavenly grace, all the while reassuring me the work had been done.

When I see that turn on Grace, I can feel it as if I’m being encouraged “Come on Ed, let’s bring it in together,” and be assured that it is not about my pace or where I place, rather about experiencing His infinite grace.

Long distance runner Ryan Hall ran a half marathon in under an hour, and a marathon just under 2:05.  He was the first American runner to break an hour in the half marathon and the only American to run a sub 2:05 marathon.  His wife Sara is an incredibly accomplished runner as well.  When he was asked during an interview “Are you this good because you have worked and trained harder than everyone else, or because you are more blessed?”

His response: “Neither. I am what I am because of the grace of God. God’s grace has allowed me to pick myself up out of the dirt time and time again. That grace is something we can all have. It obviously takes a lot of focus, discipline, humility, hard work and all those other things that make up great athletes but that is just who I am. We can all achieve a level of greatness when we are who we are meant to be to the fullest.”

After I read that, no doubt he has turned that corner on Grace as well.

There are times I wonder, what does heaven look like as it is approached?  I see it similar to the finish line of a marathon.   When we are weak and hurting, we can imagine the moment when it will be in sight; pressing on with the assurance that the finish will be more glorious, crowds more enthusiastic, and reunions more heartwarming than we could ever imagine.

After taking a year off of long distance running, and basically starting over, I look forward running down Lombardy and taking that turn on Grace.  When I see it, I know the crowd will be there and it will be time to bring it in together, knowing the finish line will soon be in sight.

“God answers the mess of life with one word: grace.” – Max Lucado

Now, that’s the best news ever.

Great to be back writing too.

Until next time,

Ed

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | November 6, 2018

Believe and Fly

A brother and sister, I can hear it now.  Her brother got on his bike and off he went in the country field in Hanover, Virginia where they lived.  She was still learning and though could not ride yet, said to herself I’ll give him about 20-30 yards or so head start then I’ll catch him, running.  And she did.  I am sure when he saw her out of the corner of his eye, his jaw did a ‘Wile E. Coyote’ pavement drop as Meg sped by, on foot.  The story of Meg Cross Menzies, her faith, her family, and her love of running.  With the fifth year approaching of Meg of lifting us all up on an Angel’s Wings I recently had a chance to sit down with her Mom, Pam Cross, and talk about Meg, her family, and the glory that has come out of ashes with Megsmiles and the impact she has made.  Her family never dreamed their daughter would have carved her name on so many hearts, including my own.

What was Meg as a kid like?  The middle child of three between her two brothers, Wirt and Howard, of Pamela and Wirt Cross.  She was quiet, humble, sweet, kind, loved being on a farm in the country and being outside, being with her Dad, riding the tractor. I picture it as a scene akin to Little House on the Prairie.  Meg started running in the seventh grade and just kept going.  One of her high school teammates shared with me about running with Meg that as fast as she was in high school she just kept finding new strength and soaring, getting better in the years that followed.  Meg’s Christian faith, as modeled by her parents, was the fabric of who she was, and was evident in every interaction.  She loved being with her Mom and Dad, as a kid and adult and was the kind of sister that loved and truly cared for her brothers.  Pam expressed her gratitude that Meg allowed them all to be a big part of her life. When her oldest brother would be deployed as a Navy Commander, Meg would go to his room and simply sit there and pray for him.  It was her way of saying she missed him too.

Meg wanted to be a missionary and would show an extra measure of grace to those she knew and didn’t; she would pay for the stranger’s meal while going through a drive through. Meg also became a wife and mother to three children, and even though she was training and competitively running (she was incredibly fast and close to breaking a 3 hour marathon time), including qualifying for Boston, what was remarkable was that she placed priority on slowing down and always being present with those around her.

The corner of Patrick Henry and Hickory Hill Road, in Hanover, VA on January 13, 2014.  Whenever I ask that question of those who knew Meg, they never forget where they were.  The road called her home that day, an agonizing one for all who knew her.  I did not have the pleasure to know Meg, yet I am grateful to have become good friends with her family and many of her friends.  As I have written about her story and impact, and that her still pictures move hearts, I find my heart moved to tears while writing.  It is said that grief has no rules, it comes and goes in waves and can be stop us in our tracks.  Pam shared that there were days she could not even drive out of a parking lot and getting through the next hour was all that she focus on.

God answers the mess of this life with one word: “grace”Max Lucado

At first it was one pair of sneakers on a road sign at the intersection of Patrick Henry and Hickory Hill Road, left by one of Meg’s running teammates from her Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team, then it became more…much more.  It became a community that truly cares about each other and lifts each other up through challenges and struggles, as Meg did to those around her.  The first weekend after Meg’s passing nearly 100,000 people from around the world ran for her.  Pam and Wirt thought that would be it.  Then as months, and now years, went by they never dreamed Megsmiles would become what it is today, namely glory out of ashes.  Pam feels it is Meg’s way of surrounding her family with love, encouragement, and support until they are together again; she is very close to many in the group and feels she has known them her whole life.

What did Meg love about running?  It was sharing the miles and the running community, and what is evident in the days, months, and now years since that day that Meg ran her last mile is that purpose can certainly find us through storms and we can get through it if we run as one.

A couple memories to share that exemplify to me being a part of the Megsmiles family:

August 1, 2014, I went for a run at Hickory Hill after work as was training for my first ever half marathon.  I live close by and it is very scenic, the major traffic on that road is tractors and hay balers.  Running there also brings reflection as it takes me to the beginning of a journey that encouraged me to take a chance and follow my heart when I ran my first marathon in 2015. It was Meg’s birthday and the first one her family would have without her.  As I finished my run, I came upon the road sign which became Meg’s Memorial.  There was a couple there tending to it and as I approached I was asked, ‘Are you Ed?’ And I looked at them both and it was Meg’s parents…you must be Meg’s Mom and Dad.  We immediately hugged, how fitting the first people I met In Megsmiles were Pam and Wirt Cross.  I have been grateful for their friendship ever since.

It was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, 2014.  I was driving back home from Northern Virginia down Route 301, it was dusk and at the last minute decided to take a detour.  I knew this was the first Thanksgiving Pam and Wirt were without Meg so thought would stop by Meg’s Memorial, reflect and pray for them.  As I parked and walked over, saw someone there. It was Wirt spending some time with his daughter Meg.  We had a heartwarming and authentic time to share with each other, as I knew he was grieving.  I was grateful to be there with him as we told stories and I learned a lot about Meg and what it was like raising her and seeing her into being a wife and mom.  For those that read my blog know, I always enjoy spending time with and learning from other Dads, and for those Dads with daughters as I have shared before, there is something about it that adds another dimension to a man’s soul, it softens and adds tenderness and at the same time makes it more valiant and protective.  That was evident with Wirt; Meg your Dad loves you with all his heart and though he can’t be with you now, knows that you are always with him.

‘Where our strength runs out, God’s strength begins’ – Unknown

When we drive by Pam and Wirt’s house and farm, we often stop by, for Cross Family Produce.  A farm stand in their front yard and when we do, my wife Angela and I love spending time with them.  That is the way they are, showing an extra measure of grace to all.  We realize we would not have known them had it not been for Megsmiles, and the tragedy in January of 2014, we can’t help think we were introduced in a way none of us wanted.

When I wrote a letter to Meg before my first half marathon, I noted the impact Meg and Megsmiles was having on my life, namely:

“That said, (Meg) you have brought together so many lives and changed them, more than you will ever know.  You have encouraged me to live life to the fullest, have no regrets, honor myself, and invest in the lives of others.  You have encouraged me in my faith, and the faith to carry on….”

Megsmiles Memorial Run 2017 at Hickory Hill, Hanover Virginia

In other words, you are encouraging us all to believe and fly.

“..but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Believe and fly, on the surface seems that it can’t be done.  So did running 26.2 until I did it, yet I knew that I needed to believe that I could.  When we are literally jumping into the unknown, doubts certainly can take over.  Then again, I am reminded that I would rather soar with eagles.  Thank you Meg.

God bless you Pam, Wirt, Wirt and Howard for sharing life her with us all.

I also want to introduce a new blogger to the community, Pam Cross.  When she asked me about it, I did my best to encourage her to do so, as we can all use an extra measure of grace.  The domain is up and we look forward to hearing stories and learning from you Pam!

Until next time,

Ed

An imaginative scene from Get Smart…

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

‘I’m missing your point by thaaat much, 99. Can you say that again?’

So Agent 99 clarifies ‘OK Max, this may not make sense at first so I will say it again: The best relationships are the ones you have the option not to be in.’

Huh?

So Max after getting a suggestion from 99 on what to do next says ‘If you don’t mind, 99, I’d like to figure this out myself.’

After activating the cone of silence to think it over, he then turns it off and says ‘So what you are saying, 99, is the best relationships are the ones you don’t have to have.’

‘That’s brilliant Max!’  99 concludes knowing full well he just repeated her suggestion in his own way.

Get Smart, a great TV series. I enjoyed 2006 movie as well. Swordfish!!!

There is a saying from Mark Twain, “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option”.

Ever happen to you?  That is what I thought.

The more I observe and think about my experience, the best relationships are the ones you don’t have to have, you have an option to be in them. In other words, you are in it because you want to be and make it a priority.

As I look around at relationships with friends, family, and couples I know, including what I strive for with my wife Angela, what are the dynamics at work?  It is evident that they are in it because they want to be, whether it is professional or personal; including ones with family. Being related does not necessarily mean there is a relationship; you can chose whether or not to make it so.  As you may have read, I certainly did with my Mom and I made that decision over time.

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Great relationships are not easy to form and harder to maintain. What is it about these relationships we don’t have to have that we want to have anyway?

There appears to be some common threads:

  • A genuine and sincere interest at heart of the people we relate to, with expressed friendship; the words humility, selflessness, trust, and purposeful come to mind
  • Encouragement rather than criticism with sincere intent to listen and understand the other’s interests and point of view
  • Presence of a healthy mutual respect, including respect of differences; even the disagreements are respectful and don’t go down the slide of criticism and contempt
  • Ability to be introspective and accept responsibility rather than defensive pointing of fingers and assigning blame elsewhere
  • A preference for dialogue that works to resolve rather that allowing conflict to escalate to the “I’m avoiding you” level
  • Engaging of the mind before the mouth and keeping anger and emotions in check

It reminds me of “Be the friend you want to have”. – Unknown

Relationships in your life that are based on those threads will be there for you in times of need to encourage, correct, listen, and help out any way they can. They will be the ones that really care. I call them my ‘3am friends’ and they are there for you even at that hour.  Of course, we must ask ourselves if we will be there for others as relationships are, after all, a two-way street.  They require investment from both parties, and there is no greater investment that you could make.

Relationships that you don’t have to have are worth your effort because of the joy and life that they give; they must be fought for and maintained.

With the perspective of being a kid raised in Asia by a single parent, and one myself for seven years, keep them close because you probably have realized through your own lens that:

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | July 12, 2017

The Struggle is Real, so is the Result

Training Run in August 2015, and the struggle to run 16 miles for the first time…got there!

It was the summer I was turning fifteen: ‘If we don’t operate and get it corrected, your life will be short and difficult.’ That was the prognosis from one of the surgeons who reconstructed rib cages. Mine were growing in a way that restricted lung capacity. When I heard it, could not believe it.  My Dad either. When I played sports, I had trouble breathing as could not get CO2 out quick enough. Dad struggled to think what it could mean if he decided to go ahead or not. If he went ahead, scars for life with metal in my ribs while still growing.  If he decided to forgo, either the doctor is right or a walk in faith. An agonizing and tough call for any parent, single or married. It was a struggle.

Though always active, I started long distance running in January 2014 that was inspired by a person I never met to persevere on the open road unknown, where both fear and hope can traverse both sides.  I have since  run two full and four half marathons, and lots more miles training for each one. I truly never thought could run more than a few miles, and I am sure neither did that doctor. Running for an hour or more allows time to reflect, akin to blogging on the run.  I know for certain that when it comes to getting through our struggles in life, they are best done when we run as one as pain can be rewoven into purpose.

So strength, where does it come from?  Whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Having spent seven years as a single parent, a run down can look like this: You have just worked all day, and had not such a good day in the first place. Get home, have to get one child to basketball, the other to gymnastics, get dinner on the table, make sure homework is taken care of, get some house chores done, and then say good night.  Ah, time to yourself…you say ‘Kidding, right?’  You may not feel like much of a success most days and when you do get a moment to pause you think about how you always wanted to find out how tiring total exhaustion can be. Then again, is that why you are stronger today than you were yesterday?

Have realized that strength does not come from success, whether it be a run, running a house alone, or anything else. As I take long runs on the weekends, it requires fuel; every mile, quarter-mile, tenth of a mile. What is your strength’s fuel?

Struggle. And without struggle, there is no strength.

“I am thankful for my struggle because without it I would not have stumbled across my strength” – Alex Elle

As I look around my family and friends I have grown close to as I relied on them through my own struggles, what I admire is that they are grounded, genuine, wise, strong, and authentic.   I am grateful for my wife Angela, who has shared her struggles with me and how she got through a stage 3 cancer, which has given me a new appreciation to just be still and listen to the wind. They have all known heartbreak and have gone through storms and fog in their life. They have gained an appreciation and understanding of life over time, and are passionate and compassionate.

When hard times hit, can be defined by it or be strengthened by it. Your choice.

What are some of the truths that hold fast through struggle? Some guidance from blogger Marc Chernoff with my insights:

  • Pain will happen, it hurts, and fuels growth – Pain is real and part of us, and when felt wakes us up. How you carry it is what matters, it is just fine to feel it as it would be fine to feel loved. You will only learn how strong you are when being strong is the only choice. Yes, pain can leave scars, however as you grow stronger you will see the beauty in the strength of scars.
  • Your Mindset – Who expects life to be wonderful all the time? Raise your hand. As I remember the painting my Dad had in our living room in Singapore of ocean waves crashing against a rugged coastline of rocks, rising and crashing waves are part of the same ocean. Recognize this and know ups in life require downs. An imperfect life, with air in my lungs a blessing each day, being around my wife and kids, and amazed at it all with radical gratitude sure is good.
  • Fear is what you allow it to be – After hearing that prognosis when I was fifteen, was not thinking about moving forward that much.  Then I realized, I can address it by facing it. No kid wants to hear their life will be short and difficult.  I knew what I had to do, and though there were doubts at times, it was my mind that was allowing it. Take courage and face the fear, and don’t let it stop you from moving forward with your life.
  • Experience means growth – The greatest gifts in life can be the plans that don’t go as planned. That was the case for me and the relationship with my mom, whom I did not get to know until I was an adult. When I left America at age nine, did not foresee or even imagine would be close as we have become, though would not recommend the experience. I guess by not expecting something or having a preconceived notion about it, I can appreciate it for what it is, accept what happened, and step forward with what I’ve learned.  It comes in handy with what is yet to be experienced.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”  – Mother Teresa

  • What you have is today – You may have heard that saying “Tomorrow, that mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.” Life is lived today, and needs to be dealt with as it is today. Not where we were, should be, or want to be. Stay close to your family and friends, and there is much to be thankful for around you. Appreciate today as it is where you need to be to get to where you want to go tomorrow.
  • It takes time – Ever experience instant results? Were they the best? If so, what is there to look forward to? Patience seems to be underrated and is misconstrued as waiting rather than working towards something that is worth the anticipation.  It is about a sense of accomplishment of staying focused, calm, and steadfast..and takes time.
  • You are not alone – Be purposeful and reach out, can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for the guys I had around me as I was Getting Through Tuesday. In the midst of your struggle, it is easy to assume your friends are just fine. Fact is many have struggles or have gone through struggles you know nothing about. However, it takes courage to be transparent and open up about it. It was certainly hard for me at first, and then I realized that:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one” – C.S Lewis

Will always treasure my first marathon experience in 2015, I took a chance and followed my heart; learned that I had to be willing to struggle as each mile had a purpose that has impacted, encouraged, challenged, and inspired me over the years to be a better version of myself.

As I am training for Marathon number three, the 40th Richmond Marathon on November 11, 2017, I am reminded of an African proverb “If you want to run fast run alone, if you want to run far run together.” Having many friends and family around me affected by cancer, and the struggle, I running this 26.2 for Connor’s Heroes Foundation; a non-profit organization that was founded based on a Richmond  family’s journey through cancer with their son, Connor Goodwin. They are paying it forward by ensuring fighting childhood cancer a journey a family never faces alone.

Me and Connor Goodwin; honored that we are going to finish the Richmond Marathon together.

Building strength, it requires being open to the struggle.

Let it be the fuel to strengthen you through the ups and downs of the ocean waves that life brings.

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | April 20, 2017

Listen to the Wind

As we approached one of the windows overlooking a clearing and open water at Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island, Georgia on our honeymoon, the wind was gusting.  To me, nothing new and heard it many times before.  As I got closer I thought about previous generations of people and soldiers stationed here, looking through that same window and listening to that wind.  Angela says to me ‘Just listen to the sound of the wind.’  My wife is a cancer survivor and she has shared with me the day she was diagnosed in December 2011 and was facing the reality of not being alive much longer; when she left the doctor’s office facing the reality of the end being near, everything sounded different.  Children laughing, wind gusting, birds in the morning.  Everything is brought into sharp focus and what seemed before to be nothing new and heard before, was new every time. Got me thinking…what a way to live life.  As if you had only so much time and everything was new and each day was full of radical gratitude and worth your total pursuit.

The challenges we all face in life are not initially seen as gifts, however as I have conveyed previously, through storms and fog purposes may find you.  And when purpose does find you, the ability to sharing stories and making yourself vulnerable can serve others.

Regrets. We all have them. Think of the most common ones you have at present.  Is it not being true to, and having confidence in, yourself?  Working more than you would like over precious time with those important to you?  Been meaning to get back in touch with someone, an old friend you have known since childhood?  Turning off your phone/email more to enjoy the present and what is in front of you?  Worrying about what others think or trying to please them?  Enjoying the outdoors or going camping more? Travel? Not asking that person out? Doing a job rather than doing what you love?  Not taking care of your health as you should?  Not visiting a friend before they died? The list goes on.

Angela is also a paramedic and with her seeing life and death situations all the time, I recently asked her if she had ever been by the side of someone as they passed away.  She has, and as they did she holds their hand to comfort them.  As I listen and learn from her, I just grow in gratitude for her as my wife, and look forward to the years we have to listen to the wind.

So, what would be the biggest regret if this was the last day of your life?

A palliative nurse who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Regrets of the Dying, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying“.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.”

Take a breath, listen to the wind.  What will you set out to achieve or change?

The movie “The Blind Side” is a great inspirational story of Michael Oher who is an outstanding NFL player and left tackle, won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.  It is based on his book “I Beat The Odds”, and Tim McGraw portrayed his adoptive father, Sean Touhy.

With the context of Bronnie Ware’s insights, learned about Tim’s relationship with his Dad.  Many of you know that his Dad is Tug McGraw, 1980 World Series champion pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched the last out. Tug was hospitalized with a brain tumor on March 12, 2003 and it was revealed that he had cancer. He was given three weeks to live however survived nine months; he died on January 5, 2004.  His Hall of Fame teammate Mike Schmidt said of Tug on the day he passed away:

“Tug got more out of his time on earth than anyone could imagine. I have the photo of Tug allowing me to jump in his arms following the last out of the 1980 World Series on my wall. I will take it with me this summer, hang it on my office for all to see, and look at it a split second longer each day.”

Live life to the fullest, have no regrets, and invest in the lives of others and those close to you.

Angela and I are about to take a weekend to celebrate her birthday, celebrating another year she thought she would never see.  It’s a big deal to her, and as one that prefers to have my birthday anonymously I have come to realize that birthdays should be big deals to all of us.  It’s a surprise where we are going, however we will certainly live with no regrets about the time we have together and take our time, and leave our phones and technology behind.  Besides, would rather watch an eagle as it’s flying.

Happy Birthday babe, and thank you for being who you are, and teaching me to listen to the wind.

With you, I hear it as I never have before.  Let’s go.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | March 15, 2017

Being Herself by Honoring Herself

When they found it, they knew what they had to do.  For the Gallagher family, weeks after Cameron ran her last mile in life they were still searching for explanations on to why she did not come home and was not there in her room after finishing her race at the Shamrock Half Marathon on March 16th, 2014.  Cameron was searching for answers and doing something about it as she fought depression as her opponent was herself; yet what stands out to me about her and the Mission at Mile 12 is how steadfast she was about honoring herself.  As she fought the good fight, and worked quietly on her plans to SpeakUp, she chose to be honest with herself even if it hurt, and run to who she was rather than from it.  And when it comes to ourselves, shouldn’t we all.

“Our own heart, and not other men’s opinions, forms our true honor” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

To honor yourself, why is it important?

What I have experienced is that when we give in to the tendency, personally or professionally, to try to gain others attention or respect we people please.  The result? Rather than be the ‘real you’ you become the you that has accommodated to others wants and needs. It is evident that Cameron was not about to be someone she was not nor do things that did not honor herself.  Knowing she was a teenager when confronting this makes me realize how hard this must have been for her, and the resilience and strength she had by being open about it and vulnerable.

As I seek to go about each day, I thought about what are some of the ways we all can honor ourselves.  (Angela Shaefers, host of ‘Your Story Matters’ has some valuable insights):

– By valuing your time and that of others

– By your purpose, there are no ordinary lives and no matter how small or insignificant it might appear, it matters and you matter

– By recognizing and honoring your faith in God

– By being true to yourself and authentic

– By committing to always growing, learning, and challenging your comfort zones

– By pushing past your fears and taking action

– By asking for help and support when you need it and accepting it when offered

– By forgiving others for any pain they have caused; also forgive yourself for your role in bringing about that pain or allowing it

– By being comfortable in your own skin, flaws and all

– By being honest with yourself and about yourself, face the truth no matter how painful; know you have the chance to begin again

– By letting go of the past, and being ready and open for what is ahead

– By creating and maintaining boundaries in your life

– By practicing forgiveness, for your own sake and move forward

– By practicing gratitude each and every day

The fleet of passing time and opportunities, we all face them and ultimately can only answer for ourselves.  Whether we are 25, 45, or 75, we all have to look at how we spend our lives.  One of the ways I have come to appreciate and reflect on it is through a run, as life can be seen as a series of runs.  I know there is a finish line, I just can’t see it until the end.  The pain to get there may be greater on the inside then I am showing on the outside, and I can decide to quit or press on and finish the race.  When I have Run As One with others in my life, I know I can face anything.  In fact, seeing as my memory will fade, one of the way I honored myself through my  seven year run of being a single parent was by writing a letter to myself in 10 years, as I know I will want to look back at that time in my life.

By saying and living out that it’s OK to not be OK, Cameron honored herself, and as I think about how she fought her depression to train for her last run, what does honoring yourself mean?

“It means seeing the truth of who you are and leading from that strength. It means that if you are in a jam you do not compromise on your values but you stand firm in your integrity. It means that if you are accountable, you take responsibility. When you honor yourself, when you give yourself the same love and respect you give to others, you can free yourself from comparison and self-doubt. By honoring ourselves you are making the statement that we have more to share, more to give, more to respect and more to bring value to.” (Lolly Daskal)

We only have so much time, and honoring ourselves is worth that time.  The song by Five for Fighting tells a story, as songwriter John Ondrasik faces himself through the years.  Life is a treasure, sink in every moment.  I will be doing just that running for Cameron where she ran her last mile, with the sunrise along the Virginia coast.

“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” – Carl Gustav Jung

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | February 7, 2017

Her Side of Forever

saber-teamFor months I have been telling Ed I would write my version of our love story for his blog. I have sat and thought of how to start it several times now, and after he shared his two more minutes to forever, wanted to share my side of forever.  I couldn’t figure out if I should start with the years of long-term relationships I had been in that never felt right, that always felt forced and left me wondering what I was doing wrong.  Or should I start with realizing once those relationships ended the problem wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong in those relationships, it was that I was not loving myself the way I expected others to love me. What I realized after years of trying to make sense of love and opening myself up time and time again, only to be left dumb founded was that I needed to focus on myself, learn to love myself and my life as it was, alone. I came to understand that being alone was much better than always feeling like I was begging someone else to love me in the way I needed. I had decided I would focus on my career and the life I had instead of looking for the life I wanted.

For the next two years I dated casually but was putting my energy into work and school. It gave me time to figure out who I was as a person, what was important to me and what I truly wanted in life. What I wanted was peace. I wanted to feel happy and laugh. Even if that was with friends as a single woman. I knew without a doubt that I was not going to settle in a relationship.  I wanted an equal partner who loved and respected me in the same way I did him. I knew that it was going to have to be a man who was willing to give to the relationship, and not always take. I had come to believe that man did not exist and that relationships in the modern world were meaningless. I felt men were always keeping their options open. They were treating me like an option, not a priority. I thought maybe it was because I didn’t really go anywhere to meet anyone new. I worked all the time. I had the small group of friends. I do not go out bar hoping (God knows you won’t find anyone in a bar looking for true love). I was pretty much in my own little world and I learned to be happy with myself and my life. I have amazing friends. I have a family that is at times dysfunctional but at the end of the day loves me unconditionally. I had decided life was good the way it was. I prayed at night that God would guide me to live the life that was meaningful. My prayer was that my focus was not on my happiness but instead it be on my purpose.

One night I was having dinner with my friend Meredith and we talked about dating sites. I have known people over the years who had done it. Some had successfully married and some were still single. I thought ‘Well, it couldn’t hurt. I could at least make new friends, get outside of my little world and have fun meeting new people.’  So, I signed up. Filling out the list of questions, I realized something about myself. I realized that I was a bit pickier than I had even realized in some areas but open to other things that some people wouldn’t. I didn’t want to waste time going out with anyone who didn’t have the same life views as I did. For instance, I decided I only wanted to go out with men of faith. I felt over the years that part of my relationship issues was that I had dated men that were either not strong in their faith or had no faith at all. I did not want to date a man who liked to go to bars, drink, smoke or do drugs. I do not do those things and don’t want to be with anyone that does. I did not mind a man having children as long as he was a great dad and made his children a priority. I did not want to go out with anyone who had been divorced because of infidelity on his end. I also did not want to date anyone who was looking to sleep around and who was not seriously looking for an exclusive relationship.

After several conversations on eharmony I went on a few dates or talked on the phone with potential matches. I still laugh about some of the introductions and the face to face interactions I had on there. My friends and I would go to dinner and exchange stories and laugh uncontrollably at some of the “dates” we were going on. I started to think that social media and dating sites were just another way for people to keep their options open and be noncommittal. I then made the decision I was not going to renew eharmony once the time I had paid for was up. I was over dating and was just ready to focus on myself again.

Then one night while I was lying in bed getting ready to go to sleep and prepare for the long day ahead of me the next day I got a notification from eharmony that I had a new match. I thought ‘well, let’s see if this one is the same as the rest.’ I clicked on it and there he was, Ed Deiss.  A man strong in his faith, a dad who loved his children, a handsome man who had a look of kindness in his pictures. So, I thought ‘ok, this is it. I will send him a message and see where it goes but if he is another man who wants options, I’m done with dating sites.’

our-dance-and-kiss

I sent him the general questions and we started communicating. I immediately knew he was different. He was interesting, interested in me, thoughtful and kind in his responses. Seemed like a perfect gentleman. After emailing back and forth we exchanged numbers. He would call and we would chat. What seemed like a few minutes would be a half hour. Conversations were always interesting. He made me laugh. He was sincere. We talked for weeks before we finally met for dinner. By the time we meet in Roanoke Rapids to meet face to face it felt as if we had known one another for a long time. There was excitement on the drive to meet him. When I walked in the Applebee’s and saw him, we both smiled from ear to ear. I remember walking up and hugging him. It was like meeting an old friend for dinner, meaning it felt very comfortable and natural. There was never a moment of weirdness or odd moments of silence. We talked, laughed, smiled and had a wonderful time together. What stood out most to me is that when our dinner arrived he held my hands and prayed with me. It was an amazing first date.

Unfortunately, after being together for several hours, I had to get on the road back to Greenville because I had to get up at 4am to go to work the next day. When we walked to the car I felt so happy that the date had gone so well yet sad that it had to end. We said our goodbyes at my car and he made it clear to me that he did not want to communicate with anyone else. He wanted to make getting to know more about me a priority.  I was so happy to hear him say that.

As I got in my car to leave I had a moment of ‘I don’t want to leave him yet.’ So I put my car in park jumped out of the car and ran back to him. He opened his door and ask if I was okay. I told him “yes, I just wanted another minute or two with you”. He smiled and we hugged. I felt myself breath in a way I had not let myself in a long time. As I got back in my car to leave I thought ‘Oh boy, I am in trouble here (in a good way). He is a keeper!’ The next day he let me know he cancelled his subscription to eharmony. The next time we met for dinner he asked me in the cutest, most loving way to officially be his girlfriend. I was beyond joyful and said “Absolutely”. I got on eharmony and canceled my account as well and wanted to focus on him and see where our relationship could go.

The next several weeks he was out-of-town on vacation with his family. I told myself if he didn’t call while he was gone it was okay and to not let myself get my hopes up that he would call or text while he was away. Well, he called and texted everyday. Again, we were talking for what seemed a few minutes yet it was a half hour or more. He would send me pictures of where he was and what he was doing. He was always interested in my daily life. His voice was always like music to my ears, his laugh is contagious, his faith is strong; he is the man I had always prayed for.

Over the months of us dating he has shown me I am a priority. He has made trips to see me even if he could only stay a few hours. Living three hours away from one another, it means a lot that he would drive to see me for just a few hours then turn around and drive three hours back home. He always calls or text me every morning to tell me good morning. He always asked how my day is going, makes a point to tell me I’m beautiful (even when I’ve worked an 85 hour week and look absolutely exhausted).

We would meet in Roanoke Rapids every chance we had a day it would work for a picnic or dinner. Those dates were always perfect. They went by way too fast. I always hated leaving him. I remember the first time I told him I loved him. We were sitting in my Tahoe saying goodbye and the love I felt for him was undeniable. I told him I loved him, not knowing how he would respond. Not knowing if he thought I was crazy because we had only been dating for a few weeks. With that said I did love him and wanted him to know it. Not expecting him to say it back, he did tell me he loved me too. I knew at that moment he was going to be in my life for a long time.

After dating for months we decided it was time for me to meet his children. He had always said he did not want to introduce anyone to his children unless he saw a future with them. So when he asked me to meet him and his daughters in Roanoke Rapids, I knew this was a special moment not to be taken lightly. The meeting with them was absolutely perfect. They were beautiful young women inside and out. I left that dinner feeling more filled with love and joy than I had even imagined. There are so many special moments since then with Ed and I or all of us that I could write about but I will fast forward a few months.

Four months after our first date, Ed and I went on a walk the day after Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be a quick walk on the Greenway before we met Melissa for lunch and black Friday shopping. We walked up to the park and he asked me to go on stage so he could see what it was like on there because we had passed by it many times. We walk up there and I briefly looked away from him to look out in the grass. When I looked back he was on bended knee asking me to marry him. I smiled from ear to ear and said Absolutely! As I went to hug him I noticed my best friends mother standing beside the tree. I said “There is Melissa’s mom” (She was supposed to be meeting us with Melissa for lunch). All of the sudden I realized Melissa was standing close by her with her camera. Ed had arranged for them to be in the park so he could have them photograph the proposal. I was floored. He had gone out of his way to make that moment so special for me. I then realized I had been procrastinating that morning by eating cereal, going to the post office etc. I immediately realized he had patiently waiting for me to propose while I was going in circles. We all went to lunch and discussed how happy I was and how thankful I am for him. I knew from our first date that he was going to be special in my life. We started planning our wedding and decided to get married February 4th, 2017 at 3pm; a date and time that stemmed from the saying 143, meaning I love you.

rings

I was working 85 hours a week and trying to plan a wedding in another city. Through it all Ed kept me grounded, at peace and always helped me with it any way he could. Now as I sit here today February 6, 2017 writing this, he is now my husband. We had our wedding this past weekend. It was absolutely perfect. Everyone pitched in and helped us plan the wedding in 7 weeks. The weather was beautiful. Many came long distances. I felt beautiful and loved.

Everyone kept asking me if I was nervous about getting married or if I was having cold feet. I can say without a shadow of a doubt He is the love of my life and the man God brought into my life to be my husband. When riding in the limousine to the church with Major Barbera, who was giving me away, he took my hand and asked me if I was sure about this. I told him “I have never been more sure about anything else in my life. I am completely sure and ready”.  He said that was all he needed to hear and that he was happy for us and supports us one hundred percent.  When I walked into the doors of the church and saw him standing there we both smiled and I felt the most at peace and loved I have ever felt in my life. When I stood in front of God and our friends and family and vowed to honor, serve and obey him until death do us part, I had no doubts, no fears, no second guesses. I know with all of my heart and soul he is my forever love. Standing there looking at Ed saying our vows I felt joyful, peaceful, loved, respected, treasured and beautiful. Completely filled with emotions of excitement about our life together.

He has made every dream of mine come true. He has calmed me in a way I never knew was possible. He makes me feel loved, respected and cherished always.

I am blessed beyond measure that those two minutes in the parking lot after our first date has turned into our forever.

Being his wife is the greatest accomplishment of my life. Being a step mother to his children is one of the most important things in my life. My life with Ed is about all five of us, not just me and Ed but also about our lives as a family with Will, Rachel, and Zoe.  To say I am thankful does not give it justice. I am madly, deeply in love with my husband and our family. I look forward to our life together and look forward to what God has in store for us.

wedding-walk-away

As I reflect on the wedding weekend and look at the photos my heart is over filled with joy and love. This is a once in a life time forever love. It was worth every horrible date I had gone on before, every failed relationship I had before, every year I spent alone. Being in this moment with the love of my life is exactly what God was preparing me for with every moment of my past.

Ed asked the question in a blog post last year “Is love worth it?”  We can both say without a doubt YES!

Angela Deiss

Posted by: Ed Deiss | February 2, 2017

From Two More Minutes to Forever

img_09141As we drove out of the parking lot after our first date on July 25th, 2016 in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, I made sure her car started and followed her out.  All of a sudden, I see brake lights and she stops her car.  The door opens; she gets out, turns and runs back to me.  I rolled down my window and she says, ‘I just want another two minutes with you.’  Don’t have to ask me twice, out of the car I went.  We knew after that night there was something about what each of us saw in the other that, even though we lived 3 hours apart, we wanted to see each other again.  For two more minutes and then more; the story of Angela and Ed.

“Are you the kind of person that the kind of person you are looking for is looking for?” – Andy Stanley

We are asked how we met, and it amazes both of us.  How can two people living their lives in separate worlds, thriving and happy on their own, a guy born in the American Midwest, raised in Asia, and now raising three kids as a single parent in Richmond, Virginia meet a part Cherokee Indian country girl, born and raised in North Carolina, and paying it forward as an EMT Paramedic in addition to working as a Cosmetologist.  Angela and I  do know that just one slight turn by either of us, or in events in our lives, on our journey to where we met that night in Roanoke Rapids, and it never would have happened.  Someone was behind the scenes, and there is no doubt in our minds who it was.  There is no way we could have foreseen or planned it.  God was directing the orchestra of events through our lives, including the struggles and pain, and what we do know is we allowed a ‘mutual friend’ to introduce and connect us, eHarmony. And we are grateful.

About a year ago, I shared my thoughts about going there again and loving someone;  Yes, It’s Worth It.  I observed that love often does not make sense and can come about from unlikely places (little did I know I was writing to myself as well). Angela and I did not have our lives on hold waiting for it, as we both know and have experienced thriving and being happy are great on their own. The quote from Andy Stanley above is one we both relate to, as it is more about becoming and being the right person rather than wondering when and are you going to find someone.

“I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.” – Unknown

Love, Purpose, and Time.  What was obvious to both of us was the importance of living with purpose each day, and being purposeful with the time we have.  Every time we are together, we lost track of time.  It goes by so fast.  Our first phone call it was as we knew each other already.  Our scars that we have encountered through life, as kids and adults, are attractive to one another.  We respect each other’s journey, knowing it is a part of who we are, and are stronger because of it.  Angela has also shared her side of our forever.

We both have had to experience Getting Through Tuesday, including being abandoned as kids by a parent and the pain of human betrayal as adults; in fact it happened to each of us the same month in April 2009.

Those experiences however have in turn made us grateful for our strength gained from scars inflicted.  I shared in that blog witnessing the near death experience of my Mom with a gun at her head by my former step-dad, and the possibility that me and my brother  could have been witness targets as well.  We all survived.

For Angela, she started thinking about having to plan her own funeral in December 2011 after being diagnosed with Stage Three Colon Cancer as she was given a 35% chance to live.  She has shared with me that through the chemotherapy there were times she thought death was easier, yet she kept fighting.  She has reinforced to me the gift of time we all have, even two more minutes with someone, to be purposeful in action and interactions, and make relationships in your life a priority.  After three years of chemotherapy her doctors informed her it looked like she was going to make it. She decided to pay it forward, having compassion for others in need, and went to EMT school and became an EMT Paramedic.  I am often at a loss for words when she shares about that time of her life, however she inspires me with compassion, energy, care for others, and treating each day we are alive as a treasure.

After our first date, and the extra two minutes, we kept in touch, a lot.  The everyday kind, even though I went on summer trips.  As we lived in different cities (and states for that matter) communication and treating each other as a priority had to be not just words, actions.  I knew I wanted to ask her if she would be my girlfriend, in person as if we were in high school again, and I did on August 9th.  It sure was better than a text asking the same.  As we kept spending more and more time together, our relationship and friendship kept growing.  She sent me a guide on what to expect when dating a rescue chick; I sent her one about dating a runner.  We made time for each other, always, and when we had to return to our worlds, we counted the days until we could see each other again.  We will never forget the first time we said “I love you” to each other, and we knew it was unfiltered, heartfelt, authentic and sincere.  Little things mean the most to us, whether a loving and encouraging note or card, a call or text for no reason other than to say ‘I love you’, or the chance to hear the other’s voice.

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” – 1 Corinthians 13:7

What has helped guide us as we started dating and will continue in our marriage is having Guardrails in our relationship.  Andy Stanley did an excellent series on this subject, and as I thought about it even during the past seven years of being a single parent, I had Guardrails to honor myself.  I have learned being teachable through life enables growth.

February 4th, 2017, our wedding day. As I see the church door open on Saturday and see Angela walk down the aisle, my heart will skip several beats as she gets closer and closer.  My hand will reach for hers to have and to hold. Each time I see her, I think about the car door opening and her looking and running back for us to spend two more minutes together.  This time we have more than two minutes babe.

“Close Your Eyes…When your love pours down on me, I know I’m finally free, So I tell you gratefully,  Every single beat in my heart is yours to keep.”

From those two more minutes to forever….I love you Angela.

Ed

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | December 8, 2016

Do Less, Be More

do-less-be-more1“Come on gang, time to hit the road!”

“Be right back, need to get Zoe to horse back riding then will get dinner done. Don’t worry, will pick up some Yummy Milk (what Zoe calls Egg Nog)”

“Let’s see, any evenings free this month?”

Not in those exact words, however gives a sense of the hurriedness around my home at times and can be pronounced this time of year. I wonder if the people in original Christmas story ever dreamed that the celebration of Christ’s birth would become so hassled and hurried. Think the shepherds had some pageants to attend? Did the wise men get all their shopping trips done and gifts wrapped?  How about Mary and Joseph? Certainly there was a presence of being hurried, however I know when in the presence of a newborn I’m quite silent and settled, in awe of new life.

Having grown up without a memory of a white Christmas (weather on the equator in Singapore: sunny, hot, humid, chance of thunderstorms, repeat) did not spend much time dreaming of a white Christmas either.  What I do dream of is more time to do less; namely white space on my calendar.

At this time of year, the significance of the season gets crowded out.  There are people to see, things to do, and stuff to buy. All this overload can knock the ‘Have a holly jolly Christmas’ right out of our holidays.

Do you suffer from calendar overload? Has this scenario ever occurred:

Friend/Coworker/Family Member: “‘How are you?”

You: “Actually I’m not that busy, thank you.”

That’s what I thought, and applies year round.  We are busy, really busy. We work hard, make more, spend more, stay up late, getting up early and always on the go. Seems life is akin to a UPS advertisement, it is all about the logistics.  Unfortunately, this fast pace chase leaves us with less than enough energy, and can leave us tired, uninspired and ineffective. When you are parenting alone, it certainly takes energy.

What comes to mind this time of year is this, what if we had more time to do less? In other words, do less and be more. This is not so much of a calendar question, rather one for yourself.

Are you willing to do less and be more? Not just on the outside, but within?

I’m asking myself the same question.

How about less chaos, more calm; less heartache, more joy; less fear, more courage; less bitterness, more forgiveness; less comparison, more self-confidence; less self-centeredness, more service; less discord, more harmony; less anxiety, more rest; less judgment, more acceptance; less disappointment, more wonder; less greed, more generosity; less discontentment, more gratitude; less stress, more peace; less social media, more friendship; less email, more hand written notes; less smart phone, more communicating; less television, more books; less mindless spending, more passionate living; less distracted, more engaged; less catch-up, more planning; less caffeine, more exercise; less tension, more patience. (Great insights by Edie Wadsworth at Life in Grace‚ as part of a series on less and more).

When I honestly look at the above and attempt to answer, I have to admit in some cases I’m not willing.  However I want to be willing, which is a good place to start.

If I had been one of those shepherds that first Christmas standing in the stable outside Bethlehem, I would have been quiet and amazed.

Less talk, more settled, more silent, more awe, more wonder, more gratitude, more joy.

My life has been blessed with the recent engagement to my fiancé, Angela.  How we met and our stories are for another blog, yet we both know it is nothing we could have planned or foreseen.  One of the things I admire is her approach to each and every day, the importance of living in the present, making a difference through service, and memories with others; a zeal that is rarely seen.  Just last week she shared something with me that has reinforced how the normal things can be extraordinary given the right perspective.  In December 2011, she received a diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer and her odds of making it and living were much less than not. With that realization, she vividly remembers leaving the doctor’s office and hearing the sound of childrens laughter; it sounded so different to her after leaving that office, with the full realization of what she had to face.  As she took each month, week, and day as potentially her last, her ears heard more than just children laughing and it never sounded the same.

This got me thinking, rather than wish for what is on your Christmas list how about we look at the normal, everyday things that everybody already has.  Granted it may not be much, it could be just a drum, but we can use it play our song and then watch, wait, and listen.  How could our drums be used?

See how God can use the storms of your life for purpose and paying it forward for somebody else.

See how God can use your voice or words to speak words of encouragement, love, forgiveness, or hope to others.

See how God can use your arms and hands for acts of kindness toward others.

See how God can use your keen sense and discernment to observe the needs of others.

See how God can use an attentive ear to listen and be there for the pain and fear in the lives of others.

As The Day Everything Changed reminds us, we all can be the little drummer boy, and the most normal of things become miracles of God.

My Christmas wish is that in the midst of the holiday hustle and tasks, we could slow down and quietly appreciate the significance of Christmas and be refreshed by the company of the One whom the holiday is about.

Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time,

Ed

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