DucksFamily . . . don’t we just love them? Well, most of the time, even if there are some times when they flat-out drive us crazy! That’s normal, because we are so close to them they know what buttons to push and when to push them. I don’t want to focus on what they do to drive us crazy but instead on why we love them so much.

Family . . . they know our history. Good or bad, they know all about us: when we were born, where we were born, our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and all the other details of our life. The schools, neighborhoods, sports we played, clubs we belonged to and, seemingly, everything else about us.

Family . . . they know our religious background, education level and political views. They know if we’re conservative, liberal or moderate and why.

Family . . . they know if we’ve been married and how many times, who we hang out with and many of the other choices we’ve made throughout our lives.

Family . . . they know what career paths we’ve chosen and how long we’ve been at each. The reasons we changed course and why. Basically, our family knows more about us collectively than anyone else, and they really care about us!

Recently, I went to a family reunion and visited with family I hadn’t seen for over ten years. The oldest was my uncle, who is eighty-eight, and the youngest was a third cousin, four months old. It was great to see them and catch up on what’s happened in their lives the last decade. I’m ashamed to say that for one of my cousins, who traveled in from Colorado, I didn’t even know the names of his children or that he had become a grandpa. Everyone shared pictures and events, reminiscing for hours and laughing to the point of tears. The day flew by in what seemed minutes, not hours, and after hugs and kisses we promised we would do better at staying in touch the next decade than the previous one, parted and went our separate ways. It was an awesome day, one I won’t forget for a long time.

Family . . . don’t take them for granted, because we all age and someday they’ll all be gone. You can pick your friends, careers and many other things in life, but you can’t pick your family, and that’s a good thing!

Don’t procrastinate till it’s too late to pick up the phone and call that uncle or aunt, brother or sister, mom or dad, or even that cousin. Remind them how much you care, and don’t wait for an event to stir you to show your love. All families have issues, special circumstances and conflicts, but “We are family”: we forgive, forget and have unconditional love!

Family . . . it’s your family; make it the best family!

The Best Present – Depression Recovery Guide

My best present? I’m in my fifties, so I’ve had many birthdays and Christmases where I received gifts, and I received some very nice ones, so this may be difficult. Was it the pellet gun? toolbox? clothes? vacation? ping-pong table? The more I think about it, there isn’t one that stands out as the best. Maybe because gifts are just stuff. Yes, they’re fun to dream about having and when you unwrap them and hold them. But after a few days or weeks the newness wears off and they become possessions. They blend in with all the other gifts or items you’ve collected over the years and fall into the category of just stuff. Then after time they move from your bedroom to the closet to the basement or garage till one summer day you decide it’s time to include them in your annual garage sale where you sell them for a dollar or two. The items go from having meaning because they were given to you by someone special to the graveyard of meaningless stuff to be sold for a pittance because they’ve outlived their purpose.

I definitely have special moments in my life that fall into the category of great blessings, and I would say that they were gifts, like my wife. I don’t possess her or anything like that; however, I still remember the day she walked down that aisle in a white dress, smiling and willing to say “I do” when the minister asked her about becoming my wife. Consider her a gift? I don’t want to minimize her value, but I do thank God for bringing her into my life, and since God created her, and I was fortunate enough to meet her, I believe she has been a gift from God and therefore most precious. The blessings continue with two additional gifts, my son and daughter, and I thank God often for both of them. So, several of the best presents I ever received don’t fall into the category of any “stuff” but instead the family that God has blessed me with, a wife and two children.

How does a guy like me deserve to be so blessed? First of all, I don’t deserve anything so special; second, I don’t believe in fate or luck. So how did I happen to be so fortunate? I’m this fortunate or blessed because of the best and greatest gift ever given or received by anyone: the gift of salvation. I received this gift way back in August of 1975 when I realized I was lost and needed salvation from my sins to receive eternal life. I was only eighteen years old, confused and hungering to learn the meaning of life. When I heard about the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, a lightbulb went on in my head, my heart felt heavy from sin and I realized the solution to my confusion was repentance, acceptance and faith. I repented of my sins, asked Jesus Christ for forgiveness, accepted Him as my Savior and believed that God created the world and gave his son Jesus for the remission of sins and that He would give me eternal life. That day Jesus Christ came into my heart and changed my life. The best and greatest present I ever received was the gift of eternal life from God that August in 1975, the gift that continues to give every day, week, month and year! God is my Heavenly Father, Jesus is my Savior and Brother. And every day has value and is worth living because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.

My greatest gift can become your greatest gift if you will pray and ask Jesus into your life. Repent of your sins, accept Jesus as your personal Savior and believe! You will become a new creature in Christ, and old things, habits and bad stuff will pass away. You will have a fresh start!


Dream Big

So often, due to our circumstances, we limit our future. I remember applying for a job right after college with a major financial institution. The job I was applying for was an entry-level sales position, and the sales manager asked me what type of work my family was engaged in and other questions related to my background. Where did my mother and father work, what about my aunts and uncles, where did I attend high school and where did I live? Did my family belong to any country clubs? I remember leaving the interview with an attitude of defeat. Later, the sales manager said my family, friends and circle of potential clients was too weak for their business model, so they would have to pass on hiring me. They used my socio-economic status as a measure of my abilities. Their mistake. I’m still here and they’re no longer in existence. (I’m not bitter. LOL.) I was twenty-five, married and had just gotten my college degree, I was excited and couldn’t wait to launch my career and here’s this guy telling me that because of my circle of family and friends, I wasn’t qualified. I felt defeated and angry at the same time! My dream of being a successful financial planner had gone up in smoke. That was 1982; our country was going through some difficult times and I was collateral damage. At another job interview shortly after that first one, I went through the whole process, meeting with four or five people, but was rejected for lack of enough education. I didn’t struggle with this rejection for long but moved on and eventually was hired by a different company.

At the time, I was frustrated, discouraged and depressed; however, I continued to look for work. I wasn’t going to let circumstances throw cold water on my dreams. DREAM BIG! In hindsight, that first job gave me the necessary training and business relationships that I’ve benefited from over the years. Don’t let your current circumstances throw cold water on your dreams. Dream big! Your persistence will be rewarded. Sometimes dreams require sacrifice, but it will be worth it. If it’s good, healthy and legal, chase after it with everything you have and you will not be disappointed.