Saturday, March 27, 2010

Phoenix Part 12- Trip to New Orleans and a trip to St. Louis that was 100% meant for Father's Day

So it was just after my 29th birthday in February 2009 and my wife and I left for New Orleans. I was going there for our 2009 GM Conference. She was coming because almost all of my extended family lives in Louisiana. A lot of them were not able to come to the wedding so a huge blessing that the GM conference was in New Orleans.

We stayed with my dad's mom in New Orleans two nights and my mom's mom in Shreveport for one night. I had not seen them in years so it was great to see them as well as introduce Stephanie to them.

We had a blast hanging out downtown when I was not in meetings and Stephanie loved walking around shopping when I was in meetings. We ate a lot of great food (We have tried making beignets a few times since and it is just not the same) and saw a lot of historical sites.

After our conference had ended, we took a trip with a buddy of mine and fellow GM with some family friends around where Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city. We took no pictures because pictures were not needed or desired. It was crazy to see the destruction that was still there 3.5 years later. Blocks and blocks of empty homes, destroyed homes. I saw my great aunt house in the lower ninth ward. It was crazy just to be down in the area knowing what had happened and the lives that were changed and even lost. My great aunt has been from home to home after the hurricane before getting settled in a retirement community, where she is today.

We got back from New Orleans and everything went back to normal. We decided to go to St. Louis for Father's Day to spend some time with my side of the family. I had remembered to email the HR Director at my friend's company and did so letting her know I would be in town. She agreed to a time to meet.

We got into town on a Wednesday night and I met with the HR Director on that Thursday afternoon. I thought it was just going to be a chance to get my name out there and if something came up down the road, they would let me know. She let me know that a position had just opened up within the past week for a Manager on Duty position at their busiest hotel right across the street from Busch Stadium. She wanted me to go meet with their HR Director the following day, which I did.

I had a total of three interviews for the position while I was there. We came back to Phoenix and had two more phone interviews when I got back. Just after the 4th of July, I got an offer on the job. Stephanie was leaving the following day for Little Rock to visit her mom. After a few days of talks, I agreed to the position on a Friday afternoon. I called Stephanie to tell her and she was stoked and glad that we were able to work things out. She wanted to trump my news and man did she!

Phoenix Part 13- The time has come to say goodbye and oh yeah, the news!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Phoenix Part 11- Wedding(s) all over and possibly the feeling to move away?

We had quite a run of weddings going, including ours in the fall of 2008. It started when one of my best friends was getting married in St. Louis. When came back in town for her wedding and of course tried to see as many people as possible. We had a blast at the wedding and the reception felt like a high school reunion. I ran into guys I had not seen in 10 years. We flew back to Phoenix on a Saturday and then on the following Thursday morning, we started the drive from Phoenix to Albuquerque for another wedding. This was for a buddy who I knew since I was in the 7th grade. A great wedding and a great weekend. I got to see people I knew from college and St. Louis as well. As we drove back to Phoenix, me and the future wife realized the next wedding was ours.

There was never a time that I felt nervous leading up to the wedding or anything. The final week I had to crash on my buddies couch as Stephanie needed to move in a week before the wedding. Was not a big deal for me other than I missed my new Marriott Bed!

The wedding was such a great day! Gorgeous November Phoenix day. We were surrounded by a lot of great family and friends. I got to pull off a great surprise for the wife (see My Valentine Blog). It was such a blur but that day I will remember forever!

We went to the Cayman Islands for the honeymoon. I think we fell in love with the island and have talked about going back in about 5 years. Amazing experience down there and this time, we are going to make it to StingRay Island. No hurricane will stop us this time!

About two weeks after the honeymoon, we flew back to St. Louis for the final wedding of four weddings in two months. Colder day than our wedding (it was St. Louis in December) but a great wedding. It was at a gorgeous church to say the least!

We got back to Phoenix and were able to take a breath. We spent Christmas in San Diego and had a great view of San Diego Bay. It was a great weekend to spend our first Christmas. The first Christmas Dinner, well I think I could have done better. I had worked during the day and the we left to San Diego. We got in around 9pm and tried to find a place open for dinner. The place we were able to find: Carl's Jr. Once we got the front of drive-thru, we saw a Sizzler was open. Not much better, but better than drive thru.

I was beginning to prepare for a trip to New Orleans for work when I was doing some thinking. Stephanie and I had begun to talk about where we were looking to live in the future and we both felt that Phoenix was not the final spot for us. Since the first time she visited St. Louis, she loved the town. I was hoping for the Midwest but she was shooting for St. Louis. I was talking to my friend Kristi (first wedding in our four wedding extravaganza) and she was telling me about a hospitality company her uncle worked for in St. Louis. I checked out the website and sent out my resume to their HR Director. She told me that if I was ever in St. Louis, to let her know and we would sit down.

Phoenix Part 12- Trip to New Orleans and a trip to St. Louis that was 100% meant for Father's Day

Monday, March 15, 2010

What a week, but How Great is our God??????

I will go ahead and apologize if this blog seems to ramble on but man what a week this was. It began on Tuesday evening, March 9, 2010. After working a full day, I came home to pick up the wife and we were to begin our journey to expand our family. We picked up my mother-in-law at the airport and met my parents for dinner. I think we were all feeling the excitement and ready for an exciting 24 hours.

We got Stephanie settled in the hospital room around 9pm. The grandparents to be decided to head out for the evening as we all knew this was going to take several hours for the process to get going. They started the inducing around 11pm, that I remember. The nurse was having an issue trying to draw blood from Stephanie and Stephanie was in obvious pain. I tried to calm her by rubbing her face; however, what I did next, I think did not help her out at all. I passed out and in doing so, I slammed my head on the ground. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU after going through a CT scan the night before. I went in for another CT scan at 1pm and the results were not good. Apparently, a blood clot was beginning to develop on the brain and brain surgery was going to be needed immediately. I lost it and began to cry. My father lost it as well. My mom had to get down to Stephanie's room to tell her what was going on. As the doctor was giving us the news, an associate pastor of our church came in to the room. Talk about some major intervention for us! The doctor left and it was just my dad, myself and the pastor. He went right to scripture and started reading. He read us Psalm 34, which partially states,
"1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears" (NIV)

As I sat there realizing I was going to be going into brain surgery, I could only focus on how Great and awesome our God was. Many who know me understand how much music means to me and how powerful songs can be. The one that came to mind as I was being wheeled down to surgery was Chris Tomlin's How Great is our God.

They wheeled me past Stephanie's room and I realized that this was the hardest part of my life. When the doctor tells you death can be a result, holy cow do things change! I told her I loved her and that I would see her soon. I can only imagine what this whole thing was doing to her but man she is a strong woman! I have such an amazing amount of admiration for her and her strong faith.

Surgery lasted just over an hour and was a complete success. They passed the information along to my parents and of course to Stephanie. When I woke up, holy cow did I feel better! I got wheeled up to my room and came into a room full of friends and family. From a college roommate to family friends of over 25 years, it was overwhelming. And then I see my phone blowing up with Facebook messages and texts from people from all over. All of these people, whether present in the room or praying from all over will never know the impact the thoughts and prayers had on us. It is overwhelming to even think about it.

Oh, and the day was not over! A baby was needing to make his arrival.

The nurses worked to get me into the delivery room for the big moment. I can never say enough about the nurses and doctors at St. Clare's Hospital in Fenton, MO. Simply amazing!! I got wheeled in there around 1:45am March 11. The wife was pushing and pushing. The drugs had worn off on her and she was still going. At 2:15am, Cameron Andrew Young made his entrance into the world. He was then cleaned off and weighed. The room went nuts when the weight came across: 10lbs, 3 ounces. I have to take full responsibility for that one. I had to leave soon after the picture above was taken but I think the grandparents stayed with that baby as long as they could.

I have started to have a chance and look back and think about last week. It makes me smile, laugh, and cry. But most importantly, it has made me realize one thing that I knew going into my surgery: How Great is our God????? Simply amazing. He was crying with our family going into that surgery. He was holding my wife as I was being wheeled away from her. He was giving to comfort over me as I am seeing Cameron coming into this world.

"You're the name above all names. You are worthy of our praise. And my Heart will sing, how Great is our God." (voice of Chris Tomlin, the heart of many.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words!

The picture was taken by my then fiancé now wife when we came in for a friends' wedding in October 2008. It was a gorgeous day and was really looking forward to riding with my dad. He had been biking for several years up to this point and he has done several races and is addicted to biking. It is great exercise but also an awesome quiet time too, which as we all know, is rare and so treasured the older we get.

The ride was great. Awesome weather and even better company. But I look back at that day, especially that picture and it makes me smile and appreciate the picture. I think the reason I appreciate it more has everything to do with me becoming a father to a baby boy in the next few days.

You see, I have always been in awe of my father. Not just how he worked hard at everything he did or how he raised us to be Bible fearing men who respected women. But he has always been there for me no matter how hard life has been at times. You see him in the picture seemingly waiting for me to get on the bike and get going. But if you look at him, he is not yelling at me or disappointed that I am already starting behind. He is waiting.

He waited on me many, MANY times in life. Whether it was to learn a lesson or to understand what I was reading in a History book or an English book in high school. He waited on me and helped me through tough times in college. He waited for me to settle down and meet the woman of my dreams (okay so he waited for a decent amount of time on that one.). Then he waited patiently to become a grandfather for the first time.

One of the most memorable times that he showed such a great love for me was one of the toughest times in my life. It was on a Sunday afternoon in May 2000 and I had learned that a close friend had passed away. It was the first time I had ever gone through something like that and did not know what to do. I came home that Sunday afternoon after talking with friends and he was up in the circle of the neighborhood they live. He saw me pull up and almost ran to my car. We sat in the middle of the neighborhood crying. I have rarely seen my father cry and for him to show that emotion for his son, especially in a public setting, was a big thing.

My father definitely had to be patient with me many times throughout the years. I was not a patient kid growing up; however, I learned from him the importance of being patient. I see that everything he taught me growing up was to be honorable to God and family. He also taught me humility and that a good father, comes with a great wife. Without that great supporter in your life, it is very tough to get through tough times with a family. I am starting to get that now after only being married for just over a year with a baby on the way. The baby is not even here and I am understanding this. What my wife has been through over these last nine months has taught me even more patience that was taught to me before hand.

What makes the picture even better is that is not the picture my wife loves. She loves the following picture below. The other picture was more accidental than anything. But the picture taught me something else too. My father taught me to be a Bible fearing man who followed after God in every aspect of life.

In the picture, I am chasing my physical father here on Earth. I am also chasing after my Father in heaven. He has always been there for me in every aspect in my life. He has shown a great unconditional love for me and I know I can go to Him at anytime to ask for His love.

You know how I know that? My father taught me that. I have a lot to live up to for my baby boy. But I know I got my fathers to back me up. I always have.

Phoenix Part 9: Heartache and how God taught us to respond.

So we had been blessed with getting married and the wife had started to plan everything (correct, all I needed to do was show up). We had booked our flights to the Grand Cayman Island for our honeymoon. We had found a place for the wedding as well; however, that was a major change in itself.

Stephanie and I had met at a church in Phoenix as described before in previous blog entries. She had long been involved there before I arrived in Phoenix. We were both helping out in different areas at the church when we started dating and when we were engaged. We looked to see if we could have the wedding at the church; however, at the time, they had Saturday evening service and we would only be able to do a wedding there early in the day. If anything knows anything about my wife and my mother, they are not part of the morning crowds! So, the search was on!

We took a look at a few churches and had meetings set up. My mother sent me a website of a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church about 2 miles from where I was living. After dropping Stephanie off at her place one Saturday afternoon, I went over to the church to take a look. I walked inside and did not see anyone; however, I heard a piano playing. I went inside the sanctuary and talked to a man in there for about 10 minutes about the church and when their services were. They only had Sunday services so Saturday would work for us! We wanted to see how the church looked with people in there so we decided to come back the next morning for service.

We went to service the next morning. The songs were slower in pace then what we were used to but the message of the music was there. Then came the sermon, a sermon I will remember until the day I die. The pastor got up to preach and he started to talk about how his father had passed away recently and that he had buried him just the day before. Crazy time to visit a church for a wedding. Then he started to speak from Genesis 49-50 and I nearly lost it. It talks about how Joseph's father, Jacob, had passed and how he wept uncontrollably. He described about crying not being a bad thing but that it means that when we cry for someone that has passed along, it shows how much they meant to us while they were here.

So we walked out of the service knowing we were being called to not just get married at this church, but to start attending this church. I think our exact words after minutes of silence were "Uh oh." We wanted to be fair and go back to the church we met at and see how their Sunday service was as we were looking to get involved with the youth there. To sum it up: That Sunday service was not good at all. It was saddening to know we were leaving and to know we were leaving the church were we met so many people, including each other. But God's plans are so much greater and trying to understand why God does what He does is fruitless.

We had to tell the respective groups we were involved or leading that we were moving on to another church and I can pretty much say that we very emotional at that time. About ready to get married and we are making a big decision about leaving a church we had become so entrenched. God challenges us at so many times. How do we respond? Do we keep pushing through and ignore clear signs from Him or do we drop everything and say I will follow? I admit that I have tried to push through the challenges instead of allowing God to carry me through those times. But when the mountains get greater, God presents himself in a bigger way to us.

We got through this time with both of us trusting that God had a plan for us and how we could still serve Him. But another MAJOR challenge arose. Would Stephanie and I respond the same way and allow God to carry us or were we going to bully through it.

Phoenix Part 10: Challenges are so much tougher when it involves family!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What is home?

Today was an interesting day. I went to Best Buy to get a radio for my office at work. After leaving Best Buy, I stopped by a gym that partners with our hotel so the guests can work out there for free. I got the tour of the whole place, and became interested on how much it would cost for me to be a member.

As I was leaving, I saw someone that looked familiar and we looked at each other in shock. It was a buddy of mine from grade school and whom I played baseball against in high school. He was a personal trainer at the gym we work with and his older brother runs the gym too. I sat and talked with them for quite awhile catching up on things. It had been maybe about 15 years since I last saw him.

As I was leaving and we told each other we would contact each other soon, he said something to me that struck me. He told me, "Oh and welcome home Travis." I had told him I moved to Phoenix for a few years where I met my wife and got into a "career" and had moved back at the end of July. It got me thinking, What is home?

I remember last June when I was in for Father's Day. I had interviewed with what became my new company a few weeks later. This song kept going through my head. The song is Home by Switchfoot. There is a line in the song that always strikes me and I almost lose it listening to it.
It goes:

And now after all
My searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I got a brand new mindset
I can finally see
The sunset
I'm gonna call it home

I was thinking, being from St. Louis, this is where God has led me and my wife, and soon to be son. My wife and I did not feel led to stay in Phoenix, as good as the town had been to us. Stephanie really wanted to move to St. Louis; however, I thought it was her head leading her over our hearts. Man was I wrong. She was God showing me where we supposed to go.

Being in St. Louis these past 7+ months has showed me where home is, and no it is not St. Louis. It is the people that surround you and love you. And the person who loves you the most in this life is not your wife or husband or mother or father. They may love you like crazy and with their whole hearts, but it is the tiniest amount compared to how much our Father in heaven loves you. He is the father that can show you your eternal home, which is where I belong.

Switchfoot's chorus for Home is:

This is home
Now I'm finally
Where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching
For a place of my own
Now I've found it
Maybe this is home
Yeah, this is home

I have no doubt that this job (now jobs) that have come about for me here in St. Louis was God's answer to many prayers from several people, I am sure my mom is in that crowd. The question is though, Where is your home? Is it a place? Is it with someone you deeply love?

One day we are all going to pass from this life. All of the possessions we have earned and all the awards will stay here. We are going to be asked by the Father above a series of questions. When He asks me those questions, I cannot wait for the moment he tells me "Welcome home my good and faithful son."