Strange, funny, true…

In July and August of 2005, after taking care of a sick relative for a long time financially, we found ourselves in a very bad situation. We were beginning to realize we would most likely lose everything, including our house.  We had made some decisions that were not so great, but were going to bounce back and survive. The house we were living in was always a negative for us, we were never happy there, didn’t like the neighborhood, yet always made the best of it. My Swedish grandmother, who was my best friend in the world, had died 7 years before, and I always felt that she communicated with me in different ways.

One of the ways was that whenever things were really hard, or felt bad, a cardinal would always appear near me,  often they even would look right at me, or I would hear them (more than normal, I believe). Cardinals were her favorite birds, she always loved them, had things around the house with them, etc. During this time they were showing up often, almost as if she was trying to lead me somewhere… Sounds crazy, I know, but I really believed this.

One day when I was running on the Minnehaha Parkway in South Minneapolis, I went a different direction than I normally do, towards Chicago Avenue. On the way, I saw cardinals EVERYWHERE… Usually you might see one or two, later I would take that as a sign.

On September 13th, when I realized there would be no option but for us to leave the house because it wasn’t selling and was just too expensive for us to hold onto, I went online to see if any homes not too far away were renting for a reasonable price. Ideally we were looking for a lease that would be at least 2 years if not more. I had looked briefly the previous day, but it was, I remember, on the 13th that we made the final decision to move, to let the house go if we had to, to rent somewhere. As it was, when I was looking online, a house had JUST come on, I think that day, and it was, ironically, what I would have described if asked to describe it, my perfect house. 

The next day, I called the number, we went to look at it and met you and Jessie.

We connected with you right away and kindness radiated from both of you. Of course we didn’t tell anyone our situation at the time, but when you called that night and said you wanted to rent to us we were thrilled. I should note, after mentioning September 13th, that that was my grandmother’s birthday.

The first morning in 4912 Elliot, the boys of course felt a little displaced in a new home, etc. We didn’t have our furniture yet, but walked into the dining room and sat on the rug on the floor. It was a beautiful morning, the sun spilled through the windows in the living room. We looked outside and the trees in the backyard were filled with cardinals!!!

I became very emotional, with all that had happened, the uncertainty, etc. and each day was better, each day in this house a blessing, and the whole family just fell in love with it.

Walking into the kitchen the first morning, I found your business card, on the back “Everything happens for a reason, it’s no accident…”

Strange, funny, true…

Thank you, Justin.

Mary

First Published on: December 10, 2007

Life is a series of experiences…

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching forward.”

– Henry Ford (1863-1946), American Inventor and Businessman

A dad’s EHFAR story…

Some moments in life grab hold of you. Sometimes these moments are life-changing, but for the most part they are simply reminders. Reminding us to be well, live life to its fullest, laugh just a little more and love each other.

A moment like this one had struck me in 2001. I was just finishing up my workout at a Health Club in downtown Minneapolis and felt energized with what I had accomplished that day. I was on my way to a better self.

While in the locker room, a man walked up to me and asked, “What does your tattoo mean?”

Having the tattoo for a few years on my shoulder, I was always anxious to tell others my story. The tattoo has a unique “pyramid shaped” symbol with the letters E H F A R underneath. I explained to him that it’s the acronym for EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON, and that it’s a philosophy I live by. I could tell he was pleasantly surprised as he responded with, “Way Cool!”. He went on to tell me that he had never heard of it before and that my explanation had made his day. The man went on his way and I was gleaming with pride. I felt that I may have made a little difference in someone that day.

The very next week at around the same time, I had just finished another workout. While opening up my locker, another man had come over to greet me and extended his hand. This is one of those moments I will never forget.

The soft-spoken man said, “You’re the EHFAR guy. I just want to say thank you.”

After a moment of confusion, I asked, “What do you mean?”

He explained that the week prior, he had overheard my conversation with the man asking me about my tattoo. He went on to share with me how EHFAR had changed him. After the man had overheard my story, he traveled to Rochester, Minnesota to see his son in the hospital. His son was at Mayo Clinic battling cancer and fighting for his life. He said that when he held his son that evening, he told his son that everything happens for a reason, and that there’s a reason for this. He strongly embraced his son and said, “We’re going to get through this.”

After hearing this, I could feel the presence of something amazing and great. After taking a moment to catch my breath, I asked, “How’s your son doing?”

He responded, “He’s still fighting, he’s a strong kid!”

You see, this small moment had actually moved onto another moment, giving a dad and his son a sign of hope. I don’t know where the dad and his son are today, but my sense is that he is where he’s supposed to be, and for a reason.

This was one of the stories that taught me EHFAR is powerful, much more than just an acronym. EHFAR has reach. It reminds us all to take a moment. We can all give people hope by sharing stories just like this one…wouldn’t it be great to hear their story first-hand?

First Published on: November 29, 2007

Just remember these 5 simple words…

The phrase Everything Happens for a Reason has always played a big role in my life. As far back as I can remember, I have lived by this philosophy and have found that I tend to associate myself with those that also live by this. It was not until my freshman year of college that I really learned its true meaning, and the power behind such a simple phrase. You see, it was during my first year of college that I was experiencing some difficulties adjusting to the college lifestyle. I was a human tackling dummy for the varsity football team and as a student; I was spending many late nights in the library doing homework that never seemed to end. It was also during this time that my economics professor set me up with an interview with a local financial institution for an internship. The interview went well and I was to start as an intern for this company as soon as the school year was up. Before I knew it, the school year was over and I was heading off to what was referred to as Intern University, where I was going to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to succeed in the business world. Sessions started early and ended late, but still I had to find time to make it to the gym to stay in shape for the following football season. I would have never of thought that going to the gym to condition for that next football season would change my perspective on life forever.

While there, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet another individual that had a passion for life and faith that few have. He stated that his tattoo was not only a symbol of what he believes, but also a lifestyle that he has chosen. The tattoo was simple but bold: EHFAR. It was that experience that allowed me to finally be able to put into words that despite how I am feeling at the time, that in the end, Everything Happens For A Reason.

After returning to school the following year I found myself writing this acronym in places that I knew would come with a lot of ups and downs. Whether it was on my football gloves or my chemistry syllabus, I knew that if I dropped a ball or missed a question on a test that I could look down at these letters, and know that it would only make me stronger.

Now over the years, I have seen many things that I can attribute to this philosophy including how I met my beautiful fiancé, the people that I have come to call my friends and countless others that have reinforced my belief in a higher power. I have learned that when life is getting tough and you are finding yourself questioning the meaning behind the trials and tribulations, just remember these five simple words that will get you through it all: Everything Happens for a Reason.

First Published on: November 7, 2007

The calling

We’ve all experienced the feeling of getting it. That math problem, crossword puzzle or the $1,000,000 question on Millionaire – the answer was simple. What if you thought that you had the answer to a bigger problem? What if it was a national or global problem? This is where I found myself recently.

Two years ago, my family experienced a life changing event. After doctoring for digestive problems all of her life, my wife just had surgery on her pancreas. She was told that she would eventually need a pacemaker implanted in her stomach and would also need a pancreatic transplant at some point. This was pretty harsh news for someone in their mid 20’s. Plus, this was coming from a highly acclaimed specialist – an expert! Who were we to question this diagnosis? My wife is an RN by trade, but she wasn’t a digestive tract expert. And me, I was educated in finance. How could we refute this diagnosis? Some of the problems that she had up to that point were: severe gastritis, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, hiatal hernia, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, dysfunctional gallbladder (which was later removed), paralyzed stomach and chronic pancreatitis. She was also suffering from migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome. Basically, her mid-section was sore/tender all of the time (more so after meals), she experienced migraine headaches weekly and she was tired most of the time. Whew!

Months after the surgery, the symptoms continued to persist. We figured that her specialist must be right and it was only a matter of time before that stomach pacemaker and eventual transplant would be needed. What happened next was nothing less than a miracle and has changed our lives forever. One day, a family member introduced us to a more natural way of eating. It was explained that the foods/liquids that we were consuming were having a negative impact on our lives and were contributing to these digestive problems. How could this be? We ate pretty healthy we thought, but at this point would give anything a try. I remember saying that we would give it a week. What did we do? We ate only meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and drank water. We avoided anything packaged, processed and anything with preservatives. It sounded pretty restrictive, but “it’s only for a week” I remember thinking.

After only a couple days of eating differently, my wife’s stomach was no longer tender. She was migraine free and no longer tired during the day. We were elated! We might not have yet been immediately convinced, but were thrilled. How could something so simple reverse years of ailments? Why didn’t the specialists just tell us to correctly modify our diet? Soon enough we were both convinced. Within a few months, she got off of all prescription medications and hasn’t been on anything since. Now, after over 2 years of following a better way of eating, none of her prior symptoms have returned.

Could it be that the health issues that plague many of us today (cancers, heart disease, obesity etc.) be avoided or reversed? How much of an effect does what you eat really have on your well being? This research has led me to create bewelldiet.com with the objective of explaining what to do and why. Are these simple concepts world-changing? Whatever your health issue may be – give eating better a try. You won’t regret it.

First Published on: December 17, 2007

PEOPLE COME INTO YOUR LIFE FOR A REASON

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person. When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real. But only for a season!

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
Thank you for being a part of my life, whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.

– Unknown

Woman of the Lake

My mother raised my sister and I all by herself.  She took on the roll of provider for over fifteen years.  During that time she sacrificed everything for us, including true love.  My sister and I both moved out and moved on to college and then careers of our own.  So, like so many things in life, when she was least expecting it mom finally feel in love.  Her beau was an unlikely character.  He was almost the polar opposite of mom, but somehow they worked perfectly.  Seven years ago they married, and every time I saw mom she glowed like I’d never remembered.  Then tragedy struck….

In Fall of 2007 my stepfather was injured in a motorcycle accident.  I was one of the first phone calls my mother made.  You could just tell her heart was broken.  For more than a week I drove hundreds of miles round trip to be there with mom.  After a week he finally passed.  Like any person who has gone through a loss, she was scared, confused, and genuinely empty from head to toe.  All my sister and I could think was how unfair it was that the woman who was so deserving of all the love she found was left alone.

The day of the funeral arrived.  Friends and family from the country came together.  Afterwards a small group of family came together at the house on the lake.  It was late fall and the water was icy cold.  I jumped into the lake anyway.  You’d have to know my mom to understand how shocked I was when I heard her running down the dock behind me.  Still dressed in her finest church clothes, she did a cannonball into the lake.  I’ll never forget how she floated on her back in that freezing cold water and screamed, “Lord, I can feel my soul.”

In the months that have passed, mom has slowly healed from losing the love of her life.  She will never forget the happiness he brought into her life; how quickly he came into her life and how quickly he left.  As I pondered on the “everything happens for a reason” topic, I can’t help but imagine that the educational program my mom is now developing on the importance of wearing a motorcycle helmets is encouraged by the love she shared.

First Published on: March 12, 2008

Sometimes the fate of life drives too fast…

“You feel quiet and overcome by the emotions withheld from in, forget the morel obligation to which you stand for… Nonetheless stand for what you believe. Dream the dream and achieve THE what you deserve. You are one with one so I know the feelings you deal with. I love you, you’re a friend for life, and you’re the bomb!”

– Andy Fields, Principal (Lifelong Friend)

I am with you.

Norris, who was a nature artist and bow hunter, had died 5 years earlier.  Now we were putting his wife in a hospice. It was North Memorial residential hospice. Each room in this hospice has a picture window that faces a lake and the beds are positioned to take in this view. Not more than an hour after we settled her in her bed, a beautiful eight point buck came up and stared at her window. The nurses said that they had seen many doe, but never a buck. The buck gracefully walked away and we did not see him again. Two weeks later, the nurse woke us (by now we were by her side day and night) and told us that it would be within the hour that she would leave us. Less that thirty minutes later she took her last breath. It was 1:48 a.m. At 2:00 a.m. a buck (the same buck?) came into the yard. There was a light snow and that buck just held his head high. He stayed with us for two hours while we grieved and took our own deep breathes as it had been a long struggle. We told the nurses that they could call the mortuary, and the buck walked away. We are confident that Norris had come to take the love of his life. Now, two weeks ago in this year 2007, an eight point buck stood in our back yard, in Golden Valley! It had been ten years since Norris died. We are confident that he is in a good and beautiful place.

First Published on: December 28, 2007