Intentional

I got a ticket yesterday. It's the first one I've had since I went flying down the freeway 15 years ago in one of the most powerful cars around back then...yes, I had a Honda CRX. 78 mph, by the way. But that's not the point.

I was pulled over for running a red light (arrow) turning left to pick the boys up after work. It was dark, I was thinking, and I was late. You know how the person in front of you thinks he can make it so you think you can too? Evidently the policeman immediately behind me didn't think I should have tried, and halfway through the turn I saw red, white and blue flashing lights. Ugh...

Three things, no wait, four things came of it.

  1. I was even more late picking up the boys.
  2. I now owe someone some money.
  3. I had an interesting conversation with a young (and newly married) policeman about being married and why he wasn't "dumb" for getting married as he initially expressed to me. (Does anyone else think it's funny/odd that he started a conversation with me about being married?) And,
  4. I was reminded that I need to be intentional about everything I do.

Intentional is a really great word. It means I need to have a purpose in mind for everything I do in life. A goal. A mission. I need to know beforehand that I will not run a red light. Doing so is impulsive and plays to my more aggressive side...the competitive one inside me. He's not so bad sometimes, but he tends to be the one who gets in trouble.

God is showing me that there are a lot of things I've allowed to begin to control my life. I can blame the life of a single parent with full-time custody of two amazingly beautiful/horribly crazy boys, but that's a joke. According to the Bible, God knew how my every day would turn out before I was formed in the womb. And He says I should worry about nothing, but instead seek His kingdom and righteousness, for there is where He will provide all I need to get through the storms of life.

I can feel trapped in a routine that feels as if it will never change or improve, but then I would miss out on opportunities like the one I had tonight to let the boys go off by themselves and play an arcade game for a few minutes while I ate dinner. I would miss seeing them grow into the extraordinary men they are certain to become. And why? Because it's hard? Thomas Jefferson lost three of his children and his wife, yet still helped form the government on which America stands today. Abraham Lincoln lost his mom when he was eleven, slept on dirt for all of his early years, and lost nearly every election in which he ran, yet he turned out to be the best president this country has seen. I guess the point is that many more people have lived and are living through tougher circumstances than we do, and all of them reached higher than themselves and accomplished great and amazing things. I think it's partly because they intended to. They never gave up.

Neither should we.

Life can be difficult, that's true. But we live on the good side...the side where God says be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go. The side where God says anything is possible with His help. The side that never loses hope. That's a good side. I'm on that side. Thank God, I'm on that side. : )

So yeah, I did it. I ran the light. And I do believe in accountability. I may end up paying a fine, but I may also stand before someone (is it a judge I will see?), admit to it and place myself at the mercy of the court...you never know what God will do, right?

I'll keep you posted. Until then, I'm back.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Unexpected so far...



I ran across some older pictures of Jeseca and the boys a few days ago. I was doing some work for my mom's new business on her computer, and as I searched for logo files I'd made for her, up these came. This must have been around the time of our 10th anniversary... Her eyes could penetrate your soul. I see Christian becoming so much like her every day (see the last picture). And he's so proud that he has his mom's eyes. It makes him smile every time he hears it...well, it's more like watching the sun rise in the morning than a smile. He beams.

It was a really odd night, though. After the Chargers beat the Colts (sorry Pop) we channeled up and ran into Sleepless in Seattle. We hit it right when Tom Hanks was describing on the radio how long it had been since his wife/his son's mom died. "About a year and a half ago..." Everen said, "Hey, that's just like us." We sat watching for the next few minutes, all of us wondering what was coming next. Nothing significant happened, but it was really strange timing.

2009 has begun so much differently than I thought it would. One thing I'm pleased about is the start I've made in a new devotional. And what I study each day I read to the boys each night, so in a way, they're doing a daily devotional with me. It's very sweet. And I pray we'll stay committed to it. I know it will be so rewarding.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Another Year Goes By

I watched life change before me today. It's been happening a lot lately, but today's scene weighed on my heart and mind, and showed me that life continues to run its course.

Christian got a new bike for Christmas. He desperately needed it. His older bike was fit for a 4-year-old and wreaked of rust as he rode by. So getting a brand new, much larger red bike for Christmas was a big deal. He loves it and has taken it for a spin each day since he saw the red bow wrapped around its handlebars under the tree. But today was the first time since we moved that a neighborhood kid has come cruising by and asked if they wanted to ride along.

When I heard them ask, I was so happy for the boys. To my surprise, Everen said they couldn't because they weren't allowed. (Boy did I feel like an overprotective dad...) I assured them that it would be alright if they stayed within my line of sight. Another protest came. "But dad, they're riding around the block." Decisions, decisions...... I looked at the group of kids...they looked responsible enough. So I gave them permission and off they went down the street and around the block. Three laps under my watchful eye (hey, this is Southern California...anything can happen here) and I suddenly realized that they're growing up and becoming more independent. It was as if God was lifting scales from my eyes and showing me that I have no control over the ebbs and flows of life. It just rolls on. And as it does, my role and my life change again and again.

2008 has been an interesting year, to say the least. I've gone from mourning to coping to becoming myself again...just Jon. My job became the demanding position it was two years ago. Add to that a contributing role to SingleDad.com, after-school care, tutoring, ARTS, and a great fitness routine and I'm nearly spent.

One of my biggest disappointments has been the distance I put between myself and the Man who ransomed my life and saved me from my foolishness and pride many years ago. I became busy this year. Sure, that happens to single parents, but if I'm gonna be honest with myself, I have no one to blame but the man I see in the mirror each morning. My heart didn't change, but the time I committed to growing in that most important relationship went down considerably. I want it back. I need it back.

I have many things on my mind and on my heart now. Take your pick and it's probably there. More than anything else, though, is my desire to become the man God wants me to be. It seems so unattainable sometimes; so far out of reach. And frankly, do I really know what He wants me to be anyway? I aspire to greatness, to be sure. But why? Only God knows.

And that, my friends, is what I've learned most of all this year. Only God truly knows. My life is really not about me. Yes, I have choices to make on a daily basis...how do I react to this or that? But in the end, those choices are merely a reflection of how I choose to participate in the master plan God set in motion when time began. And He knows that if I will simply follow His lead and direction, the impact I will make on this world will match up with the expectations He had for me when He gave me life 37 years ago.

So in 2009, I will do a better job at asking Him for directions.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

The Curb at Jamba Juice

The boys and I went to Jamba Juice the other day as a reward for cleaning their room and preparing to give away a number of toys and stuffed animals...big ones...to children at Children's Hospital. We rode our bikes, which appeared to be treat enough, and as we arrived, twisted our bikes together in the bike rack just outside the store. Ordering was traditional in that neither one of them knew if they wanted a bar to snack on or a smoothie...

So with drinks and bars in hand, Christian and Everen decided it was best to find a sunny spot on the curb rather than sit at any of the six empty tables outside. Of course I agreed and stood over them as they watched car after car run over my head (my shadow extended well into the street). And that's when it hit me.

I watched them having fun together, laughing at every car that rolled over my shadow-head, and I realized that we are incomplete. I really saw it. They don't have someone to tickle them any more, at least not in that sweet way only a woman knows. They don't have someone they can curl up with and feel the tenderness in their souls. They have me and the memory of a mother's kiss on the cheek. It hurts to see them in that light.

Two months ago, at one of our four counseling sessions with Monica, we played a game of Jenga, and on each of the pieces was a question ending in an elipses. You know: "I remember when..." We went around a few times, and then Everen got the piece that said, "I'm envious of..." After I explained what "envious" meant, he responded with something I'll always remember...

"I'm envious of all of the kids at school who have a mom and a dad." It was tough to hear him say that, but at least he could.

I recognized it when he said it, but it was the glance at two kids on the curb at Jamba Juice that really drove it home for me. We have a broken home.

So I ponder the choices before me. What do I pursue? And why? What would be best for the boys? Why? Only God truly knows. I just need to fall back in line and quit trying to figure things out. That, I'm finding, is the curse of my personality type. Throwing a baseball was so much easier...

Dear God, please lead me again. I will follow. You say to cast my cares on you, and that your burden is light. May that be true tonight for three Graves boys.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Compassion

Prop 8 passed. I'm pleased more about that than anything else from the election. Frankly, it's all that really mattered to me. But my heart has been heavy all day for the homosexual couples who were married earlier this year (I know two of them). I read this afternoon that with the passing of Prop 8 will be the request to nullify all of those relationships stamped with marriage certificates from the State of California. It has nothing to do with religion or state, the definition of marriage or anything else political. I just feel for those men and women who formed what they thought would be a permanent, binding pact with each other and will suddenly find themselves in limbo. Imagine how you would feel if your marriage was no longer recognized by the state, or if someone tore up your marriage certificate...

That's the predicament we face as Christians: Doing our best to fight for what we believe in, and then dealing with the fallout with love and grace. I have friends who are probably devastated as a result of the passing of Prop 8. Not friends who sympathized with gay couples...gay friends who were directly affected by this. It's them. It's knowing that they are hurt, mad, sad, confused... And it's knowing that they will probably look at me with disdain or disappointment.

Living as a follower of Christ has its challenges, doesn't it? This is why Jesus said the world will look upon us and hate us, because it first hated him.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Our Costume Party

Well at this point I'd say trick-or-treating is overrated. You really can't beat hosting your own costume party and having guests like this come over.


Seriously, when compared to the alternative of celebrating Halloween and all that it implies, I was delighted to host a costume party for the boys and their friends. It was safe, they got a lot of candy from the parents, and we all had a great time. Quasimodo, also known as my brother Mike, was a riot, and a huge hit with everyone. Thanks, Bro, for being so great. And, yes, the song you wrote while I was cleaning up was awesome!

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Yes on Prop 8

I had a dream four years ago as I contemplated entering the political arena. I was driving down a one-way highway in the middle of the desert headed toward a mountain range somewhere in America, and in front of me was a jubilant crowd of people keeping all other traffic behind them from passing. As I got closer, I noticed that they were wearing hats -- the hats people wear at political conventions, decorated with red, white and blue stripes and stars -- and they were celebrating excitedly. It struck me as odd, and I was curious. Then I realized somehow that everyone in the group was gay. There was much more to the dream, but I'll spare you...

As we in California face the real possibility that marriage will be redefined, I have to take a stand for what I believe. As much as I respect those I work with and know in the homosexual lifestyle, I have to vote Yes on Prop 8. I'm doing it for two very special young boys...

You see, it's not really about marriage. All of the rights and benefits of traditional marriage have already been granted to homosexual couples in this state via civil unions. It goes much deeper than that, and drives at the heart of religious freedom and freedom of speech. For more information about it, visit ProtectMarriage.com, ProtectMarriageCA.com or iProtectMarriage.com. You can also watch this video called Prop 8 in Plain English.

In the end, if Prop 8 fails, it appears we'll have quite a time fighting for our kids in the future, and may even find it difficult to speak freely (read the article in the Gay People's Chronicle). It's real, everyone.

Vote Yes on Prop 8.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

Creative cleaning

Yes, this may be cheesy, but it served its purpose tonight. Welcome to Boys in the House, the Graves Boys' new reality TV show where two contestants and the show's producer are learning to live life cleaner.

And if you haven't yet seen what RJ, Jesse and I are trying to do at SingleDad.com, have a look at our Oprah segments... Can you imagine three single dads on Oprah? Lord, help us.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

A Little Heart's Cry

As I waited outside the boys' tutoring center this evening watching their friends and former karate buddies spill out of the dojo, I couldn't help but lose heart for the boys. School has become their occupation, and homework their recreation. And I have to admit that I hate it.

So tonight we broke home policy and watched a movie on a school night. And after I tucked them in bed, I felt a tug at my heart to visit this blog again. Not knowing what to write or how to start, I thought of the boys and the quiet time they spent in the learning center as their friends left for home. And out came my first effort at poetry. Is that lame? I don't know. But as I read the end product, I couldn't help thinking about the boys and all they do to keep going each day. How wonderful it is to have hope in God...

Oh my troubled heart,
How do you go on as you do?
Urging yourself on each morn,
you fight and claw your way
through the day with the hope
God alone can provide.

Is that why you endure?
Is that why your beat remains constant?
Is it merely because you have hope from above,
or that you hold to the promise of
an everlasting and undying love?

I wonder where I'd be without you...
Could I face the trials of each day,
or smile the darkness away,
or laugh nearly as much as I do
without the beating heart that
carries me through.

But is it really you, or is it something more?
Don't take offense, but I believe it is...

For within you lives the Super Man,
the eternal Hope of all mankind.
It is He who has given you your beat,
your hope, and your willingness to survive.

It is He who breathes life into this soul
when all else fails. It is He who formed
me and you for a single purpose...to live,
and to live for Him alone.

So do not fret, oh troubled heart.
For He who promised is faithful, and
He will never let you down.

No, He has a plan for you that will
never be broken as long as you follow
Him. Look to Him, dear troubled heart.
He will not fail. He will never let
you down.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.

These Experiences

I've had many people tell me over the past year or so that "kids are resilient." That's true to a certain extent, but I have to give credit to God for the way each of them have handled the most difficult experience in their young lives. It reminds me a bit of Abraham Lincoln, whose mother died when he was 11. Lincoln had memorized three books by that time: The Bible, Pilgrim's Progress and Aesop's Fables. Can you imagine that? But that was all his family had in the shack in which they lived. There was no TV, Nintendo, Internet or even Karate. He had three books. Years later he changed the direction of America.

Is that what God has in store for Everen? For Christian? Can they maintain their sweet innocence and enduring faith and change the world in which they live? It's not out of the realm of possibility. Years ago I would never have thought that I'd share stories with the founder of the Mexican Mafia (Donald Garcia) or speak at prisons in the U.S. and Mexico. Yet somehow God uses our experiences to encourage other people.

As I looked into Christian's eyes tonight and told him how proud I am of him for reading so well, he beamed with delight. It was as if I spoke joy into his soul. God does indeed have a plan. I anticipate a great and interesting future for these two young warriors of mine...

And Nadine......thanks. You're great.

From his career in professional baseball to an attempt at professional golf and the tragic loss of his wife, Jon Graves is on the journey of his life.