Allowing for New

We went to the beach today. It was the first time in a long while I'd been in water anywhere outside of our community pool at the condo, but it was so great to get out and clear my head. My mom watched the boys and her dog, Rocky, while I jogged around a bit, and then Everen and I raced up the beach and into the water a few times. Christian, pictured above, simply wanted to play in the water and make "mud balls." I had to drag him away...he didn't care. Silly kid.

Sprinting is so much fun. I love the push it requires as you go from zero to full acceleration. Some of life is like a sprint, but it's distance running that tests your character. And that's what I face now...the longer race.

For 11 years I pursued only one thing: a better life with and for Jeseca. We had dreams and aspirations, both individual and joint, and together we built on them with the hope that one day we would look back and enjoy every moment we spent together achieving them. That was what made life worth living...that we would do everything together. And we did, actually. We did everything together.

Did we ever accomplish our dreams? No. I still can't putt to save my life (a requirement on the PGA Tour), and despite her incredible talent, she never became the most well-known portrait artist in America. But as we planned for those things, life happened all around us, and we had the opportunity to grow and to help others grow in the process. We grew closer to God, and we taught the boys about His amazing love and grace. We watched our marriage grow stronger in the face of adversity, and we had the opportunity to be an example to our cousins (Bob and Joy, you two are so amazingly great...I love you both and am so proud of you!) and other married couples we knew. And we learned that communication is the cornerstone to any great relationship. (We didn't always get it right, but we sure did try.)

Now the storyline has changed. And while I'm trying my best to take the next step, it sure is difficult to know where to place my foot. All I can do is trust that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Someone recently told me that I will always carry Jeseca with me. I really will...

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.

August 15, 2008

One year from Happy Heaven Day, I watch the clock wondering what's changed. How am I different? Am I different? Are the boys? Have I led them correctly? Have I mislead others in this new life of mine? I have many questions of myself these days, and so few answers. And yet, as I look at the photo above, I have hope.

I once asked if I could be the same man or better without my wife. The answer to both questions is no. I'm merely different. Not better, nor the same. Just different, and so much more complicated.

Over the past 12 months, I've experienced many firsts. For one, I'm a single dad for the first time in my life. Where I once relied on someone else to wash the boys' sheets or do their laundry or cook their breakfast, lunch and dinner, now I am responsible for each of those things. Ugh. I've lost nearly 20 pounds. I finished transcribing Jeseca's journals. In the dozen or so rounds of golf I played, four were under par. I began karate and kicked the sensei so hard I had to stop for two months so my foot could heal.

I went from listening to all of the music Jeseca and I enjoyed together to albums only I've heard. I began making new memories all my own. I met new people. I went to the batting cage for the first time in 13 years. I jumped out of an airplane, and had dreams of tattooing my entire left arm.

I've wanted to fight, cry, run, give up, stand strong, and cling to all I've ever known. I've struggled to find purpose for my life again. I've spent more time on Katie Jones' "couch" than any other therapist I know, which isn't saying much since I've never been to therapy. And I've slept more on the living room floor than my bed.

There's more to this than I care to write tonight, but through it all, I've learned one invaluable lesson: I can't do anything without God's grace, love, and provision in every aspect of our lives.

Though I desire to love again, desperately I do, only God can make a way. Only God can bring about a change in our routine or facilitate healing for the boys. Only God can take a bad situation and shape it for the better. Only God can make things new again.

"I am about to do a brand new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19)

That's why I hope. For even if I let go of his mighty hand, he won't let go of mine. He's always by my side, telling me that I can take all this life can dish out, and with his help, I can smile.

So here we go. Year two. I don't know what, when or how, but I look forward to a life renewed by the neverending hope and love of the God who's promised never to leave me or forsake me.

Will I jump out of a plane again? Probably. Fight? If it comes my way. Get that sleeve of tattoos? No. (Hey, I have to draw the line somewhere.)

There will be more memories to make. More stories to tell. But there will never be a day when God changes his mind about me. He believes in me, just as he believes in you. And he will make a way. I know it more than anything else in the world. God will take the ruin in my life and make a way for restoration. I can't wait.

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.

37

37. Wow. As I see it on-screen it's not that bad. 36 sure sounded better, though. Today was hard...different...but it certainly wasn't mundane.

I got out of work early, headed to the DMV (boy was I dreading having to take the Drivers License renewal test...it turned out that I didn't have to...phew), and then headed off to ARTS to pick up the boys. When we got home, the boys ran ahead of me (they'd planned a surprise birthday party for me), and as I opened the front door, jumped out from behind the couch and out of the kitchen with a big "Surprise!" What love they have for their dad...

We finished out the night at Boomers with my mom (and Nadja, a foreign exchange student from Switzerland), my brother Mike, and our dear friend Sarah and her kids. We had a lot of fun racing the go-karts around the track, and inflicted a number of drivers with mild cases of whiplash. (Sadly, I won only once and placed 2nd twice...drat!) But when the evening ended and the boys were fast asleep, it was still just me in the living room thinking about this season of life.

It's just a season, right? So I hold on to hope, for he who promised is faithful. And I look forward to a year of entirely new experiences.

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.

Bleeding again

It's been 13 years since I last played a professional baseball game. 13 years. In all of that time, I've swung a bat once more than twice. (Somehow 3 times just didn't fit with "all of that time.")

The day I retired I gave away all of my gear and memorabilia. Spikes from Ken Caminiti. Bats from Tony Gwynn. My favorite gloves from Wilson, who sponsored all of my equipment... I went home with two bats (I still have one of Tony Gwynn's bats) and a big question mark for what the rest of my life would become.

Last night I used one of those bats at the batting cage as I sought some much-needed wisdom from above, and it felt so good to do it again.

It was great to smell the smoke from the bat after tipping a fastball. It was great to get a blister on my hand and bleed again. And it was great to see the ball jump off of the bat as it once did. Unfortunately, I am now down to one bat...I got a bit too aggressive and hit a ball off the end of the bat, which, as you all may know, causes a fairly large splintering effect if you're using wood. Oh well. I still have the bat from Tony.

Why, after 13 years, did I go to the batting cage? I needed some one-on-one time with God. I needed to draw close to him again, and for some reason, he put it on my heart to go back in time and meet him at Boomers. Pounding Plumb's I Can't Do This (by myself) and Cut, and Skillet's Rebirthing into my soul, I swung at 120 straight pitches, pouring every ounce of strength and effort into each swing. And when I was done, I felt different. I felt relieved.

10 minutes later I headed to Sunset Cliffs to continue this escapade with God.

With headphones still on, I walked along the cliffs until I found a spot above the crashing waves to sit and watch the horizon. Although people meandered around me, I found a moment when I was completely alone...a moment when I could just listen, not to the music, but to the voice in my heart. And the tears started to fall.

In his way...the way he always reaches me...God wanted to tell me to put my trust in him again. He loosened me up with 120 swings, taking me back to the days of my dreams. Then, there at the cliffs, as I looked toward the horizon, he tugged on my heart to venture out onto the water once more.

I don't know what the plan is. In fact, I've never been more unsure about my life than now. But somehow a little bit of blood and the power of the ocean revived me, and I feel rejuvenated because I know, at least, that there is a plan.

So even if the pace has slowed of late, I am...

Marching on. JG

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.

Running

I went running a couple of nights ago. I'd been working out for a while and decided to go for the first run in a really long time. So I took the windy road up and around the first few blocks, turned left at the second stop sign, and left again at the next to begin my climb up the hill. It had been uphill from the start, but the next 1/4 mile was a steady incline followed by a steep hill that peaked to overlook all of downtown San Diego. It was a test.

With Krystal Meyers blaring through Everen's iPod, I charged up the hill, ignoring the voice inside that told me to stop. And I prayed. I prayed for guidance. For mercy. For grace. And for the wisdom required to take the next step in this race God has given me to run.

I admit, part of me wants to give up. With "When I finally make it home..." running through my head constantly, I can't help but think about how much easier it will be when I stand before the King and no longer have to keep my feet moving down here. This race......

And then, just as I'm ready to give in to it, a still, small voice inside encourages me to keep going...to ignore the voice begging me to stop...telling me I can't do it...that I can't make it.

Keep running, Jon. Run to me and I will give you rest.

Ah, yes. Now I remember the way.....

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.

Christian the Overcomer


Today Christian overcame his fear of the dreaded Journey to Atlantis ride at Seaworld. As you watch, listen to the fear in his groans while we are rising to the top of the roller coaster, and then watch the joy on his face after we reach the bottom. Isn't life just like that? We are afraid of the unknown, only to discover that with God's help and patient prodding (this was a 2-year fear for Christian to overcome), when we reach the bottom we discover there was nothing to fear at all.

God, I love you for that. Help me to overcome my fears. I need you now. JG

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.

Nothing is truer than love

Jeff Youngren, a friend of mine, a scientist, and an amazing photographer here in San Diego, recently took some photographs of me and the boys. I'd requested a couple of headshots for some projects I've taken on. Jeff thought it might also be a good opportunity to grab some of the boys, so we headed out to Point Loma Nazarene University on what turned out to be the perfect day for it. What he captured makes me want to cry.

The first thing I think about when looking at these photos (and there are so many more) is that the boys are remarkably handsome and photogenic. Getting past their physical appearance, though, I start wondering what they're thinking about...what they believe is next on our horizon. Looking at the picture of Christian above, I doubt he's thinking about anything else but having fun. But look deep into Everen's eyes in the picture below. What's going on behind that beautiful face? I think about these things all the time, and I can't help wondering if I've done all I can to prepare them for the road ahead.

And what is the road ahead? Only God knows. I trust part of it will include telling the world about the power of love, or at least that's what I pray about now. For as sappy as it sounds, love is everything. It's what we identify with in the movies. It's what makes us smile and yearn for more. It's what keeps us going when all else is failing around us. And I'm not just talking about love in a man/woman relationship, but in friendships as well. Where there's love, there's always hope. Nothing is truer than love. And it all began with the Love that was nailed to a cross more than 2,000 years ago.

Tonight I asked Everen what he thought was beyond the first anniversary of "Happy Heaven Day" this August 15th. He said he hasn't planned that far ahead. I couldn't help but smile and wonder.....

Looking up. JG

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 NEW BEGINNING

This is how it began, kind of. See, this was Tuesday morning. We were supposed to leave on vacation Monday morning. Thankfully the airline notified me that the first leg of our flight was late and that we would miss our connection from Denver to Indianapolis. Three hours later, after much debate (believe me, it was debated), the boys and I decided to sleep in our beds rather than under a Denver International row of seats overnight. So we began our summer vacation a day late.

Now it appears that Christian has a mild form of chicken pox, though the pediatrician couldn't confirm it. If it is, Everen's been exposed to it, and each of them will have a rough few weeks ahead. But that didn't stop us from having some fun today.
Our mission was to find a frog and a salamander. All I can say is that we would never make it as secret agents. Instead of frogs or salamanders, Christian found excessive amounts of mud with his shoes, and we all discovered that mosquitoes love rivers as much as we suspected frogs do. I'm ashamed to admit that it is mosquitoes, not the loss of Jeseca or any other tragedy in my life, that has made me wonder if God really knows what he's doing. Horrible creatures, really.

But then we stumbled upon an old railroad track that crosses through town, and the little boy in me thought it would be fun for all of us to march up track to see what we find. It was awesome.
Old (but still used, evidently) tracks, rusty rail spikes and broken ties...it was like I was an 8-year-old kid again. Part of the fun was wondering if a train was going to come up behind us and force us off the tracks. And for exactly one mile, I challenged myself to walk solely on one side of the track, one foot in front of the other. I actually prayed I wouldn't fall toward the end, and I'm happy to say (and who really cares but me anyway?) that I made it. Yup, I'm definitely an 8-year-old kid.

It made for a great time in place of frogs and mosquitoes. But I have to admit that there was something missing today. I know what it is and it scares me...

So I continue marching down the track of life to discover God's eventual purpose for me. And just as I did today, I do all I can to lead the boys along their own.

It's all for him. I'm just trying to keep from falling off. JG

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.

It Would Have Been 12

Today would have been 12 years married. Twelve years, sweetheart! Crazy. It's so strange to think about the time that's passed and the progress we've made as a family since last August 15th. You know the scripture that says God uses the bad things in our lives for good..... Somehow we will be better without Jeseca than we were with her here. That's the part that really requires faith and trust, isn't it?

I was in church yesterday. The worship band sang I Can Only Imagine. "I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side; I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me; I can only imagine..." I couldn't help but think that Jeseca knows now. She doesn't have to imagine anymore. She's there doing whatever it is she was able to do at her first glimpse of Jesus. What an amazing thought. I'm envious.

So much is happening now. The boys are just two days away from the end of their first official year in a daily school environment. My dad's (and my) business just landed its first client. My article hit the Web and has served as a springboard for other opportunities to talk about Jeseca, our new life as a Single Dad family, and the hope we have in our great God. And I finally hung some artwork in the house.

This journey continues. Most of it is challenging, but there are so many smiles in it all. And I don't do it alone. I have the help of my family and friends (I love you all so much), and the support of an amazing God who continually shapes and molds my heart into the weapon it should be against my own selfishness and pride. A heart for Him. JG

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.

New for Now

This is just a test of what I hope will turn out to be a better site and blog. My role's changed 100%, so my site has changed to reflect that. I hope it works.

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.