Five Years in the Valley of Shadow

Getting very personal today…

The Schmidt Family Home (3rd Edition!)

Five years ago today, my heart was broken and bruised.

Five years ago, my son died.

Five years ago, he was six years old.

Five years ago, I was lost.

Today, I am still lost.

I continue to stumble my way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, trying all the while to pretend like I am a normal human being, capable of life.

I know the Lord is with me, and I am not alone.

Still, I feel alone.

Because life goes on. Time moves on. You adjust. You change. You become. Just like you did when he was born. Just like you did when every new challenge presented itself. You just do. You have responsibilities. You’re still a husband. Still a father. Still a pastor. Still alive. No matter how much you want to run and hide, life just doesn’t allow it, because life goes on…

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If In Doubt, Talk It Out

I cannot say this enough:

Talk.

Communicate.

Stop making assumptions.

Don’t talk about people – talk to them.

The longer you let things fester, the worse they get until they are irreparable.

This goes for your marriage, kids, parents, friendships, and all relationships – with family, coworkers, bosses, teachers, pastors, neighbors, you name it.

It seems easier to be mad and walk away, but it just breeds bitterness and you never truly put it behind you.

Marriages end because someone stops talking about what’s bothering them.

Parents become estranged from children because someone assumes the other won’t understand.

People walk away from jobs they love because they don’t hear that they are appreciated, and don’t ask, either.

People leave churches they grew up in because they hear a rumor and assume it’s true.

Friendships end because someone misunderstands something that was said, and never asks why.

And each of those people carry around for the rest of their lives the weight of those broken relationships, never able to fully understand how they could have been treated that way – and never having the courage to ask.

But what if it was all a misunderstanding?

What if we misread the situation?

What if the other person couldn’t read our mind?…

Yes, people hurt each other.

And yes, sometimes people are just mean.

And yes, sometimes talking leads to fighting.

And yes, sometimes things do get worse.

But sometimes out of the worst fights – out of those raw and real moments – come some of the deepest truths.

And sometimes those truths break us.

But sometimes being broken is what we need.

And sometimes what we need is to see ourselves in the eyes of that other – to realize what we ourselves have become.

Sometimes the only way we can grow is to be cut down and replanted.

I cannot tell you how many times this has been proven in my life.

Both to my astonishment…

And to my shame.

There are people in my life who mean the world to me.

And they remain in my life because I – or they – swallowed our pride and talked it out when something went wrong.

Because something always goes wrong, because we remain human, after all.

But it can only be fixed if it gets acknowledged first.

And that means you have to talk about it.

It’s not always easy.

But it’s almost always worth it.

If you need to walk away, then do it.

But then go back.

And talk.

And I know.

It’s difficult and scary.

And it leaves us vulnerable.

But even if all we learn from talking is that the relationship does need to end,

At least now we can truly say we know.

Because we tried.

We talked.

So talk.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Talk to the person.

Oh, one more thing:

Listen.

A Lighter Note: Early Erik

I’m going to share a few things here that I had written for the longer-running family blog but which also seem appropriate for this one. Here are some thoughts I had on being a writer a few years back…

I remember a moment in the first grade, when we were each writing stories – the kinds kids write, drawing pictures above the words. My teacher, Miss Neu, came and stood beside me and told me I was going to be a writer some day. That is one of the earliest school memories I have, and the moment has always stuck with me. I envisioned myself writing books or as a sports writer. In fact, that’s what I went to college to become – a journalism major. Of course, my college admissions officer lied when she told my parents and me that Carthage College had a wonderful journalism program. It had no journalism program. Not even a single class. The Communications major was entirely theater-driven when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1993.

Oh, well. I loved college. I wish I had taken a business class or two, but I loved being a Religion major. At any rate, I have always loved to write – and I have always had my own, unique style. I have more than once, while a student, been accused of plagiarism because of the way I write, and I was once told by an academic adviser that I was not a well-developed writer because he didn’t like my style. I learned after that to be able to write academically/formally, as well as my informal, personal style. I don’t know if I will ever get around to writing a book or anything that will be published, but writing 1-2 sermons a week keeps that ability challenged and polished.

Anyway, I share all this because I have been looking back lately at how I got here. My journey (which is ongoing) and the way my life experiences have prepared me for who I am today are fascinating – I hope it’s that way for everyone. When we live it, it all seems so random and chaotic, but when we look back it all somehow makes sense. Okay, having said all that, I thought I would share an early piece of my writing – the first piece I remember being proud of. I believe I won some sort of award for it, or was at least entered into some sort of contest, but what I really remember is feeling like this was truly me – that my personality had come through in my writing and I was proud of what I had written. At the time, I was a junior in high school and the Sports Editor of the high school newspaper. This was published in our Christmas edition, and it is extremely autobiographical. And I received the highest honor I could imagine: I was invited by the extended Schmidt family – the same people lampooned in the column – to read my piece before Christmas dinner, the very thing it was about. I was a little nervous, but I was far more excited, honored and proud. Considering it was written by a high schooler, it still holds up pretty well, apart from bad comma usage… I hope you enjoy it! Oh, click on the first photo to be able to make it big enough to read, then you can click through to the right to finish it.

The Schmidt Family Home (3rd Edition!)

I remember a moment in the first grade, when we were each writing stories – the kinds kids write, drawing pictures above the words.  My teacher, Miss Neu, came and stood beside me and told me I was going to be a writer some day.  That is one of the earliest school memories I have, and the moment has always stuck with me.  I envisioned myself writing books or as a sports writer.  In fact, that’s what I went to college to become – a journalism major.  Of course, my college admissions officer lied when she told my parents and me that Carthage College had a wonderful journalism program.  It had no journalism program.  Not even a single class.  The Communications major was entirely theater-driven when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1993.

Oh, well.  I loved college.  I wish I had taken a business class or two…

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