Posts Tagged ‘Family’

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

My father-in-law, Chuck Kiger, in his earlier adult years

I had a really unusual dream last night. Let me tell you about it along with the obvious meaning to me…

In the dream, I was with a lot of family members at my in-laws’ previous home in St. Louis. My father-in-law, Chuck, who passed away suddenly in that home in 1999, was sitting in his favorite chair. There was a calendar on the wall that was rapidly flipping back in time to the day he passed away. Others in the family knew what was about to happen, but Chuck did not. He was struggling a bit physically, but was lucid and still engaging in conversation.

When I entered the room, my mom had just told Chuck that she loved him. She left the room and then I had my chance to say some things to him. I told him that he was a great father-in-law, that I really appreciated him and that I loved him. The look on his face was priceless and he was so pleased to hear those words from me.

As strangely as the dream started, it ended.

Many times we dream but keep on sleeping and don’t even recall the dreams when we awaken later. But some dreams carry such an impact that we awaken immediately and have a tough time going back to sleep. Such was the case with this dream. I woke up and immediately thought, “Tell people that you love them while you still can, because you may not have another chance.”

That isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. We’ve all heard the sentiment many times and have probably said it a few times as well. Reminders of important truths are important, though, since we tend to get wrapped up in our busy lives and fail to do some of the basics that are actually far more important than the busyness that occupies us.

I’ve lost friends and family suddenly without the chance to say goodbye. I’ve had other times where we’ve known the end was near and those precious final goodbyes were said with deep love and affection. We have no such guarantees, though.

So love well in word and in deed. Tell them while you still can. You may not have another chance.

thankitforwardWhen my professional colleagues at The Community Roundtable started posting their “Thank It Forward” posts recently, thereby recognizing three specific people or groups that have made a difference in their lives this year, I knew I wanted to do the same. So it’s taken me a while to think through it and come up with this post. My three who have had the greatest impact on me this year are from all parts of my life, so it’s an unlikely trio, but a meaningful one to me.

The first person I want to thank for his impact on me this year is my new pastor, Mark Williams. I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am to have this man as my pastor. He is a kind, loving, gracious soul who is profoundly committed to proclaiming the Word of God and calling others to a life of faithful service to Christ. He is wise far beyond his 31 years with a wisdom that can only come from the Spirit of God within. When he preaches, you know you are hearing the truth of the gospel. He is not out to impress others or dictate to others or to draw attention to himself. He is a servant of his Lord and an incredibly gifted and faithful proclaimer of truth.

It is important to me that I deeply respect my pastor. Life has been a bit out of whack in times past when there has been some tension between a pastor and me. That’s not a good situation and not one I care to repeat. I respect the role of pastor and want the relationship to reflect that respect. Mark makes it easy for me to do that because we are united around a common purpose and cause and desire. I would be quite content to learn from this man for the rest of my days on this earth. He makes me want to be a better person in general and a better Christian in particular. I know my own relationship with Christ ought to produce those same desires and it does, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a key person in the flesh that draws you in that direction as well. I thank God for Mark Williams and look forward to his continued influence on me, our church and our community.

The second person I want to thank is my bride of 35.5 years, Linda. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as she does. While her role as kitchen hostess at church and self-employed caterer is officially part-time, she sure does seem to be going at one or the other full-time. And if she isn’t absorbed in those activities, she’s gardening or doing yard work or something else – anything but resting (which she really ought to do more of). Anyone who knows us can tell you how different we are. That has always been the case. In fact, we lost some college “friends” when we got engaged in 1978 for that very reason. They worried that we were so different that it would never work for us to be married and they simply could not and would not give their blessing to it. Well, 35.5 years later, I would beg to differ with their assessment. That doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye or have no issues, but we’ve learned to keep the main things the main things and not elevate minor differences to a loftier level of attention than they deserve.

I want to thank Linda for loving me all these years, for continuing to do the less-than-glamorous things that come with managing a home and family, for forgiving me when I have been self-absorbed or downright thoughtless or mean or stupid, for being an absolute rock of faithfulness and consistency for the entire time I have known her from my sophomore year of college through the present, and for being the mother of our two sons and grandmother to the newest generation of Rosses. I cannot imagine life without her, and I am thankful now and forever for her.

The third person I want to call out in my #thankitforward this year is my manager at Humana, Lewis Bertolucci. Lewis took a chance in late 2011 by adding me to his Enterprise Social Media team at work when there were not originally plans to have that team own the internal social media function I manage so much as the external, customer-focused media. Lewis is a remarkable person who knows more about the field than I ever will. He can’t possibly sleep much and still juggle all the things he has his hands in. It’s no wonder he was included in a recent list of the top 100 digital marketing experts. Don’t even think about trying to match his Klout score!

There are so many things I appreciate about Lewis as my manager. He is open and honest and I can discuss whatever I need to discuss with him. He trusts me to do my work and has no inclination to micromanage me or others. He is funny and creative and will blindside you with a funny photoshopped picture or JibJab video and seems to have funny animated GIFs ready for all occasions to throw into online discussions. He keeps his cool in the midst of what I know are very stressful, demanding days at work. He thinks of others more than he thinks of himself. He can write out the best, thoughtful, reasoned response to situations where others would be tempted to respond quickly and emotionally. He gives wise counsel that others (including me) would do well to heed. He is supportive and encouraging to his team. And as is shown by the expanded role he offered me in August this year, he is eager to see those he supervises grow into their potential, even when that means they leave the team for other roles as some did in 2013. Like my pastor mentioned above who is in his early 30s, Lewis is also wise beyond his years and has earned the deep respect I have for him as a person and as a manager. I am fortunate to have him and hope to learn from him for many years to come.

So there you have the three people from different areas of my life who I am most thankful for in 2014.

I won’t end this post, though, without also recognizing the one professional organization that has also been very significant for me this year as well – The Community Roundtable. I have enjoyed being a member of this organization of online community professionals for several years, but this year the connection stepped up a notch when they graciously agreed to take over the reins of the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat which I started in 2013. They are doing a great job with the chat and will continue to innovate and do things with it that I as an individual could never do. I am deeply appreciative of their willingness to do this. I know the work involved in making it successful and worthwhile week after week. It is no small task. Thank you, Hillary Boucher, Rachel Happe, Shannon Abram, Jim Storer and all the wonderful people at TheCR! You do amazing work that is very much appreciated by many.

What about you? For whom would you #thankitforward for their impact on you in 2014?

Im-Not-Thankful-EnoughThis week has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. With the American Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, there have certainly been more than the usual number of moments reflecting on all for which I am thankful. But some of the week was dominated by other less-than-admirable emotions of anger, of disgust with what I was watching in the news, and of times when I spoke or wrote out of those emotions when I should have probably just kept my thoughts to myself.

What I should have demonstrated for the week was an ongoing attitude of gratitude. What I actually demonstrated was a far cry from that. I resonated immediately, therefore, with my friend, Jay’s, post on Facebook last night when he wrote, “I’m thankful, but not often enough. It’s good to have a day to be reminded.”

I really do have so much to be thankful for:

  • a family who loves me and whom I love;
  • my first grandson and second grandchild on the way, due in April;
  • a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood in a city we’ve enjoyed living in for almost 30 years;
  • a job and career that is fun and fulfilling and a joy to invest my time and professional life in daily;
  • all the food and necessities of life a man needs – so much more than what is typical throughout the world;
  • a country that in spite of its challenges is where I prefer to live;
  • good health that allows me to do what I want when and where I want;
  • a church and church family I have loved since our second week in Louisville in 1985;
  • a relationship with the living God that provides ultimate meaning, purpose and hope for this life and the next;
  • the opportunity to freely read, study and apply God’s Word to my life;
  • opportunities to serve God and others every week in a variety of ways;
  • and even the best canine friend and companion I’ve ever had in my nearly 58 years.

When I look at the above list, I am in awe at the blessings I enjoy. And I am simultaneously embarrassed by the times I allow an unhealthy focus on other matters to steal that joy. I am ashamed that I could for a moment look past these giant gifts only to focus elsewhere. I regret that I fail to be a consistent source of a good and encouraging word to others, choosing instead to sound off about my latest emotional reaction to news or events of the day. I feel remorse for getting angry at those with whom I disagree rather than seeking to understand and show the love of Christ in the midst of those differences. I realize after the fact far too often that I have failed to be Christ’s ambassador when I spew from my mouth the venom that I allow to fester in my heart, for “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and that overflow is too often sewage rather than life-giving water.

So on this day after Thanksgiving, please know that this ongoing work in progress called Jeff is truly grateful and thankful for so much. Also know that I am truly sorry for those moments when I am far less than what I can and should be. I am called to be conformed to His image, and I have a long, long way to go.

Mom & Dad's wedding day, Dec. 24, 1952

Mom & Dad’s wedding day, Dec. 24, 1952

I have been blessed in more ways than I can count in my life, but at the top of the list is the love and example shown by my amazing parents, Jack and Virginia Ross. Today they celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary – quite an accomplishment these days.

They never cease to amaze me, from Dad taking care of their 60-acre farm, to Mom cooking up her regular, tasty dishes for others and keeping their big, old pre-Civil War home spotless, to both of them starting their days at the local YMCA spending time on the treadmill, their 79 years of life and 61 as husband and wife keep going strong. They are the picture of kindness and generosity to all, especially to family and friends.

Still courting, Thanksgiving, 2010, Charleston, SC

Still courting, Thanksgiving, 2010, Charleston, SC

Some gifts we receive can never be repaid. Parents like Mom & Dad are that kind of gift. If I were to begin this moment saying “Thank you” and said it every second for the next thousand years, it would not – could not – be enough.

Thank you, Mom & Dad, for your unending love, encouragement and support for me and for all of our family and your many friends.

I love you! Happy anniversary.

A Life Well Lived

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Behavior
Tags: , , , ,

A-Life-Well-LivedI attended the funeral today for a wonderful, sweet, giving, godly, 94-year-old woman from my church. Her equally kind and faithful husband preceded her in death several years ago. I greatly admire their whole family – their closeness, example, faith, and their love for each other.

As I sat in the service today and listened, remembering interactions in years past with this great couple, it struck me that every remembrance –Β every remembrance without exception – of this man and woman is a good one. Never did I see anything but love and graciousness from either of them. Never did I hear an unkind word from their lips. In life they were a model for others to emulate, and in death their memory is a challenge to be a better person.

When people like these two saints pass from this life to the next, it serves as a reminder that lives can be well lived, but to do so is the exception rather than the rule. Each of us considers himself good, but to whom do we compare ourselves? We can always find others whose behavior is less admirable in some ways than our own, leaving ourselves with an inflated sense of goodness and pride. But it is when we look to those rare, exceptional models that we realize how far we have to go to become all that we might.

Today I am thankful for these two examples of grace and faith, for their lives well lived, and for the challenge their example is to others, including me. May the God who transformed them do the same in all his children.