Hindsight is 20/20

***Disclaimer: This blog post is probably gonna be a bit more rough around the edges than my usual posts.  I like to spend ample time editing my posts, but not this one.  I don’t know why- I just feel like that’s the thing to do here***

The proverbial “they” say that hindsight is 20/20.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  Today has become a day routinely filled with hindsight for me, more so than most people.  I mean, nearly everyone likes to use NYE to reflect on the past year (i.e. hindsight) and then look forward to the next year with great hope and ambition that will be gone within 3-7 days most likely (sorry to put a buzzkill on your resolutions… just speaking the truth here…)  Anyways, today has become filled with even more hindsight for me because it marks the day of my dad’s death.  I woke up today with the same uneasiness that this day always greets me with.  It’s become an inevitable part of this day.  Sure, the uneasiness gets a little less every year, but it’s still there.  I woke up at 7:58am, and my first thought was “in exactly two minutes from now, 8 years ago today I was woken up by my mom screaming my name.”  I remembered the exact pitch of her voice.  I couldn’t help but relive those awful few minutes.  The hardest part of today is that it forces me to have hindsight.  The 20/20 hindsight taunts my former self where my vision in the moment was not 20/20.  While I don’t blame myself for my dad’s death, this day forces me to relive the day before my dad’s death.  He thought he may be having a pulmonary embolism but brushed it off.  I didn’t press him further.  He was going to get it looked at after the weekend.  He didn’t have until after the weekend.  In hindsight, it’s obvious what ailed my dad.  In the moment I was a naïve, new third year med student.  I had never seen a patient with a PE before.  I had no idea.  What you don’t know that you don’t know is what hurts you the most because that’s when 20/20 hindsight will taunt you the most.

Eventually, my mind slowly drifted into this crazy journey of grieving.  It really is the journey that never ends.  It gets easier.  It gets more tolerable.  But it never goes away.  You never graduate from it.  You never stop this journey, even though you never really wanted to start the journey in the first place.  As I lay in bed, I had the image of a large asteroid that suddenly rocks your world and leaves a huge crater.  The crater starts off jagged, steep, tough to navigate, and painful, but slowly and surely, as time goes on the edges become more rounded, the territory becomes more familiar, and in some places some plants and flowers may even start to grow.  But the crater is still there.  It’s not going anywhere.  It can’t really go anywhere.

As I progressed throughout my day, I realized that 2020 marks the end of a decade, which led me to reflect on this past decade.  It’s amazing to see what this decade has given me, and I feel so incredibly blessed… I started as a newly graduated college student, stumbled my way into medical school against my will (until the last minute that is), navigated residency, completed fellowship, started my career as an orthopaedic surgeon, met my future wife, saw our relationship crumble, saw the Lord’s redemption in our relationship and the relationships with my family members… and those are only the headlines.  That old 20/20 hindsight can seem pretty sweet now.  In hindsight, going to medical school was 100% the right choice.  Marrying my wife was 100% the right choice.  Seeing the Lord’s purposes and provision in all the struggles throughout the process makes it all 100% worth it (and for the areas where I haven’t been able to see his purposes, I know they are there, and I trust him for that).

So yeah, as much as I love to focus on the future, I think you’re only kidding yourself if you never look back.  Sure, you can’t live in the past, and you can’t let the past hold you back.  As much as it pains me that I theoretically could have saved my dad, I also have to remind myself that if it had been the Lord’s will for me to do so, then that most assuredly would have happened.  I serve a God who doesn’t need to have hindsight.  He’s the Alpha and Omega- the Beginning and the End.   His vision is always 20/20.  I rest in that truth.  I trust in that fact.  I find peace in my God.  It’s not a crutch, and it’s not a coping mechanism as some have accused.  It’s the truth of the God I serve.  So as I get ready to face 2020 and the next decade, I’m thankful that through the lens of Christ, I can always trust my Savior, Jesus Christ, who always has 20/20 vision.  Happy New Year!!

Common Denominator

Death may be inevitable, but that certainly doesn’t make it easier to face when it shows up at our door.  Sometimes it busts the door down and leaves us behind to pick up its mess. Sometimes it starts with a soft, gentle knock that slowly gets louder and louder until it lets itself in. Either way, it’s the ultimate uninvited guest. To my dear friend who lost her father… my heart breaks for you and your family. You witnessed the slow decline of your father’s health. You had to wrestle with staring the inevitable, uninvited guest in the face for a long time, knowing that he would soon be showing up to take one of the greatest rocks in your life. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I can’t imagine the emotions of such a fight.

My fight was a different one. While no two situations are the same, I can still relate to the pain of losing your dad. I had to wrestle with the sudden, unexpected appearance of my father’s uninvited guest. For the longest time I have wrestled with which one would be relatively “easier” (though easier is hardly the right word to use here)- suddenly losing a loved one but not having to see him/her struggle OR having more time to spend with him/her but with the sound of death’s knocking growing louder every day. The only conclusion I have reached is that they are both awful options because in the end, they have the same common denominator… and that common denominator is death and loss.

I never personally met your father, but I feel like I have met him so many times. Your stories of how great a man he was always inspired me. I see his gentle eyes when I look you in the face. I feel his kind, loving heart whenever I talk to you. I enjoy his sense of humor with every belly laugh you trigger in a large room. I see his strength and courage in the way you live your life by faith every day. I see his wisdom and godliness not only alive and well in you, but also in his three amazing grandsons you have so beautifully raised. Throughout your entire family, he has been more than just your rock. He has been your common denominator through the generations.

You and your family were there for me and my family when I tragically lost my dad. You were there from the first day when your husband led us in prayer that afternoon. I’ll never forget his words. “Jim is with us. He is STILL here. While he may not be here physically, he lives on in Heaven and in everyone in this room.” Those words helped give me strength when I had none. Those words are also true for your father right now. His legacy and spirit lives on in you and your family.  Since my father’s death, your whole family has been there for all of the moments when my dad should have been. You were there for my sister’s wedding… for my residency graduation… for my wedding… and so many more. You helped me through my residency rotations. You opened your door on Christmas day when I had no family in town to spend it with. You were a shelter during a low period of my life. You loved without boundaries. Your faith and strength poured into my life without limits.  Now I can see that y’all have been in so many ways, my common denominator through my grief journey. I can never thank you enough.

And now as you start your own grief journey, I know you will continue to honor your father and make him proud. More importantly, I know that you will continue to honor your heavenly Father and make him proud. If there’s one more conclusion I have made during my grief journey, it’s that God is so loving and kind to us, especially in our lowest moments. He truly is the God of all comfort as Paul writes about in 2Corinthians1. Our God knows the pain of losing a family member. After all, He sent His only Son into the world to live a perfect life and to die for our sins on the cross so we could have salvation. Jesus triumphed for us, and He willingly gives us the victory. As the Bible so boldly proclaims, death is now swallowed up in victory. Sin has no power. Death has no sting.

You know this truth. I know this truth. Our fathers knew this truth. And because of this, they are finally seeing Jesus face to face and embracing their Savior. They are looking Jesus in the eyes and praising Him for His victory.  We will too one day.  I dream about that day all the time… the moment when I finally can see my dad again, give him a big hug, and then praise our Savior together.  I know your heart now shares this longing with mine.  Honestly, that longing never goes away, and I think that’s a good thing. Until then, we can rest in the truth that death may be the inevitable, uninvited guest, but God is the ultimate, inevitable victor who calls us to be home with Him. Through the lens of Christ, we can always rejoice in Jesus Christ… our ultimate common denominator.


The 10 Year Journey

Well, today is the day… it is FINALLY the day.  My 10 year journey of medical training finally ends.  For the last time, I walk into a hospital as a trainee.  No more rotating on and off someone else’s service.  No more taking care of other doctors’ patients.  From here on out, I start the fine art of practicing medicine on my own.  Words can barely describe the emotions that I feel today.  When I started my journey as naïve 22 year old with a full set of bushy, wavy hair, I essentially told myself to stop looking at the finish line because it wasn’t even a tangible goal at the time.  I dreamed of what I wanted my finish line to look like, and I clung to those dreams as I put my head down and trudged along.  I only focused on the next step, hoping that somehow each step would get me closer to the end.  Today, as a 32 year old with much less hair, I finally take the last step.  Wait- I need to repeat that because it seems so surreal… Today is the last step!  10 years seems so long yet so fast (but mostly so long!).  I barely have the words to describe my emotions, so I thought I would just reflect back on the journey now that I have a bit more perspective.

Quite frankly, this journey almost never happened in the first place.  I remember my first medical school interview at Vanderbilt University, but mostly because I didn’t want to be there.  I was a stubborn 21 year old who only wanted to play baseball.  I remember sitting at Ted Montana’s grill the night before the interview and telling my mom I didn’t want to go to medical school.  I wanted to keep playing baseball even though my injured body made that nearly impossible.  I’m still amazed to this day that my mom didn’t wring my neck.  Here I am, interviewing at the top medical schools in the southeast with my whole medical future ahead of myself and all I wanted to do was play baseball.

I graduated college and still had no medical school acceptances until one medical school offered me a spot in early July.  I said no.  I still wanted to play baseball.  I’ll never forget how flabbergasted the dean of students sounded.  She probably never had an applicant flat out tell her no without being accepted elsewhere.  “I hope you find what you’re looking for,” she said in a hurtful tone (like a girl breaking up with you kind of tone).  I hung up and thought to myself, “Yeah me too…”  I felt very low at that time.  My parents were incredibly supportive, more so than I deserved.  It had to be hard for my dad to know I could follow in his footsteps, but I was throwing it away for a game.  Then one day Wake Forest called me about a month before classes started.  This time it felt different.  I knew I would say yes.  And I did.  I’ll never forget telling my dad that I accepted my spot in the Wake Forest School of Medicine Class of 2013.  He floated over to me, his eyes lit up, and he gave me a huge hug.  “Congratulations, Beams!!  You’ll never regret this decision.”  He was absolutely right.  I haven’t regretted it for a single day.

I remember showing up to medical school and feeling like I didn’t belong.  Everyone had lived their whole lives to become a doctor, and it was still my Plan B.  I never went to pre-medical meetings.  I didn’t volunteer at hospitals.  I had minimal medical experience.  All I knew is that I wanted to be a doctor like my dad.  (It turns out that was all the experience I needed).  Otherwise, I had no idea what to expect from medical school.  I just figured I would show up and study whatever they were going to teach me.  I was so clueless that the only disease I could offer up in my first workshop was “diabetes.”  (The answer was bacterial meningitis… insert clueless shrug here).  I remember talking to my first patient the second week of medical school.  My patient interview mentors had only taught me two questions, “What brings you in today?” and “Can you tell me more about that?”  They made it seem so easy… “Just keep asking open ended questions and the patient will keep talking.  All you need to do is listen.”  Let’s just say I didn’t find it so easy.  I asked my patient what brought him in to the hospital, to which he responded “I’m sick,” and when I asked him if he could tell me more about that he simply said, “no.”  So I thanked him for his time and walked out of the room with sweat pouring down my forehead.  My first patient interview had lasted all of 3 seconds.  I was mortified.  My preceptors were trying their hardest to hold in their laughs.  I would have died in laughter too (and now I do), but at the time I was horrified.  It only made me feel like I didn’t belong that much more.

But I stuck with it, and a few months into medical school I remember walking out of the anatomy lab one evening when a sense of gratitude overcame me.  It finally hit me that I was going to be a doctor and that the Lord had carved out this path for me all along.  While a lot of my friends were still struggling to find a career pathway, mine was set.  All of a sudden I wanted to be there.  I felt like I could do it.  I felt like I was finally following the Lord’s path for me.

Really there are too many memories to recount… I remember seeing my first cadaver.  Taking my first test.  The countless Friday and Saturday nights spent studying or doing research (and eventually doing it so much that it no longer seemed abnormal).  My first day on wards as a medical student.  Having impactful encounters with patients, and making eternity-long friendshipsGrieving the loss of my father and somehow completing the journey without him.  Graduating medical school.  Being engaged, only to lose that engagement, and then only to have the Lord redeem it for the best marriage ever.  Wearing my long white coat for the first time as an intern.  I felt so out of place my first day, like when I snuck into my dad’s closet as a kid and tried on one of his suits.  Making my first incision.  Grinding through residency in what were the longest 5 years of my life.  The amazing friends and church communities who lifted me up along the way (especially my friends from Calvary Baptist, Grace Community Church and Cornerstone).  Interviewing for residencies and matching at UVA.  Interviewing for fellowships and matching at HSS.  Moving to NYC and arriving at midnight on a Saturday (I don’t necessarily recommend that in hindsight lol), thinking that if I can make it here then I can make it anywhere… and so many more memories…

In closing there’s one theme that really sticks out above them all.  When people find out that I’ve been training to be an orthopaedic surgeon, they often ask how long that takes.  “Ten years after college,” I always reply.  They usually get wide eyed and make some remark about how ridiculously long that is.  I usually make a comment to deflect the whole thing, and over time I usually found myself saying, “Yeah, I essentially gave up the prime decade of my life for spending my Friday and Saturday nights studying and being on-call, working over 100 hours a week and getting yelled at by my bosses.”  This usually gets a chuckle or two and shuts down the conversation, which I actually appreciate because I don’t like drawing attention to myself.  This saying of mine has been on my mind a lot lately.  Did I really give up the best decade of my life?  I think it depends on how you look at it.  From a 30,000 foot view, the answer is probably yes.  I sacrificed a lot to get where I’m at today.  But through the view that matters… through the lens of Christ, it wasn’t really a sacrifice at all.  It was a joy to pursue the calling the Lord has for my life.  It was a delight to know that all of the blood, sweat and tears were being poured out to serve the Lord.  It was no sacrifice at all to walk hand in hand with my Savior regardless of the path before me.

My mom always says, “Giving can only be measured by what you have left.”  During these last 10 years I gave everything I had to my patients, my friends, my co-workers, and my family.  I left nothing in the tank.  Through the lens of Christ, this 10 year sacrifice was really no sacrifice at all.  It was the best 10 year journey of my life.  I can only hope that my next journey lives up to the one I’m ending now.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

Making Peace with Saying Goodbye

7 years… It’s hard to believe that it’s already (and only) been 7 years to the day since my dad passed away.  I still wake up every New Year’s Eve with the memory of that morning.  I suspect that I always will.  And quite frankly, that’s OK with me.  I don’t want to forget the journey of these last 7 years.  It’s been one of the hardest, yet amazing, journeys of grief, healing, renewal, faith and complete dependence on God I could have imagined.  God has redeemed and renewed me and my family in ways I didn’t even know were possible.  I’m not going to go so far as to say this somehow “makes it all worth it,” because that would be… well… silly… but I will go so far as to say that it’s been an unexpected and welcomed blessing during my grief journey.

One integral part of this journey has been learning how to find peace with saying goodbye to not only my dad, but also to the various parts of my life that would never be the same after he died.  It has required a surprising amount of patience, grace, joyful reminiscing, love and even forgiveness, but it has been vital to my grief journey.

It took me a year or two until I could start this process, but one component of this journey was re-visiting each house in which my family spent significant time with my dad.  For example, I went back to my childhood home where we really set our roots as a family.  I cried tears of joy as I remembered 10 years of great memories… Shooting hoops in the driveway… taking batting practice in the backyard…running out to the driveway to meet my dad when he got home from work (usually with our baseball gloves in hand)… watching the stars from the golf course behind our house on warm, summer nights… and the list goes on and on… Saying goodbye to my dad in the context of those memories was hard, yet sweet.  They truly were some of the best times we shared together.  I was surprised by how much healing this brought me.

Other stops on the journey were not so sweet, but they were just as therapeutic (if not more so).  I dreaded visiting another house because, quite frankly, I had some memories there for which I had never really forgiven my dad.  I was getting very close to doing so before he died, yet I never had the chance.  Now the weight of my unforgiveness was weighing me down more than ever, so I went to the house for the first time since we moved away.  I parked outside in the cul-de-sac, and I immediately cried.  A lot.  And in those tears I felt my heart move.  For the first time in my life, I was able to forgive my dad for the wounds and the scars I developed at that house.  Over 10  years of pain and unforgiveness were lifted.  When I finally stopped crying and drove away, my heart felt incredibly lighter and more peaceful.  Truly, there is great freedom in forgiveness.

The last stop of this journey was our house in Roanoke.  I spent a total of 40 weeks in Roanoke during my residency training, but I never once visited our old house.  I revisited a lot of other areas where our family had made great memories, but I never went back there.  I loved the house and all the memories, but it was also the last place I ever talked to my dad.  It was the last place we were a complete family.  It was also the place where everything happened that fateful day.  The highs and lows were so extreme at that house, and I couldn’t place myself back on that roller coaster.  That is, until my last day in Roanoke. 

Ever since my dad died in that house, I was also on another parallel journey, which was to make him proud and carry on his legacy within the field of orthopaedic surgery.  The day he died I knew this was my calling, so I tirelessly ran what felt like 100 marathons to fulfill this dream… 3 away rotations less than a year after my dad died, 13 residency interviews across the nation, 5 years of residency training with countless sleepless nights on call… I worked 100-120 hour weeks like it was nothing, and I often kept this torrid pace at the expense of my emotional healing.

On my second to last day in Roanoke, I got the results of my fellowship match.  I found it beautiful irony that in the city where I lost my dad, I also got the news that I would be going to my top choice for fellowship.  My career trajectory was set.  I was going to carry on my dad’s legacy.

I knew I had one more stop to make before I left town for the final time.

As I parked outside of our old house, this was the best visit yet.  Tears of joy streamed down my face…  “I did it, Dad!  I finally did it.  This one’s for you…”  My marathon was finally over.  I had finished the race.  I could breathe again.  I could finally look back and reflect on all those crazy years and the success they produced, and I could praise God for the strength to survive.

Fewer things make a son happier than feeling the pride of his father.  When my dad was alive, I always knew that he was proud of me.  His unconditional love and pride were some of the greatest gifts he gave me.  Since his death, I always knew that he was still so proud of me, but it was hard to never physically hear it from him.  However, there was something about standing in front of our old house that made my dad’s pride feel tangible.  It was the first time it felt so tangible since he died.

I drove away from our old house and out of Roanoke for what I presumed to be the last time that day.  Both of my journeys had finally come full circle.  On a dreary New Year’s Eve day, my grief journey and marathon to carry on my dad’s legacy began.  Six years later on a beautiful spring afternoon, the hardest phases were done, and I finally had peace.  Mission accomplished.  Praise be to God!!

Presence in the Void

Happy birthday, Dad!! It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you, but it’s not because I haven’t been thinking about you. Quite the opposite actually… I think about you all the time. There really isn’t a day that passes without thinking of you. It’s hard to believe that you would have been 64 today. It’s even harder to believe that it’s been nearly 7 years since your passing. 7 years… wow… 7 years… where have the years gone…?

But today is your birthday, and I choose to remember and celebrate all the great times we shared. I always loved your birthday because it usually meant doing something fun, like playing baseball, a weekend get-away to the mountains, a nice steak dinner, and of course a delicious chocolate cake. But you’re not here now, and I’ve found myself celebrating in new ways. Today my wife and I enjoyed a beautiful hike and an afternoon in a quaint, country New York town.  (Yeah, I didn’t know those exist either, but they actually do!)  It was the kind of day you would have loved.

In writing that last paragraph, perhaps the thing that surprises me the most is that I used the word “celebrating.” For many years I couldn’t really celebrate this day because it was overshadowed by grief that you were no longer hear.

I remember the first birthday after your death. The day felt more like torture than celebration. I was in Texas doing my last fourth year medical school away rotation. I tried doing everything I could to distract myself. I went to a park. I went to Starbucks (I know- I hate Starbucks…). I went to another park. Nothing helped. I tried to celebrate your life because I knew that’s what you would have wanted, but it was hard. The void you left was too big, too glaring, too suffocating. I missed you. A lot…

Now flash forward seven years and I still miss you. As I said before, there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking of you. So much has happened that makes me wish you were here. I’ve graduated medical school. I’ve completed residency. I’m in fellowship and about to embark on a career as an orthopaedic surgeon just like you. I got married. Britt is due with your first grandchild in just a few weeks. All of these things make me feel the void, but there’s something different now. I don’t just feel the void anymore.

When these events happen, I can now celebrate the fact that I am where I am today in large part because of you. I am an orthopaedic surgeon because you inspired me to be like you. I’m married because you encouraged me to grow as a man and to learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t be where I am without you, Dad. You and mom taught me to persevere, to never give up, to trust in the Lord always and to always serve others before looking out for myself. I’m so blessed to have this foundation.  Thank you a million times over.

It may have taken seven years and too many tears to count, but the void no longer has a claim on me or this day. It is finally overpowered by the celebration of your life and the profound impact it has had on mine. I rejoice because through the lens of Christ, I have finally found your presence in the void.  Hallelujah a million times over.

Today IS My Wedding Day!!

I have been waiting to write this post with much anticipation and longing for over four years now.  This post is the much anticipated follow-up from the most popular post of my blog (and second place is not even close).  It was one of my original posts, and even though it was my hardest post to write, it was honestly the reason I started this blog.  The post was titled, “Today Was Supposed to Be My Wedding Day.” It started off a little something like this…

“It’s one of the hardest things for our hearts to grasp.  If nothing else, it’s certainly one of the most painful things for our hearts to experience.  When a dream is left unfulfilled, it can be like an earthquake with the potential to produce shock waves in our hearts for many years to come.  An unfulfilled dream can leave us broken, scarred, afraid, angry, bitter, and regretful.  I personally find fewer things more difficult to deal with than when my dream is not part of God’s plan for my life.  We have all experienced this kind of heartbreak in one form or another.  Indeed, these life altering events provide a common thread that binds us together.”

But if an unfulfilled promise is one of the hardest things to navigate, I think the joy of a promise fulfilled is one of the greatest experiences to receive from the Lord.  And that is one of the MANY reasons, I am overjoyed to say that today (FINALLY!) IS MY WEDDING DAY!!!  This morning one of my groomsmen asked me to summarize my emotions in three words.  My reply… “Supremely overflowing joy!!”

From that last post 4  years ago, the Lord has brought both me and my soon to be bride (IN 4 HOURS!!!!!) on an incredible journey.  The Lord took us the long way, but it was his mercy and grace that did so.  He was holding us every step of the way, and today we get to celebrate HIS steadfast love and faithfulness.  Today is not just about me and my marriage.  It’s much more about my God and his faithfulness, His never failing love, and his grace…  Grace upon grace upon grace.  When you look at my story, I hope you see the Gospel.  I hope you see the truth that God can redeem any mess.  I hope you see and believe in a God who truly saves and redeems and does so without measure.  I hope you see that God NEVER fails us.  Never forsakes us.  Never lets us go.  Never.  No matter what.

I could go on and on (and sometime when life slows down I really hope to).  But for now, you will have to excuse me because I have an altar to get to, a bride to meet there, and a covenant to proclaim in front of God and our closest family and friends because today… well, today is my wedding day!!!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!!!!



Prayer For a Friend

Father, God, I wanna lift up my friend to you in prayer

Cause right now he’s feeling heavy from the world and all its cares.

This guy is close to my heart, but I’m concerned about him the most.

On the outside he seems clean, but the inside is kinda gross

Like the Pharisees you speak of in Luke chapter 11

And half the time he relates more to Paul in Romans 7

Cause the good things he wants to do he doesn’t quite do them

But he makes the time for all the grime that tends to consume him

Like doubt, worries, lust, and idols just to name a few

And I’m worried cause some of the time he hangs with the wrong crew.

But, I know this guy is a brother in Christ- He says he really knows you

His life’s been changed, he’s not the same, you’ve even grown his faith too.

He believes your Gospel and it’s power in the life of all his friends

He’s quick to share your saving grace and redemption to no end

But when it comes to applying this love and grace to his own self

He gets hung up and doesn’t really believe it for himself.

He knows your love is big enough to cover any sin

But somehow he still doubts this truth when applying it to him.

His heart is slow to believe what his brain is trying to say

Which makes him get caught up in trying to earn his own way

So he walks in the shadow of everything that he’s ever done,

Failing to look at His Savior who has already won

His forgiveness and acceptance and a fresh start for his life

But instead he chooses to live under the shame of all his strife.

Oh, Father God, I really really pray that you would help him see

That when the Son sets you free, then you’re really free indeed.

The same truths he’s quick to pray over his fellow brothers

Are also true for him just like they are for one another.

You didn’t die on that cross to leave us all hanging

Your own hanging took care of that, so that’s why we be sanging

A new song to Jesus Christ, who not only paid our debt

But took on our shame and guilt and even death’s final threat.

So now we have a new song that you’ve put into our hearts

That sings of our freedom because Christ fully did His part.

But back to my brother now cause there’s more I wanna pray

You see he does a lot of outside works but inside struggles away.

He prays a good bit but deep down knows he can do more

Because his mind gets too busy when his feet hit the floor.

He serves a lot but doesn’t always do it for the right motive,

Looking for a chance to be well liked or possibly self-promotive.

He reads your Word but knows he should be reading a lot more

Cause I think half of the time he kinda views it as a chore.

I mean he seems to like it well enough but doesn’t always love it

But he often gives his love instead to other things he covets

Like sports, his job, his own comfort or even to his friends

He’s always striving for the approval of other ladies and men

Despite the fact that your approval is all that really matters

Oh, God, please change his heart so that he no longer loves the flatter.

Deep down I know he really wants to be a man after your own heart

He knows the calling you’ve given him, but fails to do his part

So free him from the same patterns and cycles that always hold him back

Refresh his heart, redeem his mind, and help him find no lack

In following you and giving his all to Christ every single day

And restore to him the joy from the fact that you made a way.

In this new way, help my friend find peace and joy and grace

And please make him to see your mercy and the radiance of your face.

So Lord, I lift my brother up, and to you I humbly pray

Please change his heart, redeem his life and keep Satan at bay.

But before I go, there’s one more thing, I hope you help him see,

That this friend that I’ve been praying for… well… well, that friend is really me…

The Last Day

I’ve been planning to write this blog post for years, but every time I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to write it.  Honestly, even as I sit here I can feel so many emotions flooding my mind- grief, numbness, pain, yet also joy, happiness and even some peace.  Usually I share a post on New Year’s Eve that helps me remember the yearly mark of my dad’s death.  This year I want to do something different.  I want to write about the last day I spent with my dad.  It has been seared into my mind for years because the Lord in His sovereignty so uniquely provided me with the love and encouragement I needed from my dad before his departure.  I remember so many of the details from that day because I have clung to those memories as I’ve had to walk this road of life without him.  These memories (plus many, many more), often seem like all I have left of my dad.  Luckily for me, I’ve been blessed with some amazing ones.

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December 30, 2011.  It started off like any other Friday during Christmas break.  I was a third year medical student, and the reprieve from third year rotations was more than welcomed.  As I journeyed deeper into the field of medicine, it seemed like my relationship with my dad was growing deeper as well.  This was one of my favorite parts of medical school.  That day my dad and I were going to spend the afternoon playing pool, which was a favorite activity of ours.  My dad was an exceptionally talented pool player.  I was good enough to hold my own and beat most average joes, but I rarely could beat my dad.  Our games weren’t about the wins though.  They were about being father and son together.

As we were walking from the car to the pool hall, my dad was very short of breath.  He had been struggling with this all week.  I thought it was odd.  I remember asking him if he was OK.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied.  “I just can’t shake this bronchitis.”  He then slowed down to catch his breath a little bit.  “Well, come to think of it, my calf is kind of sore…  Man, if I was in the Emergency Department, they would put me in the CT scanner to look for a PE (pulmonary embolus) with a story like that.”

“Well do you think that’s what it is?” I asked.  “Should we go to the ER?”

“No, no, my calf is sore because I sprained it at the gym the other day, and my shortness of breath is from my bronchitis.  If I’m not better by Monday, I’ll get it checked out.”

That day was Friday.  Unfortunately, my dad did not have until Monday.

These words are hard for me to type because if I had just insisted that he go to the ER, then my dad would probably be alive right now.  Few people know this story, but I’ve had to live with it every day for the past six years. Of course I regret with every ounce of me that I didn’t insist on going to the ER, but as weird as it may sound, I don’t beat myself up over it.  The day my dad died, my mom and I promised each other in between sobs that we wouldn’t let each other blame ourselves for dad’s death.  I made that promise, and I’m not going to break it.  We both believe in a sovereign God with perfect timing, even in death, so there’s no room for self blame.

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That day my dad dominated me per usual, but I had a great time getting my butt kicked.  We talked about life, about being a man, about how to navigate conflict as a man, and how to navigate medical school.  I always loved talking to Dad about my life because he had a way of listening without judging.  He was able to analyze a situation and provide sound wisdom, great encouragement, love, and affirmation no matter what.  Honestly, not having this input in my life has been one of the biggest gaps since his death.

I remember so many parts of our conversation during the ride home.  At the time I was stuck trying to figure out which area of medicine I wanted to pursue.  I so badly wanted to pursue orthopaedic surgery like my dad and follow in his footsteps, but I was still unsure if this was my passion.  My dad never pressured me to pursue orthopaedic surgery.  In fact, he never even pressured me to pursue medical school.  All he ever wanted was for me to follow my dreams and be happy.  I remember what he told me after I hashed out all of my concerns.

“Beamer, you will find your passion in medicine, and when you do, pursue it.  I love the patients I serve.  I love the people I get to work with.  It’s like I never have to really work because I enjoy it so much.  No matter how much health care may change, at the end of the day it boils down to you helping patients.  I don’t care how much they do or don’t pay me because helping patients is what I love to do.  Whatever makes you feel that way, then go do it.  If it’s orthopaedic surgery, then go for it.  If it’s something like pediatric nephrology, then go out and save all the little kidneys in the world.”

The day of my dad’s death, I knew deep down what my passion in medicine would be.  I was born to be an orthopaedic surgeon, and now I have the honor of carrying on my dad’s legacy.  Every day is a mission to make him proud.

I also remember thanking my dad for all of the support he had given me throughout my medical school journey, including financial support.  Virtually no one knows this, but my dad paid for my medical school.  Between the money I saved him with undergraduate scholarships and some extra money he saved, my dad was planning to pay off my medical school.  I remember thanking him for this immense gift and saying that he didn’t have to do it, and his reply blew me away.

“I know I don’t have to, but I want to.  Some people invest in cars or boats or second houses.  I chose to invest in my kids, and I know that’s the best investment I could make.”

Every day I try to live in such a way to prove my dad right.  I am beyond thankful for his amazing gift.

Lastly, I remember talking about some of the struggles I was having at the time.  I remember telling my dad that I often feel like I don’t measure up as a man or that I get stuck on my mistakes.  My dad’s response was honest and real.  It has stuck with me to this day and has given me hope as I’ve continued my journey.

“I also know that I’ve made a lot of mistakes, Beams, and you’ve had to see those.  They’ve affected our family in some negative ways.  I’m not proud of them… but I know you have what it takes to do better… and I know that you will do better.  I have no doubt in my mind about that.”

I often find myself going back to these words.  My whole life I think I just wanted to know and hear from my dad that I had what it takes to be a man and to break some of the dysfunction that hurt our family.  I’ve been afraid of repeating those mistakes in my life.  It may have taken until our last day together, but I was very blessed to have finally heard this from my dad.  Again, the Lord knew just what I needed before his death.

When we got home, I thanked my dad for spending the afternoon with me.  He gave me one of his classic, big hugs.  (Gosh, I really miss those hugs so much!)  As he hugged me, he said “God only gave me one son, but He blessed me with the best son ever.”  Those words made me teary eyed back then, and they still make me teary eyed today.  I’m blessed I had a dad who told me that often.

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That night we shared dinner as a family.  I remember being in the office, working on a small project for a friend when my dad called out to me to say goodnight.

“Good night, Dad!  Love you!” I called back.  I made a mental note to go downstairs to his room to say goodnight in person and give him another hug.  I always made sure I said goodnight in person before going to bed.  Always.

Except that night…  It somehow slipped my mind… And it still bothers me to this day.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  I wish with every fiber in me that I had done so.  What I would give now to have one more chance to give my dad a hug and tell him that I love him.  Of all the nights to forget…

I remember finally making my way to bed that night and having the weirdest feeling ever.  It was like all of my peace exited my spirit.  I was more restless than I had ever been.  My heart was racing.  I couldn’t sleep for a long time, which is not typical at all.  My spirit was bothered, and I didn’t know why.  I had never experienced anything like it before.

Eventually I fell asleep, and when I woke to my mother’s screams the next morning, I knew why I felt that way…  and I knew that it was a pulmonary embolism and not just bronchitis.

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As I reflect on my last day with my dad, I realize that it wasn’t a perfect day, but the Lord still perfectly provided everything I needed. We serve such an amazing and sovereign God. He truly is a good Father. Through the lens of Christ, God always provides what we need- both in life and in death.

Through the lens of Christ, I also know that I will see my dad again one day. And when I do, I will finally be able to give him the hug I owe him from that night…


The Journey of Singleness

News Flash:  I used to be engaged.

Ok, sorry, I guess this really isn’t a news flash at all, especially since my most popular blog post (by far) is the one titled “Today Was Supposed to Be My Wedding Day.”  Every time I go to my blog’s home page, it’s always sitting atop my “Most Read” list.  If only my other blog posts were that popular then I could probably quit my day job…

It’s a funny thing because I started this blog after my engagement was called off.  I needed something productive that would keep my mind from dwelling on the fact that I was in a new town, sitting alone in my apartment with very few friends.  I needed something that would help me grow closer to the Lord and hopefully help others do the same.  Writing has always been that outlet for me.  I have so many journals lying around my apartment: my grief journal, relationship journal, church journal, counseling/mentoring journal, autobiography/testimony journal, growth as a man journal, but I digress…

My failed engagement isn’t something I readily advertise.  In fact, I really shy away from it even though it’s the reason for this blog.  I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking about it because I have struggled with feeling like it’s a scar from my past that I would rather hide.  It seemed just too painful with too many layers of brokenness to share with the world.  For quite awhile I felt like I had a big scarlet letter on my chest that I was trying to hide- kind of like I was damaged goods.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that for the longest time I felt like a failure.

Since that time, I have remained single.  Heck, before my dating/engagement season I was single for all but 3 glorious months during my freshman year of high school. (I say “glorious” because what’s more glorious as a high school guy than having a girl to hold your hand in between classes and take to the movies after getting dropped off by your mom?!  The answer is nothing, but now I really am digressing…)

Anyways, the point I’ve been trying to make this whole time is that I’ve been single for a really stinkin long time.  People are always asking me why I’m still single, and my response is usually something lighthearted like, “well, it’s not for a lack of effort…” which is mostly true.  Others try to cheer me up and ask what kind of girl wouldn’t want to date someone like me, and I quickly reply, “Oh don’t worry, there are plenty…” which is completely true.  I’ve even had some friends joke that I should start a separate blog titled #reasonswhyI’mstillsingle because I have so many funny/unfortunate series of events along my futile journey to the promised land of marriage.

All joking aside, when I re-entered the all too familiar territory of singleness, I figured that this was going to be like a season of timeout.  My thought process was a little something like this… “Clearly things didn’t go well with my engagement, so now I have to be single to figure out where things went wrong.  I need a season to grow and make myself better- you know- fix what’s wrong with me and learn how to avoid such a situation in the future so that I don’t make the same mistakes again.  I gotta spend my time thinking about what I’ve done wrong and then fix those things… kind of like an adult version of timeout.  Once everything is fixed, or at least on the way to being fixed, then it will be my time to date again.”

The only problem was that days of “fixing myself” turned into weeks… and weeks turned into months… and months turned into a year… and a year turned into *gulp* years… and then I turned 30 this year, which is like 3-4 years past my personal “due date” I set for myself in college for when I would be married…

My singleness timeout was becoming way more painful than I remembered the timeout sessions my parents put me in as a kid.  Eventually I got to the point where I was really getting discouraged.  I remember thinking to myself, “Man, I must have a lot to learn… or perhaps I’m just really bad at learning these lessons…”  Eventually, I had the terrifying thought, “or maybe both?!”

Then one day the Lord put a new thought in my mind.  It was like a gentle whisper from the Lord… “Or maybe neither…”

And with that simple thought, the Lord started changing my attitude and perspective.  He helped me see that my season of singleness was never designed to be a timeout.  Sure, there are some lessons I needed to learn.  I needed to grow as a man.  More importantly, I needed to grow as a follower of Christ.  The point of my single season wasn’t to force me to somehow check off the boxes and pull myself up by my proverbial britches and self-actualize myself into a better version of myself.

The point of my single season has been much deeper than that.  It’s been about relying on the Lord and trusting Him to provide for all my needs, even in the driest of seasons.  It’s about developing a greater hunger for the Lord because only a long drink from Jesus’ well of living water can truly satisfy my heart (John 4:14).  A girlfriend or wife certainly can’t do that nor should I expect her to.  This whole season was never meant to be a timeout at all.  It was meant to be its own journey… and what a journey it’s been…

So where does that leave me now?  I dunno… A whole lot closer to God but no closer to being married, I guess.  And I’m OK with that.  I’m glad that I’ve been able to learn these lessons that I never would have learned if I was already married.  I know it’s grown my love for the Lord and my dependency on Him.  God knows the plans He has for me.  He won’t let me down.

After my engagement fell through, I felt like I was set on a huge detour because I made so many wrong turns.  I felt like I was hopelessly lost and would never be able to find my way back on track.  However, just like our earthly GPS systems, my Heavenly Father still knows my destination and has no problem recalculating my path.  The funny thing is that it may seem like a recalculation to me, but often times the detour was God’s plan all along.

Through the lens of Christ, sometimes the Lord takes you on what feels like a detour, but really the detour was the actual journey.  My job is to trust the Lord to bring me to the right destination and enjoy the ride in the meantime.

Gardening with Dad

October 13 is my dad’s birthday, and I always looked forward to this day for many reasons.  First of all, it was my half birthday, so I would always try to sneak my way into the celebration.  I mean, when you’re growing up, there’s a big difference between 8 and 8 1/2.  Second of all, (no offense mom) but Dad’s birthday was always a little more fun because it meant a great dinner (usually involving steak), a chocolate cake and something random and fun, like a weekend getaway.

In honor of my dad, I want to share some great memories I have from spending time with him in his garden.  First let me just say that my dad’s garden wasn’t just an ordinary garden.  My dad not only had a green thumb.  He had two green hands.  Think of any type of garden and we probably had it growing up.  Shade gardens, sun gardens, cherry trees, rose gardens, lavender, herb gardens, orchids, and even the big giant ugly thorny bush that my older sister rode her bike into the first time she rode without training wheels.  Of course, I fulfilled my little brother duties and just laughed at her from the side. (sorry, Britt!)

The garden was a source of peace for my dad.  It gave him a refuge from the hectic pace of working as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon.  I think it was also a way for him to feel connected to his deceased mother who also loved to garden.  It’s kind of ironic because now gardening helps me feel connected to my father.

Looking back on my childhood, the garden wasn’t just a space for the flowers to bloom and flourish and grow.  It became a grounds for me to learn many life lessons that I am now very thankful that I have.  Below are a few of my favorite ones.  Hopefully they can encourage you as well.

The value of hard work

Every summer growing up I wanted a  new baseball bat for the summer All-Star league.  I would beg my parents each spring until they finally gave in.  However, my dad never just gave me the bat.  We always had an agreement that I would have to do chores in his garden to “pay off” the bat.  So every morning during the summer I would wake up and find the sticky note my dad would leave for my daily garden chores.  Regardless of the day, there was one chore I had to perform daily:  watering the plants.  That’s right.  Every.  Single.  One.  I don’t think there’s a word in the English language to adequately express the amount of sheer hatred I had for watering my dad’s plants.  My dad had more plants than I could count, and I had to stand outside with a hose in my hand while the hot summer sun beat down on my face.  I was bored out of my mind.  I may or may not have resorted to such drastic measures as singing and dancing the Macarena song to pass the time.  Some plants needed a little bit of water, some needed a lot of water.  I hated them all.  Some were in locations the hose couldn’t reach so I had to refill a watering can over and over and over again.  I also hated those plants.

Yet, without me knowing it, my dad was teaching me more than how to water plants.  He could have just given me that bat, but he never did.  He made me earn it.  He taught me that you have to work for things you want in life, and often times that work is not particularly fun or enjoyable.  However, if it is worth it to you, then it’s worth working for it.  I’m glad that my dad loved me enough to teach me the value of hard work.


I don’t think I was ever described as patient growing up.  Heck, I rarely get called that today, but I’m working it!   My mouth spoke at a million words a minute and I wanted things done on my time.  When my dad got home from work, I always had a ball and glove ready so we could go outside and play catch before dinner.  My goal was to intercept him before he went to his garden to water the plants.  I had been waiting all day, and the last thing I wanted to do was wait an extra 20 minutes.  Sometimes I was successful and other times I would have to wait until he tended to his flowers while I threw the ball in the air to myself.  He would always come to play catch when he was done though, and each time I learned a little more patience along the way.

Pruning is necessary

The pride and joy of my dad’s garden were his roses.  They were incredible.  Roses are known for being a very finicky plant, but my dad could grow them all, including rare types.  My dad never had to spend money at a florist because he had better looking flowers in his own yard.  I particularly loved my dad’s rose garden.  They were beautiful and always gave off a sweet aroma.  As the spring transitioned to summer, they would be in their full glory.  Neighbors would stop to look at them.  Friends would beg for my dad’s secrets for how to grow them.

Yet, as the summer came to an end, my dad would do something unfathomable to me.  He would take his shears and start pruning them, and I’m not just talking about a little bit of pruning.  He would cut them back to little, unrecognizable nubbins.  I could hardly believe it.  Sure, by that time of the summer the roses weren’t as beautiful as they were a few months ago, but they still had a few nice flowers mixed in with the not so nice ones.  So why would he prune them?  They were still good enough and better than anyone else’s roses.  Now you couldn’t even recognize them as a rose plant.

One day I asked my dad why he was chopping the rose bushes back to unrecognizable nubbins.  His answer has stuck with me to this day.

“So they can grow better next year and be even more beautiful.”

I was shocked.  It seemed so paradoxical to me at the time.  That year I watched those rose nubbins with great intent during the winter and into the following spring.  Sure enough, the roses came back, and they were even more full and even larger than before.

One reason I love these lessons from my dad’s garden is because I think they are parallels for the lessons God tries to teach me.  He’s the master gardener, and we are his roses.  We need to be watered.  We need Him to tend to us.  And sometimes, we need to be pruned to the point where our lives seem unrecognizable from what they once were so we can be stronger and more beautiful on the other side.

I’m thankful that our heavenly Father loves us enough to prune us back to nothing so we can be more beautiful in His image.  I’m also thankful for my dad who modeled these great characteristics of God’s love for me.  Happy Birthday, Dad!!