2,833 Hours!

Captain America and me were driving around the other day.  That’s the name I’ve given to our old, faithful car that we’ve had for over a decade.  Yes, my wife and I have a disagreement on whether or not a car should have a guy or girl name, but that’s a discussion for a different time.  For now, I’m sticking with “Cap”, as I call him.

As I glanced down at the odometer, I did some quick math and realized we have driven  Cap for over 170,000 miles since we bought it used many years ago.  At first, my mind embraced the thought that the vast majority of those miles had been free of major car repairs.  That’s always a good feeling.  But then, as my car shifted to a different gear, my mind did, as well.

WARNING:  The following math is subjective.  For the record, I have no idea how fast I was driving for every mile Cap has traveled.  Glad we cleared that up 🙂

Doing some quick math, I figured that if each of those miles represented a minute of time (some miles went quicker, some slower), Sara and/or myself have driven that car for 2,833 hours.  That’s basically 3,000 hours of memories, give or take!

And then the actual memories started flooding in:

  • The faIMG_2664ct this was the vehicle we placed our first child into as we headed home from the hospital.
  • The Native American young people we transported across the great state of Arizona, and the amazing conversations we had with them along the way.
  • The nervous yet faith-filled conversations Sara and I had about the health challenges our second child was facing, and the countless trips back-and-forth to the doctors in the months awaiting his arrival.
  • The memory of pulling over to serenade Sara with “Annie’s Song” by John Denver on the 1 1/2 hour drive from town to our home on the rez.
  • The heartache for those we were leaving behind, yet the excitement about what was ahead, as we loaded up the car and moved from Arizona to Arkansas.
  • Bringing our youngest child (starting off life at 10 lbs., 10 oz.!) home from the hospital a short couple of months after settling into our new home.

There are so many more, from what seemed to be simple conversations to moments of uproarious, tear-inducing laughter.  The fact is, those 2,833 hours are filled with moments that have helped knit my family together in inexplicable ways, and helped shape us in ways that only God truly knows.

And that is what really gets me – so many minutes filled with such rich memories, and I definitely have missed some of them as the mile markers have flown by.  It’s easy to get distracted by what’s around us, isn’t it? It might be frustration from a traffic slowdown, or a missed exit, or dissension in the back seat…which rarely happens, of course 😉  But, I have a God who loves me in mind-blowing ways, and that same Heavenly Father uses those very distractions to weave a beautiful tapestry across the miles.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

He slows me down in unexpected ways, He fills the air with life-giving laughter, He challenges my faith with medical news, He shapes me as a dad as I play games or act as referee.  But maybe most importantly in those 2,833 hours, He has consistently grown the love in my heart as I’ve glanced at my bride riding next to me, and as I’ve snuck a peak in the rear view mirror at the full quiver He has blessed me with.

We have another primary family car now, and there are a million memories that have occurred outside of Cap.  But for now, I’m grateful for the 2,833 hours of memories in that vehicle.  May none of us miss out on the moments, wherever they may spring up.

“Rejoice always…give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thess. 5:16, 18a


My “Jingle All the Way” Morning

I’ve watched a lot of Christmas movies.  A LOT!  And this morning, I got to live a made-for-Christmas-movie moment, and I had to share. If anyone from Hallmark is reading this, shoot me an email and let’s do lunch.

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But first, in the words of Gonzo from “Muppets Christmas Carol”, “…one thing you must remember, or nothing that follows will seem wondrous.”  This all took place as part of my children’s request every year to take part in Operation Christmas Child. This is the program that brings shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts to children in need all around the world, and the national collection week for these started last Monday, and ended today.

And now, back to my “Jingle All the Way” morning… Several days ago, our children packed their shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  With the shoeboxes assembled, we looked at our local collection times, knowing there was a window to drop them off today. However, there is a big difference between 6-8 p.m. and 6-8 a.m.

I was uncharacteristically reading my newspaper (that’s this cool thing that you hold in your hands, and it has lots of stories of what’s happening in the world) in the morning, rather than at night.  And there the words screamed at me – 6-8 a.m.  It was 7:45 a.m. So I jumped up, yelling “Sara!” as I ran, and the flurry began – children throwing shoes and hoodies on, me grabbing the car keys, throwing final labels on the shoeboxes full of gifts, and rushing out the door.

As we pulled out of the driveway, we found the perfect song playing on the radio – “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. In case you haven’t heard it, I’ll pause for a moment so you can go listen to it.  Done? Cool. I learned this morning that this song is the perfect ‘racing the clock to meet a Christmas deadline to brighten a child’s Christmas’ tune.

With the soundtrack set, I drove. Maybe fast. The clock ticked – 7:57, 7:58, 7:59…with my time conscious daughter asking, “Are we going to make it?”. And then 8:00. As we were one block away, the chimes started to play on the clock tower in our quaint small town square. We pulled into the drop off location with the chimes still ringing out.

There was a young man at the door, ready to close up, saying, “You got boxes?”, to which my words rang out, “You know those people who like waiting until the last minute? That’s us.” Literally, the last minute. As we dropped off the boxes, they walked the sign to the door saying, “This collection site is now closed.”

We made it! The boxes made it! And now, I wait for the call to make this into the next Christmas classic. Merry Christmas to all, and now, my morning coffee.img_1660


Worthless Steps

After wondering what all the hubbub was about, I finally took the plunge.  Yes, a coupKnight Riderle of months ago, I became the proud owner of a Fitbit.  Sure, we could debate whether I bought this for noble purposes, or if I bought it strictly to pretend I was Michael Knight talking to K.I.T.T., but I digress.

This investment has been really good for me as I seek to keep on the weight loss trail.  It’s not that I wasn’t exercising before, but each day, I find myself wanting to ‘beat the Fitbit’ in whatever category.  I mean, really, who wants to be bested by a machine, especially one that fits on your wrist?!

The other day, I made the ginormous error of leaving the house without putting on my Fitbit.  As I walked around town a bit, and as I did the Walmart ‘dance’ of crisscrossing the store repeatedly, the thought hit – “Oh man!  All this walking doesn’t even count.  These are worthless steps!”.  

Yes, I quickly came to my senses.  The steps I was taking were good.  They were helping me.  Just because I wasn’t wearing the fancy-schmancy tech gear on my wrist didn’t mean the steps were worthless.  I just have gotten used to seeing with my own eyes how much my steps matter.

After I got back home in K.I.T.T. – um, I mean our family car – I found myself thinking about the steps I take as a husband and dad.  I thought about how I don’t want to take any ‘worthless’ steps in the areas of my life I treasure more than any amount of gold.  I thought how helpful it would be to have a Fitbit showing me the impact of my steps.

And as the proof ran towards me when I came in the door, I realize that I do.  There is no place else that I can see how my steps as a dad and husband matter than in Sara and my three incredible children.  Each day, I can see in their faces if I’m getting it right, or if I’m missing the mark.

I can directly see when I am taking worthless steps – choosing a Yankees’ game over helping with the dishes, keeping my phone too close when my son wants to tell me about his day, playing video games those few extra minutes too long.  And I can definitely see it in those same faces when I’m making my steps matter!  It shows in the faces of those I dearly love, and I feel it in my own heart.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more attuned I am to the internal “GPS” He has given me.  It’s His voice that tells me what is the best use of my time, how to be the best dad I can be, how to love SarPsalm 37 23 pica the way she deserves.  And it’s a fantastic feeling when my head hits the pillow that night and I hear Jesus whisper, “Good job today”, and then as He challenges me to do even better the next day.

So, I guess it’s pretty simple – whether when I’m out walking, or focused on my family, I want my steps to count!


The Easter String

There’s something our parents never told us directly, but as I look back at Easter memories, all the signs were there.  Evidently, we weren’t the sharpest bulbs or the brightest tools in the shed.  Sure, we got good grades and seemed to be holding our own in the ‘smarts’ department, but then it happened.  The Easter string.

We were staying at the Jersey shore one Easter, in the home of a family friend.  We woke up on Saturday morninimage1g to hunt for candy, and my sister, brother and I each found our Easter string.  It was a piece of yarn that started near our beds, and continued throughout the house all the way into the back yard.  Along the way, we found our baskets, then candy and plastic eggs filled with goodies, until we reached the end of the string.

It was a fun time, but as I think back, well, what was that all about?!  I had searched for and found candy many times before…and not just on Easter.  I mean, I could have taught a college level course on “The Willy Wonka Journey: How to find the candy that doesn’t want to be found”.  Sure, I could ask my dad why they did the string, but there’s that lurking fear of what the answer might be.  I’ll just choose to believe it was more for my siblings than for me 😉

Whatever the reason, we’ll never forget the Easter string.  We’ve had lots of laughs about it.  I’m just glad the result remains the same – that Easter string led me where I needed to be.

This is one of many incredible Easter memories, but in the midst of it, my parents always made sure we knew what it was all about.

Easter has a point beyond eggs and candy and a bunny.  Multiple big words are used to talk about Jesus at Easter, but it’s pretty simple to me.  Easter is about the greatest love story ever!  Jesus took my punishment on the cross, and rose again so that I can have eternal life with Him.  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, The Bible).  Greatest love story…ever!

As I was thinking back on this story yesterday of that candy hunt (and smiling big!), I realized that I have a similar goal as a dad, too.  I want to lead my children to the greatest prize there is.  I want to show them Jesus.  Not just on Easter weekend, but each and every day.

I want to show my children what real love is.  I want to train them in the way they Brad and kiddos - 2015should go (Proverbs 22:6).  I want them to know that Jesus isn’t someone who came to give a set of rules, to squash their fun, or to keep them from loving life.  No way!  I want them to know that Jesus came so they can “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  I want them to know that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  And I want them to know that in a world confused about who God is, .

Let’s face it…this world has become pretty complex.  May I be an “Easter string” that shows my children – and many others – the simple truth of Jesus.


What’s in a Name?

I like baseball.  A lot!  I’m one of those guys that has a countdown until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training each year.  This year, there was an extra treat of the World Baseball Classic.  That’s where teams representing several different countries square off to see who can win it all.  And, spoiler alert, Team USA won the 2017 WBC title!

As the scene unfolded after the final out, one of the outfielders was ecstatic as he ran into the celebratory fray.  As he sprinted across the field, he kept pointing to thwbc usa 2e “USA” on the front of his jersey.  This all-star level player who makes millions upon millions wasn’t pointing to the name on the back, or talking about himself in post-game interviews.  It was all about the name on the front of the jersey.

Now, this is something the greatest coaches have talked about for years.  Google holds many quotes from coaches saying, “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back!”.

This all got me thinking about the different names I might have on the back of my jersey – Dad, husband, provider, defender, department director, son, brother, uncle, friend… I know a lot of people with a lot of different ‘names’.  We each play several roles in life, and some more than others.

But what about the namename word cloud 3 on the front of the jersey?  Where does my identity really land?

Sure, it could be whatever role I like the most.  Or it could simply be “Brad” or “Hutchcraft”.  I dig both of those.  For some, it might be their job where they find the most meaning.  For others, their religion, or even their politics.

Playing for Team USA must have been memorable for these men.  But soon, they will be back playing for their regular team.  Logos of the Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, will be proudly worn once again.  Earlier in life, I changed ‘jerseys’ too many times, playing for someone different each day.

And then…Jesus.  He changed everything!  That’s the name that I proudly wear now.  It’s the name that all my other titles come under.  At least that’s the goal.  It’s the only name that I know will last.  Jesus.

It’s not about a set of rules, or a specific church, or whatever ‘religion’ that might come to mind.  And it’s certainly not about a political party!  It’s about this relationship that I started many years ago.  I was created to have a relationship with God.  The Bible says it best – I was “created by Him and for Him”.  We all were.  But I tried running my life my way instead, and I didn’t do a very good job.  Fortunately, God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay my penalty so I could have a chance at real life.  Eternal life with the One who created me.  I just had to choose Him.  So I did, and that has made all the difference.

Those other names?  I really like them.  I love being a dad, a husband, a friend, and the list goes on.  But those things can be challenging at times, and I wouldn’t be very good at them if not for the name on the front of the jersey.  For me to get it right, I’m going to stick with the strongest name there is:

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower…”(the Bible)


The song’s too short

That moment when I get home from work is one of my favorites.  I open the door and hear that melt-your-heart exclamation, “Daddy’s home!”.  My three kiddos come running, I see my lifetime love’s smile, and yes, even the dog makes a beeline to say hello.

Today was extra special.  The kids were in the living room, dancing to some songs on the Pandora Disney station.  It always brings a smile to my face when I see them grooving to those tunes – lots of fun Kodak moments (hey, I’m old enough to say ‘Kodak’ instead of ‘Instagram’).

Then, the song came on.  My daughter’s and my song.  The classic, “Tale as Old as Time” from “Beauty and the Beast”.  We have danced together to that many times, but it’s been awhile.  The song comes on sometimes while we are in the car, and my princess always says, “Skip it! We can only listen when we can dance together.”  So we skip it.

I heard it come on today, and I stopped what I was doing and headed to the living room.  There she was, about to skip the song since I wasn’t there.  But instead, our eyes met, her face sweetly lit up, and she put the remote down.  Into daddy’s arms she ran.

She dances better now than last time.  She dances smoother.  She dances…older.

My wife grabbed our video camera, but it wasn’t working right.  But that’s okay.  The memories of that moment are now seared in my mind, in my heart.

As the song wrapped up, I thought, “This song is too short.”  If you’re a parent, you know that problem.  The song is always too short when we have those moments with our children.  The song of their childhood, the song of their calling my name to help them, the song of them wanting to play ‘super spy’…it all seems too short.

It’s okay, though.  I don’t want to dwell on how quickly time seems to be passing.  I want to live in the moments God gives each and every day.  He’s the One that’s put this family together, and given us these wonderful, forever moments.  Yes, the days fly by, but what amazing days they are that He has planned!

So I want to spend the years ahead living a cliché – making the rest of my days the best of my days.  I think I have a lot of days left, which is great.  I don’t want those days taken up with too much work, too many projects or too many iPhone games.  I want them filled with laughter, joy and dances.  Long dances. And hopefully, the song is a little longer next time around.