Posts Tagged ‘family’

A little over a week ago, our only daughter, Delanie, got married. it was a really good day full of love and laughter and a few tears. on her wedding day I gave her a letter. I tried to capture some of the love, pride and hope that I feel for her. now that the confetti has settled, with her permission, I share my feelings…

Sweet child of mine…

My Dearest Delanie,


Today I will walk you down an aisle and give your hand to a tall bass player.

I remember the first time I ever saw that hand. It was in a hospital in Tulsa.

Time stood still as I counted your perfect little fingers.

I instantly loved you.

But time never stands still for long…

On this very special day, I think back to so many other special days…

Memories flood my soul like vividly colored snapshots…

I might be a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure you were the cutest baby ever born (you can thank your mom for that!)

you had super chunky little arms with folds perfect for hiding Cheerios. (you can thank me for that)

We were shocked to learn that you didn’t come with an instruction manual. We had no idea what we were doing. When we first brought you home we were so afraid we were going to break you. We checked constantly to make sure you were still breathing. We kept calling Nanny and Poppy and they were always there to help us and to snuggle with you.

From the beginning you liked to dance to your own beat. Before you could even walk, We would crank up “baby likes to rock it ” by the Tractors ( it was your jam) you would start shaking and bopping in your yellow little tykes boat.

I remember the first day of kindergarten, you bravely marched up the sidewalk carrying a power puff girl backpack full of dreams, a big box of crayons and a slim jim (which was the only thing you would eat for lunch). We let go of your hand and watched you walk away…and we bawled like preschoolers.

I remember our daily daddy-daughter trips to 7-11 to get Slurpees. Red slurpees were the perfect remedy for a hard day.

Instead of butterfly kisses I got Slurpee smooches that left my cheek sticky and stained.

I remember spending summers at Camp Whispering Oaks. You got the run of the snack shack and hung out with the interns. I remember one day when we were driving around in a golf cart, i took a corner a little too fast and you went flying. I still feel bad about that. I watched your little body propel out of a golf cart and roll down a red dirt hill. I instantly thought “OH MAN! Diana is gonna kill me!” Fortunately You were fine, just a little twitchy. I bribed you with candy to never mention it to anyone. But, you ran straight to Fran Westbrook (my boss) and blurted out “MY DAD ALMOST KILLED ME!”

I remember Horse camp and watching you ride around on the final night. I couldn’t help but think that your great grandpa would be really proud. I also remember the second year of horse camp. I missed the final night, because some mean church elders insisted on having a meeting and I caved in. I later watched the video of you riding out, looking around and asking “where’s Daddy?” It broke my heart that I wasn’t there for you. That is one of my greatest regrets as a parent, I swore I would never do that again.

I remember driving around together in a little red truck singing along as loud as we could to country music.

I remember the Daddy – Daughter dances where I would take your hand and we would dance to Disney channel hits. Then you would get bored and run off with the Walshes. I would stand on the sidelines and watch you laugh and your laughter was the sweetest song.

I remember a refrigerator door full of art made from macaroni, glitter, sand and shaving cream. (Thank you Miss Cassandra and Ms. Kimberly!)

I remember when you were 4 years old and you gave us a glimpse into your future when cut your own hair. You wanted to look like a Dixie Chick.the results were…interesting. You looked more like Bjork than Natalie Maines.

We spent countless, priceless hours at Six Flags and Sea World. The smell of freshly paved asphalt still takes me back to Looney Toon Land. We rode rides and pet dolphins. I remember you being really upset because of the stupid “you must be this tall to ride this” sign. It kept you from riding the steel eel. I felt your pain! We went to Wal-Mart and bought you some wedge sandals and suddenly you were tall enough. you rode it the next day. I loved that you loved roller coasters.

I remember sitting in unbelievably uncomfortable metal bleachers and watching you play softball. You were a beast. You were a seriously amazing catcher. You were ticked if you didn’t get to play the whole game. You played so hard and gave it your all. I’ve never been a super competitive dude but I really can’t explain the crazy competitive feelings I had when I watched you play. It ignited something in me.

I wanted you to win and sometimes you did.

I also watched as sometimes you didn’t.

You learned that sometimes you lose and character is the most important trophy.

I remember Oklahoma, and Indiana, and Oklahoma again, and Texas, and finally…North Carolina.

AHHHH…North Carolina…a magical place where you met a boy from Georgia.

Tomorrow you wake up with two names that people pronounce wrong…good luck with that.

I really couldn’t be more proud of you.

I’m so glad that you didn’t allow others to define you.

You have always been an incredible combination of independent spunk and sweet vulnerability.

You didn’t let anybody clip your wings and now you get to fly.

I’m so proud of the lady, artist, and friend that you have become.

You are an incredible, interesting individual.

You are passionate about what you believe and who you love.

You are a woman of God and you inspire me.

I believe in you.

You are Beautiful inside and out.

You are courageous!

YOU are the greatest art I ever made.

Go live some big dreams baby!

It won’t be easy, but you have a very good man standing beside you.

Cover each other. Be a safe place for one another.

love without expectation and forgive without limit.

Laugh every chance you get because joy is one of the greatest weapons ever.

Make Jesus the center of everything.

Together, you two are going to do great things.

When things get crazy, slow down and have a red slurpee.

And please know that you are forever beloved.

I love you,


“The church sent them on their way. They passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, stopping to report to the groups of believers there that outsiders were now being converted. This brought great joy to them all.” Acts 15:3

I was struck by the beauty of this verse this morning.
The beauty of belonging.
Outsiders are coming into the family and the family is really happy about it!
That’s the way it should be. It should be a source of uncontainable joy when outsiders become a part of our party.
It makes me think of a conversation I had with my friend Mike this week. He told me about a quote that he heard…

Church should be like thanksgiving day.

Think about it…
There’s nothing like a big thanksgiving celebration.


The smells…the sounds…the stories.

There’s always that crazy uncle who will, inevitably, say or do something embarrassing.
Doesn’t matter, He still has a place at the table.
There are family members who end up napping in the corner.
There is a cousin who only eats pie.
There is life and laughter.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Mike is onto something.
Church should feel, taste and smell like thanksgiving!
We should share food and drink.
Jesus threw parties where the food never ran out…I like that.
We should share stories.
We should laugh loud and love louder.
Church should smell like home.
There is freedom to be the weird Uncle or to take a nap or to eat a third piece of pie.
We should always be ready to add another leaf to the table.
Everybody has a place.
We ALL get to sit at the kid’s table.
We realize that is the funnest place to sit.
You don’t have to worry about appropriate.
You can burp and your cousins giggle.
You don’t have to worry about which fork to use.
You can turn your fancy napkin into a party hat.
Another crazy thing about thanksgiving…
It’s all about thanks!
There shouldn’t be any chest thumping or finger pointing.
Just hands open in gentle gratitude.
The posture of “whew!! WE made it! Pass the green bean casserole!”
We celebrate the beautiful, diverse belonging that we find at the table.
Our differences make us all the same.
Let’s serve up grace like gravy.
Let’s make a place for the outsiders and insiders…
The crazy uncles and hyperactive cousins…
We are family…
A big, crazy, messed up family.
Let’s party.


Posted: February 17, 2015 in brain belches
Tags: , , , ,

SNOW DAY…those are two very polarizing words! ( get it…polar?!).

You probably either love or hate snow days.
It’s either magical or messy, usually depending on your age.
For a kid there are few things greater than a snow day.
We would get up early, just to see if we could sleep in late.
Was school closed?
You impatiently watched the names scroll across the bottom of the TV screen.
Your reprieve from the classroom.
It was time to play!!!
You would get bundled up…
It was a strenuous process.
Long johns…two pairs of pants…t shirt…sweat shirt…old coat…stocking hat…gloves…boots.
Then you would stumble, barely able to move your arms, into the frozen tundra of your front yard.
Where, you would suddenly realize that you REALLY need to pee.
Finally, You would play for hours until you couldn’t feel your cheeks.
then you went inside and get some tomato soup.
You could feel the healing power of the soup as it slowly made your insides warm again.
There is something undeniably special about a snow day.
Snow days have a way of freezing moments in time.
They have a way of making memories that warm your soul.
As I write this on a snow day, one other snow day in particular stands out.
It was a bitterly cold Oklahoma day.
We were hanging out at our Grandma’s house with a slew of cold, bored cousins.
My Uncle Lee had a jeep.
Guys with jeeps love snow days.
Growing up, My Uncle Lee was the single coolest human being I knew.
He was my hero.
He had long hair. He seldom wore shoes (even on snow days).
He lived wild and free.
He was a peacemaker.
He was kind to little kids and animals.
It seemed like He always had had time for us…sometimes adults didn’t.
It’s amazing how the simple act of finding time for kids can make you a rock star in their eyes.
Uncle Lee had a great snow day idea.
He got a chain and a huge piece of black rubber.
Do you see where this is going?
Where normal men see a worthless scrap of tire rubber…
Super cool Uncles see sleds!
He attached the “sled” to the jeep with the rusty chain.
We found a huge, reasonably hazard free field.
Uncle Lee did donuts and we hung on,for dear life, to the homemade sled.
Cousins were flying everywhere as he would take corners.
We laughed hard and tried to hang on.
It seemed like a great idea…
getting dragged behind a jeep and flung into rocks and trees.
Until, our pants filled up with snow.
We were frozen to the bone…so cold!
Even the chilliest memories can warm your heart.
I will never forget that snow day.
Snow days have a way of freezing moments in time.
I will never forget that moment.

My Uncle Lee left this world way too early.

He was only 41, he was building his dream house.
In a freak accident he fell backwards and hit his head.
I didn’t understand why that happened…I still don’t.
He was a great man, the epitome of gentle strength.
He was a great husband, father and brother.
He was a really cool uncle.
Cool Uncles make great Grandpas, he never got the chance.
Sometimes real life is bitterly cold.
We are left chilled to the bone.

But because, Snow days have a way of freezing moments in time.
I remember a forever young, cool Uncle and a jeep.
I remember the wild and free moments.
I remember the grown up who took the time to play.
I remember.

Memories can be like tomato soup, they warm your insides.

I was about 12 years old and I was going to my first night club.

I was excited! Once a month the 20th century club (a very cutting edge establishment) had a Catholic youth disco night. It was on a school night and I was going! Why stay home…when you should be dancing!
I didn’t want to show up alone, I didn’t want people to think I was a loser.
So I invited my cousin…
My incredibly incredible cousin Carmen agreed to go, because she was (and is) a really kind person.
One of our Moms had a great idea…for us to wear matching outfits. We wore denim vests and purple shirts. I think there might have been sequins involved. We looked like part of the Osmond family.
I tried my hardest to look like Barry Gibb, I had a gold chain and shiny, plastic shoes. I put some of my Mom’s Aqua net on my hair and my Dad’s old spice on my face.
We got dropped off and I couldn’t wait to boogie.
I had been watching American Bandstand for a while so I was schooled in the fine art of disco.
I danced like crazy.
I danced with all my might.
I danced like someone was watching.
That was a problem.
I’ve since learned that It’s a whole lot more fun when we dance like nobody’s watching.
Just because we love the dance.
But, it turns out, THERE was somebody watching. An actual FEMALE somebody, who wasn’t related to me. I was doing some alluring moves to KC and the Sunshine Band, when I looked across the dance floor and there was a girl smiling at me! And…then…she…waved…me…over!
i was fairly certain that she wanted to dance or maybe elope.
This girl was about my age and she was cute. Feathered hair, a shiny dress and braces to match.
So, without breaking eye contact, I danced over to her. that’s right, I was that cool.
She smiled the whole time. The disco ball reflected off her retainer.
She was standing with some friends drinking a 7up.
I boogied up, ready to hustle her heart away.
She giggled and said “you are such a cute little boy!”
And then dream girl patted me on the top of my head like I was a puppy…SERIOUSLY.

that wasn’t the reaction I wanted. there would be no eloping that night.

Then she walked off with her friends.
I was crushed…humiliated…embarrassed.
I remember it like it was yesterday, because that kind of painful rejection parks itself on the dance floor of your psyche.
This girl saw me in a sweaty horde of preteen wanna be dancers and in comparison I looked like a little kid. I was smack dab in the middle of a crowd that was taller than me. If only the lighting had been better, she could have seen my mustache. Then it would have been undeniable that I was a MAN. instead she saw a puppy in a pen of big dogs. It was all about the surroundings.
It’s still true 40 years later.
I’m 5″1′ tall.
Honestly, I never really notice my height until I’m standing right next to people who aren’t 5″1′.
It’s really only in a crowd that I feel small.
I look around, and all I see are armpits. I lose myself in the crowd. It’s when I break away from the crowd that my differences don’t matter.
Let me share something unbelievably profound with you…

Ifyou want to STAND OUT you got to STAND OUT.

I know…that just blew your mind, right?
If you want people to get to know the real you STAND OUT, don’t blend in.
Why would you get lost in the crowd when you should be dancing?

When we were kids, we would spend every New Year’s Eve at our grandparents. All of the parents would drop the cousins off and we would party like 6 through 10 year olds…it would get crazy! We would eat cookies and popcorn. We would build forts from furniture. We would jump up and down for no apparent reason. We would listen to grandpa’s police scanner. Then, when it was getting late, around 8:30, we would gather in the living room for a talent show. My cousin, Gayla, did a marionette show. She had a very cool stage and she always did a great job. My cousin, Kayse, did some ballet. There were impressive professional wrestling exhibitions and home movies. I think there was a trained ferret once. There was an occasional ukulele or harmonica solo. I always did a…umm…magic show.

For a few years I got a magic kit for Christmas, the kind with…wait for it…24 real magic tricks!! This gave me a week to master the skills of illusion. This usually didn’t work out.
The problem was, it seems, that to master sleight of hand, you really need actual motor skills and discretion. I still can not shuffle a deck of cards, that makes card tricks a little…well…tricky! But, my obvious lack of skills didn’t stop me. I was hopeful. I had big dreams, I was going to be the next Houdini. I called myself the amazing Languini, because I thought it sounded mysterious and cool. I didn’t realize that I was calling myself a noodle. Nothing says mystifying like pasta.
Each New Year’s Eve I put on quite possibly the worst magic show ever. I remember trying to do the trick with the little red plastic vase and rope and never being able to do it right. The only thing I managed to pull out of my hat was lint. I poked myself in the eye once with my real store bought magic wand. Luckily for my self esteem I had some very supportive cousins. With each mediocre trick they gave me a new chance. “That last one was pretty rough, but let’s see what you got now…”

There is something so completely hopeful about a new year.
It’s freshly fallen possibility, untouched, unsmudged, pure potential.
You can pick it up and take it wherever you choose.
Technically, January 1st is just another day, right?
But there is something magical about it.
There is a strange magic in NEW.
The chance to start over…to begin again…a fresh start…a clean slate.
Last year was tough, but hey…you get a fresh start.
“That last one was pretty rough, but let’s see what you got now…”
It’s really good news…it’s the power of potential. Hit the restart button. It’s not too late.
It’s like every 365 days we get a Do-over. It’s a built in time for reflection and renewal.
There is power in pause.
Stop…What did I get right? What did I screw up? What is beyond my control? How can I start all over?
It’s strange magic…How can I make the ugly disappear and pull some new dreams out of my hat?
I love that new year smell…
Each new year smells like the spirit of do-over.
It’s downright magical

Who is the strongest person you know? I’ve met some pretty tough people, football players and fighters, pro wrestlers and soldiers. They were pretty impressive individuals, BUT, not the strongest person I know. I’ve even met Chuck Norris, he was a super cool guy, BUT, he wasn’t the strongest person I know.
The strongest person that I know is 4′ 11″, she sometimes walks with a cane and hangs out with a weenie dog named Stretch. It’s my mom, Marilyn Lang. She is the strongest person that I’ve ever met.
My dad was a tough guy, an all American MAN. He was John Wayne and Superman all wrapped up into one hairy package. He was tough, but he wasn’t as strong as my mom.
She was strong enough to beat the odds that everyone saw and the ones that nobody knew about.
The summer before she turned 8 she was diagnosed with polio. Her life would never be the same. It was often hard and painful. She was strong enough to beat polio, although, like Jacob in the Old Testament, her struggle left her with a limp. She was strong enough to live with the limp. True strength…real strength comes from living with weakness. What weakened her legs FOREVER strengthened her spirit.
She was strong enough to raise three kids, she birthed two and chose one (but, she did have labor pains the day my sister, Hope, was born 6,645 miles away).
She was strong enough to simply be herself and encourage her kids to do the same.
She was strong enough to, by her example, instill something in us that is unbreakable…a faith. By herself, she took…sometimes dragged…us to church. My brother, Mark, and I are ONLY in the business of changing lives because She was strong enough to change our lives.
She was strong enough to work hard at a school cafeteria, a bank and a pharmacy. Only to come home and work hard some more.
She was strong enough to get in the face of people twice her size if they were messing with the people she loved. Sometimes she even used a footstool to do this.
She was strong enough to love one man though good, bad and ugly. Then, just when things were getting beautiful, She was strong enough to carry on with life, when that man left the dance way too early.
She was strong enough to dance alone.
She was strong enough to make a new life.
She is strong enough to do the right thing, even when it wasn’t the easy or popular thing.
She is strong enough to tell the truth.
She is strong enough to love.
She is strong enough to forgive the hurters and the haters.
She is strong enough to dance like nobodies watching.
My little Mother is the biggest badass I know.
Life has thrown her some serious curveballs, sometimes it still does.
She will beat them.
She is just that strong.
Don’t mess with her.
She is THE strongest person I’ve ever known.