In the Autumn of 1986, my life changed in a major way. I had already started classes in 8th grade and now a month into, Mom and I were moving to Phoenix. Everything I knew was in the small town of West Branch, Michigan. My friends were there, it’s where I played baseball, and I had close family that lived only a few hours away. Now I have to live in the desert?! Life seemed unfair and I was bitter. The crappy thing was that I really didn’t have a choice. It was either move with Mom or live with my Dad who was battling alcoholism in Detroit. So, off to the desert I went believing I made the right decision.
It was a very weird time for me. Mom and I spent the entire month of October with my Uncle’s family in Chicago and then finally flew to Arizona in November. We spent a few weeks with my grandparents out in Sun City until Mom found us a place to live in Glendale. We went from living in a house on dirt roads out in the country to an apartment that was surrounded by concrete and asphalt. I showed up to the bus stop the first day in shorts and a t-shirt and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I guess 60 degrees in mid-November is cold for these desert kids. It was balmy for a Michigander like me.
Everything seemed different. The way they talked, the clothes they wore and the music they listened to. I had never heard the word “dude” before, had no idea about Ocean Pacific, and who the heck were these “Hair Bands” they were jamming out to? Most of them were a bunch of scrawny dudes dressed up like chicks. Bon Jovi had just come out with an album with some pretty cool songs, but I was more into t-shirts, blue jeans, Bruce Springsteen, and John Cougar Mellencamp. Where in the world did we move to Mom?!
There was a kid in my apartment complex whose name was Matt Benzen. He seemed nice and introduced me to a few of his buddies. Matt was into MTV, the Beastie Boys and skating. On the surface it meant that we had absolutely nothing in common. However, after getting to know him I learned that he had moved to AZ from Missouri a few years earlier, and we had some things in common. We were both in 8th grade, from the mid-West, and our Dad’s lived thousands of miles away from us. It forced us both into a position where we had to help our Mom’s out a lot and we became pretty good friends.
The guys I met through Matt ended up being really good dudes with great families. Wait, did I just say dude? They knew my Mom was struggling to make ends meet and they helped us in a lot of ways. Take our first Christmas in the desert as an example. Dave Semper invited me to stop by his house and surprised me with a brand-new skateboard. From there I walked down the street and spent most of the day with Chris Sylvester and his family since Mom had to work. His parents also bought me a gift and we spent the afternoon flying styrofoam airplanes in the backyard. I stayed for dinner and hung out until Mom got back home later that night.
These families showed me love and opened up their homes when life was really hard. Deep down I was dealing with a lot of pent up anger and frustration. I hated Arizona and I missed my family and friends back home. I never wanted to move there. I wanted my parents to be together like the families I was hanging out with. I yearned for dinners with my siblings and family get togethers that didn’t require a plane flight. I wanted just a “normal life”. Is that too much to ask?
Learning to Pray
In my heart I have to believe that my parents gave their marriage everything they had. They raised 8 kids the best they knew how and navigated through some extremely difficult challenges with the first seven. I was the baby, so obviously I never did anything wrong. They showed me love, provided my needs, and encouraged me. They also gave me a strong foundation in Christ by doing two little things. They were faithful attenders to church every week and they taught me how to pray. These two things that we as Christians can take for granted, but I believe they are huge.
Attending church on a regular basis is significant because it starts off your week on the right foot. Allowing a pastor to speak into your life prepares us for the weekly battle that we all step into. It is also important to be surrounded by a body of believers. Some of your best friends should be at church and if they’re not, then you must not be spending enough time there. Don’t just attend church, serve there. Ask the church office where they need help. Sign up for a bible study. These are great ways to get to know people at your church. I have noticed that the people who go out of their way the most for me, are dedicated church goers. It is also the place where I learn more about how essential prayer is to my life.
Prayer is powerful and it is the root of most, if not all miracles. It is life changing. There are countless examples in the bible where people prayed with an open, contrite heart and the Lord delivered in their lives. Daniel in the lion’s den, Moses in the desert, David on the battleground, and the list goes on. Praying is a way we get to communicate with the one who created us. It is a spiritual lifeline to God. If you want to hear His voice you should spend time with Him in a quiet place. The old adage “practice makes perfect” is not just for the playing field. Spending time in prayer with God is important. You need to find out where your “prayer closet” is at and go there on a consistent basis.
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV
My whole life I have been living on one prayer after another. I put my whole trust in God and believe that He has my best interests at heart. He has an abundance of blessings stored up for me and my family. It is my goal to stay in communication with Him, so I can hear His voice when I ask for wisdom before making a decision. I just want to live within His will for my life.
Here are some things to think about this week and apply to your life:
- See the good in others and do not judge them by how they look or talk.
- Serve at your church and get to know the people there.
- Find your prayer closet and spend time with God there on a daily basis.
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