All Aboard!

My grandfather, Jerry Hanna, was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. He grew up in Texas, and in this part of Texas, most were either ranchers or railroaders. My mother’s family was pretty much equal parts both. So in a sense, I imagine it’s fitting enough for me to say my family built the West.

I’ve always loved trains. I grew up listening to the trains blow their whistle as they rumbled through town each night. Everything about an old locomotive is filled with nostalgia. They represent a bygone era. This town owes much of its heritage to Santa Fe Railroad, so there’s remnants of that history all about. There’s even a locomotive called “Whistle Stop” in the midst of Cleburne’s Hulen Park, and it’s the center of our Christmas parade each year.

My mom’s father was killed in a car accident when she was only a very young girl. It was an immeasurable tragedy that had a tremendous impact on our family, and the reverberations of that event are still felt to this day. I know him only from stories and pictures, but I am often told how my brother and I remind everyone of him. My hope has always been to live a life that would make him proud and further build upon the foundation of faith, family, and honest hard-work, he and so many others in my family have laid.

In the last few months, the Lord has spoken to me quite a lot about my grandfather and His desire to restore all that was lost. In the midst of this season of praying into these things, my mom gave me two very special gifts, her father’s pocket watch and railroad pin. It’s a beautiful Hamilton pocket watch that was widely used by the railroad because of its reliability. It has a well-worn patina in places from his daily use. It was with him in the accident, so it still bears a scar upon its face. The glass was replaced, and it was then put away in a box not to tick for decades, until recently.

I love pocket watches and antique clocks and so did my grandfather. He collected clocks, dogs, and high-end guns. We would have had a lot in common. He even played bass guitar. My mom has two of my grandfather’s antique clocks. One has not worked in nearly a decade while the other has not worked since he was alive. I decided to take both to a local business that cleans and restores clocks, recently. For about a month now, they have been working and chiming again. In the midst of getting all of these clocks and watches working, I cannot help but consider it significant symbolism. With each tick and chime, they seem to say, “It is time.”

AR

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Goals – A work in progress

I routinely find myself encouraging the people I train both in fitness and nutrition the importance of creating goals. There are countless books, articles, podcasts and other mediums on the power of setting goals. I often relay this information without hesitation, but as of late, I have begun to feel slightly hypocritical in my advice-giving. To have a season where you do not have a goal you are working toward is less than ideal. However, the true danger lies in allowing that solitary season to become routine and expand into months and even years. This is a familiar trap for many. Recently, I have felt myself in that very trap.

Goals are funny things. We can easily rattle off a few, without any true inclination toward pursuing them. It is normally paired with thoughts such as, “It would be nice if…” These are not goals. I would more classify them as vain ambitions. These grandiose ideas make us feel somewhat better – as if they are some momentary escape from the water-treading we have been doing. But they are nevertheless meaningless until we are ready to pursue them regardless of cost and sacrifice.

I just returned home from the Dominican Republic a couple of days a go. While there, I had quite a bit of time to reflect – where I am, where I am going, what I want, and so on. Reflection can be a good thing. Although, I often do better while focusing on minimal reflection. I have a tendency to over analyze most things. This causes great passion in the beginning pursuit of something until a few obstacles arise. These obstacles begin to feel more like warning signals rather than obstacles to overcome, so I find myself wavering on whether I made the correct decision in starting the journey. This sounds ridiculous, but many do the same thing without realizing their pattern until a lifetime of unfinished journeys has led them to a place they never wanted to be.

I love to read history, especially biographies. All of my favorite men and women in history were relentless with their goals. What impresses me most, I think, is how many never had moments where they sat wondering what they wanted or ought to do. They simply gave themselves over to a goal – any goal, often from a young age, and they tirelessly pursued it until completion. They never wondered whether they had it in them to complete it. It seems many of them were wildly insufficient when they began the journey, but through the process, they became the person necessary to complete it.

The power in a goal is not the goal or the completion of it. The power lies in the pursuit. This has led me to believe the goal itself almost does not matter. It is whether or not you are willing to give all you have over to its pursuit. Will you sacrifice what is needed? Do you simply dream of doing more – of being more than you presently are? Or have you truly committed? How much time we waste in trying to find the perfect plan or the perfect goal. Life has a fluidity that is hard to understand. When you truly live, life finds a way of unfolding before you. Life favors the bold and relentless. I believe God designed it that way.

In my circles, there is never a shortage of talk or ideas. There is rarely a shortage of prayer. I can speak only for myself, but I find the paucity in my life lies in the committing to a solitary idea. This is not something that improves over time on its own. It is a facet of self-discipline that must be addressed. And moreover, I believe each person must have a grave realization that life is not about pursuing or preserving comfort. This alone relegates ninety percent of the distractions around us. (I suppose this would be a good plug for Teddy Roosevelt’s book, “The Strenuous Life.” He may very well be my favorite person in history.)

This is where I am. Transition lies in heaps all about me and uncertainty with every step. However, the beginning of faith and hope is to trust God’s ability to pick me up when I fall and to clean up the messes I make along the way. My aim is to live a life in which I can readily say, “This one thing I do.” This naturally demands a great ability to say no to most other things. We live in a world where everything and everyone will place a steady stream of constraints upon you if allowed. But boundaries are easily set when you have committed to a thing.

I hope my meanderings may help someone in a similar place. To that, I leave you with this. The end game is not the completion of a goal, but whatever you do – see it through. Not for the sake of the goal but for the sake of your character and the person you hope to become.

AR

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Éireann, táim ag teacht.

When I was around the age of five, my dad brought me to one of his bookcases in his study. He reached for the globe and pulled it down for me to see. He turned it and pointed to a relatively small island in the North Atlantic and explained this was where our family came from. He was pointing to Ireland, and I’ve dreamed of going since that day. I’ve studied the history, the culture, the language, and the music most all of my life.

On April 12, 2018, a life-long dream becomes reality. Claire and I will be flying to Dublin, Ireland, and then driving to Cork. I’ll be the first person in my family to return to Cork since they came to the States. It’s honestly still hard to believe the time has finally come. There aren’t really words.

I’m very excited and grateful Claire is going with me. We are still working on the routes we will be taking, but it promises to be an adventure. So here’s to the journey ahead.

Éireann, táim ag teacht.

AR

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The typewriter

I sat down at my old Smith-Corona late last night and began to write for the first time in a while. It’s a 50+ year old typewriter in a strange shade of green. Some of the keys show a bit of wear, but it’s actually in remarkable condition considering. Around the time I first got it, I was asked by many why I would want an antiquated machine most are all too eager to dispose of in a garage sale.

It’s clunky and a bit worn in places, but there’s a beauty to it. What first drew me to it was the thought of limiting distraction. When you sit down to a typewriter, they’re a bit of a one trick pony. They type. That’s about it. When using a computer, distractions are readily available. I appreciate the simplicity of it.

There’s something about the rhythmic striking of the keys. The ebb and flow seems to tell a story of its own. At the very least, it accentuates the story being told. Its typeface also has quite a lot of character. Each typewriter has its own individual fingerprint of sorts. I’ve heard detectives of the past used typeface to sometimes lead them to perpetrators. Perhaps, that’s why criminals began using letters cut from newspapers instead of typing or writing their messages by hand.

Typewriters have recently experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity. I suppose Tom Hanks and hipsters are to thank for this. I prefer to thank Tom Hanks. Nevertheless, it’s the literary greats that inspired my acquisition. Quotes from Ernest Hemingway for instance, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

My fingers have yet to bleed. Although, I believe that was mostly meant as a metaphorical expression. With Hemingway, it’s a little hard to tell. Regardless, I’ve found my typing speed is improving quite a lot. My hope is to one day write something of substance using it — a book maybe. A short book. Ha.

There is an arcane draw to archaic machines. It is not shared by all, but if you’ve ever seen the beauty of a well-preserved WWII airplane, a sextant, or even a typewriter – perhaps you understand. These old machines may be considered antiquated technology with little to no purpose today, but they serve as reminders of eras gone by. They were built during a time when things were built to last.

AR

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