Pillars of Strength

My posts had been a bit on the emotional side as opposed to the technical side, mainly because this journey has been just about as much an emotional one as it has been a technical one. It’s all part of the journey I suppose. So prepare yourself for a tear jerker.


They have the best smiles, right?

The other morning my grandma gave me a call. When I saw her name come up on the phone I hesitated picking it up. I always look at the I.D. before I pick up the phone mainly because I dislike talking on the phone. This time, however, I mainly hesitated picking up the phone because I didn’t want to cry… and I knew if I heard her voice the water works would be inevitable. Our conversation was brief, but within minutes were were both crying. That’s jus the way the two of us are I guess. I think there is this part of us that is like kindred spirits. Separated by a few decades, but I think had we been the same age we would have been the best of friends. The night before I was leaving to drive out to California, I stopped by her place to say goodbye for now. She was hanging with some of her friends (she is SOOOO popular and always has friends around her, she has an infection personality like that). Our visit was short and bittersweet, and on my way out she handed me some trail mix for the long drive ahead.


Later that night I was at my parents house cleaning up after dinner, and we got a call from grandma. My mom picked up, then handed the phone to me saying “grandma forgot to tell you something.” I held the phone up to my ear and she proceeded to say “I, meant to sing this to you when you were here, but we were both crying too much, so I’ll sing it now… (in her crackling, but oh-so-sweet singing voice, she starts singing that classic Roy Rogers song well all know too well) …Happy trails to you, until we meet again, Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then…” That’s about all she could get out before we were both sobbing again.  There is only one verse of the song, and it goes like this…

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.

 It’s supper campy, I know. But I think there is also something really important there. We are all given this one life to live – there are parts that are awesome and make us feel great about ourselves and the world around us… but there are also a lot of things that are heavy and can feel like a permeant gray cloud hovering above our head. Life throws us all sorts of curve balls, it’s up to us to decide how to handle them. We can focus on the gloom and gore and forever have our lives tinted with sadness, or, we can make the decision to ride the trail however we want.


One of my favorite mugs – would wouldn’t want to be reminded of this lady with every sip of coffee?

I’m riding this trail, and even though it’s not always easy, I’m going to try my darnedest to make it count. My grandmother is a pillar of strength, and I know this without a shadow of a doubt because she is supporting me from halfway across the country,… and she’s 80-something years old (grandma, I’m not telling everyone your exact age, because I’m trying to be somewhat polite). That’s close not 3 thousand miles – a pillar that that covers that distance has to be strong itself and have a strong foundation. Just try to fathom the engineering you would have to master to create a man-made pillar that strong – I’m pretty sure it’s impossible (after reading this I kind of realize this is kind of a terrible engineering joke/pun, but I’m also deciding to leave it in here – I guess that tells you a lot about how poor my judgment skills can be sometimes).

So thanks grandma for all of your strength, and until we meet agin…happy trails to you!


Don’t trust. Verify.

Today marks the end of week one at back at school. It has felt strange and refreshing not being at work anymore – I feel challenged and leave exhausted at the end of the day. The type of exhausted that means I REALLY did something today. On the other hand, it’s terrifying. I got my last pay check today from my previous job. That means that it’s budget time. I have a very specific amount of money to ride out on for the next foreseeable future. At times that scares the shit out of me. I’ve cut as many corners as I can – but at the end of the day I am still living in the most expensive city in the country – and I still need to eat, and get from point A to point B – and that is far from cheap.

Today, we had a Nicolas Bacca, the CTO at Ledger an Btchip, come in to talk to us about security. His tag line was – don’t trust. Verify. He wanted to drive home the point that in the technology industry, we can’t just trust every program we run or every website we log into – you need to verify everything. Trust leads to holes in security. Trusting things, without verification, means hackers have the opportunity to swoop in and take advantage of your information. This is a crucial tag line to implement when you work in the technology industry. I got to thinking about it more – and I quickly realized that it may work for the technology industry, but it doesn’t work in most other parts of life. Or – at least it shouldn’t. Don’t trust, verify – it implies that we should assume all control. That just isn’t feasible in life, nor is it healthy. We are not in control.

A few months back when I was just starting to talk about the possibility of starting down the path of software engineering, I found myself standing in the kitchen of the Lewis family home. I was talking to Mary Lewis, a mentor and friend. The past few years, I have been helping out at the Lewis home with their five girls (ranging in age from 5 to 17). But long ago, before Mark and Mary were parents of these five girls, they were actors in New York. Originally from Arkansas, Mary found herself in love with New York. Between her work on soap operas, and stellar roles dancing on broadway – the Big Apple had captured her heart. While in New York, Mark was offered a job in the Communications department at Wheaton college (just west of Chicago). Seeking council, the two headed to their pastor – at that time it was Tim Keller. Tim Keller is a big supporter of Christians choosing to live in our cities (I put some links to some recent posts from Tim Keller on the subject). That being said – when Mary went to seek council, she was pretty sure Tim was going to tell them that they were needed in the City. You can guess where this is going – Tim told them to go to Wheaton. Shocker.

Mary didn’t want to go at first. But God had bigger plans – plans Mark and Mary couldn’t quite see yet. When I got accepted to Holberton School, I felt a similar way. I couldn’t make out a clearly defined path of what deciding to go into software engineering looked like. Making a big decision like that without knowing all the facts is scary – and very uncomfortable. But there I was, standing in the the kitchen talking to Mary about her decision to make uncomfortable decisions nearly two decades ago – not too different from mine. It wasn’t the decision to move across the country, leaving behind the city you love – but rather the decision to trust the doors that God opens for us, and to walk through them with grace.

Here is the take away. We try really hard as human beings to remain in control of our lives. We make plans, we save our money and tighten our belts if needed, we make safe decisions to ensure we live a comfortable happy life. But it doesn’t matter how much planning, or securing we d0 – disasters strike, stock markets fall, and our loved ones get sick. There is no verification in the world that could stave off the reality of this fallen world we live in. Control does not lead to happiness, it leads to a self-centered, stale, life. God gifs us times of trial – he places fog on the path right in front of us. Our job is not to wait for the fog to lift, or take out our map to check of the possible hazards that may lie ahead – our job is to trust that He has our best interest at heart.

I challenge you – the next time you see fog up a head, don’t wait for it to clear, but seek council and if God is leading you forward, walk with grace and trust that His plans are far greater than you could even imagine. Don’t verify – TRUST.

(My path is still foggy – I’ll let you know when it starts to clear)


The Difference Christianity Could Make in the City

The City, the Church, and the Future – Tim Keller