Growing up Griggs

Sarcasm and cynicism is something I come by honest. Perhaps it's because I'm the youngest of three boys, all separated by a mere two and half years, and my place on the food chain was well established from day one. Or maybe it was all the comments that me and my brothers got when mom dressed us up all alike and people would stare for a second and then exclaim, "Oh my! Are they triplets?"

It was at this point that I usually got into trouble. Before my mom could explain our ages, I would step up, hands on my hips, and ask, "Do we look like triplets?" I mean, come on! We were stair stepped in height and, other than a crop of blonde hair on top of our heads, we really didn't look all that much alike. Those early lessons that I learned after the fact about manners should have stuck with me longer than they did.

Growing up in a house full of boys wasn't always easy, but it most certainly was fun. From the beginning the outdoors was our playground. When the summer months hit and school mercifully released its hold on us, darkness was the only boundary for being home that we knew. We had neighborhood boys up the street and one street over, so we never lacked for playmates or friends to dare us to do the next stupid thing that brought out the band-aids at best or grounding at worst. Life seemed so simple and slow then.

My parents were and still are amazing parents. They both worked ridiculous hours at more than one job to feed and clothe us, their work ethic still etched in my soul. I can remember my dad dragging in after a long day's work as a contract draftsman only to change clothes and run off to a church softball game or another sporting event that we were involved in. My middle brother made the high school soccer team as a freshman, an unheard of feat in the 1980's, and he started all four years. To my knowledge my dad only missed one game, home or away.

Mom was that constant presence in our house. Whether it was making sure we had breakfast in our bellies or everything we needed before running to the school bus, she always seemed to save the day just in the nick of time. I can remember one day forgetting to grab the paper bag that my lunch was packed in and having to call home to see if she could run it up to school. This happened to be one of those days when laziness trumped responsibility and all I had packed was a quarter bag of nacho cheese Doritos. When my name was called to come pick up my lunch at the office, I found a bag filled with a sandwich, chips, fruit, and a cookie. She never did fuss at me when I got home either, for I figure she knew I had learned not to slack-pack again.

We were fortunate to all have our separate bedrooms, my brothers and I. That split-level house on Winslow Lane in Winston-Salem, NC, looked kind of like a barn, but in my eyes that place was a castle. On the bottom level joining the garage was a room we called the playroom. It was where all of our gear and toys were stored in bins and shelves and where I would retreat to help G.I. Joe save the day or make a test run of the Millennium Falcon. Sometimes at night we would turn off the lights in that room and play what we called "The Game," which was nothing more than hide-and-seek in the pitch dark. The thrill of waiting for that hand to accidentally tag you was often more than I could stand.

By the time my second year in high school rolled around we were living in another house located in a different school district on the other side of town. Not far away from us was the prestigious neighborhood of Buena Vista, marked not so much by boundary lines as it was the sheer size of the homes and quality of the cars in the driveways. Many of my friends lived there and I cut through there all the time on my way to school and their houses, yet I knew that I wasn't quite up to the social standing that they had been born into. That never really bothered me and no one ever made me feel that way, it was just something I knew and appreciated. I was proud to be in the middle class.

Sophomore year in high school marked a new era for my family. My oldest brother was now a collegian, even though he was living just ten minutes down the road at Wake Forest University. Still, it was odd having one less body in the house and one less role model to lean on. Two years later I was the only bird left in the nest, my next oldest brother having retreated to that state university in Chapel Hill. I thought I would enjoy the freedom of being the only child and of not having to share the car during those years, but the truth is I felt more loneliness than I cared to admit.

You could say that going off to college began the final transition into manhood for me, and you would be right if I had stayed gone, but I didn't. Home was what I knew. Even though my grades and degree predicted a decent future for me, those thoughts were put on hold as I wound up back home for a few years before I was able to finally grow my permanent wings that helped me to leave the nest. I know that I am not alone.

Growing up Griggs wasn't always perfect but it was wonderful for me. It is so tempting to romanticize those days of coming home covered in dirt after catching crawdads in the creek or scoring the winning touchdown in a no-holds-barred game of tackle football in the backyard, but I find that I don't need to embellish a thing. The memories I have are fond and most of those people in my life who helped to form who I am are still doing so today.

Honestly, I don't call my brothers as much as I should and my parents hear from me less that a faithful son should admit. Yet not a day goes by that I am not ridiculously grateful for my family and how they helped to shape me into the husband and father that I am today.

And now I have four kids of my own who are living their own version of Growing up Griggs.

What the 1980's are teaching us about our future

What is going on with all this retro stuff that America is going crazy with? Everywhere you look, someone is trying to kick it old school and go back in time. There is the 1980's-ET-sythesizer-inspired Stranger Things show on Netflix (which is awesome, by the way) that pretty much everyone I know who graduated high school in the 1980's is gaga about. The newer Progressive insurance commercials are all now filmed as retro 1970's spots. Then there are movies - how many remakes of older movies are we gonna see? Hello Ghostbusters and Poltergeist, not to mention War Games, Commando, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids which are just a few that are in the process of being remade.

And oh my word, there are the clothing and music styles. The 1980's absolutely haunt me at times, not because it was such a bad decade but because my style was so pitiful. I had hair then, amazing blonde hair with a natural wave to it. But I parted that hair down the middle and heavily hair sprayed it, preserving for decades horrific yearbook images that I still can't escape.

And yes, I owned and often wore a pair of acid washed jeans. I even tight rolled them at the bottom as I paired them with my favorite Stan Smith Adidas shoes. And yes, my musical tastes were often driven by synthesizers, although I did buck the trend by dabbling in some punk rock music and what became known as early alternative rock. Sounds and looks a lot like today, huh?

Why do find ourselves coming to roost in the nostalgia of the past so often? When we get all caught up in reminiscing about how amazing the past was, what we are doing is looking negatively at our NOW while believing that we really had it figured out in our PAST. And there is nothing wrong with reveling in the past, as long as you don't convince yourself that nothing in the future could ever be better. If we can't do that, then we are guilty of violating the golden rule of history: Learn from it or you are doomed to repeat it.

Nostalgia should fuel our desire to do greater things, not keep up mired in mediocrity. I sincerely believe that many of us are paralyzed by the shrines of the past that we so readily build. But what if we could take what the past has taught us and use it to propel us to make our future memories better than what history could ever teach us? Can we even do this?

God's word says that we can. Psalm 119:92-93 tells us, "If Your instruction had not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for You have given me life through them." The guy who wrote this is happily reminded just how much he has learned from the past and how grateful he is that what God had formulated in eternity had changed the course of his life in the future. The past can be awesome, but only if it causes us to go further and deeper and greater into the future. If not, then all we are left with are just some stale memories and an inability to move beyond the equivalent of high school greatness.

Brush the dust off of your letter jacket and put your cassette player away. Stop waiting for MTV to actually play music videos again. What God has in mind for your future could be amazing if you will only let Him have his way.

Fridays are for finishers

Fridays are the best days of the week. Period. Need proof? How about these sweet lyrics from George Jones:
It's finally Friday
I'm free again
I got my motor running for a wild weekend
It's finally Friday
I'm outa' control
Forget the workin' blues
And let the good times roll.

Sorry that you now have that song stuck in your head. And yeah, maybe that song isn't so awesome after all, but Friday IS all that and a bag of chips. Here are some reasons why:
  • Friday night high school football games in the fall
  • The one night of the week you can stay up really late because you can always sleep in on Saturday
  • In our western culture, Friday marks the finish line to a grueling week of work and school
  • Square fish sandwiches in schools on Friday (do they still do that?)
Anyway, Fridays are simply awesome. I always loved Friday because it was the one day of the week growing up that I was convinced I could make it through because I knew what waited for me on the other side. Did I mention fish sandwiches in school on Fridays?

I've heard others try to downplay the importance of Fridays as if people like me use Friday as an excuse to quit trying so hard. After all, they say, every day is just as important as the next and should receive the same amount of effort as Friday. Maybe, but that's missing the real point about Fridays.

You see, I think Fridays are awesome because they mark the natural finish line of what most of us began on Monday. For those of you in cultures that use Friday as a weekend day of worship or your calendar is not like the one I use, just pretend that Friday is as awesome as I say it is, okay?

Fridays are for finishers.

What does that mean?

Ask anyone how they feel about Mondays and more than likely they will speak of Mondays like they are satanic curses, unless of course Mondays are the days that they get paid. Then Mondays are awesome! But under normal circumstances, Mondays are loathed at best. Monday to many is the beginning of the grind, the necessary evil of a new week at school or work or both. Mondays make the weekend seem so far away.

But alas, don't fret! Friday is coming! Friday represents the finish of what you started on Monday. By 5:00 Friday, you have put your 40 hours in. By the 3:00 on Friday, you've finished another week of classes. While this may sound more shallow than a George Jones song, there is something really valuable about propping up Friday to such a high standing.

We live in a world where people don't know what it means to finish anything. They quit their jobs when their boss hurts their feelings, they quit their marriages when they think they've run out of love, and they fail to honor their commitments when they think that something better has come along. How many books have you started yet failed to finish? Guilty as charged.

Other than a full-scale revival of the church, what we need more than anything are FINISHERS! Only those who complete the task fully can declare that they are truly finished. Jesus Himself created this concept when He cried, "It is finished!" as He breathed His last on the cross.

Not long ago I watched a video of an Naval Admiral as he addressed a group of college students at their graduation. He said something in that video that was so profound that I had to watch it again: To change the world, start by making your bed. Seriously, that's what he said. And here is what he meant by that: If you start the day by making your bed, then you've already accomplished something before you've even walked out the door. In other words, you've completed a task before your day even begins. And if you finish something as simple as making your bed, then it will be easier for you to tackle and finish more important tasks the rest of your day.

Will making your bed every morning guarantee that you will finish those critical obligations that loom over you? Not necessarily, but if you start with finishing then at least you will know what finishing feels like. And finishing feels great because when you finish something - and especially if you finish it well - then you will rarely have to live with the regret of "what if."

Let me finish with this great quote by Brad Lomenick from his book H3 Leadership:

Choose to outwork everyone. Great leaders are great finishers.

My friends, strive to finish well.

Who's got your back?

As I have gotten older I have grown to truly appreciate history. Not that I didn't enjoy history when I was in school, it's just th...