Tonight, Eric James Jordan (our youngest) will graduate from GRACE Christian School. Friends and family are coming to celebrate with him.
But next Fall, Maggie and I will be empty nesters with both kids in college. It’ll seem strange. At times like this, I like to look back into the past to see what truths I can see about the future.
If you know Eric, you know he is a kind-hearted, easy-going spirit with a quick laugh. When he was born, Maggie wanted to name him Isaac, which means “laughter.” I pushed for Eric, which means “strength.” I think we should have gone with both.
Eric loves music and has strong gifts and talents when it comes to hearing and playing music. He has taken formal lessons for piano and drums, and he is self-taught on guitar, bass, trombone, and ukulele. I wish I had half his talent or his ear.
That ear also translates languages easily. As a child, he studied Latin. In junior high, he studied Spanish. Then he chose to focus on French in high school in order to be better able to reach people in Africa who needed water. One of the highlights of his high school career was spending the summer in an immersion program in France last year.
Other highlights came from his swim career. He has always been a strong swimmer but struggled the past two seasons after a shoulder injury. However, his team won the State Championship this year, and he was very happy to have contributed to a championship team as a senior.
He also immersed himself in the IT helpdesk at school. This helped provide a base for his intended major in Computer Science at Appalachian State University next Fall.
Looking back further, I remember when Eric was born. That was a major life shift for us because his older sister was only 13 months old at the time. Like her, his first word was “Light.”
As a toddler, his care for others was immediately obvious. I recall being shocked at how specifically he prayed intercessory prayers for adults when he had just barely learned to talk. Looking back, it is still quite amazing. This wasn’t toddler babble, this was clearly the Holy Spirit.
Eric would climb anything. He was this amazingly strong and blocky little thing. One time before he could even walk, he climbed our entertainment center and then swung over, grabbed the mantle to the fireplace, and then handwalked himself out to the middle of the fireplace. We came around the corner to see him suspended from the mantle and rushed over to grab him. If you hear me call him “monkey,” now you will know why, even though it doesn’t seem to make any sense now.
Later, when he was about 4 or 5, Maggie found him sitting on the balcony overlooking our foyer. She carefully got him to safety. He was nonplussed and explained that he was Spiderman, so he wouldn’t be hurt if he fell.
Still later, he loved climbing and hiking mountains. Give the young man a trail, and he’s going to be happy. Fortunately, our entire family loves hiking trips. We’ll be celebrating his graduation this summer by taking a 2-week hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies.
One other thing you can count on is that he will prefer to wear shorts, no matter how cold. To be fair, as tall as he is, almost everything looks like shorts on him.
As much as he loves shorts, he loves sausage pizza more. It is from this love that we have learned another great life lesson: Any pizza is a personal pizza if you just believe. And believe, he does. His love of sausage pizza should be legendary.
And as much as he loves sausage pizza, he loves his fur-buddy Jax even more. Jax and Eric have been together now for almost 14 years.
Aa young child, Eric was very tactile. He had to touch everything and learned best by physically manipulating objects. We home schooled him until 8th grade, when he began attending GRACE. He is an intelligent young man but sometimes chafes under the left-brain orientation of education. He has studied himself and ADHD to try to find ways to contribute meaningful change to the system.
We have, of course, had our share of disagreements. He doesn’t want to disappoint us, but he also wants to do things his way. Those competing drives can put him in a bit of a quandary at times. I am proud of him for how he tries to navigate those waters.
Eric, please always know Mom and I love you with all our hearts and are proud of you. You are a terrific young man with a strong sense of character, and we look forward to seeing you walk the path ahead. Keep your heart and eyes fixed on Christ.
As we say at the end of every church service, you are sent.
As a member of Blogging for Books, Best Buy’s Tech Insider Network (and top-250 review contributor), and Thousandshores Power Users, I frequently receive items for free – or at a substantial discount – to review. Consequently, I recently realized I spend a lot more time writing reviews than I do writing my normal blog entries, so it made sense to put all my reviews in one place. So I started the new site in March 2017. Of course, I also review items I purchase at retail.
I know when I’m shopping for a new item, I pay close attention to meaningful reviews; so I try to be diligent about making sure my reviews are actually helpful.
As of now, most of my prior reviews have been posted on the site. In fact, you’ll see some that were previously published here. Others were first published on Best Buy, and some others on Amazon. A few others were at other sites. My general plan going forward is to upload at least one review per day, so check back often for new content.
Anyway, I hope you find it useful. At the very least, it’s been a fun project for me.
You can also follow the “review version of me” on Twitter as @LLHReviews:
It’s hard to think of myself as 50 years old. Fifty always seemed like a big number. An old person number. Yet, here I am. Fifty. Thanks to my many friends and family who have made me feel special by taking the time to wish me a happy birthday!
Fifty doesn’t seem quite as old to me now, but it can wear on you a bit. I understand why some people succumb to a midlife crisis as they seek validation and meaning. They begin to wonder what their legacy will be and whether people will remember them. They begin to measure their lives by the what-ifs. But I can also see the greater joy of staying true and holding the course to leave a true legacy.
I have been incredibly blessed during my 50 years. I was born into a family with great parents who loved and treasured my brother and me. In all of parenting, I don’t think there is any more powerful force than making sure your kids know they are loved unconditionally. And I was blessed to have been given that love as a child. Mom and Dad could have taught all the parenting “experts” a thing or two, I think.
Of course, unconditional love has a source, and that source is God. Without faith, love rings hollow. But love that springs from faith allowed me to trust that my eternal father also loved me completely. As our pastor likes to say, there is nothing I have done that will make God love me less, and nothing I can do that will make Him love me more. God simply loves us completely. If you don’t know that love yourself, you’re missing out on the best thing in life.
Mom and Dad also always believed Keith and I would be successful. Failure was never something to fear. The belief that the wind was always at our backs was nurtured at a young age. Confidence in their gifts and abilities is probably the second greatest gift a parent can give their children. Sure, I may have been an insecure introvert as a child; but I was still confident in my gifts and abilities. It was an odd mix that served me better as an introspective adult, but their confidence in us allowed us to maintain confidence in ourselves.
Then, as I became a young man, I was blessed to meet the most amazing woman I have known. Maggie eventually suffered a severe lapse in her otherwise excellent judgment and became my wife. I still have to convince myself I’m not dreaming from time to time. I’ll wake up and see her next to me, and I’m just hit with a wave of wonder. She is everything I wish I was more of, and I cannot get enough time with her.
Of course, we struggled as a young couple. We were bound to each other through our commitment through Christ and to marriage, but it’s always difficult when two lives blend into one. Fortunately, there was sufficient grace to go around, and we had a lot of fun growing from two independent people into two people joyfully committed to each other. I don’t want to imagine life with her.
In God’s timing, we were then blessed with Ally and Eric. What great kids! I tried – but too often failed – to help them be confident they were always loved and treasured unconditionally. I have so many wonderful memories of silly times together; it’s hard to understand how I could be so blessed. Recently, our parenting has shifted as the kids have become young adults. My role is no longer to be “Daddy the Guardian.” I hope to be a mentor and guide they can trust to always have their best interests at heart.
In terms of my career, I knew from a young age that my call was to be either a pastor or a lawyer. If you’ve ever heard me deliver a sermon, you know going into law was the right call. But I love using my gifts and talents daily to help people who are hurting. And I treasure the relationships developed through this daily “ministry.”
So what does the next 50 hold? I have no idea, but I trust the One who does.
In the meantime, since I believe wisdom is one of my primary gifts, let me leave you with some random thoughts I have jotted down over the past year. If there is anything here you find helpful, I will be happy.
Trust and belief are closely related and deeply intertwined, but they are not the same. Trust weighs the odds. Belief doesn’t care about probability.
Your greatest strength will also become your greatest weakness. Interestingly, your greatest weakness can at times be your greatest strength.
Everyone struggles with the desire to place security ahead of holiness; this struggle seems to intensify with age.
The greatest and most difficult skill of communication is understanding how to reach others where they are.
Confession and repentance are not about obtaining God’s forgiveness. He’s already made that commitment. It’s about gaining a greater understanding of God’s sovereignty and injecting that knowledge directly into how you live your life.
There is a big difference between trying to convert someone so you will feel better about yourself versus reaching out in love as one flawed person to another because you have experienced the joy, mercy, and forgiveness of God and you care enough about someone else that you desperately want them to know that same grace.
Surely, if we understood the real tragedy around us, we would do something to help. But we deceive ourselves into living in fictional bubbles, where everything is safe and clean. Yet, people are sick, hungry, and dying. And many are going to Hell because they do not know Christ.
The gifts God gave the prophets were never for themselves.
The tyranny of the trivial. Forget the urgent. It’s the meaningless things that crowd out our life and challenge our joy.
Politicians and media rarely let accuracy interfere with (or get in the way of) agenda.
If there is one lesson to learn about politics, it is this: Politics almost always ends up being about control and power rather than right or wrong.
For the first time, you can buy a Google-branded phone with premium specs and special features. That means you don’t have to compromise to get the cleanest, most up-to-date version of Android with special features from Google running on the best hardware. This is a new direction for Google. Not only is the Pixel a premium phone, it was reportedly designed completely by Google to capture their best vision for what an Android phone should be. HTC “assembled” the phone, but there is no HTC branding anywhere to be found. The branding is all Google.
As a phone enthusiast, I have used every major mobile OS available, from Android to iOS to Windows. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but in recent months, I’ve come to really appreciate the latest versions of Android.
My last phone was a Nexus 5X. I purchased the 5X for some of the same reasons I love the Pixel: pure android, the earliest updates, and a great feature set for the price. Pixel takes things a few steps further, though, with a several exclusives and a truly premium feel.
In the box: 32GB Very Black Pixel phone, wall charger (USB-C), Two USB cables (one with USB-C on both ends, one with USB-A on one end and USB-C on the other), USB-C adapter, 3-month pass to Google Music, brochure information, and key to open SIM tray.
Setup was a little frustrating. There is a cable to connect the Pixel to your old phone in order to transfer your info, but it didn’t work with the 5X. So I had to do an over-the-air restore from my prior backup and then enter my ID in each app. That was mildly annoying. I presume they focused on building a transfer system that would work with iPhones and such, but I would have thought going from a Nexus to a Pixel would be buttery smooth; it was not. It took more time than it should, but in the end, everything works. So consider this a minor complaint.
Pixel is an excellent phone, but it is not perfect. Many reviews have complained about the large chin on the phone. Maybe it is bigger than it needs to be, especially given that there is only one speaker on the face of the Pixel, but it doesn’t really matter. In person, it looks fine and offers an easy place to hold/balance the phone. Others have complained that it is not waterproof. I’ll give them that. It is basically splash resistant, so it definitely lags behind several rival phones in this regard, and I do wish it were more resistant to water and dust. Some people don’t like the look of the phone with the glass tile on the back. That’s a matter of taste; I actually like it and think it adds a distinctive touch to the phone. Some people complain about the lack of an SD card or a 64Gb option for memory. I’ll give them that; I wish Google would be a little more flexible in terms of memory, but at least they did include a nifty memory manager with unlimited cloud storage for full-sized pictures and video (very nice add-on). I am slightly disappointed the phone doesn’t include wireless charging. Some people complain about the price, but this phone justifies the price when compared to the competition. It is not a Nexus; it is a new thing entirely, and it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best phones in the industry.
But when it comes to negatives, that’s it; and those are all minor issues relative to the overall function of the phone. And everything else about the Pixel is amazing.
The phone feels great in the hand. It is clearly a premium phone in terms of look and feel. I have the “Very Black” version (which strikes me more as a very deep gray, fwiw), and it is very attractive.
With 4Gb RAM, the new Snapdragon 821 chip, and Nougat 7.1, the Pixel flies effortlessly through any task. I haven’t found anything that makes it stutter. It is the fastest phone I have ever used, bar none.
The 1080p Super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 4 offers a fantastic screen image with rich colors and great viewing angles. The glass also feels good. I don’t usually see reviews mention the feel of the glass, but I have used some phones where the glass just doesn’t feel as nice. This one feels great. And it has night mode built in. This is a terrific screen, although the Pixel XL does have better resolution than the 5″ Pixel. It can wash out a little in direct sunlight, so be aware of that.
The camera is AWESOME! I’m picky about cameras (those 20+mp Nokias with Carl Zeiss lenses spoiled me). The 5X had a decent shooter, but was VERY slow. Pixel improves the camera and is extremely quick about launching, focusing, and taking the shot. It is, quite simply, one of the best phone cameras on the planet. The camera includes a bolstered HDR+ mode that helps improve low-light performance, which was already impressive with the Nexus 6P and 5X. Additionally, Google includes electronic image stabilization, which has performed impressively thus far when taking pictures or shooting video, even in 4k. Google points out the phone doesn’t have a camera bump. To remove the bump, Google made the phone very slightly thicker at the top, so it tapers to the bottom. This allows it to rest flat when on a desk or table. I don’t actually mind camera bumps, but it was a thoughtful design touch. You might not even notice the taper if no one points it out to you. I will say the lack of a camera hump makes the phone just look more coherent than some others.
I love the fingerprint reader on the Pixel. It is similar to the one from my 5X, but it has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Most notably, you can swipe down on the fingerprint reader to open the notifications panel. It’s no wonder some reviews have called the Google fingerprint reader the best in the business. It has worked every time for me.
So far, the 2770mAh battery gets me through the day a bit better than the similarly-sized battery in my 5X did. I’ll be interested to see how it performs after its been broken in longer. Frankly, I would have preferred a slightly larger battery, though – say maybe 3000mAh. Google says it reaches 90% charge in 15 minutes. I was at about 40% when I plugged it last night, and it zoomed to 100% in less than 10 minutes, so that was good. Plus, the battery appears to be safely of the non-exploding variety. 😉
In terms of software, Nougat 7.1 is an excellent incremental improvement with one serious wow factor that is currently exclusive to Pixel – the addition of Google Assistant. While Siri usually just annoys me, I am a big fan of Cortana. Google Assistant is already better than both, especially in terms of recognizing a series of questions in a conversational manner. You need to try it to believe it. It was a lot of fun to just play with at first. Google Assistant scores extremely high in terms of recognizing what you say. Sure, it still makes a few mistakes, but the potential is very enticing. It can also provide you a snapshot of your day in the morning, which can be very helpful.
Pixel launcher is also pretty nice. I’ve generally used a third-party launcher in Android, but I might end up staying with the Pixel launcher due to the neat features (swipe up for the app drawer, easy access to Google Assistant, etc). But there isn’t much customization with the launcher, and that factor may drive me back to something like Nova Launcher Pro.
Several additional little software tweaks are much appreciated. For instance, now it is easy to visually see how to initiate a 3-way call in the native dialer. It’s a little thing, but I’ve long griped about the dialer in Android. Also, you can use app shortcuts (Quick Actions), which is similar to Apple’s 3D Touch feature. Basically, a list of options will appear when you long press on an app icon. This can be very helpful.
It seems odd to include the fact the phone has a headphone jack as part of a review, but it is worth mentioning these days. The jack is located on the top of the Pixel. Some people seem bothered by the location, but I actually tend to prefer it there.
I should also note I am extremely pleased the 5″ Pixel has the exact same specs as the larger 5.5″ Pixel XL, other than screen size and resolution. A five-inch phone is right about the sweet spot for me, and my only regret with the 5X was the fact it was a lower tier phone than the larger 6P. I’m happy to see Google recognize that its “smaller” phone can be every bit the premium handset as its larger phone. The Pixel fits my hand well and is easy to operate with one hand.
Of course, the larger XL should be better for Google Daydream View (Google’s new virtual reality offering), given the higher resolution and larger screen; but I expect the Pixel will be fine, too. I have not had an opportunity to experiment with Daydream, but the Pixel phones are the only ones currently that support it.
It is worth noting the Pixel has 24/7 customer service built into the OS. That indicates to me that Google is serious about this being a long-term project.
At the end of the day, the Pixel is an excellent phone. It has performed every task flawlessly. Could it be improved? Sure, and I expect the next generation will have some welcome tweaks. But I’m very excited with this new direction by Google and think they’ve done a great job with the first gen Pixel. Very highly recommended.
Latest OS directly from Google
Unlimited cloud storage for full-size pictures and videos
Exclusive Pixel software features
Solid, premium feel and appearance
Responsive fingerprint reader
Easy one-hand operation
Lacks expandable memory
No wireless charging
Despite the mild negatives, the Pixel is a 5-star performer and deserves all the accolades it is getting in the press. I believe this is the best 5″ phone on the planet right now. If you want a top-tier Android phone, I highly recommend the Pixel.
Tonight, Alyson Grace Jordan will graduate from high school. Friends and family are coming from all over to enjoy this time with us and support her.
Ally has approached high school with a championship attitude. Yes, she has checked off the resume boxes: Student Body President, Captain of the Cross Country Team, Multi-Year Letterman, Valedictorian, etc. But more importantly, she has also grown tremendously as a young woman. She is a better friend. She has reached into the lives of those around her to minister to them and help them better understand God and His love for them. She has grown more passionate about her relationship with Christ. These are the things that I am even more proud of.
Some accomplishments are very nice and rewarding; others are eternal. I’m glad she has such a wonderful mix of both. And so, we are excited to see where God takes her next and how she continues to grow.
Meanwhile, we are in full-swing planning mode for the transition coming this Fall when our little girl moves out on her own into a brave new world. She’s ready, and she’s prepared. I am confident she will shine a light wherever she is, and I am immensely proud of her. She will be a success, and I know college (go Heels!) will be a wonderful time for her. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit part of me wants to just wrap my arms around her and keep her here with us.
It was only this past week I truly began to realize this Fall would be the first time since we had the kids that our family would go an extended period of time where we would not all be under one roof. That thought hit me pretty hard. It’s a significant shift in our lives as well as Ally’s life.
The house will be more quiet. And it will be less fun.
I remember the moment Ally was born. She changed our world in that second. We understood the miracle of life in a whole new way. And we were changed for the better.
I remember holding her while she slept as an infant. That warm feeling with which only a baby can fill your soul.
I remember when she first began to walk, and that her first word was “light.” How funny when a little while later, Eric’s first word was also “light.” Why? I don’t know. I don’t think we talked that much about lights. But I sure am glad they both radiate the light of Christ.
I remember a strong willed and ultra-competitive young girl who couldn’t stand to lose at anything. The words “Goosey Loosey” still invoke trauma, I think. Feel free to ask her why.
I remember the days spent playing with – and organizing – a herd of plastic dinosaurs.
I remember playgroup and first friends.
I remember the time I told her to not walk around the corner where I couldn’t see her; so, being the literalist that she was at 2, she dropped to her knees and crawled around the corner.
I remember that Grandma and Nana couldn’t get enough of her. I so wish Nana was here to see her now; she would be so proud. A child can never be loved too much, but Grandma and Nana both did their best to test that theory, and they both radiated a special love that I think only a grandmother can do with their only granddaughter. Grandma still tries to love enough for two grandmothers now, I think.
I remember the time Maggie called me at work when Ally was 4 and said, “I just lost my first argument with your daughter; I need you to talk to her.” Like me, Ally would sometimes argue with a wall until the wall crumbled into submission. It can be both a gift and a curse.
I remember a child that was prone to random attacks of gravity; she could fall walking on a flat surface. Yet she excelled in her first ski lessons. Go figure.
I remember a child who so loved being home schooled that she argued vehemently with me when I suggested we consider public or private school for high school. But I remember a young lady who then chose to attend GRACE and embraced the school and all it offered.
I remember when Ally began to confide in Maggie more as an adult than as a child and how this was a neat change to watch in their relationship.
I remember late night battles when the desire to spread wings clashed with desire to protect. But I remember so many wonderful conversations from those times and believe we all learned a little better how to love and respect each other.
I remember learning that parents need to grow up, too. We can’t put our kids in protective bubbles. We have to learn to let them experience life, and then we have to learn how to be there to cheer them on through the hard stuff.
I remember so much more. Above all, I remember a precious, beautiful, radiant young girl, who has grown into an even more amazing young woman.
Ally, you will always have my heart. I love and treasure you more than words can express. And I am proud of your character and who you are as a person, even moreso than I am proud of your accomplishments. Keep growing, and keep your eyes and heart fixed on Christ.
I love you, honey.
As we say at the end of every church service, you are sent.
First, let me say I am sorry I didn’t write more. As in, any. Hard to believe this is my first post in 2014. And I guess it’s my last one, too.
How to sum up the events of the past year? I don’t know. A lot of stuff has happened, a number of those things have touched us deeply.
The kids continue to grow (quite literally when we talk about Eric and the fact he is closing in on 6′ 6″). Both kids have their driver’s licenses now. Ally is in the middle of her senior year in high school. We’re finding that choosing a college – and especially filling out all the financial forms – seemed FAR easier all those years ago. Ally is a tremendous young lady and incredible student. I am confident she will be a success wherever she goes, and I pray she finds her path soon. Eric is a great young man with a tremendous heart. He is becoming a better swimmer by the day. Word of warning – teenage boys eat a lot. Teenage boys who swim competitively eat an insane amount. Your grocery bill has been warned.
Maggie remains amazing and is the light in every day. The effort she puts into being a great wife, friend, mom, sister, and daughter inspires me. I continue to try to be a better husband and friend to her, but I don’t think I can ever be as good as she deserves. I can try harder, though.
We are in the middle of preparing for a move. After over 6 and a half years in Cary, we’re moving back to Durham next month. I have mixed feelings about this. I have loved our location in Cary. And I like our house a lot. But we began talking several years ago about downsizing to have more financial flexibility. We believe we have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others, and we want to be able to give more than we do. We also want to be good stewards, saving and planning better for the future. Plus, with college costs looming, we finally decided it was time to take the plunge. God was gracious in the process; we are moving to a gorgeous home that is in many ways better than our current home – yet our mortgage will go down by about 30%. Win-win. The move will be good for us in other ways, too; it’ll be especially nice to be closer to Mom & Dad – and to the office. But one of my (many) faults is that I get emotionally attached to things. I get sad when I sell a car or a house – or even an old toy; hence the mixed feelings about selling the house. OTOH, Maggie is happy to finally have an excuse to have me get rid of much of the junk I hold onto for no good reason. See? It all works out for the best. One of the other neat things is that we can stay with our church, since the church has multiple campuses. We’ll actually be just about 5 minutes from the main campus, so I’m looking forward to that.
Another cool thing is that my brother got a motorcycle this year, so we can finally ride together. I love being out on the bike. It is a personal cleansing time, just like hiking or skiing. Work is wonderful, but we deal with so much tragedy on a daily basis that it helps to get away. Riding does that for me. Plus, it reminds me how vulnerable we all are, which makes me that much more determined to help those who have been hurt by others.
We have much to celebrate, but there have also been dark clouds and storms this year.
I could rattle off the few little losses and bruises we had this year, but they all pale beside the thing that really broke my heart: the passing of my Uncle John last month. John was only 55 and more like a close cousin than an uncle. He was a great guy who would help anyone, and he was very active in his church and tried to live out his faith. But somewhere, somehow, he was suddenly engulfed in a darkness he felt he could neither share nor bear on his own. It’s still hard to comprehend. I hate that he was in such a dark place that he felt suicide was his best – maybe only – option. It happened too quickly. The traditional warning signs weren’t there. One day he was his normal self. The next day, there was just a series of very hard phone calls – family telling family the horrible news and coming together to support one another as best we could – and the knowledge that we didn’t have a chance to help him. He was gone, leaving a void we are still battling this holiday season. I must admit, it’s been hard to hold onto a James 1:2 attitude in this one; but the prayers of friends and loved ones has been a huge blessing to all of us. Thank you.
So, my two lessons from this year:
Let go of stuff. It’s easy to find yourself attached, even if you have a generous heart. Store up treasures in Heaven, don’t hoard stuff here. You can’t take it with you, anyway – even if you’re only moving 12 miles down the road (as I’ve found out).
Hold onto those you love. Do what you can to let them know you will love them no matter what. Talk to them regularly about hopes, dreams, and failures. Maybe they will turn to you before they are consumed by the same darkness that stole John from us.
That closes out 2014 for me. I hope 2015 is an amazing year for you and those you love and that you feel the Spirit of God around you at all times.