Changed… my story at year 23 and year 44

Changed… my story at year 23 and year 44

Year 23.

I should have been done with college and starting a career. Instead, I had tears inching down my face leaving a salty taste on the corners of my mouth. The recent top 40 hit, “Place In This World” was repeating for the 7th or 8th time as I laid on my bed in the dark bedroom I was renting out of an older couple’s basement.

I was alone. I was disillusioned. I was empty.

“The wind is moving, but I am standing still. A life of pages, waiting to be filled” echoed again in my headphones. Years 18-20 were filled with dreams… big dreams for how my pages would be filled. Two years of my life were spent touring with a college music group that played Vegas style shows in high schools across the region. I could still feel the kids pressing in on me clamoring to get my autograph after the shows. I can still hear Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer cranking out across the loudspeakers as the kids chased us from the dressing room to the bus that would soon take us away from these hyped up students. I will never forget the strong hands of Wayne, our drummer, clasping my shoulders as he caught me drinking in the awe those kids had toward me as they chased our departing bus. His words still haunt me… “Don’t get used to it Phipps” he said. I shrugged agreement with him and gave him the nod like I understood, but inside I continued to soak in the elixir of that attention.

“A heart that’s hopeful. A head that’s full of dreams. But this becoming, is harder than it seems.” The shows had stopped. My hunger for the attention, however, had not. The harsh reality that the pages of my life would not be filled with stardom was crashing in hard. I was selling children’s shoes. The bell would ring on the door, indicating that another kid needed to be fitted for shoes. That bell was a regular reminder that my dreams were not, and probably would never, become reality.   

“I’m looking for a reason. Roaming through the night to find my place in this world. Not a lot to lean on. I need Your light to help me find my place in this world.” I was born and raised in church. My dad is a pastor. I liked church. I believed in God the Father and that He had a Son named Jesus. I prayed to them, but I didn’t really know them all that well. In fact, I didn’t really know them much at all. That night, as the song started over again, the last half of the song became a prayer that has changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined…

“If there are millions down on their knees, among the many can you still hear me asking where do I belong? Is there a vision I can call my own? Show me!”  

Year 44.

I can still smell the ground coffee beans and taste the blueberry muffin I ate at the Starbucks yesterday while sitting with a friend. Andy is a guy that had been experiencing his “year 23” for several years… until we met around a men’s fireside group I was leading. The fireside environment is one way I get to live out that vision for my life… to help people discover their own vision and help them live it to the full.

Andy has certainly discovered his. Over the last twelve months this personnel manager at a medium sized company has become an advocate for those who have difficulty entering the workforce due to physical disabilities. It started as a project he was tasked with at work… to develop a procedure for hiring people with disabilities. One year later, that program has earned him invitations to speak at many major corporations, including Google. He has also been invited to the White House to give input to the development of national policy around hiring people with disabilities… including our wounded warriors. Yesterday, as we sipped at our iced tea at Starbucks (it is summer here in hot Kansas!), we talked about the next steps he believes he is to take in living out that mission.

What happened to me during those 21 years? How did that aimless 23 year old kid become a man that not only discovered his mission in life, but can help others do the same? The pages of this book will be filled with stories like this one, highlighting the lessons learned along the way.