Sunday, August 30, 2015


“What am I good at?”
“How come Annesley can look at her memory work and then say it and I have to look at it and look at it and look at it and I STILL don’t know it!”

Mrs. Wagenknecht was a wonderful advocate in Mike’s life. When he was a small boy he struggled as I continued to work at getting his learning disabilities diagnosed. He was in second grade and he still couldn’t read. He uttered the words above in frustration. Mrs. Wagenknecht knew all of the students in the classroom. She was telling me about all of their attributes and I asked her, “What about Mike?” Without hesitation she said, “Mike is a good friend.” 
Mike is a good friend!
How true. That statement would be reiterated from almost everyone he met for the rest of his life. Pretty much everyone liked Mike and he was a good friend to many. When he was working full time he felt he was contributing. When he was dancing he felt accomplished. Especially when he was doing charity work with Julie.

Learning to paint on the clown face
from our family friend Pam
As time went on and Cystic Fibrosis weakened his body, he began to question his purpose. We talked about this on more than one occasion. We had lots of time to chat on the drives back and forth to Madison or during my visits while he was in isolation. It never seemed like it took much to encourage him. He would talk about stuff but you never really saw his struggle. I think it’s because Mike lived his life with such intention. He had to purpose every day to continue to thrive.
A few months after Mike passed away I went up into his mostly untouched third floor room. I started looking around. Just kind of nosing about. I became quickly frustrated not really knowing what I was looking for and gave up my quest.  A few days later I found myself up in his room again. Just looking around from corner to corner thinking about Mike and his life. I started to search once again . . .this time a little more intently. I picked up a couple of his things and then walked over to his book case. This is where he kept pills and CDs and things that were close at hand . . . and there it was.
I didn’t remember it when I first found it . . .I had to read and study it. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Let me write you a few of the words I found in this letter I had written to Mike in March of 2013:
We talked about plans and the future. Do you ever wonder why we are here? Why God put us here in this very spot, at this very moment?

I believe we are all here for the same reason and that reason is to glorify God. Some of us will do that by being a Pastor, some by being a policeman and some by riding a motorcycle, being a good friend etc.

So in other words, it doesn’t matter what we do as long as it glorifies God. Can we do that by being disabled and riding a bike? You bet!
You said you don’t feel like you do anything to be proud of anymore. Maybe that is the problem - - it’s not about you. When our focus is on ourselves we don’t glorify God. When our focus is on God, then everything we do is for Him. We glorify Him by making the best with everything He gives us and that is what you do! And that is what people see and admire in you. Your perseverance. The fact that you get back up and keep fighting no matter how hard life has kicked you down. You stumble and fall like the rest of us but you get back up and press forward with more determination and motivation and that motivates and mystifies others.

You have a disabling disease and learning disabilities but you have so many more gifts than disadvantages. You are creative. The stuff you have done with music and dancing are remarkable. Just beautiful. Your inner strength shines brightly. Your thoughts are so deep. You have such an understanding of people and life.

I could go on and on. I couldn’t be more proud of you if you were a brain surgeon or astronaut. Keep doing the best you can with what God gives you like you always have. That glorifies God and is exactly what his plans are for you. I love you so much! XXOO Mom

Circumstances in life might temporarily or permanently change and tempt us to feel useless ( I don’t like that word) . . .  But that is not truth. We are never useless! When one door closes I believe another one opens. God tells us we have purpose. We might need to re-purpose ourselves but we will always be able to contribute if we choose to do so.
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, 
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Whether Mike was making balloon animals for the kids down the hall in the hospital, juggling for kids at church or charity events, dancing in competitions or choreographing for charity, or just riding around on his bike with his brothers – Mike was purposeful with his time and talents.
He loved riding his bike with his brotha Dennis and other brothers

When I went searching up in Mike’s room I guess you could say I went searching for my purpose. I found it. What purpose did I have in Mike’s life . . . during his final few years here on earth? So many times I wished I could do more. I wished and prayed I could take away his pain. I would have done anything to stop the progression of his disease. But my purpose came in encouraging him. It came by helping him to hold up his arms . . . as did so many of you. It was God’s purpose for me at that time. It was obviously important to Mike too or he wouldn’t have kept that letter so close at hand where he could see it every day.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another 
and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I encourage you to take the time to write these things down. To write letters to the ones that you love. Tell them how much they mean to you. Record it. If you find yourself down and out for a time maybe you are being given that time to write a letter to someone who needs the encouragement.
It may be the only thing you have left when they are gone. And trust me that will encourage and lift you up when you need it.
Juggling flaming torches at the family reunion

Should something happen to you, your words will encourage the receiver forever. There is something special about the written word. 
I am thankful I took the time to write this letter to Mike even though things were crazy busy the last couple years of his life. Finding this helped me in my healing process. Almost as much as some of the things Mike gave to me or wrote to me. 
I hope none of you ever have to walk in Mike’s shoes but I know many of you will. A few of Mike’s friends have recently found themselves in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling. I have been praying for each of you. I am proud of the way you keep going. I hope that Mike’s story continues to be an inspiration to you as it is to me.

Each of you had a purpose in Mike's life and that purpose is complete. How will you re-purpose yourself?
Blessings to you! Love, love, love.

Psalm 57:2 I cry out to God most high, to God, 
who fulfills his purpose for me.

WI State Championship 2007