What hardship taught me about people, relationships and my faith.

This is a series discussing my three biggest lessons after having four strokes and open heart surgery in 2010.

The three P’s I reference are People, Purpose, and Perspective. This first post is related to People and the value of a relationship. In this section, I discuss family, friends, and mentors.


What do you think about in a hospital room when you are all alone right before a major surgery?  Many things, but my most vivid memory was NEVER taking my family for granted again.  As time passes, I still tend to catch myself  “being hardest on the ones I love most”.  

I don’t know that I ever really understood how much parents love their kids until I became a dad. In thinking back, I recall the many selfless acts by my parents. I remember the time I had driven across the state by myself to a High School Rodeo. Settling in for the evening, I lit the pilot light in the living quarters of the horse trailer.  There was an explosion which seared the shower curtain completely – not to mention sending me right out the door. Apparently, Dad had forgotten to connect the propane line. I was fine, but he was so worried that he drove in the middle of the night just to check on me.

I am still learning how to communicate my feelings constructively so that I don’t lash out at those closest to me over such little things. At times, my three girls think I’m really hard on them. I only want for them to be self-reliant, motivated, compassionate, and forgiving kids that love others.  My wife and I have been trying to live into the idea that more is “caught than taught,” but I’m certainly a work in progress!


I appreciate the Shakespeare quote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

The best man in my wedding and one of the greatest friends I could ask for is Travis Polzin.  He always has been an unwavering fixture in my life and although we may go long periods between conversations, we pick up right where we left off.  More importantly, when I need him most, he is there. Weeks after my heart surgery, he left his young family in Canada to come support us in Kansas City. No questions and no expectations – he just came to be with me.    

In our Church, we frequently reference “stretcher bearers” in our lives. These are friends who are there when we need an extra “lift” to get through the tough times. The day I woke up from heart surgery and Justin VanOpdorp walked 30 Steps with me, I felt a peace just knowing friends were surrounding us. At the same time, when I was struggling to come out of anesthesia and the nurses weren’t sure I would come around, it was our Small Group friends who were surrounding Danielle and our young family.


Based on an article I read years ago, here is a framework I follow that works both personally and professionally in relationship to mentorship.

Be A Barnabas – Be a friend and surround yourself with people you can both encourage and who encourage you. This is the group of friends we surround ourselves with. There is no doubt that we become like those whom we surround ourselves.

Pursue A Paul – Who can we learn from and look up to? These are people who provide us with wisdom and guidance. Over the years I have been fortunate to develop many of these relationships. Some of the men who have shaped me include Dan Strempke, Russ Weathers, Todd McLean, Dave Rock, and George Guastello.

Train A Timothy – Who are you mentoring?  As my wife and I both approach the ripe young age of 40, we have started asking ourselves, “Who are we pouring into?” So many great people have guided us through the years and we now desire to do the same.

The act of mentorship has been so monumental to me. I have always looked to others to ask, “How can I be like that,” and, “What did those individuals do to get where they are?” I was very fortunate in the mentorship space. In my first couple years of college, key individuals came to me and to share their lessons and perspectives.   They provided the opportunity for me to learn from them and to grow. When someone coaches you, it can change the trajectory of the rest of your life!

Every day I learn more about myself and the people in my life. My tribe and those around me are what make doing life so much easier!  As I think about my faith, it is the people around me that show me God’s grace and love.  People shape our story and every day new pages are added.  As I continue to make every step count, the people are a key part of that equation! 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “What hardship taught me about people, relationships and my faith.

  1. I love this, Kevin!
    Life can get so busy and your words reminded me that we need to be very intentional about building relationships. I need to create “margins” in my life so I have more free time to “come alongside” those who are hurting.

    • That is so true! when life goes according to “plan” we think we are ok.

      It is the margin that allows us the chance to serve others. Thank you Anne for “coming along side” with our family! We value your friendship!

  2. Good afternoon Kevin! Excellent message on People, Purpose, and Perspective. You really caused me to pause and think about these three elements in my life. Thanks for being a friend and mentor to me.

    • It has certainly been a journey, my friend! I think about the talks we had walking through the pens in Denver and the conversations we shared.

      May not remember every cattle lesson you taught but your character and how you put other people first shaped me. Thank you!

  3. Awesome reminders Kevin! People, purpose and perspective… need to take a look at all 3 in my life! Reminds me of (maybe) a fourth P… taking time for reflection by PAUSING! Love your genuine insight!

    • Wow! And this is the reason I love putting content and ideas out in the world is to get ideas back! The idea of Pausing is Gold!

      1. I need to get better at this every day
      2. I think the 3P’s might be soon rebranded to the 4P’s!!!

      Thank you for your friendship and support of our family! Also, thank you for taking time to digest this work and providing your insights!

  4. Very impressive and thoughtful Kevin. I can see that your parent’s influence, your faith and family have afforded you an opportunity to help others. Great work!

    • Sharon, you are correct our influence and upbringing have a significant impact on actions. As I started this little project I kept asking myself “why” am I doing this?

      I think about all those people that had helped me and I wanted to make sure I play my part in giving back.