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241 days ago I left Rexburg, Idaho in a moving truck bound for Texas.

The details of what brought the Lemon family to the Lone Star state have been lost in the 7.91786 months we’ve been here, but we’ve been dealt a hand of life lessons since we got here. Really. Really. Tough. Lessons.

To understand some of these lessons means a quick trip back in time to Thanksgiving of last year. A neighbor across the street from our new Texas home moved and left us their basketball standard. After putting the hoop in our backyard, it sat there for weeks without much wear and tear on the net. After Thanksgiving dinner, the boys and I went out to play a game of ‘Pig’ (It’s like ‘Horse’ for guys with really short attention spans). We all stunk at basketball, which meant the game took almost an hour because nobody could hit a shot!

After realizing that the vertically-challenged gene pool at our house might not be the best place to find the next NBA all-star team, we gave up our dreams of basketball stardom and went back inside to stuff our faces with pie.

A few days later I was feeling pretty lousy after a day of job hunting with no success. My wife was gone somewhere and I went outside to get some air. In an unspoken challenge, the basketball hoop stood there looming above a lone basketball. I picked it up and took a shot. I missed the entire standard! I chased the ball down and took it back to try again to similar results. A third time netted me a superhuman bounce off the rim that shot into the neighbor’s yard. After an irritating quest to track it down from a yard with a dog and locked fences, I was ticked. I wasn’t going to let the hoop beat me. I played church ball when I was a kid, so I knew I had it in me…

…it just wasn’t going from me into the basketball. Somewhere along the walking over to the neighbor’s to retrieve another botched shot, I decided I was going to stick to this until I made 25 shots.

I finally did it. It took over an hour. During that hour, I decided I would do that every day from the free throw line. I would get so good at shooting a free throw that I could win the next game of [insert farm animal here] with my boys. I got a tape measure, drew out my free throw line and was ready to go.

Some days it took longer than others. Even on the short days, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about what was happening in our lives. We had moved to Texas with a job offer that ended up not happening AFTER we had already moved. We had some insane struggles, fervent prayers, minor successes and major flops. It had been a rough go for every one of us Lemons. During my two-month relationship with the basketball hoop, I found quite a few similarities to life. Here are a few:

  1. Practice does NOT make perfect, but it will make pretty good. We hear that we can do anything we put our minds to and that’s partly true. We might not do it successfully, but we can definitely do it.
  2. You know when a shot is going in as soon as the ball leaves your fingertips. In life, we have moments when we know something is going to work out as soon as we ‘take the shot’.
  3. That shot that felt perfect as it left your fingertips sometimes doesn’t go in. There are times when our sure shot instead bounces into a dog-filled neighbor’s yard.
  4. Sometimes the long shot goes in, but that doesn’t mean you should always take it. When in the aforementioned neighbor’s dog pen, taking a fifty-foot shot towards the basket in your yard might seem like a good idea, but if you miss that shot you could be visiting the dogs in the neighbor on the other side’s yard.
  5. When you’re on, you’re on. You can hit one shot after another without even thinking about it (in life and on a backyard basketball court).
  6. Even when you don’t realize it, your kids are watching you. For weeks, my youngest son watched me from upstairs when he was home and I was shooting up in the backyard (I bet you never thought you’d read something like that and not be shocked). After a few weeks, he started doing exactly what I had been doing without me saying anything.
  7. Hitting the perfect shot just feels good, doesn’t it?
  8. Do your homework. I learned after a month of shooting free throws that a free throw line is 15-feet, not twelve.

At least I know now that I can hit a shot from just inside the free throw line and I’ve got an experience I can use in countless talks for years to come…

(You can see even more lessons learned by checking out!)