As children, we often dream of growing up to be firemen. Ballerinas. Teachers. Policeman. Sometimes those dreams really do come true. And then, there are times when our lives take us in directions we never dreamed of as a child. My brother, Mark, is a prime example.

In his early teens, and even into his first foray into college, he dreamed of being a professional baseball player. He had the talent and the desire to reach his goal. But somewhere along the way, life threw him a curve ball and instead of running bases, he ended up somewhere so far in outfield he often felt like he was in the parking lot.

Fast forward many years later. Life threw a few too many of those curve balls. Nothing he couldn’t handle, (and handle well, I might add), but still, they sent him in a totally different direction than running in a square, and he traded in his baseball mitt for, well, an oven mitt. One day, my brother woke up and realized that taking care of himself so he could serve God, love his wife and children, and have an opportunity to see his grandson grow up was so much more than just a game. So, he made a decision and hit the field to train.

At bat: Mark set his baseball on the shelf and bought a bicycle. Cycling is a rigorous physical training, but it also gives you an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. It also frees your mind to think a bit more clearly, as does any form of exercise. As my brother’s body became healthier and his mind began to clear, he figured out what his next play should be.

First base: In his mid 40’s, Mark finally decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to follow in his big sister’s footsteps and become a dietitian. Mark’s second love was to cook, and he did it very well. In order to become healthier, all he had to do was shift a bit from the fried chicken, corn fritters and candied sweet potatoes to more steamed veggies, more fruit and less sweet and fried foods.

Second base: Shortly after this decision was made, Mark enrolled in college. He developed a plan for his life for the next several years, mounted his bicycle and headed off to school. He developed discipline, waded through the basic courses and kept his eye on the ball. Eventually, his goal was a home run, but not knowing exactly when that would be, he kept his focus.

Third base: Even during breaks, Mark studied the food industry. He came to the farm to ponder exactly where his food came from, and even helped to herd some of the protein he would one day eat. He learned to show respect to his food by spoiling Annabelle a little bit, he sampled some of the vitamins and nutrients in the vegetables and got a lesson in the final product of the dairy cow.

Fourth base: Saturday, Mark graduated cum laude from Texas Women’s College with a degree in Dietetics. He proudly posed with eleven women, who also reached this same goal in life. His smile is bigger than a baseball field. And he is now watching: the pitcher, the next batter and the ball, waiting to slide into home and make his final score with a job.

Mark. I am so proud of you. You may have been a spoiled rotten bratty little brother, but I have loved you since the day you were born. I joyfully claim you, celebrate this wonderful success, and will keep you in my prayers as you seek to win the pennant.

For those of you who are struggling with the ‘what ifs’ of changing your life, your career, or even with thinking you are too old to go back to school to learn something new, take a few moments. Get out of the parking lot and sit on the bench with Mark. He can tell you not only the rules of the game, but how to play it well. He can teach you how to keep your eye on the ball, how to choose the pitch, the best way to handle the bat and finally, how to hit a home run. And remember. The game isn’t over until the lights go out.

Here’s to Mark, and all those others who choose to play ball. May all your dreams shine and fly straight out of the park.