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Glancing At God Through A Peephole

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I am a huge hockey fan, and I have played a little bit in a couple of beer-leagues, I mean, adult recreational leagues where only water or sports drinks are consumed, the last couple of years.  When my wife and I were dating she made me learn how to play for my own good. Why wouldn’t I? I love the sport, and have followed the NHL for a long time, learn to play it. She’s the doer; if left alone I would just dream about it forever.  So I got skates, pads, sticks, and signed up for a clinic. I wasn’t too bad, but I still can’t skate backwards and have “tripped” over the blue line on a breakaway, or two. I stopped playing in part because of kids, but it gave me a glimpse of what it was like to play the game I love so much, which is enough at this point in my life.

 

But it was only a glimpse, an impression.  I have no idea what it’s like to be a pro, ride the bus or charter plane, have a team trainer take care of all of my stuff, get slammed into the boards, or take a 90 mile per hour slap shot to the foot, ankle, or face.

 

That’s how some people experience God.  Maybe they went to church once. It may have been a good experience, but it didn’t change them, but they’re not rushing to go back anytime soon.  Maybe they even went to a Christian or Catholic school as a kid, but it was only because their parents made them. There are the unfortunate examples where they had a bad experience with someone who claimed to be a Christian, took advantage of the situation or their position, and it left them with scars of how God is.

 

Whatever the case may be, the picture they have of God may not be clear, and it is not because they have looked into it.  They just have that one glimpse or view and have decided that they understand God and He’s not for them. Unfortunately, you can only convey an idea so much before someone has to experience it for themselves.  They have to choose to investigate and look into the situation on their own, and they have to want to do it.

 

You may have heard of Jesus, but you don’t know Jesus until you experience Jesus, which is just like any relationship with anyone else you know.  You don’t know Jesus until you talk to Him, and you stop and actually try to listen to Him (it wouldn’t be much of a relationship if you were the only one talking).  You may have heard of how He works from other people, but you don’t know Him until He has moved in your life, until you have experienced His hand working out for the good in your life.

 

It is interesting, to say the least, when you hear a false claim about a topic you personally know about.  Maybe you don’t know a great deal about it, but you know enough that what you just heard was wrong. You can refute it the best you can, but the people spreading false information have to decide, willingly, that they are going to be open to a different point of view other than their own.

 

That’s not always easy, and the change doesn’t happen immediately.  Nor do people, typically, want to hear another point of view, because that would mean that they are wrong, or just that what they thought was the truth wasn’t.  And that always goes over well, right??

 

The easiest thing I can do is point to my life as evidence of what God is like.  I am certainly not perfect, which is why I am a good example. God’s work is progressive.  I am a work in progress and far from a masterpiece.

 

For a long time, I thought God was a vengeful God, just wanting to catch me in the wrong.  So I would sin, as we all do, and then ask for forgiveness, and try to repent. Then sin, ask for forgiveness, try to repent, and repeat.  Over and over again.

 

And get tired.  Because I was trying to do it on my own.  I was not resting in His power to take away my temptation to sin.

 

That would always make me pray and ask for salvation over and over again to make sure I could actually call myself a Christian.  I was worried I could lose my salvation.

 

But God isn’t keeping score.  He isn’t counting up all the wrongs I have done to use against me later.  Because of salvation, I am forgiven, my sins are forgotten, and I am made clean.  I will need to stand before God and account for my sins, but the blood of Jesus has washed away the consequence I would have faced.

 

The true picture of God is that He wants me to be free.  He wants the weight, the guilt, the shame, and the pain of sin to be taken away from me.  This way I am able to be free, free to do His work of serving others and sharing His word, free to share the story of the freedom I have been given.

 

To define God’s plan as salvation and forgiveness so that we can have eternal life with Him, “fire insurance”, is just so narrow of a view of God and His plan.  It is like looking at God through a peephole.

 

Now, I don’t love God because of what I get from God.  I love God for what He has already given me. And He wants to give me so much more.  He wants to give you so much more. He wants to give you life abundantly and eternally.

 

I cannot even give you a full view of God.  I am still learning about what He is like every day.  What I do know of God is His grace, peace, love, mercy, and abundant life.

 

I don’t know your circumstances, but there is abundant life waiting for you.  I know the world may not look like it is possible for you to have abundant life, but it is with God.  The promise of salvation and forgiveness of your sins is just the beginning.

 

There are days I still wrestle with my human self.  I see what is going on in the world, and I cannot understand how or why what is happening is allowed to happen.  So I pray. I had to stop working the other day and fall to my knees and pray. I had to surrender my anger to God and be reminded that He has a greater plan.  Then I felt His calm.

 

I still get angry, but I pray and ask for His peace.  Because I know there is a bigger view. There is a wider lens to see God through, and I know the lens I am using is not wide enough still.  It is getting wider, though, as I spend time reading about His power, His goodness, His purpose, and His plan for my life.

 

I just look forward, though, to when I can see Him face to face, without a filter.

 

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How Did We Get Here?!?

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How to go from asking your wife for a new car to deciding when to quit your job in 10 hours – from suits to scrubs to activewear

 

This could have so many titles.

 

Do things just happen?  Or is there a plan? Does God have a plan?  Or are we just floating along and random circumstances lead us here or there?

 

I believe in God, so I believe He has a master plan for everyone’s life, not just mine.  The catch, if you want to call it that, is He won’t tell you His plan. You have to have faith in Him, trust He wants good things in your life, and listen for Him to speak to you.  I will admit that can be hard to do, even in the best circumstances.

 

I am lucky I come from a good family, a good school with good friends, and great opportunities, some that I have squandered.  So I can’t really complain about what I don’t have, but I’m human and I want more. When it came to my career I would do the best I could in the position I was in, but I was looking ahead all the time.

 

My education choices led me to the scientific/biotechnology industry.  Out of college, I found a job working in a lab, felt like I had room to advance, but seemed to stagnate.  I transferred departments after a couple of years, did well, but was stuck. After a few years, I went back to school, left the lab and tried my hand at a completely different role in sales, where I had to wear suits.  I didn’t do well, because it wasn’t a good personality fit, and I ended up back in the science field.

 

Same kind of thing happened as before where I was doing lab work, doing a fair job, but not going super above and beyond to catch the eye of the boss.  There were also some internal, political forces working against me, but nothing I could not have overcome if I wanted to. I just never wanted to, because I felt like I was just kissing butt, which is not my personality.  One perk, though, was the dress code: I could wear scrubs, which was like wearing pajamas to work.

 

After a few years went by, and a friend referred me to another lab that paid better.  For a year or so, I was just happy to be treated like a valuable human. Eventually, I started feeling like trying, so I did.

 

I tried to do better at my job, but I still didn’t do extra, as the managers would have liked to see.  I ended up bumping along in that space for awhile.

 

For a long enough time of coming home venting to my wife about my gripes and frustrations about nearly the same thing everyday, I wondered what I was doing, wondering how God’s plan was working out.  I felt like I was meant for more but wasn’t getting the opportunity (even though I wasn’t trying extra hard). I felt stuck, like I was not going anywhere in my career.

 

In the meantime, my wife had started a company that fulfilled her passion, work experience, and had a mission:  to work with her friends and change the world. In three years, she started on her own, has helped over 4000 students, and hired 10 other employees.  It has been awesome to see what she has been able to do following God’s will, being in continual prayer, and trusting in His call in her life. And to work from home wearing warm up pants or workout shorts every day was an added bonus (and sometimes owl slippers).

 

There have been some roadblocks though.  She has had a relapse of some health problems.  Doctors have provided few solutions and remedies, but she has powered through.

 

Also, I work Saturdays, so if the kids have hockey games, karate tournaments, or birthday parties, she is on her own.  I get to relax at work, and have been for the past 9 years.

 

So we had talked casually and passively about me quitting my job to stay home with the kids later this year, maybe early next year.  With my working in Corporate America and working Saturdays, when I need to ask for time off, I also need to find someone to cover my shift most times (then there were the times I was asked to find coverage for no reason but whatever).  So that was tedious and annoying.

 

Then looking forward in her business she may need me home more to be Dad for the kids (well, their dad, not just any dad), so working corporate doesn’t lend to that so much.  Then related but somewhat tangential was the new car factor.

 

I have been joking with her about getting my dream car, a BMW M5.  She said, “No way,” but I have been harassing her, jokingly, for a year.  I have a hatchback right now, and our oldest daughter is tall for her age and needs some more leg room.  She asked if I could get a new car. I told her to ask her mom, but when she does, just say “M5”.

 

That didn’t help.

 

So we sit down for a relaxing Sunday earlier this year, and I remind her we should talk about a new car.  The M5 was out of the question, but she would settle for a nice care as long as she picks the color. No problem.  But there’s still the question of which car.

 

This is because I have a car problem:  I want them all. I love sports cars, but I also like trucks and SUVs.  If we buy a car, we figure it is a 7-10 year commitment. We don’t want to lease because it isn’t financially wise, but if it gets the new-car feeling out of my system, it is worth it.  So we considered something practical for a couple of years to lease until we get something we really want.

 

However, the issue of mileage comes up on a lease if I’m driving to work every day, which led to the game-changing question:  “Why are you even working there?”

 

Hmm…good question.

 

I thought it was the desire to get promoted and follow my career path in the science industry, but it kind of wasn’t after talking about it.  It was maybe pride, but if I was going to quit within a year anyway to be home more, working just to get a title change then leave anyway wasn’t worth it.  It wasn’t worth it for me to work Saturdays, get up at 4 A.M. (yes, that was my shift) and be cranky and yell at the kids by dinnertime, and to be exhausted at the end of the week.

 

So why do it?

 

As my wife and I talked, she remembered she had a big project coming up in the spring and few people on her team were excited about heading it up.  

 

So what if I did it?

 

She went to consult her brain trust:  her operations manager, her business coach, and her sales manager.  Also, during these past months, my wife and I had separately been praying for my mission and purpose in life, to find what that was.  I was having trouble getting a clear picture; she had a vision of me working in a soup kitchen, or volunteering somewhere behind the scenes since me being people-facing was a bad idea based on my Strengths Finder profile.

 

It seemed the brain trust and God approved this move, so I was hired, thanks to nepotism, and God’s plan.  Now I’ll get to work from home. I went from wearing suits to scrubs to workout clothes (I still wear jeans some days).

 

It has been somewhat of a rough time wondering what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  I never doubted God has a plan. I was just wondering what and when He would reveal it to me.  And we both wondered where He would direct us as a family. Well, we have an answer now, until the next adventure.

 

The decision has been made.  Now I just need to tell my boss…

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“Nevertheless, She Persisted”

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My two daughters run my house.  My wife and I have big plans for both of them.  My oldest is the straight-and-narrow kid, who is going to get straight A’s and follow all the rules.  My youngest is the firecracker, the spitfire, the evil genius, the wild card, who is also going to get straight A’s but sneak out on a school night to go meet her friends at the frozen yogurt place across the street until waaaaay after curfew, which will be 4:15 P.M.  And when we catch her in the act, she’s going to do what she does now:  flash us that smile that says, “Who, me?  Noooo! You’re being silly, dad!  I’ve been here the whole time!  Ok, maybe not the whole time, but the whole time you thought I was here physically, I was home in my heart…and yours.”

 

I am not looking forward to the junior high or high school years.

 

Part of what makes my youngest daughter, who is now five, such a wild card, is her persistence.  Some might call it stubbornness.  It just depends on who you ask or when.  So there are times she digs in, and, if it is not something too serious, we’ll give in.  Those times are mildly inconvenient or not preferred, but they are not too problematic to give in to.  Most of the time, though, we try and diffuse the problem and help her get to more of a compromise.  We’re not always successful and she slides down the metaphorical hill that results in a temper tantrum.  And it’s not too surprising considering both my wife and I were stubborn, according to our respective parents.  Our daughter is just following in our footsteps-the apple of my eye.

 

I’d like to call it persistence, though, because, as much as I want my kids to be respectful of me, other kids, and authority figures, I do want them to stand up for themselves.  I don’t want them to be walked all over, and I don’t want them to just say “Ok” to whatever it is and harbor resentment and bitterness against someone else for the rest of their lives.  Ya know, like I have.

 

It is about balance.  It is about knowing when to push, when to pull back.  To know when to hold ‘em, and to know when to fold ‘em.

 

Well, this persistence played out a while back.  I didn’t see it first hand, but I have seen other examples of it.  I was at my older daughter’s hockey game, and my wife took my younger daughter to a family baby shower where her two cousins were also in attendance.  Usually once a week my in laws have my two kids and the two cousins over to spend the night for the four of them to play.  That week they didn’t get their weekend together, so after the baby shower my daughter asked my wife if her cousins could come and spend the night at our house.  My wife was totally caught off guard, tried to deflect and make up reasons to prevent it from happening more for my sake since I don’t like change, but, in the end, she didn’t have a good reason.  And my daughter was starting to step and slip down Tantrum Hill.  At every turn my wife said, “No,” my daughter would just say, “Yes!” and jump and down and say it again, and again.  And again.  Having witnessed this before, I know it just continues until someone gives.

 

Nevertheless, she persisted.

 

So I got a call as I was leaving the hockey game.  You know the kind of call, because you probably have made that call yourself in your life at least once, or were on the receiving end of such call.

 

“Hi, Honey!  So…how are you?  Ah huh, yeah, that’s good.  So…guess what?  We’re having guests over tonight!”

 

Now, I’m not opposed to guests in my house.  I’m just an introvert that likes my free time, my personal space, peace and quiet, and no changes to be made anytime ever for any reason.  So my wife asks her sister if it’s ok if her boys spend the night, and, of course, she says yes, because what parent wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a kid-free night?  I know I would if one was offered to me.  My daughter got her wish:  Her cousins came over, they played and had fun and got their usual weekend of family bonding in.  And that, actually, worked out:  since the kids were occupied it gave my wife and I time to chat and catch up.  And drink wine.

 

Persistence pays off.

 

Both of my daughters are going to be a handful, namely for me since I am not great at change or conflict resolution.  I need a new strategy since “My way or the highway!” isn’t very effective most of the time.  I need to ask myself, “Do I want my daughters to stand up for themselves?  Do I want them to, respectfully, defend their ideas and discuss solutions in the boardroom to the boss?  Or do I want them to be ‘Yes’ people that fold to the power of the position that is facing them?  Do I want them to shrink back?”  I know I want them to stand up to bullies, or other physical confrontations.  In an incredible time as now of the #MeToo movement that started late last year, the year of the Women’s March that for two years in a row had record numbers of people marching in the street, and a record number of women engaging politically running for public office, I want my girls to be women of power, too.  Not necessarily to be CEO’s, politicians, or women as the face of a movement, but women standing up and not backing down in the face of opposition.

 

Part of persistence is pressing on, not giving up.  Some people should give up on their goals.  I always think of the early rounds of American Idol contestants that believe in their hearts that they are born to be stars but can’t hold a note, or they are too pitchy, dog.  Some people, though, shouldn’t give up.

 

Nevertheless, persist.

 

I also want to encourage them and to know it is ok to stand up for others.  Speaking up for the voiceless, helping those in need, and serving others are actions that Jesus preached His followers to do.  I pray they follow in His footsteps.

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The Grass Is Dead

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Phiippians 4:11-12 NIV

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

 

Maybe it is part of being an adult.  Or maybe it is just part of being a human.  I have a tendency, when I go to someone’s house for the first time, to check out the stuff they have.  Also, I’m curious, in some instances nosy, about things people have.  Like, just recently we went to the house of my daughter’s friend.  The parents invited us in to chat a little, and when we first walked in, I was scoping it out:  nice T.V., sound system, nice couches with no kid blankets on them, no toys all over the floor, at least in that room of the house.  I was getting jealous.  For a minute I wanted their house.  Then we got a peek into their backyard that was neatly landscaped.  Jealousy rising.  Kitchen was nice and clean, relatively modern.  Jealousy rising.  No pool.  Jealousy subsiding.

 

There are other people-friends, neighbors, co-workers-I feel envy towards at times.  Whether it be the nice car or truck they have, the job they have, the TV setup, or even the kid-free lifestyle they have.  Some, even the single life they have I sometimes wish I had.

 

But there is a catch:  I hated being single.  I don’t want to be single, I love my kids, right now, I don’t need a TV bigger than my neighbor’s, and I don’t need a perfectly manicured lawn (hence the picture at the top; that is really my lawn).  I just want what I don’t have.

 

I was terrible at being single, for example.  At least being single and trying to get dates, that is.  I am painfully shy and was not be able to ask girls out, so I wished for a date but didn’t often do the work to get one.  I did get a few dates stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time, but it didn’t happen as often as I wished it did. I dreeeeamed about meeting my “soul mate,” having kids, and coming home from work to the pitter patter of my kids running to me screaming, “Daddy! You’re home!” and giving me a hug.  Now my kids barely look up from their homework or TV when I get home, but that’s beside the point.

 

The point is:  the grass is always appears greener on the other side.

 

Depending on my mood, if people ask me how things are going, or how my family is, I’ll answer, “Livin’ the dream,” which I’ll say in the most sarcastic and snarky tone I can.  But, if I think about it, I am living my dream.

 

I don’t make as much money as I dreamed I would be making when I was in college or earlier times of my career, but I am making a good living.  I definitely don’t have my dream job, but I do have a good job where I know I am helping people and making a positive contribution to the world.  

 

Regarding my career, I’m finding out through some personal development and general conversations with my wife that the CEO job I had dreamed of, or thought would be my ticket to happiness, or that the world tells me I should strive for, would be terrible for me.  Mostly, it would require a lot of decision-making.  Considering I can’t even decide dinner some nights, CEO might not be great for me.  And by “dinner” I mean eating dinner.  There are enough instances of me skipping a meal, my wife asking me if I am ok, and then I realize I never ate lunch or drank any water yet for the day.

 

Regarding my kids, parenthood is a grind, for sure.  I’ve talked about the challenge of keeping your head above water as a parent.  Between work, karate class, hockey games, playdates, and birthday parties, life is busy.  I am really just the homework facilitator or foreman and shuttle driver during the week.  My wife gets the playdates and birthday parties on the weekend, and somewhere in there we sneak in a date-night from time to time.  However, some weeks, we’re both so exhausted come Friday, date night is a glass of wine or a beer, a couple of tacos, or a slice of pizza, and a little binge watching and we’re done.  Not that either of us are fiends for the dance floor on a Friday or Saturday night, but not many people ask me what I did over the weekend are in awe of the answer or are hit with FOMO.  I wasn’t that way before marriage or kids, so why start now?  Stay in your lane, right?

 

There is always something in this world to entice us.  The fancy {new-insert product here}.  I don’t neeeeed the new iPhone that uses my face to unlock, but I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered to me.  I don’t neeeeeed Playstation VR, but I played it once and it sent me on a shallow dive with hemming and hawing for a week of what to put on my Christmas wish list.  Part of the struggle is working through what Paul said to the Philippians.  I bounce back and forth between wanting everything for myself, or deciding I need to give everything away to the poor.  Sometimes I want to give all my money away to rescue all the kids in the world, or have all the water wells in Africa built.  And other days I want a BMW M5, a lifted Ford Raptor, and a Prius (I need a car to commute to work!).

 

Then I snap back:  what’s my priority?  What’s my goal?  What is the example I am setting for my kids?  Do I want them growing up struggling with just being consumers all their lives?  They already want every toy they see.  Or do I want them to learn stuff isn’t everything, the end-all-be-all of living?  That money doesn’t buy happiness.  I’m still trying to be consistent in remembering what brings me lasting joy.  I at least know I won’t find happiness on another patch of grass on the other side of the fence.

 

So I am letting the grass die.  The dream…the dream that keeps changing based on the latest and greatest.  The dream for something shiny and new..  The dream of wielding power, or proving my worth with a salary, or a position, or rank, or the corner office.  I’m letting that dream die.  My new dream is my old dream.  My new dream is the life I’m living now, the life I’ve always wanted.  The life God has been faithful to give and bless me with.

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To Youth, To The Dreamers

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Remember Time Cop with Jean Claude Van Damme?  Unfortunately, I do (look it up after you read this, but you’re probably better off not having watched it, unlike me).  That is a movie where time travel doesn’t have the happiest of outcomes at first, and not one of Jean Claude’s finest films, although that may not exist at all.  Maybe Back to the Future is a better example of the time travel.  Hijinx ensue, but at least it’s fun and not so dire.

 

As much as you would like to, you can’t go back.  I can’t either, just to be clear.  I don’t want you to think I’m trying to rub it in or something.  And I don’t think I would want to go back.  As much as I wish I did things differently the first time, I wouldn’t change anyth…much.

 

Here are a few things I wish I could change or would have done differently if I had the chance:

  • I wish I learned to play an instrument
  • I wish I worked more overtime when I had less responsibilities/people counting on me being around
  • I wish I was more disciplined in school
  • I wish I took more chances
  • I wish I held back more often
  • I would not have sent that mixtape

 

We don’t like making wrong choices, and sometimes it is hard just making any choice at all.  I used to go shopping, pick up a number of items I wanted, know I could only afford half of them, but I couldn’t decide what to keep and what to put back.  So I would end up just putting them all back and walking out of the store with nothing.  The few times I would only get the one or two things I could get, I felt like I was missing out and would go back a couple of days later to get the things I put back anyway.  I couldn’t live with the regret of buying the wrong whatever it was.  Then later would regret I bought any of it after getting the credit card bill.

 

Even though I wish I could change some things or would do or say something different in certain situations if I could, I am glad that I can’t.  I don’t live with regrets, necessarily, I just wonder how events would be different.  As annoying as the cliche “everything happens for a reason” is, I agree with it.  I know there are lessons and wisdom gained going through the experiences I have been through.  It has all shaped me in some way.  I wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

 

My past work experience, for example, helped me trick my wife into thinking that I was a good sales rep, or that I was a sales rep at all, even though I faked my way through that whole phase of my career.  We both worked for the same company but in different regions and slightly different time periods, so we knew the lingo, knew some of the same people, and had an understanding of the business; a foundation for our relationship to build on.  The facade came crumbling down when she would explain certain sales techniques, and I would look at her like I heard a dog whistle.  Occasionally when the topic comes up, she shakes her head and calls me an “imposter rep.”  It all worked out.  She still married me even with my imposter status, so she has no one to blame but herself.

 

Anyway, not only is that wisdom for me to use in the future, but it is knowledge and wisdom I can pass on to my kids.  Most of the time growing up, I thought my dad just had crazy stories of how the world worked.  However, there were a few nuggets in there that have always stuck with me and am thankful he was able to share them with me.  Hopefully, I can do the same for my kids (be the dad whose kids think he’s crazy, that is).  They already do, but why not add more fuel?

 

There is still time for me to do stuff I missed out on earlier in life.  I just need to focus and try not to be lured away by the seductress known as Playstation.  For some reason, I came up with the brilliant idea that I need to learn to play the drums.  Since my kids are taking karate, the dad of my daughter’s friend was encouraging (egging me on is more like it) to do something like go hiking, or camping, or shooting guns.  You know, all the stuff men would do.  I said no to all of it, but I thought I should join my kids doing karate (I’ve been watching for years, I could totally take some of those kids out and show them who the real sensei is).  So soon, there will be a blog post about me kicking out the jams on my drum set with the use of the Crane Kick made famous by Daniel-son.

 

No, I’m not entering a mid-life crisis.  What are you talking about?  Oh, and I’m trying to talk my wife into buying me a sports car.  But I’m fine.

 

A couple of the pearls of wisdom I hope my kids eventually appreciate are:

  • Enjoy your youth
  • Make the most of your time here
  • Do your best, always
  • Live free and take a chance
  • Be yourself, know yourself
  • Protect yourself
  • Let go of mistakes
  • Live in wisdom

 

These are all cliches, for sure, but there can still be value to them.  I certainly enjoyed some of my youth, but I also squandered portions of it.  It can be hard to know what is best in the moment.  You just do the best you can with the information you have available at the time, which is what I will tell my girls.

 

There are things of youth I cannot do much of anymore.  I can’t still play soccer.  I learned that after I could barely walk after playing in my first game in an old-man’s league.  I was never much for the nightlife, but I am definitely not in shape to stay up past 9 P.M. now.  There are plenty others things I can’t do in my mid-life crisis age.  It would be too sad to list them all here.

 

I can still be super silly with my kids, however, as well as be a source of knowledge and wisdom when the situations come up.  Having the mentality of a 13-year old sometimes is helpful when it comes to kids.  I still embrace adulthood and do my best to teach my kids responsibility, maybe a little too much.  They are a little young for me to get too in depth about hopes and dreams and goals and accomplishments and consequences.  All in due time.

 

In the meantime, just keep dreaming, just keep growing.  Be young, wild, and free.

 

Is there anything you would change?

 

What was painful but glad you went through?

 

What wisdom did you gain and hope to pass on to your kids?

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Vacation From Vacation

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Growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was The Wonder Years.  There was one scene I remember where the main character, Kevin, asks his dad what he does for work.  An exasperated, middle-aged man, home from a long day of work is just trying to sit in his favorite chair in front of the TV and read the newspaper answers his adolescent son with sheer exhaustion in his voice, “I get up, fight traffic, get yelled at by my boss, do the same thing every day, fight traffic, then I come home.”  I’m paraphrasing since it has been over 20 years since I have seen the show, but I am sure you can imagine how that sounded.  The show was also set in the 1960s when enjoying what you did for a living was never a consideration.  Work wasn’t exciting, motivating, or something you would look forward to.  It was a job to provide for your family that you endured minus your two weeks of vacation every year.

 

Unless your vacation gets hijacked.

 

That is what happened to us this year.  I made this joke on my social media:  “There are vacations.  There are stay-cations.  There are sickations.  We chose the last one this year.”  Maybe we didn’t choose it, but it chose us.

 

Every year my parents invite us down to a local resort to stay with them for a week, so they can see their grandkids for a week.  Luckily, for now, my kids need a driver, so my wife and I get to attend too.  The resort is great for the kids with a couple of arts-and-crafts sessions a day, lots of swimming, plenty of margaritas and pina coladas for me, and the best buffalo wings for my wife’s money.  This is my “two weeks a year” that I look forward to every year; the only week I take time off during the year that is for me and not time off for family events or chauffeuring my kids here or there if they are double booked.  It’s not a horrible life, but it isn’t relaxing-by-the-pool-with-a-drink-in-my-hand-for-a-week, typically.

 

This year was already going to be a little different because my oldest daughter had a hockey tournament scheduled out of town, so we were going to lose half the week anyway.  We planned on breaking up the 8 hour drive and do some sightseeing on the way up to keep in step with vacation.  At least that was the initial plan.

 

The vacation hijacking started before vacation even started.  It might have actually started with me.  A couple of weeks before, a lot of people at my work were sick, I think I became Patient Zero that brought it home to my youngest daughter, who then gave it back to me.  Then I think I gave it to my oldest one.  Two days before vacation, I picked up my oldest from karate day camp, and she was really lethargic.  Her sister had a Father’s Day recital and dinner at her preschool that evening, and after dinner she felt warm when I hugged her.  We took her home, checked her temperature, 103, Tylenol.  The fever would stay down as long as we kept her on Tylenol or Motrin.  I took her to the doctor, who didn’t seem too concerned at the time, and prescribed rest and no swimming.  Bummer.

 

Then the coughing.  All the coughing.

 

Coincidently my wife started to not feel great, so the first day of our vacation I took the girls to the resort and let her rest at home.  She has had some lingering health problems this year, and being around sick kids and a sick adult for two weeks didn’t help her situation.  I took my daughters, checked in to the hotel, did some crafts, and moved our lives into our room.  My oldest daughter’s fever stuck around, and she developed a cough.  She hung tough, though, and had as much fun as possible without swimming, or margaritas and pina coladas (for me, I mean).

 

The next day she coughed most of the day as I tried to get her an appointment with the doctor, but it was the weekend and Father’s Day so that didn’t happen.  Then the coughing really kicked in:  She coughed most of the night, which means she didn’t sleep much, which means I didn’t sleep much.

 

Besides all the amenities at this resort, the location was a blessing:  it was only a 40 minute drive home, so we made an appointment with our regular doctor in the morning.  The doctor prescribed an antibiotic just in case, and also ordered a chest x-ray to rule out other possibilities.  And despite all the coughing, she was the same kid she always is:  happy, go-lucky, goofball.  That will serve her well in the future.

 

So vacation recap thus far:

  • Moved into hotel – check
  • Fever – check
  • Coughing – check
  • Spouse sick too – check
  • Coughing preventing sleep – check
  • Antibiotics prescribed – check
  • Chest X-ray ordered – check

 

Once we get the chest x-ray done, pick up some yucky medicine and have lunch, we head back to the resort to make the most of our vacation while we are there.  My wife asked the resort employees for some of the crafts that we can take back to the room after explaining we have a sick kid, coughing pretty badly.  They were nice enough to help us out, and we minimized the disappointment of not swimming some.

 

Since we were not far from home, to try and minimize any discomfort, we decided to spend the night at home and come back in the morning.  That plan changed a little when my wife wasn’t feeling well.  

 

The hits kept on coming.

 

My mother-in-law came by with some comfort food and ended up taking the girls with her to her house.  A couple hours later, she and I checked in on our respective patients.  That’s when she said she wasn’t feeling well herself with some indigestion symptoms.  Then a couple hours later I got the call that I needed to go pick up the girls because my mother-in-law was headed to the ER for emergency surgery.

 

Yay!!

 

Good news, though:  the rest of the week turned around.  The antibiotics started taking effect for my daughter, my mother-in-law had her procedure and was resting at home, and my wife was able to speak to her doctor and get some options on how to get back to normal for the short term.  Unfortunately, she has a more long term situation to deal with, but that is another story for another day.  And at this point, we still have three days to take advantage of as much as possible, which we did.

 

Also, good news, depending on who you ask, was that the doctor said no hockey, so we didn’t have to make the 8 hour road trip.  Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t too bummed about it.  Of course, it would have been great to see her play, but if any of you parents out there have kids who play sports, it is all consuming.  If there is a tournament going on, that is what we are doing that weekend.  So it was a bit of a blessing to me that we didn’t get to make the trip.  That also meant more margaritas!

 

The few days of actual vacation we had left went well.  We got to swim, have a nice dinner with my parents, and enjoy some family time.  It gave me some time to think and rest.  I was able to journal, which I haven’t done in several months.  I didn’t have my Playstation to distract me, so I had to write or think or use my brain in some way.

 

My guess is you exhibit some of these similarities:  get up, work, come home, take kids here, take kids there, dinner, bath for the kids, sleep, repeat.  Possibly if you’re anything like me, you also stay awake much too late even though you know you’ll regret it in the morning and watch TV or peruse social media.  Throw in laundry, dirty dishes, and maybe sweeping the floor, if you’re lucky, and there isn’t much time to think and let your brain rest.  I was glad to have a little of that kind of time this trip.

 

Now I just need a vacation from my vacation.

 

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Taylor Got Me Like…

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Honestly, I really only know about Taylor (we’re on a first name basis) because of her tabloid exploits that I hear recapped on a morning radio show I listen to.  But, as I have written about before, I am not much of a fan of pop music anyway, so it isn’t out of the realm that I wouldn’t be familiar with Tay-Tays music (yes, that’s the nickname she likes me to use for her).  I almost put music in quotes.

Also, as I have mentioned before, the girls in our house love Taylor and pop music.  My oldest daughter is turning 7 soon, and she seems to know all the words to all the songs that come up on the Taylor Swift, Rachel Platten, or Today’s Hits Pandora radio stations or Amazon Music.  And she’s been singing along for quite some time now.  When she first started doing it, it shocked me because I didn’t realize she knew the words or had heard the song enough times to know the words.  My youngest is almost 5, and she is starting to sing along too.  So cute, by the way.

Since I am outvoted 3-1, I rarely get to listen to music of my choice in the car.  But I am also getting outvoted in the house.  One day, I started doing the dishes, and I asked Alexa to start playing Daft Punk.  My wife poked her head in as a song started playing and told Alexa to play Taylor Swift.  She giggled and left the kitchen, but then my kids got in on the action.  I asked Alexa to play Daft Punk, again, then Haley interrupted and asked Alexa to play Taylor Swift, again.  And then it was my other daughter’s turn to interrupt my music.  And around and around it went until I let out a dad-shout of “Hey!  Stop it!”

The Joys of Parenthood.

There have been a few times I have caught myself singing a Taylor Swift song.  Or there are a couple of pop songs by Rachel Platten or Sara Bareilles that slip through my anti-pop filter that I like.  A few, so I am not 100% against pop.  Some songs make it through because I listen to a lot of podcasts or audiobooks and don’t listen to a lot of music.  So the few times I do listen to music, it is with my kids and it is their choice.

Then I heard a particular Taylor Swift song.  The first time I heard it, I was driving around with my four year old daughter, just a normal day headed to the grocery store, and I almost started crying.  Because Taylor got me.  Taylor got me like a father feeling like his daughters are growing up too fast.

If you’re familiar with Taylor’s work, the song that got me was “Never Grow Up.”  If you’re a parent familiar with the song, you probably know why I started crying.  If you’re not familiar with the song, it is a down tempo, “classic Taylor” song, about a girl wanting to grow up starting as a newborn, through the awkward teenage years, and on to college being dropped off in the big city.  Only then does she realize being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and she wishes she could go back to being a kid.

I am a little sentimental at times.  Even before I had kids, watching a particular episode of West Wing where the president is about to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding got me choked up.  So I am susceptible to this kind of vicious attack by an artist like Swift to use a song to make father cry.

So like you, Taylor.

I am a sucker for the heart-felt, sappy song.  Even among the music I do like, “love songs” get played more than other songs on the album.  So maybe it isn’t all Taylor’s fault.  And maybe it isn’t so bad that there is a song that I can tolerate by an artist that my daughters’ love but I can’t stand.  It gives me something to bond with them over.  Sometimes I sing along with them, and I even use my real singing voice instead of my making-fun-of-the-song voice.  Both singing voices elicit a “STOP IT DAD!” from the back seat.  I don’t blame them.  They might have enough reasons to need therapy.  Don’t need to add my terrible singing voice to the list.

I wish I could stop my kids from growing up, but I also can’t wait for them to grow up and see what they can accomplish and see the kind of people they become.  It’s an exciting and terrifying time, as I’m sure it is for any parent.  It has been crazy to watch and fun to see my kids growing up and learning, trying new things, and finding their own interests.  As hard as it is, I’ve have to start letting them grow up now so it is a little bit easier later.

There is some hope for Zoey and her musical tastes.  It is a little early yet for Haley.  She’s all about Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” or she was.  But the other day I was playing Bleachers in the way to karate, which I had played some before.  I could hear Zoey trying to learn to words and sing along.  Then after we got home she wanted to hear it again.  So there’s still a chance!  But I guess the old Taylor is growing on me as well, so maybe I can shake it off.

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Rearview Mirror, 2016

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What a year.  So full of hope and promise.  Big goals.  Big dreams.  Big hopes of getting stuff done.  Then video games as the path of least resistance, lack of vision and motivation to stay focused on the goal.  Distracted by other “important” things like hashtag wars on Twitter, or…sitting.  Well, maybe not just sitting, but certainly distracted.

 

Year-long goals can be hard, especially when you are not conditioned to set, plan, and execute them, as I am.  I ended 2015 wanting to read 10 books in 2016.  I wanted to write more.  I wanted to get promoted at work.  I wanted to expand my career options.  I wanted to…do a lot of things.  But I got complacent.  I didn’t plan as well as I could have.  

 

There are some things I did do well, though.  Or there are things that did go well.  My wife left her corporate job and started her own sales coaching business, and I helped her by supporting her, taking care of the kids in the evenings, and giving her time to ramp up.  I also did take on some more responsibilities and learned some new procedures at work to put myself in a better position to be promoted.

 

Here are a couple of things that did go well:

-Drew closer to God

My wife started her own business and left her corporate job.  That provided opportunities for me to serve my family, so I did.  I took on some more responsibility around the house by taking the girls to hockey practice or karate classes and by getting them ready for bed on nights my wife had evening appointments or classes.  I definitely drew closer to God seeking patience while spending more time than usual with my kids, who are…lovely come bath time.  It was also a time to draw closer to God trusting that He would help provide for her business or not.  It has been a great year trusting in Him.

 

-Took on some work opportunities

I work in a lab, and my main role up to this year has been analysis of the samples that come in.  Early in the year I was asked to start training on the sample processing side of the lab, called the wet lab.  Part of the catch of doing this was changing my schedule a bit from a 9 AM start time to a 6 AM.  Quite a change that was only going to be on the days I was in the wet lab, but I ended up changing my schedule to 6 AM permanently.  To say the least, I am tired by the end of the week.  The good thing about that change is it helps my wife with her business by being home to take care of the kids after school.  I also applied for a couple of open positions at work, one would have been a promotion and the other added responsibility.  I didn’t get either – the promotion due to lack of experience, and the other due to an improper fit with my career goals.  There were some good things to not getting these roles, though.  Getting passed for the promotion gave me things to improve on, and the other role helped me realize what direction I want to take my career.

 

Cliche of the blog post:  If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  I’m not going to give up.  I’m regrouping, looking at what changes I need to make, and try again for 2017.

 

A year later I am looking forward.  I don’t have as many books to read through the year as my goal, but the goals haven’t really shrunk.  It may have expanded.

 

I just want to change the world.

 

Too big of a goal?

 

Maybe.  Here are some things I want to do in 2017:

-Use my blog to tell parenting stories and share the gospel.  

I’ve been a Christian a long time but only recently have started to understand the freedom God brings.  I want to share how He is transforming me into a better person and parent.  He has a lot of work to do, by the way.

 

-Speak up for the poor.

I am an armchair activist, but I still strive to make a difference.  So I will donate to the cause.  A friend is a missionary in Brazil, last year I was introduced to Charity Water that builds wells in Africa and 100% of the money donated goes to building wells, and recently I was introduced to Speak Up For The Poor, which is an organization that educates girls who would otherwise be sex trafficked in Bangladesh.  I know there is more that can be done.  I am starting by helping with my wallet.

 

-Activate politically.

We live in troubling times regardless of what side of the political aisle you stand on.  There are so many issues that need attention such as global warming, or racial profiling, or improving the education system, which are very different but still important these days.  I don’t know where I will focus my energy as of right now, so I am going to start by contacting my local representative.  You should too.  I’ve spent too much time only being involved around the time of presidential elections.  Time to stand up and get some work done.

 

-Continuous improvement

I am hoping the extra effort I put in last year at work pays off and leads to a title upgrade. To go along with that I look forward to expanding my skill set.  It seems that I am a nerd and am interested in data.  The business world of today is driven by having data.  There is a great Hidden Brain podcast episode about Uber and the data they collect to improve their business.  I would like to do that do that for my company, but that is going to require some education on my part in data science and analysis.  In general, I am always learning through audiobooks and podcasts.  Now is time to educate myself some to grow my career.

 

Here is what I will do not matter what:

-Draw near to God

I can try to change the world, but, one, it will only matter if I do it with Jesus, and, two, it can only be done with Jesus.  What is making it…interesting is lately I feel like I’m being attacked and hindered from accomplishing something for God.  This gives me even more reason to lean on Him.

 

-Try again

Year-long goals is not a regular thing I do.  I don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions, nor do I normally set goals for myself and try and accomplish them.  This is a new venture for me, and I did not do so well in 2016.  Practice makes perfect.

 

Let’s go get 2017!

 

How did your year go?

 

What went well for you?

 

Where could you improve?

 

What are you looking forward to most in 2017?

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Childish Faith

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What’s the shortest verse in the Bible?  “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)  Okay, what’s the second shortest verse?  “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17‬).  For any of you who went to private school or grew up in Sunday School at church as a kid, you always hoped that these would be the verses when it landed on your turn to read aloud in class, or the teacher would pick one of these for the memory verse for the week.  No such luck.  Ever.  You usually had to read the lineage of Jesus in Matthew, or any of the Old Testament about characters like Jehosephat or Nebuchadnezzar.

 

“Pray without ceasing” is the verse I want to focus on today.  Never stopping my prayers to God. When I was a kid, this blew my mind.  You mean when I am making fun of people on the playground, I’m actually supposed to be praying?  Or when I am giggling over silly sounding words in the story my teacher is reading, that is a prayer?  This boggled my mind so much, I had to ignore it because I couldn’t understand it and it would cripple me.

 

Sometimes it still does: when I am giving the slow driver I’m tailgating the Number One sign, it is a prayer to God?  Oh crap!  Or, like what happened to me at Costco the other day, when I rudely told a lady, who was trying to cut in front of me in the food court line, where the back of the line was was actually a prayer? (Yes, that did happen)  Damn.  I mean, shoot.  Or shucks, or something.

 

All that: prayers.  Maybe not the best prayers, but Paul is talking about a mindset of prayer, or an attitude of constant communication with God.  Not much different than how we talk with our kids. We pick them up from school, ask them how their day was, who they sat with at lunch, who they played with at recess, what did they cover in class.  Praying to God is the same thing.  Praying without ceasing means to never stop talking with God.

 

One way we have been teaching prayer to our kids is nightly prayers where we give thanks for anything that comes to mind followed by prayer requests.  This year the primary request has been regarding my wife starting her business, getting clients, and making some money.  Like starting any small business, the beginning is the most time consuming, so the girls had a little trouble adapting to mom being home but unavailable even though she was in the house.  So she incentivized them by telling them if they let her work and she makes enough money she would buy them Legoland passes.

 

So they prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.

 

It seemed to work, because Tasha’s business has been doing well and she hit the goal she was reaching for at the time and Legoland pases were granted.  And the girls keep praying the same prayer.  I even hesitate to write, “BUT the girls keep saying the same prayers,” because, sadly, I am apparently jaded or cynical.  In my mind I found myself thinking, “Get some new prayers.  He took care of that one.”

 

Terrible.

 

Then I remembered, “Pray without ceasing.”  I also remembered Luke 18:16-17 of receiving the kingdom of God like a child. They are doing both.  Parents know kids don’t stop asking for stuff or saying the same thing over and over again. Even after you’ve heard something one hundred times or said yes to something, your kids will keep telling you or asking you what is on their mind.  We should be continually talking to God in a similar way.

 

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” http://bible.com/59/luk.18.16-17.esv

 

Of course, I want my kids to be Christians because I know the blessings God can bring to them if they have faith.  Life won’t be perfect, but life is a blessing knowing I have a loving, heavenly Father to put my trust into.  So why would I even consider putting a roadblock up to their faith?

 

I could learn a thing or two from them.  “Pray without ceasing with the faith of a child.” My hybrid verse as my motto or mantra for life following God and trusting Him.  Their prayers are how I should pray.  Pray as if God has already brought the answer.  Pray persistently because you cannot wear out or bore God with the same prayers over and over again.  Pray continually because communication is the key to any relationship.

 

And then pray again.

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“The Journey Is The Reward”

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Most days, we are just trying to get through the day to get to the next.  Survival.  Living for the weekend.  There are those days we all have with our kids when going to the bathroom or doing the dishes feels like a vacation, even though you are still doing work and trying to do it as fast as you can to get to the next thing.  You get to the end of the day, and just sigh.  Maybe you (and by you, I mean me) snap at your kids because they are playing instead of getting in the bath, then they are not getting dressed after their bath, then they are not falling asleep.  

 

But then they finally do fall asleep.  You might have fallen asleep first, but whatever.  You take a glimpse of them sleeping, and you smile.  It all feels worth it.  At least in that moment anyway.

 

The day-to-day task of parenting is a chore.  Some might even say it is a bore.  Some, sadly, say no more.  Ok, I’m out of rhymes for now.  As challenging as parenting is, there is a reward that doesn’t include when they leave the house for the night to stay at the grandparents’, or when they leave for college, or when they eventually leave to start their own lives and families.  Those are rewards, sure.  The reward of, hopefully, raising, training, and teaching your kids how to be good adults, I would think, is what we strive for as parents.

 

It can be hard to remember that, though, in the moment.  Parents have so many things to worry about regarding their kids.  I have mentioned before in previous posts, just keeping everything afloat.  Kids grow up so fast, and parents spend so much time just trying to get them to the next thing-out of diapers, off of baby food, walking, talking, out of the stroller.  Then there are all the events we have to go to:  birthday parties, play dates, family parties.  There isn’t much time to sit, reflect, and enjoy your kids.

 

Both of my kids are in karate right now, and my oldest is bouncing back and forth between that and roller hockey.  Ultimately, I want them to do their best, but that doesn’t mean I need them to be the best.  As much as I want my girls to be the next Serena or Venus Williams, Michelle Wie, or Rhonda Rousey, the physical and mental toll of living as a professional athlete is not always worth the cost.

 

I also hope to teach my kids to rise up to the challenges that life puts in front of them and never give up.  We have a plaque with family rules on them, and one that we often go back to is to “never give up.”  This is often because when “Time to go to karate!” is announced, sometimes a groan is let out followed up by “I don’t want to go.”  We struggle to get them dressed and out the door, and then they are there in class and they are fine.

 

Not much different than you or I, I would imagine, when our bosses ask us to do something hard or out of our comfort zone at the moment.  Or something that simply inconveniences us and what we wanted to do that day.  Or just getting up and getting out of bed for the day and being an adult is required.  Why would we think our kids would be much different?

 

But as much as we hate working, we never give up and, hopefully, do our best.  We do it to provide for our families and set an example for our kids of the benefits of hard work.  Hopefully we also do it because we enjoy the work we do and the difference it makes in the world.  That might be a lofty idealism, but you get the idea.  

 

And if they don’t become pro athletes, whatever their profession is, they don’t need to be the best.  They just need to do their best they can and enjoy what they do.  They don’t need to be CEO, unless they want to be or feel like God is calling them to such a position.

 

What is more important is to teach them to enjoy the ride.  Enjoy the journey of life and not get caught up in the destination alone.  Don’t forget to have fun along the way.  Strive for the best but don’t be so focused on getting to be the best.

 

The journey is the reward.

 

Life is short.  Life moves fast.  It is not slowing down for any of us unless we make a choice to do so.  It can be easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, even as a kid.  One of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”  So enjoy the ride.

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