In the Blink of an Eye

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What is the most valuable thing you possess? Most would jump right to money, others to various other assets or valuables like properties, cars or even sports memorabilia. If you’d of asked me this question 10 years ago I probably would have answered the same way, but 5 years ago God changed my heart and mind and since then my evaluation of things has been completely different.

Next weekend my beautiful, energetic, stubborn princess Sophie will turn 4-years-old and just about 3 short weeks after that we’ll be welcoming our 3rd child, a son named Gavin.  On top of all of that I have son turning 7 in June and my wife and I will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary.  I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment, as is my wife, but Mary and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

You see, when Joey was born my outlook on life was a little skewed in the wrong direction.  Mary and I were still newly wed and like most newly weds weren’t rich by any means.  Money was tight and I had a stint where I was jobless so ultimately our stress levels were elevated as well.  There were times we thought we couldn’t make it and we asked for help, but we always had just what we needed, stress and all.  I remember during those times that I’d get up in the middle of the night and I’d sneak into Joey’s room (he must have been one and a half or so) and I’d just watch him sleep.  Seeing him would take all of my stresses away and help me realize that everything was going to be OK even in my darkest hour.  I knew this because we had been through a bible study that said that God wouldn’t put anything on us that we couldn’t handle. This promise made me learn to cling to Him.  Even before Joey was born I was certain I didn’t want to be a father because I thought I couldn’t handle it, that i wasn’t good enough, but I saw how important it was to my wife Mary that I gave it a try.  From the moment he was born I was hooked and I knew that everything would be OK.  Things came full circle in that moment as I stared at joey in the middle of the night and I knew from there on out that we’d be OK and that God would provide, come what may.

Here I stand today, 33 years old wondering where time went.  It seems as if Joey was just born a year or so ago, let alone Sophie turning 4 and Gavin about to be born.  Time has proven to be the most elusive thing in my life as I can never have enough of it.  As I work each day from 8am-5pm with an hour commute each way, I always feel that I just don’t have enough time.  But I decided a couple of years ago that the time I do have I plan on making the most of it.  I’ve decided that I’ll always be there for my kids and that quality is much better than quantity in most cases.

So today, if you asked me the same question this blog started with, I’d answer this way:

“There are 3 things that are most valuable to me: 1) my family 2) time 3) photos and memories. There is nothing, other than God that is more valuable to me.  No price that you could pay would change my mind. I’ve learned in 5 short years that life isn’t measured by the depth of your pockets, but by the strength of your legacy within your family and children.  So you if you know me, then I am the richest man in the world. My wealth is not defined by man or anyone but it’s defined by me and therefore I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. Would I do it all over again? As many times as I could because this life we live will be over in the blink of an eye.”

Showing Love vs Saying I Love You

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Couple_CellAbout a week ago, I sat at a local restaurant eating some Chinese food when I looked across the restaurant at a young couple that walked in hand in hand, bubbling over in love.  You could tell that they were newly weds by their actions and they didn’t care how they acted as their love spoke louder than any reaction from the disgruntled customers.  They stood in line, placed their orders goo-goo-ing and ga-ga-ing from start to finish.  They got their food and drinks and made their way to their booth  right across from me.  They sat down, said prayer of blessing and started to eat.  Not 30 seconds after they started both pulled out their smart phones and never took their eyes off of them.  They sat in silence as they ate and scrolled through their phones.

I was pretty taken back by this as I observed them.  Not once did the other make eye contact, speak a word or do anything in communication with the other.  I just couldn’t believe it, nor could I get past it.  Once each finished their meal, they got up and were all giddy again as they walked out of the restaurant.

I sat there, still in shock and thought to myself, “That’s not me.  I’m not that guy and my wife and I don’t act that way.” Then I took a closer look at my life and I decided to be honest with myself.  I started to look through every action and I began to find times where I had done this either to my wife, family or friends. I immediately became disgusted with myself. I started to think of all the things that i could have potentially missed because I was worried about a Facebook post or Tweet that I might have missed.  Sad, just sad.

Let me say this, I’m not scolding anyone. If anything, I’m admitting my own short-comings here, but I want to encourage everyone: put down your phone when you’re with the ones that you love.  Life is too short to miss out on the blessings of the greatest things which are usually right in front of us. I want my wife to know that I love her, not because I proclaim it through a blog or social media post, but because I show her by paying attention to her.  By knowing what she needs and wants because I’ve listened to her our relationship will only strengthen.

I want my kids to know that I love them because daddy takes the time to play tickle monster with them. I want them to be successful in the sports that they want to participate in because daddy took the time to practice with them so they’ll get better. I want them to succeed in school because daddy took the time to help them with their homework.

My point is that we can say “I love you” all day, but if we don’t show our love then our words mean nothing.  The old saying “actions speak louder than words” ring 100% true in this case and I never want anyone that I know, especially my wife, kids and family to ever think that they’re not important to me.

I challenge you all to put down your phones or whatever it is that can prohibit you from investing time in your loved ones because life is way too short.  We all need to make the best of our limited time leaving no guess-work that our loved ones are more important than anything.  It’s time to show our love instead of just saying it.

Compassion for a Stranger

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Smiley-in-frownsI work for a sales engineering firm (it’s as boring as it sounds) and from time to time we have some of our product reps come by and take us out to eat.  It’s a perk that most office-bound employees enjoy.  On this particular day we ventured out to a locally popular burger joint and had lunch.  As we waited in line to place our groups order we all took notice to the cashier and her noticeably unhappy face.  As she took orders her less than sunny disposition never changed and it even spilled over into her monotone voice.  A couple of folks started talking about her, making up their own story in their minds with a comical twist.  Others would make faces at her as she turned to shout out their order.  She made it obvious that she didn’t want to be there and you could tell she didn’t really care.

Where others went immediately to negative thoughts and poking fun at her, my mind went a different route.  I could tell that her actions weren’t out of hate for her job, but something had happened.  I’m a guy that judges character pretty well and this time I knew I was right.  I stepped forward to start to place our groups order and I knew that I had to say something and I did.

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice the sad look on your face. I’ve seen it before.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said I’ve seen that look before.”

“How could you? I’ve never seen you here before and I certainly don’t know you.”

“What I mean is that I know that look because I’ve seen it in the mirror before.  I’ve made that face plenty of times.  That’s a face of loss.  Did you lose someone recently?”

The girl immediately started to cry, placing her face into her hands.  Everyone around us began to stare at us. Even the folks in my group began to peer our way.

“How did you know? Did someone say something to you?”

“No ma’am.  I just know that look.  I lost my grandpa a few years back and I had that look on my face for a bit.  I just know how it feels to lose someone.”

The girl looked back at her boss and said, “I’m going on break.”  He nodded back.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question or two, I mean, if you don’t mind?”

“Sure thing, just let me finish our groups order and I’ll be right there.”

We talked for about 10 minutes.  She told me about how she lost her mom years ago and how she moved in with her aunt.  She had lived there 3 years and then found out that her aunt had cancer.  After an up-hill battle, she lost her life about 4 days ago. She’s 17, no parents, no family. She’s alone and on her own.  I told her that I was sorry and that I can’t imagine dealing with everything that she’s going through.  I began to explain how I dealt with the loss of my grandfather and how I was able to move on.  The key part wasn’t surrounding myself  with good things or people, but with God. I explained the gospel, what it meant and how to accept it.  She didn’t come to Jesus then and there, but she knew I wasn’t joking.  She said she could tell I was serious.  I gave her the number to a local church where she was from and informed her that I knew the singles pastor there.  I told her to look him up and continue the conversation with him because he could do more explaining than the time that we had.  She thanked me and went back to work.

Her name was Mariah and I hadn’t thought about her for a while, other than a couple of days after I spoke to her. Until today.  My friend emailed me to tell me that she accepted Christ today.  He’d been counseling her and today was her day of salvation.

I don’t have much more to say than this: I didn’t write this to gloat or anything like that.  I’m writing this to encourage you to have compassion, not just for your friends and family, but for everyone that you meet.  A kind word in passing, a simple hello or even an observation can eventually make a life changing impact on someone.  We may never know the long-lasting impact we can have on people, so we should treat every moment, with every person as a mission from God to spread His word and message.  It just might change a life.  I only knew about this because I pointed her to my friends church.

We are called to be ambassadors for Christ.  We are called to spread the good news of God.  May we all have compassion for everyone that we meet.  You never know what it can lead to.  In this case, it was heaven…

Coming to Grips with Aging…

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traxSo today, it hit me: I’m getting older. While I was working I was listening to some John Mayer and his song “Stop this Train” came on.  I’ve listened to it countless times, but it’s meaning never really “struck me,” so to speak, until today.

“Dude, you getting older and there ain’t squat you can do about it.”

Obviously, that’s a complete paraphrase of the lyrics and message, but it’s a dead on interpretation on the song.  This train of life will continuously roll on, braking for no one, and won’t reach its final destination until it runs out track.  Such is life. We can’t stop it. We can only hope to direct which track our train will take.  Honestly, I’ve known this truth all along its just taken a while for me to accept it.

I was an athletic kid excelling in just about every sport that I played with the exception of golf.  I always sucked at golf no matter how many balls I hit or rounds I played. Just awful. Anyways, I was considered a natural in the big 3 never really having to work too hard as improvement came with the standard reps that we received in scheduled practice. Those were the days because now I can pull a muscle if I sneeze just right.  The difference between now and then is astronomical. I used to be able to play any sport without warming up. I used to eat whatever I wanted and it never affected me at all.  Now, before we play ultimate Frisbee I look like Richard Simmons on an extended warmup, minus the short shorts and sweat bands.  I have the same issues with food too.  I can just smell a homemade chocolate chip cookie and my butt starts to swell.  It’s quite ridiculous actually.  Obviously I’m exaggerating, but that’s how I feel: things just aren’t the same.

As I’ve analyzed these changes I realize there’s really not much I can do about it other than the obvious:

1) Eat right

2) Exercise

3) Practice and so on and so forth…

…but I have noticed some things that have helped me cope.

If you’ve ever listened to the song in its entirety have you ever noticed the one thing that’s missing from the lyrics? Other than the mention of his dad (parents) he doesn’t mention family or friends. That may not be his intention or meaning, but for me, that is the one key thing that makes everything worth it.  My family is also the drive I need to strive to be better.  Yeah, I get that it doesn’t exactly pull all my thoughts together, but hang with me for a second and I’ll explain.  What I mean is that through all of my changes, physical and so forth, the one constant is my family which makes this whole journey worth it, good or bad.

As my life has progressed I’ve made some good choices and some bad ones.  I’ve done good things and bad things.  My family has been along for the ride. They have stuck by me from beginning to end.  They’ve seen the good me and they’ve seen the bad me, but through it all they’ve loved me and through them I’m Coming to Grips with Aging…

The One Way Street of Conformity

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My son Joey is a ball of energy. He’s a 6-year-old boy full of life, love and wonderment and his energetic self is moving 90 mph constantly.  He’s creative, intelligent, witty and at this point in his life, he’s influenced easily.  He love’s people and also being the center of attention (get that from daddy), but when no one is paying attention he tends to just do what others are doing to fit in.

This is a common thing that people of all ages struggle with.  I found myself doing the same when I was his age and even when I was in high school to a degree.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit in and be accepted, but changing who we are to conform to be like others isn’t what needs to happen, nor is it what we’re created to do.

When God made the earth he made sure to separate things: light from dark, land from sea and so on and so forth, but even those that were similar in likeness still had their distinct differences.  We were made to be individuals, to have differences, to be free creatures with the ability to make up our minds for ourselves.  God never intended us to be slaves of conformity, but rather orchestrators of individuality.  Christ knows the very number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7) meaning He crafted us individually.  He’s a God of details and each of us have differences to make us who we are, even twins, but Christ’s intentions were for us to be individuals with a central cause or one commonality: a relationship with him.

We are not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) meaning not to be as the world is, but new through a relationship through Christ in order to draw others to Him.

As we go through our routine’s today I pray that we’ll seek to change the world through our individuality in Christ and not be swayed by the one way street of conformity.

I am Worth it…

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I’m tired.  I’m tired of being me.  I’m tired of being the guy that I know myself to be.  Confused?  You probably are, but you have to understand, who I am to you isn’t exactly who I am to me.

I believe we all struggle with this to a point, but not all of us are willing to admit that we do. The person that you see and know isn’t always the same person when I’m alone or with my family.  What you see is the happy, content me.  You see my smiles, you hear my jokes, you know me to be the happy-go-lucky guy that never met a stranger.  Don’t get me wrong, but I am that guy.  It’s not like I’m some crazy, lunatic psycho when I’m not around, but I am different when I’m not around.

I struggle.  I struggle mightily as a matter of fact with a lot of things.  I struggle with my eating from time to time. I tend to turn to food as comfort or out of boredom.  It gives me a sensation of satisfaction, but it only lasts for the short moment so I’m essentially feeding myself lies instead of solving the problem.

I struggle with my language.  I let my want for social acceptance get the best of me sometimes by falling into the vortex of acceptability instead of just simply being me.  If I can’t enjoy being me then who’d enjoy being around me if they knew the real me wasn’t who I’m portraying myself as?

I struggle with being a good parent.  Most consider me normal, but sometimes I feel that I may let out too much anger on my kids.  I’m accused of shouting a lot.  It’s not my intention to shout, but it just comes out.  I love my kids and I would never intentionally hurt them, but I fear that my actions could be sending a different story.

I struggle with standing up for myself.  I believe in who I am, but I defend myself poorly and by not defending myself I feel as if I let my family down.  They deserve better. They deserve a fighter, a protector.

Look, I’m not writing all of this to seek pity. I’m not writing this to create a stir amongst friends,people.  I’m writing this because I believed at one point in my life that I’d never be here admitting my faults.  I never thought that I’d ever achieve this sense of instability, but I did.  It was not intentional, nor did I ever set out to be a basket case of emotions, but it happened and I am going to make a change.  I am writing this in hopes to avert someone else from doing the same or to help someone climb out of the pit of self-doubt.

Each of us at some point or another reaches a breaking point, whether we intentionally made it there or not.  I can promise you that if you haven’t reached it yet, you will.  It’s a virtual guarantee that we all will. Getting there is one thing, but it’s what we do when we arrive that is key.

I’m not going to say that I have all the answers because if I did I wouldn’t be in the predicament that I’m in, but I can say this: you’re not alone.  I believe that we all have been here in some form or fashion.  Some have asked for help, others internalize, but I just can’t be this way any longer.  Call it complacency, call it contentment or call it laziness or whatever you want, but I am going to change.

I recently started at a gym and in a month and a half I’ve lost 21 pounds.  I’m eating better, but not depriving myself. I’m making better decisions with my mouth avoiding conversations that lead down the wrong path.  I’m trying to be a better daddy to my kids and husband to my wife.  I don’t let work bog me down (when I can) and I’m learning to say no more often.  Trust me, it’s not easy.  habits are hard to break, but some habits are necessary to eliminate.

In the short-term I’ve a new-found freedom that I’m enjoying.  It’s empowering. It’s a blessing.  Change is inevitable, but a necessary development for each of us.  Going through it is tough, accepting it is tough, but the journey is worth it.  My family is worth it. I’m not looking back because I am worth it…

Understanding Life’s Journey…

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I’ve been serving God through my church and my life for years and years.  There have been a lot of lessons learned, both good and bad, over the years that have helped shape and mold me into the person I am today.  There isn’t one of those situations that I would take back because if the outcomes were different then I wouldn’t be the exact person I am today. 

There is no telling what path I could have been on had my life taken a different turn, so I am happy with where I am because I can’t imagine my life differently.  If I didn’t have my best friend as my wife, I wouldn’t have my kids and that is a nightmare that I don’t even want to consider.  They ARE my life so therefore I am happy to have traveled the journey that is my life because it led me straight to them.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of heartbreak having experienced the choices of some friends of mine.  Seeing them make their decisions only to fail miserably at what they pursued was both gut-wrenching and horrible, but, having been there before, I know that they’ll be better off one day for having experienced it.  I’ve spent time both talking and counseling them through their trials. We’ve cried, we’ve gotten angry, we’ve sat in disbelief and we’ve embraced over the trials of their life only to arrive at one thing: they’ll be a better person one day because of it all.  That’s a hard thing to stomach so early after a trial, be it death, heartbreak, job loss or whatever, but it’s true.

One thing that is consistent in every trial and life lesson is that regardless of whether it was good or bad, it WILL better you.  Through difficult times we learn how not to do those things again or we learn how to recognize the type of situation that bad things can manifest and through the good times we learn how to consistently surround ourselves with positive things and people.  Obviously these aren’t the only things we can learn, but just a couple that I chose to highlight.  

God made us for two things (in my mind): 1) To worship Him and 2) to help each other and the world.  I want to focus on the latter.  We are all children of God, therefore making us brothers and sisters, which ultimately means we’re all one big family.  When our lives pan out the way that they do, we’re to learn from it and to some degree not repeat the mistakes.  If one of us has the knowledge of how not to do something we’re to share it, not forcefully, but when asked.  It’s kind of like counselling someone.  Just like a brother would advise his brother. 

2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us as competent ministers, not of the letter (law), but of the Holy Spirit.”

One thing that I have learned is that we are really here to help each other out and we can do that by sharing our life experiences.  We are to do so out of love and not for any other reason.  Jesus did all that He did out of love to help teach people the correct way to live life.  Jesus never forced anyone and neither are we.  Every moment is a teaching moment.  We can learn something from everything that we experience and from there we can pass that knowledge on.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 5 verse 18 says: “in all things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Be thankful for what God has blessed you with and know that the journey you’ve traveled to get to where you stand today is a part of His great and awesome plan for your life which is why it helps Understanding Life’s Journey…