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Opportunities, Fear, and Personal Responsibility

This week I visited my sister and brother-in-law in West Hollywood, CA with my boys, mom, neices, and god son. One afternoon we went down to Santa Monica Beach. Needless to say, the beach was overcrowded. It is a great place to people watch which is exactly what I did.

There was a part of the beach that was like a park with swings, monkey bars, and lots of other playground equipment. The other type of playground equipment is not what I am use to seeing on the playgrounds we typically visit. The othertype  of equipment included rings and tight ropes. It is a very interesting sight especially to me as it is not typically what I get to see. 

As we watched the people on the rings and tight ropes, my boys wanted to try which is exactly what they did. Madden and Miles both did the rings several times and the tight rope a few times. Of course, I helped them. However, I mostly found myself watching them and all of the other people. I never attempted to try the rings or the tight ropes. I let my fear be bigger than my faith causing me to just sit and watch.


At first, I found myself thinking these people are really into this. Second, I thought what is the big deal. Third, I thought these people are weird.  Fourth, I thought thete was no way I could do it. Fifth, I noticed that they were working hard and getting something out of the exercise. Eventually, I recognized I was the weird one just sitting and watching. As odd as it all seemed to me, they were the ones gaining strength and improved health and I was the one missing an opportunity. 

As I continued to sit and allow an opportunity to pass me by, I thought about my wife who stayed at home. I thought about how I wished she was here with us. I thought about how much I sit and watch my relationship with her. I thought about how me sitting here missing an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary was a reflection of how I sit and miss opportunities to improve my relationship with Mariah.

To be blatantly honest, I have sat around and watched our relationship from a distance for too long. I have not engaged as I should have and because of that I have caused a lot of damage. I have weakened our relationship and our marriage. I have failed to engage in opportunities that would have helped Mariah and I have a deeper, more rich, and more emotionally intimate relationship. A relationship that would have led her to being more fulfilled and happy. A relationshi that would create a more peaceful environment for our boys.

You know what, maybe I actually got something out of the opportunity at Santa Monica after all. Maybe I found my resolution for 2017. Now is a good time for renewal. I think I am going to try to not sit around and mope, because I know Mariah hates that. I think I am going to try to be resilient and take advantage of each and every relationship-building opportunity, especially with my wife. 

Besides God wanting me to do this, Mariah certainly deserves it and so do our boys. I cannot let my fear get in the way of doing something that I love which is loving Mariah. Ultimately, this is my personal responsibility and this is not up to anyone else. 

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Fear, Faith, Anticipation, and Attitude – The Wrong Combination Can Be Volatile, But The Right Combination  Can Be Very Stable And Calm

A few weeks ago, Mariah and I were Christmas shopping. While Mariah was looking around, I discovered some artwork that I have since grown to really like. The artwork had the following quote: “Don’t let your fear be bigger than you faith.” As I have reflected on that quote, I have found several opportunities. to share this quote. I have come across multiple situations where friends have let their fear be bigger than their faith allowing me to have an opportunity to make a difference. The more I shared it, the more I have become fond of the quote.

When you have fear or faith, you will usually have some form of anticipation that eventually impacts your attitude. For instance, if you have faith you will anticipate something optimistic or something good happening. But, if you have fear you will anticipate something pessimistic or something bad happening. That anticipation will eventually impact your attitude and ultimately how you treat the people around you.

At our house, there is lots of anticipation and the anticipation impacts each of us a little differently. As we begin to anticipate, we tell ourselves a story and that story can guide us down an emotional path – an optimistic path or a pessimistic path. The important thing is how that path impacts our attitude which ultimately affects how we treat each other.

Right now our boys are very excited about Christmas since it is only 7 days from now. They have faith that they are going to get some great presents. They anticipate that they will get some fun gifts. As a result, they have very positive attitudes. Seeing their excitement and good attitudes makes Mariah and I very happy and brings us a lot of joy. Thus, the faith and the anticipation leads all of us to having good and positive attitudes and treating each other with kindness.

I know that example seems fairly simple, so let me share with you a more complicated situation. Yesterday, the boys were excited about going to two birthday partys. They had faith that the parties would be fun, they anticipated having fun, they had good attitudes, but their anticipation got out of control. They became so focused on the party that their  excitement became a nuisance. Sometimes their anticipation is so big that they have trouble containing it. Their anticipation grew so big and dramatic that they become emotional dinosaurs.

Because we have experienced the emotional dinosaurs before, Mariah and I can allow our fear (that the boys will push our buttons or each others buttons and wear us down) to outgrow our faith (that they will have good behavior). We began to anticipate the worst rather than the best. Specifically, we became fearful that the boy’s anticipation would lead to competition, fighting, nagging, and begging. Thus, we began to anticipate the worst and our attitudes began to stink.

The truth is that the boy’s anticipation can sometimes be a dangerous combination with our anticipation. If our anticipation combines at the wrong time in the wrong way, it can become a volatile situation. It can be like Godzilla meeting a King Kong. When the two combine it can lead us down a hard and moody path. And today, between the two birthday parties, Godzilla met King Kong and the moods spiraled out of control. It turned out to be less than a desirable afternoon for all of us and you can see how the violent collision affected Max (our boys never fall asleep easily, especially on our couch amidst all of the surrounding noise).


As I have reflected on the afternoon, I have tried to determine how to best get through these situations. I was reminded of how the emotional dinosaurs recently affected Mariah about a week ago. Mariah found herself sitting alone in her car in a parking lot trying to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. It was her only escape from all of the drama. As she sat there for a few minutes enjoying the peace, I think she realized how odd it could appear. Even though it felt odd for her to sit and enjoy the quietness in her car, she probably needed the relief. The boy’s dramatic anticipation that day was really just encouragement for her to take a break. It was their (you know I really mean our) little motivation. For some reason, whether Mariah understood it or not, she found a way to keep her fear from becoming bigger than her faith. So, what was it about that day that made the difference?

The answer finally came to me as I recalled what a friend at work told me a few months ago “no one controls your attitude but you. Don’t let someone else make that decision for you.” So, while I lay here awake tonight and everyone else is asleep (except me at the moment because I was able to get Max peacefully back to sleep), I have many thoughts and feelings. I anticipate getting the boys up, getting them ready for school, getting them in the car, and getting them delivered to school. While it sounds simple, the fact is that it will either go smoothly or roughly. The difference maker can often be our attitude which develops from the anticipation we have as a result of our fear or faith.

So, tonight as I go to bed, I am not going to let my fear be bigger than my faith. I am going to have faith and anticipate that tomorrow morning will be stable and calm (boys will wake up independently on time, get dressed with smiles on their faces, hug each other, be excited to go to school, be kind to each other all the way to school, and even hold the door for each other as they walk in the school building). I am going to have faith that the boys have faith and an optimistic mood and attitude when they wake up.

I am not naive and I also anticipate that I will have a fight on my hands. I anticipate that I will have to battle all of the anticipation around me. The question is can I fight all of the superficial anticipation in a way that allows my emotions to stay optimistic. Can I fight all of the anticipation to destroy the fear and allow my faith to win? I can as long as I can stay focused. I can as long as my fear doesn’t become bigger than my faith. 

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The Blessing of Great Neighbors


We have all heard many metaphors or quotes about life. One blogger once wrote about many life metaphors he/she could recall. These metaphors can be used in many ways. They can help us make sense of our life. They can help guide our life so that we can learn and grow. One of the best things about life is that we each get to choose what the metaphor means and we each get to choose how we use it as an understanding, lesson, or guide. 

To me, life is not about what I do. Life is about what I am doing to become a better person – a better God-loving citizen, a better husband, a better dad, a better neighbor, and a better employee. According to Mathew 23:37-39, ““Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mariah and I try to use these two commandments as the guide for our life.

In this passage, we consider neighbors to mean any person we may contact in our daily life. We may come in contact with good or bad people. It can be easy to love our neighbors when they are good, and it can be more difficult to love our neighbors when they are bad. Either way, God wants us to love them. 

I recall Mariah sharing a thought with me that someone once shared with her. The idea was about how to think or get through a difficult time. The individual told her to just watch and look for all of the good things taking place around you. For instance, when there is a bad car wreck, just watch and look at all of the people that come to the rescue. The truth is that there will always be more people doing good than bad.

Mariah and I are surrounded by many great people and we have an opportunity to interact with them everyday. This morning, we were actually talking about a few of the neighbors that live in our neighborhood. She commented about how blessed we are to live in a neighborhood with such amazing people and families. The more we thought about that, the more we thought about all of the people that have been in our life and are in our life. 

We (really me) are not always good at saying it and wanted to today. We want to thank all of the people that have been in our life and are currently in our life for being so great and amazing. Thank you for making it so easy for us to abide to the second greatest commandment of all. Each of you have blessed our life in some way. We are grateful for the impact and the difference you have made in our life. Mariah and I appreciate living beside you, living down the street from you, working with you, going to school with your family, playing (baseball, football, basketball, at the playground, and so on) with your family, or learning from you. We love each and every one of you. We hope and strive to be as good of neighbors to you as you are to us, and we hope you have a Merry Christmas this year.

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Am I Really Taking Care of or Protecting My Treasure?

As humans we have the ability and power to decide what we consider to be our treasure. According to Mathew 6:21, “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” For some people, their treasure might be something materialistic (ex., money, house, car, toy, etc.) and for others it might be something non-materialistic (ex., happiness, creativity, character, relationship, etc.). At different times in our life, we might even consider different things to be our treasure. I know I have certainly considered various things to be my treasure throughout my life and I have taken care of or protected those treasures in a variety of ways.

In order to help you understand where I am going with this, I want you to know a little more about me. I am an introvert. I am shy and don’t easily share my feelings. I am energized by inner resources and internal experiences, typically think before I speak, and set my own direction from my inner compass. As well, I tend to focus on known facts and prefer concrete or factual information over theoretical information. I make decisions based on logic and objective factors. I am extremely analytical and good at analyzing plans. I enjoy being decisive and like to seek closure. I prefer an orderly, planned, and scheduled lifestyle. I can be very focused on solving a problem, accomplishing a task, or achieving a mission. As a result and in regards to my treasure, I am constantly asking myself, “how well am I taking care of or protecting my treasure?”

In many regards, these characteristics or personality traits work well for me. It is easy for me to prove how this is helpful. For instance, in many ways these traits were helpful for me in school and are helpful for me in the work that I do now. I was able to organize my time and study habits to successfully complete a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics, a Masters of Science in Nursing, and a Masters of Business Administration. In my job, I am able to build teams, improve teamwork, plan a budget, coordinate patient care, and so on. As well, these characteristics and traits have proven to be helpful for me when coaching my boys baseball teams or financial planning for my family. I do my best to make these characteristics and traits useful in my life.

In other regards, these characteristics don’t work out as well for me. It makes developing relationships hard. I can become so focused on my internal experience (my inner compass), the known facts, the concrete information, or the objective factors, that the relationships around me go unnoticed. I can become so analytical about the plan that I forget to focus on the people around me. I work hard to solve the problems, but forget to develop the relationship along the way. Believe me when I say that this definitely strain the relationships that I do have. 

I will never forget what a good friend and mentor once told me about 10 years ago. He was the man that introduced Mariah (now my wife) and I. We were having a conversation about planning a vacation a few months after Mariah and I got married. We were specifically talking about personal finances and how he manages his income and expenses to afford his vacations. As we talked, he noticed that I was becoming extremely focused on the process and planning and gave me the following advice, “all of that is important, but you need to make sure you enjoy the train ride.” I have never forgotten what he told me, but I continue to struggle to follow his advice.

So, just what is my treasure and am I really polishing my treasure? It can often appear that my treasure lies in the material (money, house, car, etc.), but the truth is that my treasure lies in my wife and our boys. My relationship with them is my treasure. They are my treasure and they are the desire of my heart. The frustrating part is that it is hard for me to focus on the relationship. I always tend to feel that helping solve the problem, accomplish the task, or achieve the mission is the best thing I can do for our relationship. Even though that is what might be said in the moment or as we face the problem, task or mission, I am learning that my help is not what they care about the most. I beleive Maya Angelou explained this better than anyone, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I may often help solve the problem, accomplish the task, or achieve the mission, but I often fail to make them feel special. I often fail to appreciate them or encourage them. I may not be good at it now, but I will be.

I have to learn how to leverage my strengths for the sake of my family. I am considering if it would be helpful to develop a PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycle to help me take care of and protect my treasure. I could use my analytical and focused mind to come up with a test that will help me begin to make them feel encouraged and special. I could carry out the test by remembering to think before I speak so that I can truly begin to polish my treasure. I could use my inner compass to keep asking myself one tough question: Am I really doing a great job of polishing my treasure? I could use logic and objective factors to make modifications to the plan.

You know what, after further thought, maybe I should just keep the PDSA cycle to myself. I should just make sure they know that all I care about is how I make them feel – that I want them to feel cared about, loved, special, protected, and happy (just as they are in this picture that shows their beautiful smiles). After all, that is my primary responsibility as a husband, father, dad, and leader of our family.


 

 

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A Broken Heart that can Still Forgive

Please don’t take this wrong, but I am messed up. I am so grateful that God sent his one and only son to save and forgive me. I am also glad that he sent to me the helper that he did – Mariah. She has an amazing and sacred heart. Unfortunately, a broken heart, but, luckily, a forgiving heart. I have broken her heart in so many ways.

I have failed to love her the way she deserves. I have failed to encourage her the way she deserves.I have failed to have patience with her. I have failed to be kind. I have failed to be the husband and dad she (and our boys) deserves. I have failed to love her like Jesus loved the church.

She, however, continues to love me even though I am less than deserving. This wekend I showed her exactly why I was less than deserving. I would share the details, but I am way too embarrassed and ashamed. I will let you know that I did not committ adultery. I have made so many mistakes, she doubts that I really love her. I broke her heart and she still forgave me.

When we went to church (Mariah with her broken heart), she further showed me her sacred heart. As we sat down, we noticed a young girl crying terribly. As soon as Mariah noticed, she told me to get out of her way. I did without question (that is hard for me as I love to ask questions). When she returned, she went over to the sobbing young lady, handed her a tissue and hugged her. The young lady hugged her back. They hugged for a while and it was a longer hug than I typically get from Mariah – maybe I should start crying more often. Mariah came back to sit by me and wrote the young lady a note. Mariah wrote:

I will be praying for you. Here is my email if you ever need someone to talk to.

Even though Mariah had a broken heart, she was able to put her own problem aside and show a complete stranger a little love and acceptance. Tonight, I was reminded that Mariah is really special and that I have to stop destroying her heart.

I share this story with you not to show you how ashamed of myself I am, but to show you that Mariah is exceptionally special. She loves me even though I break her heart. She loves her neighbors as God wants all of us to do. Her heart is forgiving and her heart is sacred. I can only imagine at this point after our 11 years of marriage how much of an impact Mariah’s sacred heart could have had on the world if I had loved her the way I was suppose to. Gentleman, we owe it to God, we owe it to our wives, and we owe it to the world. We have to love our wives and we have to show them every day. I certainly intend to start doing a better job of that tonight because this lady deserves it.



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Faded Focus, Lack of Vigor, and My Helper

As you know, Mariah and I have 3 boys, Madden, Miles, and Max. Max is our 3rd child. He is 4 years old. Unfortunately for him, he is our 3rd child and you know what that means. He is at risk of being overlooked and unnoticed. Last night, we experienced a good example of the problems that can happen with the 3rd child.

I went to bed about 11:30pm and planned to wake up at 4:30am. This is a typical night sleep for me. However, last night ended up transpiring a little differently than normal.

Max, our 4-year-old, came in our room crying around 1:15am. Mariah consoled him and told him to climb in our bed. He did without any hesitation. He stopped crying but tossed and turned for the next hour.

Around 2:15am, I asked him if he wanted to go back to his bed. Half asleep we went back to his bed. When we got to his room, he mumbled something which I still have yet to figure out. He got up and kept mumbling whatever it was he was trying to say. I turned every light on to try to get an understanding – I have no idea how the lights were remotely helpful and it turned out they weren’t. I finally just said ok because I thought he was asking me a question. He went to get a drink of water.

When he came back to his bed, he finally fell asleep around 3am and I went back to my bed. I slept for about an hour. Around 4am, Max came back into our room and climbed in our bed. I laid there thinking what in the world is wrong with him tonight. However, since he is the 3rd child, I mentally minimized any potential problem. I was tired.

Mariah and I finally woke up and starting getting ready for work. Before MAx woke up, I asked Mariah what she thought he woke up so much. Jokingly, she said, “who knows, he will probably wake up with blood all over him.” I left for work before Max woke up and on my way Mariah called me. She said, “don’t get worried, everything is ok. I was right Max cut his head last night and it appears the wound needs to be sutured.” This is the picture she sent me.

Mariah felt like he needed stitches and I had a hard time determining for myself based on the picture she sent me. I honestly thought to myself – it doesn’t look so bad. However, I could tell she wanted a more professional answer and wanted some help. So, I encouraged her to take him to see the pediatrician. She did and he agreed it needed to be closed. They debated on using sutures or glue. They decided to use glue.

I got up with Max in the middle of the night, had every light on in his room, had ample opportunity to assess what was going on, and still didn’t think it was that bad after seeing his face in the first picture she sent me. Why did I miss this? Am I just getting tired or are they wearing me down? Would I have missed this with Madden or Miles?

I do believe my mind has faded, I have lost focus, and I have lost my vigor. Hopefully, I will  use this as an example and not allow my focus to further fade or my vigor to further diminish as a parent. Hopefully, I will be strong and not let them wear me down any further. They need me and depend on me. Thank God I have a helper. Thank goodness for Mariah’s maternal instinct, because without it I may have never even noticed. We really do need her for our safety.

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Mariah is Our Light

Merriam-Webster defines light in several ways. Here are a few of the definitions:

  • Light is something that makes vision possible
  • Light is something that enlightens or informs
  • Light is a spiritual illumination

This is a picture of Mariah. The boys are on the other side of the fence. Madden is in the red shirt. Miles and Max are wearing white shirts but are more difficult to see. I guarantee you Mariah can see them. She can see every move they make. 

Mariah is the spotlight of this picture and the spotlight of our life. She is doing what she does best. She is happy because she loves watching them play. She is ensuring they are safe. She is a mom and she watches over us. Mariah is also a nurse and she watches over her patients much like she watches over us.

Mariah shines a light that helps our vision. She gave our boys life. She gave them eyes and continues to shape their sight. As a mom, she shines on our boys so they can see, grow, and learn. As a wife, she shines on me to be the dad our boys need. Mariah is the light that helps us steer through a storm (and, believe me, there are many storms at our house). The light Mariah shines on our path allows us to see to get out of the storm.

Mariah also gleams a light that helps us stay enlightened and informed. She is the light that helps us learn, develop, and grow. Mariah shines in a way that constantly challenges us and makes us better. Mariah’s light helps us reach our full potential.

Mariah additionally shines a light that spiritually illuminates our life. She certainly makes me want to be a better person. Mariah shows our boys an example of what it means to love God and makes us want to have a closer relationship with him. She lives by the instructions written in Mathew 5:16 “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Mariah honors, shines a light on, and keeps us focused on God.

God made her light shine so bright bright and beautiful and I am so glad it shines on me. The light she shines is lofty like a skyscraper that towers over us. The light she shines brings us together. She is the light that is used to build our house. She shines a light that engineers and assembles our family. Mariah is the light that frames and sustains our life.