The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Ever had those life experiences as a dad where you got recommended or volunteered for a project (and you said “Yes”) and you thought it might be easier than expected, but ended up being much bigger than you bargained for? Wait a minute – I think that our wedding vows went kinda like that! Well, I had one of those moments recently where there was a huge need in our area surrounding a recently divorced lady that had to move into a new home. The scope was much less than expected so I was able to eagerly recruit a few men from church to chip in, thinking we’d fill up a little U-Haul and be done by lunch, same day.

Well, it didn’t exactly pan out like that.  So I’m gonna tell you the story, but I’m not gotta give you a choice here – the Bad News first!

The Bad: When we got there, it was evident that this would take multiple trips back and forth using the largest U-Haul truck in existence, using the backs and arms of two to four men. Daunting. Buyer’s remorse. What did I get into? As we got there, we were all looking at each other – knowing what the others were thinking and then verbally saying it.  How could a family of three accumulate so much stuff?   In fact, by the time new guys showed up after lunch on the second day (yes, 2nd day) of the move and two loads were already loaded and moved – even they were astounded at what was left.

The Ugly: This lady not only had a husband up and leave her with a huge house to move on her own, but she was in financial need.  I am astonished to say this man was a church minister as well. Unbelievable example. I learned the son was doubting church, God, men – you name it. Tough stuff for a teenager to experience. To boot, a couple days before the scheduled move, the lady hit her head and suffered a concussion. It was evident when we spoke that she was in no condition to do anything at all. She tried to direct us in what to move, then some things got “changed” during the move, etc.

So, will I ever volunteer to do this kind of thing again? Yes…I’ll tell you why.

The Good:  I got to serve someone in need. Period. As I have recently been probing my “Story” for strengths, one of my three Core Strengths is “Compassionate Supporter – I enjoy helping others do tasks that most would rather not do or uncertain of how to do in order to be successful.” Even after a day and a half into this and my left knee was killing me, it was hard to leave. Things were unfinished, more was needed here for completion and I wanted to see this through.

Another Bonus:  I got to meet and get to know other Godly men better during this time. The night before it was just Tony and I. I learned we are the same age, have the same upbringings of sorts and I swear we must have had the same dad. Uncanny how alike they were. I appreciated his work ethic and handiwork in getting things done. His plan in organizing that U-Haul worked out fabulously well.  In addition, he had to go to work early the next morning as well.   Amazing example.

The following day, I met up with an old friend Dave and two new guys to me, Nathan and Tom. All these guys “brought it”. They weren’t there to eat donuts. No sir. In riding in the truck back and forth between the move, I got to know Nathan a lot. It was refreshing to hear his own story, growing up on a Minnesota farm, now working as an HR professional at Coca-Cola. We talked about the family unit being under attack from all aspects and the work of good folks to produce movies like “Courageous”.  He said it had the fathers crying in the theatre.  I haven’t seen it, but I will now!

I had never met Tom before, but he brought an eagerness to see the move through. He stuck it all day, never wavering. And all of these men had never met this woman before in their lives, but willingly stepped up to help. What I want to say here is that I did benefit from helping out in a tough situation and got to know some fine men better as well.  I learned more about all of them and really hope our paths cross in the future (but maybe not at a huge move!). They are GOOD men.

So, let me say that when a situation presents itself, try to look for the good in it. Yes, you are here to set an example for others, but many times we benefit ourselves from unpleasant experiences. We grow. We meet other good men and make lifelong connections. We learn something new that can be used later. We end up having some fun joking around.

Do Good in the face of the Bad and Ugly.

How Much Is Enough?

Every Christmas and Birthday, the Queen and I have a similar “discussion” about how much we’ll spend on toys for CK.  Because she’s our “ONE”, it’s often easy to justify spending more than we should.  It seems like as parents, we bring our own story and history into this negotiation and it often helps us feel better (or worse) about our purchases.  Because our home is not of epic scale,  it is easy to have toy piles and bins overflowing with past toy “themes” of stuffies.  I mean, there was the Chipmunk stage, the Toy Story stage, a Garfield stage, a Popeye and Felix the Cat stage (didn’t last long) and currently we are in the Angry Birds and Mario Brothers stage.

We see our little CK light up with joy at these purchases only to forget about them quickly some weeks (or days) later.  Is that being a normal kid? Yes, I think so – actually I’m kinda like that now, so I don’t look at CK like she’s abnormal!  I go looking for daily “deals” at Amazon or find an awesome book someone recommends, then purchase it only to notice some YEARS later that I’ve never cracked it open.

I think the best thing to do is to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the things I DO have rather than expect to gain joy and satisfaction with the next “toy”, book or piece of information.  When we focus on a single item, book, piece of information and STUDY it, we go deeper and gain a better understanding and creativity than we had by only skimming the surface.  And in turn, we become deeper people.

So I ask – How Much Is Enough?

I give you the below staggering explanation of the USA’s toy industry!

toys

Source: frugaldad.com

Facebook Folly

For today’s post, I wanted to introduce you to a great Christian man, Mike McDade, who loves to share the Kingdom message and see the hearts of Men set free.  I love reading his blog posts, but I found yesterday’s post most interesting – “Facebook Folly”.  This blog entry was triggered by the numerous reports Mike was hearing firsthand from other men on the topic of Facebook being denounced as “evil” in the their local congregation.  Mike explains his philosophy of Facebook well! “Liked” it!

You can find the “Facebook Folly” post here: Eyes of the Heart Ministry

On this same topic, some close family were trying to find a “home church” and landed in a local congregation a couple of months back.   They reported that the most recent sermon was spent making a case why Mitt Romney should not be the next Republican candidate because he was a Morman.   Should we be talking about this kind of stuff in church?   I think not, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Has your church been preaching against Facebook lately?

 

Hanging On

For the past three weeks, we have had the pleasure of monitoring a very loose tooth that CK has dangling out in her bottom, front teeth. I mean it has just been sitting there and hanging there and just doesn’t want to come out. We can even see the growing tooth starting to come in, just trying to say to that loose tooth, “Please get out of the way, I’m coming out!”. Boy, I know I have had some loose teeth like that in my past (old hurts and wounds), that just seemed to hang out and wouldn’t leave.

Or rather, I wouldn’t let them go…

I have to be careful of the things I decide to hang onto in my life. What are some of the things I WANT to hang onto and cherish? Well, first of all, my family, my wife and daughter, the memories and day to day activities that make up the wonderful life we are blessed to live together. I want to hang onto God’s Word and make it a goal to set my life in tune with it for wisdom, protection and blessing from a world that can be chaotic. I want to hang onto close friends and especially Men of integrity and honor.

By holding these wonderful things close to my heart, I don’t have room for those things I don’t want in my life. When those nasty items do try and come close to my inner circle, then there won’t be much room for it to hang around. I recall our first year of marriage when I got my first job and we were loaded with student loans and other debts that many newlyweds jump into marriage with (unwisely, I might add!). We lived in a very rural town with limited opportunities for employment, however I tried my darndest (note “I”) to find my new bride a job to help us pay off this mountain of debt.  Asking around, it seemed that 90% of the local folks either worked at Walmart or the local Dumpling factory. I tell you what – that is opporunity knocking on the door! With a new Queen boasting a fancy Fine Arts degree in her hands, we didn’t get very far that first year with a “job”. So what did I do? I held onto that thought for years – every month when I paid the bills that thought came across that she wasn’t “helping out”.

I had to let it GO! And you know what? That first year trained us as a couple to live off of one income which has turned out to be a huge blessing some 16 years later! Let’s turn those loose teeth into opportunities.

What are the things in life that YOU are holding onto?

Who Defines You?

This past week, there was an article in the NY Times (and other related interviews on TV) about the American Psychiatric Association re-defining the criteria for diagnosing Autism. My email box was filling up with the firestorm a-brewing with the local Spectrum group of parents (mostly mothers) in a tizzy. All these moms are warriors, fighters for their kids and many of them have children that are highly functioning children on the Autism spectrum and may have been labeled as Aspergers. We are in that catergory as well. Aspergers’ children are very smart, intelligent and have areas in which they particularly excel, well above their “normal” peers. However, they can seem aloof, very withdrawn and surely social awkward. A great example of this is Max in the NBC show Parenthood. These guys did their research well.

When it came time for us to explore services for our daughter, we didn’t really know where to start. We found out rather quickly that even an Autism diagnosis was off-limits for any insurance coverage and I was gainfully employed, so there weren’t any avenues for other assistance. One thing I did learn quickly is that Autism treatments are expensive and since insurance didn’t pay for any of it, we had to make some adjustments. However, many of these children do quality for Medicaid or a Katie Beckett Waiver from the state which does pay for some services and this was a source of major concern for these parents. Added to this was worry as to how the various services these children currently get in school would be affected as well.  They didn’t want their children falling through the cracks so to speak.

Have you ever thought about who defines you?

I also get a little perturbed when I see sitcoms (and I don’t even watch them much) portray dads as overweight, sloppy, out of touch and distant from their wife and children. I don’t accept that. I am nothing like that and don’t want to take on that role, ever. I know a lot of great fathers and they fit nothing of that role. However, I think some dads just assume that they shouldn’t get too involved with the cooking, helping with homework or especially the spiritual leadership of the household – just because they don’t see that on TV, modeled by others or hear other men from work talking about it. Listen -the last thing I want to do is to send some dad on a guilt trip because he doesn’t “measure up”. I’m not here to define you either!

All I ask is…Who Defines You??? Find out the guiding principles you want for your life and live them out in your father role daily. Don’t assume you’re doing things correctly just because it’s what you’ve always done.

Decide on and act on Who you want to be in life.

Rags to Riches

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Isaiah 64:6

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19

Every Tuesday afternoon, I have a standing appointment with a special friend of mine, Aaron Nichols, to go over our weekly goals. We hold each other accountable to do what we have set out to do as part of personal development and growth. We’ve been up to this since October and we haven’t missed a week yet. Through the power of technology, we simply get on our laptops, video call on Skype and voila! – it’s as if we are in the same room, though he is roughly 900 miles away.

Aaron has a very cool blog and if you go there and read it, you’ll see some of the personal battles he’s gone through in his life – past and present. Through our time in FAA, I have gotten to know him even better as he has started writing what will be his life story from early childhood to present. I have read the abbreviated version and it is a story of a boy turning into a man and trying to navigate the stormy waters of LIFE. A story of doing life his way, trying to find the next big, fun thing and partying every weekend. No notion or care of ever doing any more in life than working his day job and accepting the status quo. But God had something else in plan for Aaron and through a series of events, Aaron accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life.

Now it seems the crowd he used to hang out with doesn’t like the new life that Aaron has been birthed into. No more drinking, no more partying, no more bad mouthing others, etc. In speaking with Aaron, I can tell he still cares for his old friends, but they will have no part in the “new” Aaron. So, they continue to dress in “rags”, while Aaron sports a “million dollar suit”. What spurred this post was a comment Aaron made on our last call. It was something very important to him – a turning point in his life for sure. This past Sunday, he was ordained into the Church Leadership Session at his church. For him, it was a symbol of how much his life had changed from the old ways to the new. Made me proud!

As a person that accepted Christ as a young child, I don’t ever want to forget that excitement and moving testimony of how God works in people’s lives. Hearing Aaron’s story was a fantastic reminder of how everyone of us in the body of believers have gone from Rags to Riches. Once we were Dead, but now ALIVE! We were blind, but now we SEE! Thank God for God.

Are you living in Rags or Riches?

More Than Meets The Eye

I am quite impressed by the animations that FrugalDad.com comes up with.  Below is a fine example of what happens when you look beneath the surface of something and do an inspection.  So many times as Fathers, we see our kids acting up, acting out, misbehaving, not doing what they’re told and I think sometimes it is more than we know.  Just yelling at ‘em, giving them the “look” or telling them to go to their room can make the pain of misbehavior go away for awhile, but it doesn’t really fix the problem, does it?

Just as we see the painstaking detail of digging into a simple cupcake, it’s good for us dads to do a little digging too.  That way we grow and understand what’s REALLY going on.

Enjoy!

food

 

Source: http://frugaldad.com

 

The Importance of Connection

As promised on a previous post, I wanted to introduce you to another friend of mine and write about the power of connection. It’s so important for fathers to stay connected to our families (wife and children), but it’s also critical to gather around men that have strong integrity that can help us grow. Recently I had the opportunity of having lunch with a long time friend Jerry Robertson. You can read more about Jerry at Realty Caffeine. For many years now, Jerry has been serving people in the area of Real Estate. But it’s much more than a business transaction when you’re around Jerry. He finds homes people love as well as offering a wealth of information to all people whether they are clients or not. Personally, since I’ve been in the same home for 12 years, I’ve never had to hire Jerry but he still offers top notch advise and references to me when I need them.

Jerry is what I like to call a CONNECTOR. He just connects people together. He keeps up with the latest technology, tricks and tools yet at the same time he knows people. And that is what today’s topic is about. As a work from home father (as well as somewhat on the reserved side), I have seen months go by without reaching out to another man for a lunch, coffee or even a simple phone call. And I lose my way, I get out of the natural rhythm of connected-ness that God wired us for (even for an introvert).

Now, I do enjoy being around people, but it can be easy to let business and family life and passivity take hold and we become unconnected to others. This happened to me during a time when our daughter was born and at the same time my wife was in a major car accident. For over a year, it was very tough – working, taking care of our little one, driving us all as a family to doctor appointments, going grocery shopping, etc. – and being part of a small group at church or staying regular with lunches with friends became a very low priority. So, as the months went by so did a little piece of my need to connect. I started thinking I could do this alone.

As I crawled out from under my Man Rock one day, I realized it was time. Time to go back to the brotherhood of Men. I joined a group led by a man that I never thought would be leading a group at all. In fact, he’d told us as much years before. But as I attended the first meeting, I could tell he was not the same. Something had changed and now he was leading other men (yes, he is a Connector as well) down the Christian walk. What had he done? I wondered and then I realized while I had checked out, tried to go it alone, this man was still faithfully connecting, never stopping at the task of growing until the flower bloomed in it’s season. I don’t ever want to go it alone again.

Seek out great men and connect with them.

Follow Your Heart

Recently, I had a nice change of pace from my normal routine of the 8 to 5 workday of sitting in front of the computer all day. On the same day, I had the opportunity to have morning coffee and lunch with two separate individuals that I respect and enjoy very much. I have obviously starting a writing project this past week as part of my personal growth goals and I wanted some input and insight from these men. One of the great men I talked with was Rob Clinton at 180coach.com. (My next post I want to write about the other fine gentleman I had lunch with.) When I joined the FAA community, I was uniquely blessed in that of the 200-something nationwide members, two of them lived within 10 minutes of me. What were the odds of that!? I’ve gotten to know Rob and since he’s so involved in the 48day.net community, I asked his opinion about some articles I’d written and he offered to meet me for coffee.

Rob is one of the most real and genuine people I’ve ever met. Right out of the gate he is asking me about ME. He’s wanting to know what I’m up to and how things are going; what the goal of my writing is and then drilling down a little to give me some things to think about. Rob serves his community by working with individuals and businesses to help them improve and reach their goals. He’s been there, done that – so he knows what he’s doing and can really help people grow.

We talked at length about our children, the local school they go to and the future they have. Rob wanted to know about my daughter’s experiences at school and any talents she was developing which I gladly shared. Then we got into the goals we had for 2012 and discovered we both had one in common – to WRITE. I didn’t even realize Rob was interested in writing until we talked.  In fact, it is quite embarrasing as I write this blog to note that I was looking at his website tonight and he has been writing an inspiring blog regularly for quite some time!  That just goes to show you how serving Rob is – he didn’t try to pitch his stuff to me, he just wanted to help me in my journey!

As I talked with him, I learned that he was passionate not just to write, but to CREATE GREAT CONTENT that will actually benefit and serve others. Not to create for creation sakes. Speaking for myself, I have always held back in writing because I thought there were already enough books out there now without me adding to the list!  However, as we talked about this subject, I began to realize that the difference is this – when God speaks to your heart to do something – you should do it. I’m beginning to see the good things your heart most wants to do are the things you need to be doing. It is part of who you are and your calling. We only have a short time on this Earth.

In regards to the content – I say this: Writing is good for my soul. It opens up an avenue to minister to others and helps me grow at the same time. We have no idea what our influence will be when we START something. We just need to start and do the thing that we most love to do. The rest will take care of itself.

 Let’s do the things our hearts are beating to do. 

The Day She Was Born

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

When my wife and I were getting ever closer to the birth of our CK, a good friend advised me to write my thoughts and feelings about that day as a letter and testimony to my little girl. One that she could keep and cherish later as a keepsake from her daddy. However, in the business of getting my wife to the hospital and arranging for a three day stay, I never got around to it. This week a fellow member and friend in FAA, Wendy Staas, asked several of us fathers to write about our experiences as first time dads to give as a gift to her husband Walter. How thoughtful! I was honored to do this and knew this was my cue to do something that needed to be written in stone (or a blog at least!) since that beautiful day my own little girl arrived.

Walter,

For my wife and I, the DAY was very much planned and scheduled. Due to my wife’s previous neck surgeries, it was decided that a normal delivery just wasn’t an option. It would be a planned C-Section. So, on the morning of August 30, 2005, I went to the local gas station and purchased several different newspapers to document what happened on her birth. The weather was rainy, just about to get real nasty and the headlines read “Swamped”. Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans the day before and it was uncertain what chaos might come our way, but it didn’t matter to me one bit. Didn’t even phase me in the least, as all I had been focused on for the past 9 months was THIS day. The birth of my little girl, the child I’d been dreaming about for a long time. My life would be totally changed from being a husband, to adding the title of Dad.

We arrived at the hospital around 1pm and a little later her mom and dad got there as well. As we took pictures, there was an air of both nervousness and excitement all at the same time. We were directed to an area where my wife was taken back and I was given scrubs to wear. Since it was a planned C-section, it was all very predictable, but the fact of having my wife in that condition was concerning to me as well. After they took her back for the epidural, I was directed to sit alone out in the hallway, just outside the delivery room. I wondered after a short while if they would they forget to come get me – I mean every minute seemed like an eternity!

Finally, I was taken in and saw that the doctor was at that point where he was ready to deliver. I held my wife’s hand and we smiled at each other while she was in a most vulnerable position. A huge sheet was put up to block all the surgical activities that were going on, so we had no view of that. We continue to glance at one another and the doctor tells us it’s time and up from behind the sheet comes our little CK. Six pounds, six ounces of God’s handiwork! Ever so quickly the nurses take her to the scale, measure her, clean her up and get her ready for mom to hold. At less than ten minutes old, she is already wearing a hat, socks and swaddled in a blanket! I am rushing to take as many pictures as possible and anxious to hold my little girl at the same time.

My wife was taken to a side room where we all got to experience the miracle together with her parents. My pictures show a happy and relieved mom holding her little girl as we all look on with excitement. I get to hold my little sweet angel and I know that life has changed for me. In that instant, it was no longer about me and I knew that I’d do anything for this little person that we’d just met. And that’s just the way it is with a father. As a dad, we are the protectors and providers. We especially defend our little girls and to this day I am looking out for her interests and well-being in whatever she does. She is and will always be my special angel and there is a bond there that can never be broken. I thank God for the gift of CK in my life.

We finally made it back to the hospital room and my wife is doing well. My in-laws and I are viewing my precious in the viewing room with the other babies, taking videos to get it all down for history. I must have seemed like the typical first time dad to all the onlookers. It was one time this conscientious man didn’t give a hoot about what others thought. This was a wonderful day! Watching CK get her first bath, seeing her wiggle, stretch and even cry was a site to behold. I called a good friend and he prayed over her right then. It was a great day!

In the following days, I got to experience all the things we were learning and reading about in the books and classes. For me, it was like all that learning went out the window. It was just my little girl and a nervous dad, not wanting to do something wrong! As I fed her for the first time, swaddled her in a blanket, put her hat and socks on, changed her diaper(s) and got real time burping experience, I felt like I was well on my way by the second day. The nervousness left quickly and since my wife was recuperating from the incision, I knew I would have to really step up and learn as much as I could while at the hospital. I asked the nurses questions and bugged them to make sure dad was doing things correctly. They assured me I was doing great and that gave me the confidence I needed as we headed home.

I think there is something that God our Father instills in us that kicks in that natural response to our child’s birth. It is Heavenly love and joy all wrapped up in swaddling clothes. I expect it is how He experiences the re-birth of His own children when they come back to Him and he throws a party. We are His and He is ours. God’s blessings to you, Walter, as you experience the joy and miracle of birth and the upcoming initiation into the blessed role of Father.

Blessings,

Michael

 Our children are a gift from God.