My Not-So-Little Boy

I’ll admit it, I’ve been feeling a bit sentimental and a tad emotional lately….not a lot emotional, just a tad emotional…we’ll just call it macho-emotional ;).

Ben, my oldest son, is finishing up his last year of elementary school and entering the big, bad world of middle school.

For some reason, I’m kinda struggling with this next chapter.  His feet are now the size of cars, he’s growing like a weed and now has to wear deodorant to fend off the flies.  Things are changing and my little boy is becoming a young man.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful that he’s a smart, independent and kind kiddo.  He opens doors for ladies, says his “please’s” and “thank you’s” and is on his way to success, I’m sure of it.

BUT, I still want to keep a tight grasp on that not-so-little guy…I selfishly want to sprinkle him with magical dust that keeps him young forever…

Ok fine, since the whole fairy dust thing “isn’t possible,” I guess I’ll just settle for slowing down and trying to appreciate every moment with him.

To take my own advice, the other night, I asked Ben if he wanted to go have some dude time.  He seemed pretty cool with this plan.

Dude time isn’t ever fancy, it’s just us being dad and son, hanging out together, talking about whatever.  In this instance, we hung out in the “Bro Lounge” (an extra hang out room in our house), turned some music on and plopped down on the couch.  We talked about girls, friends, school and made up silly, gross names for no apparent reason…you know, dude stuff.

Time slowed down and it felt good to connect with him…to be alive with him…to laugh with him…to love him with my presence…my UNRUSHED presence.

Time is a weird thing in that it flies by so fast, yet seems to drag on at the same time. Know what I mean?!

It’s so tempting to wish away the now and keep our eyes planted on the future….especially when it comes to our children.

Before long, years have passed and we’re longing for the “old days” when things were much “simpler.” It’s all relative I suppose.

Let’s not let distraction and busyness cloud the beauty of right now.

It would be so cool if you joined me in becoming a sponge….by “sponge” I mean absorbing every emotion, feeling, memory, hug and conversation involving where our kids are RIGHT NOW in life.

After all, they need us and we need them. Let’s slow down and love ’em a lot.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

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Why I’m Proud to Be Imperfect

Photo Credit: Viktoria Alipatova

I’ll admit it, not too long ago, I wanted folks to think that I had my life together.  I wanted folks to think that I didn’t have any problems.  I wanted folks to think that I was perfect.

Silly me, there’s no such thing as a perfect person, but I wanted other’s to think so anyways.

These days, I want the opposite.

I want others to know how messed up I really am.  Not in a weird, creepy way or anything, but I just want to be real, not fake.

In fact, if someone were to approach me, praising my perfection, I would want to grab them by the shoulders, slap their face five times, yell “wake up!” and loudly profess my less-than-perfectness…it’s that extreme.

Here’s the thing, I can’t handle the pressure of being perfect.  Attempting to be perfect is just an unnecessary set up for failure.  We’re not created to be perfect, nor are we expected to be perfect by our Creator!

PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE.

Also, who wants to be around a “perfect” person anyways?!  They’re unapproachable and it’s hard to relate to them.  Oftentimes, they expect their friends to be perfect as well and that’s no good.

As a person who loves Jesus, I feel convicted to be open about my own struggles and weaknesses.  The folks who have made the biggest impact in my life were the ones who were transparent and humble.  I want to be like them.

The truth is, we can all learn from each other.  Pride often gets in the way though.  It creates a wall in our relationships, preventing us from being real and helpful to one another.

Pride soils true growth like tomato sauce on a white tuxedo.  It’s messy, but God’s like our stain remover, using Jesus as the cleaning agent.  This hope and common ground should add flavor to our conversations, not turn them into shallow bantering.

Now, I do admit that there’s risk in allowing others to see my imperfection.  In many ways, I’m inviting judgment, gossip and rejection and that’s ok.  Honestly, I wouldn’t really want to hang out with people who didn’t accept me for who I am anyways.

With all of this being said, I challenge you to be ok with YOU….good ‘ol messy YOU!  Better yet, I challenge you to allow others into your world, struggles and all.  Who knows, that person that you see everyday might be encouraged by your journey.  I think it’s worth the risk.

So go and let your imperfect light shine friends!  The impact that you make in this world won’t be based on the perfectness of your perfectly perfected perfection 😜….it will simply be based on how well you love.  That’s where legacy lives and that’s where I want to be.  How about you?

God Bless,

Paul

You’re Grounded!

Woman Sitting While Reading A Book

I was a super hyper-active kid growing up.  Most of my days consisted of playing basketball, thrashing through the woods, throwing water balloons at outhouses and other normal things like that 😜.  Heck, I’m still a pretty hyper guy, always looking to have fun, move and be active.

Sometimes I would go and go and go until I hit a wall.  Other times, my attitude would get out of line, I would get into trouble and my mom would ground me.

Being grounded was like torture….not being able to play with my friends, run around or be free ate me alive.  It sucked.

A funny thing always happened when I got grounded though…after throwing an epic fit and freaking out, I eventually relaxed.

My mom still laughs at her strategy of grounding me…it was the only thing she knew that slowed me down!  She loved me and knew me well…she knew what was best for me and you know what, she was right.

I can’t help but think about God and how He does the same for me…about how he does the same for all of us, whether you believe in Him or not.

One of my favorite spots in the bible is Psalms 23:2-3.  It’s a small snidbit of the chapter that many people might overlook, but it means something huge to me.  It says: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…”

I love the part about how God MAKES me lie down in green pastures.  Similar to my mom grounding me, God knows me better than I know myself and He understands when it’s time for me to stop, re-evaluate and find peace…so sometimes, the Big Man hits the pause button in a way that only He can.

The whole green pastures and quiet waters part is God’s way of bringing me to my blissful place…my comfort place…my peaceful place.  We all have those places that we love…those places that center us.  Maybe for you, it’s actual green pastures and quiet waters.  Maybe it’s the beach.  Maybe it’s at home.  Maybe it’s the mountain.  Maybe it’s your favorite coffee shop.  Maybe it’s someplace new that you’re yet to discover!

Many times, when God makes us slow down, it doesn’t exactly feel like He’s leading us to “quiet waters” or “green pastures.”  You know what I mean?!  It feels more like He’s leading us to a big mud puddle or a Hannah Montana concert…yeah, that bad!

Quite often, we don’t realize what He’s doing because we’re near sighted.  We get caught up in the rat race and forget that there’s more to life than our tasks at hand.

I guess we just need to trust the process.  We need to understand that we’re not as smart as we think we are.  The truth is that God loves us, He’s smarter than us and He desires for us to be the best version of ourselves…the exact version that He created us to be!

I’m not sure what’s going on in your life, but if you’re like me, you could probably slow down a bit. You could probably use a good timeout or “grounding.”  Maybe God’s already momentarily hit the brakes on your plans and you’re searching for clarity right now.  It will come.

My prayer is that God meets you where you are.  That He, as the Ultimate Parent, gently puts His giant arms around you and lands you in a good place.  Somewhere that’s full of good stuff, but most of all, a place where His peace is all around.

God Bless,

Paul

Preparing for Battle

calm daylight evening grass

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When you roll out of bed each morning, what’s the first thing that you do?  What are the first thoughts that you think?  How do you cast the vision for your day?  How do you “prepare for battle?”

I’m a morning person, so after rubbing the sleep from my eyes and smacking the alarm, I’m ready to go!  Routine is my friend at 4:30 in the morning.  Honestly, I could probably wake up later, but allowing myself time to chill, pray, read or whatever is huge for me.

Over the years, I’ve discovered how important those first few minutes / hours of the morning really are…they often set the tone for the entire day.

My oldest son, Ben, is a worry wart.  He’s full of “what if’s” and is always searching for things to stress about.  He also feels compelled to plan out the next day and the next day and the next day because he likes predictability and control.

Please know that I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of my son.  Being a structured and safe person isn’t necessarily a bad thing…until it starts robbing us of joy.

Lately, we’ve noticed a bit of joy-robbing starting with Ben, so we’re trying to be intentional about teaching him how to chill…how to trust himself…how to trust God with his future…with his tomorrow.

Worry is Ben’s natural tendency, so learning this is a bit like swimming upstream with 50 Costco-sized bags of Doritos strapped to his ankles.  Ok, weird illustration, but you get the point.

The truth is, we can’t force the kiddo to do anything, but we can certainly point him in the right direction.  So, I’ve been trying to teach him how to prepare…how to slow down…how to expect challenges and ready himself for “battle” every day before he walks through those school doors.

We all have “school doors” to walk through every day, don’t we?!  Our lives are full of challenges, whether they be physical, emotional, relational, spiritual or whatever.  Surviving the day seems darn impossible at times to deal with, let alone prepare for!

With all this being said, I strongly encourage you to join Ben and I in preparing for each day as they come.  EXPECT challenges, EXPECT temptations, EXPECT to mess up and EXPECT God’s grace to be there when you do….just prepare and be grateful for the gift of another day!

God Bless,

Paul

 

Not Enjoying the “Now”

One of the things that I really dislike about being human is the inability to FULLY appreciate things as they’re happening.  You know what I mean?!

It’s easy to coast through the present and before long, we’re longing for the past, leaning on memories to provide inspiration.  We say stuff like “I remember those years…life was so uncomplicated back then.”  When in reality, life probably felt complicated at the time, we just remember the good stuff…it’s all relative.  If only our present experiences were as good as our memories.

So does the saying “hindsight is 20/20” ring true then?  I totally think so….although, sometimes the feelings that we associate with our memories can get skewed with time.

Please don’t misunderstand, we can all have moments of contentment, gratefulness and joy as we experience life in the here and now.  Appreciating those closest to us is also possible, but often, those moments are short-lived.  Our human nature takes over and we fall into the trap of complacency and the expectation that life will continue down that straight, consistent, comfortable path.  It’s so easy to do, trust me!

TAKING STUFF FOR GRANTED IS JUST PART OF US BEING HUMAN.

For example, think about those important folks in your life who have passed away…you loved them and appreciated them when they were around, but it was easy to assume that they would always be there.  You became comfortable with their presence and existence.  Now that they’re gone, you miss them dearly.  You remember the good times (we often suppress the not-so-good stuff) and desperately want them back.  In retrospect, you may think “darn, I wish I would have savored more moments with them!”

On a different note, health can often be taken for granted.  My feet get injured from time to time.  I exercise often and put a lot of strain on my joints…especially since I’m the ripe age of 38 now 😁.  I need good feet to run and move around.  When they’re feeling great, I don’t even think about it.  I take them for granted and assume that they will be fine tomorrow and the next day…until I wake up the next morning with a swollen, throbbing foot, causing me to gimp around like a big goofball.

It’s during those times that I realize how much I take my healthy feet and/or joints for granted.  Why can’t I just be super aware and grateful for my health every second of the day when I’m actually feeling good?  It’s because I’m selfish, distracted and looking ahead vs. enjoying the now.  I’m human, what can I say!

With all this being said, my point is this:  NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, BE PRESENT, BE GRATEFUL AND KNOW THAT THINGS CHANGE.  LEARN FROM THE PAST, ENJOY THE PRESENT AND LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE.

All we have is today friends, let’s enjoy every morsel of it!  Sure, we’re pretty imperfect at the whole “seize the moment” thing, but we can at least give it a shot!

God Bless,

Paul

The Bullied Girl

The other day, my boys and I went for a nice bike ride and we eventually landed at the park.  I love going to the park.  It’s such simple fun, free from the distraction of technology and it invites physical activity and/or goofing around, which is always good.

As usual, I pushed them on the tire swing until they found a friend to play tag with.  So, I just plopped down on a curb, inhaled the fresh air and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the kiddos running, playing and using their imaginations.

A few minutes later, a group of 4 girls showed up, probably around 11 years old or so.  They were swinging and chatting like normal friends.  I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to hear the conversation shift a little.  It was apparent that 3 of the girls were pretty close and the 4th girl was an acquaintance or something….maybe even considered an “outsider.”

Basically, the girls started proclaiming that they didn’t know this girl, but the girl was sure that they did know each other.  She asked why they were being mean and not including her in a game and they sarcastically called her a stranger (being sure to note that their parents didn’t let them play with strangers) and started to leave, their noses pointing super high in the air.  In a last-ditch effort to defend herself, the “outsider” threatened to slap them in the face, they mocked her and then they all rode off on their bikes.

It was a gut-wrenching thing to witness, it really was.  Being someone who was bullied as a kid, I wanted to intercede, I wanted to yell at them, I wanted to give the “outsider” a big hug, but my gut told me to hang back.

As the girls rode away, leaving this young lady standing defeated and alone, my oldest son did something that made my blood boil…..he told the 3 girls “good job,” congratulating them on their “victory” (luckily the “outsider” didn’t hear him say that).  He had assumed that the girl was being a troublemaker.

I quickly pulled Ben aside and explained to him what had happened to that poor girl…..that it’s always good to know the full story before jumping on board and following the crowd.  He felt pretty bad about it and I explained that he had an opportunity to make things better.  That he should go over and tell her something like “I’m sorry for how they treated you” and invite her to play with them.

So, with determination and without hesitation, he headed over to her and proceeded to chat with her…he showed her love…I was so proud of him.  They all ended up playing and laughing for a bit and it made this dad’s heart smile.  Honestly, it chokes me up just writing about it.

Kids are pretty brutal to each other at times, it’s true.  Adults can be pretty brutal to each other as well and it’s sad.  Here’s the thing though, we all have the opportunity to shine light, to show love and to avoid the temptation of excluding those who are different.

Our judgments of others can be intoxicating and ego-inflating, they really can.  Let us not forget that we all have a story and we’ve all come from somewhere….and guess what, we’re all not perfect either.

Let’s extend our olive branches friends.  Let’s put aside our assumptions.  Let’s walk alongside those who are ignored, marginalized and different.  I was once that lonely, insecure kid who desired someone to walk alongside me.

I WAS THAT KID.

The desperation for acceptance was real and it influenced every decision that I made.  Luckily, I’ve had loving folks in my life embrace me and love me for who I am.

THEIR LOVE SAVED ME.

Like literally, the love of others SAVED me from doing something really stupid (that’s for another post.)

Will you be that person friends?  I really hope that you will.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons

Photo Credit: Kristen Bennett Marble

I live in the beautiful state of Oregon and I seriously can’t imagine living anywhere else.  Us Oregonians get to experience 4 beautiful seasons, each of them providing a different form of beauty.  Somehow, God’s set things on a timer and without fail, the seasonal changes happen every year, guaranteed!  Pretty cool.

On a similar note, you ever notice that life takes us through different seasons?  By “seasons” I mean that there are good times, rough times, growing times, boring times, exciting times….you know, seasons.  Guaranteed seasons.

Honestly, sometimes I think it would be super cool if life were just one big ‘ol season, exclusively filled with the good times and exciting times….maybe we could leave out the rough times, growing times and boring times since those can be hard.  Yeah, that would be ideal, wouldn’t it?!

OR WOULD IT?!?!?! (cue the dramatic music that provokes deep thought and profound mystery)

Just hear me out on this.  Sure, we all love it when life is going well, when everyone’s healthy and when ideas are flowing like nacho cheese out of a convenience store dispenser….yuuummmmm.

BUT HEAR ME OUT ON SOMETHING.

What if those rough times, boring times and growing times actually produced some good stuff?  Maybe, in order to fully appreciate the good times, we need to be refined through the tougher times, thus creating character and a better perspective.  Maybe a possibility?  I think so.

Alright, I’m taking this to a personal level here…..I’ve been going through a “growing” season for a little while now.  Well, maybe it’s more of a “growing/exciting” season filled with possibilities and introspection.  God has really been teaching me about my character and providing awesome “opportunities” to grow……suuurrre, opportunities…..hey, thanks for the humbling “opportunities” to grow God 😫(sarcasm much?)

This process sucks because it can be uncomfortable.  GROWTH IS ALWAYS UNCOMFORTABLE.  Kind of like putting on a new pair of shoes….you gotta wear them and stretch them before the fit is right, before they work effectively.

BUT IT’S WORTH IT!!!

Hopefully, at the end of the rainbow is a pot of character and other good stuff contributing to me being a better man…..contributing to you being a better you.

So what season are you going through right now?  Do you feel like a buoy at sea, being knocked around in every direction by life’s “waves?”  Are you in the middle of a painful season that’s maybe filled with disappointment, failure and/or loss?  Are you thriving, feeling God’s blessings at every turn?  Wherever you land, I know you’re experiencing some kind of season, I’m sure of it.    How am I so sure?  Well, you’re human  like me, that’s how I know.

Do me a huge favor, will ya?!  As your seasons change (and they will), try to embrace whatever season you’re going through.  Hold on, enjoy, take a deep breath and know that you are being molded into someone even more amazing and beautiful than you already are!  Truly!

God’s got you, whether you believe He’s real or not.  Shoot, you may think I’m feeding you a big, fat, juicy line of bull right now and that’s ok too.  You’ll just have to take my word for it I guess.

Enjoy the ride friends, life is beautiful!

God Bless,

Paul