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

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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

Dirty Toilet Paper Picker Upper

Man, what an enticing name for a blog post, eh?!  Before you click away in disgust, let me explain this little morsel of goodness.

I work for a trucking company and we have a shop connected to our building.  Inside that shop is the men’s restroom.  As you can imagine, this restroom has tons of “character” and really invites one to enter and stay a while (sarcasm anybody?)

For some weird reason, I feel the need to do something really gross….get ready….I feel the need to pick up pieces of toilet paper that have fallen on the ground.  I know, it’s a strange deal….maybe I should even label it as a “calling”….ok, maybe that’s too dramatic.  It’s just a weird thing that I feel led to do because, well, I’m an odd dude I guess!

In fact, my fellow employees don’t even know that I do this.  So, if you’re reading this post, you’re welcome 🙂

I’m not really sure where this inkling comes from, but I might have a few ideas.  Maybe it’s like a workplace-pride kind of thing, maybe it’s a OCD thing, I don’t know.  With the risk of over-spiritualizing, I would like to pose a simple question:  “Is it possible that God calls us (me) to do quirky, simple things (such as picking up TP) because He wants to humble us, to test us or to bless others?  I would say that the answer is a resounding YES to all!!!  Sure, picking up TP isn’t a groundbreaking sacrifice or an incredible motivator for someone else, BUT it’s a response to what I feel God is calling me to do….it’s kind of humbling really and I think it might even make the Big Man smile a little.

So what’s your thing?  What seemingly “mundane” or “not-so-profound” thing are you being called or urged to do?  Maybe it’s being an encourager, maybe it’s opening the door for someone, maybe it’s mowing your neighbor’s lawn, maybe it’s making a phone call or sending a text, maybe it’s picking up a dog turd on the sidewalk (with a bag of course, not your hands…that would be gross), maybe it’s just smiling at someone at the grocery store.  I could go on and on and on.  The truth is we’re all awesome and we have much to offer.

It’s funny how, when we actually follow (or obey) that Still Small Voice, our outlook often becomes brighter.  God knows that when we’re only thinking about ourselves, the well dries up pretty quick.  He also knows that when we actually listen for Him AND respond to whatever task He places in front of us, that others will be blessed, thus filling our own cups to overflowing.  It’s a beautiful, simple, difficult-as-heck process.

So go “pick up some toilet paper” today!  You don’t really have to, you can leave that up to me if you want.  Just do me a favor and be aware of opportunities to respond, no matter how small the task.  Don’t wait for the “big” opportunities to present themselves.  It’s amazing when they happen, but honestly, God just wants people with tuned ears to His purposes, no matter how big or small.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Why Random Moments Are Freaking Awesome!!!

I’m a pretty structured, safe guy most of the time.  There’s comfort in repetition, I admit.  It’s a boring way to live without some balance though.

I do have a random, adventurous side to me also and I’ve been trying to tap into this part of me lately.  In fact, I had a great opportunity to exercise this part of me a little while ago.

My family took a quick trip to the coast a couple of months ago.  We just love breathing the crisp air and being present with the waves crashing so close.  The weather was perfect…low 60’s and basically no wind…pretty darn rare for the Oregon coast!  It was fantastic!

On our first evening in Seaside, we headed off on our usual walk downtown.  It’s a simple tradition that we love….strolling by all of the cool houses, peaking inside as the lights illuminate different families bustling about.  There’s also a little wall that follows alongside the main concrete path leading downtown (also called the prom) and it runs parallel to the ocean, which also doubles as a balance beam for all of us to navigate and wobble on…pretty fun.

It was a picture-perfect night.  The sky was oddly clear and the number of stars was staggering!  Neither my wife nor my boys had ever been down on the sand when it was dark, so I randomly decided to change that…I quickly veered off onto a side path that led to the beach, hoping that they would follow….fortunately they did!  My poor family tends to humor my craziness, which I appreciate!

As we cautiously headed down the dark, grassy, lightless path to the beach, only the moon and stars (and the flashlight on our phones ) guided our way.   All that could be heard was the comforting rumble of crashing waves.  The only thing that we could see was the white, rolling tide, patiently ebbing and flowing onto the sand with confidence and consistency.

So, instead of walking further, we planted our butts on the soft sand, laid down and observed the bright, God-confetti in the sky.  It was a humbling, intoxicating feeling to stare at the wonder of God’s universe.  The unlimited swath of stars almost made me dizzy and the twinkles…oh man, the twinkles….like the sky was going to swallow us up in all it’s majesty!  It was one of those rare moments where time slowed down and I felt amazingly alive…..and small.  Grateful.

Here’s the thing, if we would have continued on our normal walk, we would have missed that amazing experience.  Sure, we would have still enjoyed ourselves like always, but I believe God’s invitation into something beautiful would have been missed.  I’m glad we accepted it.

I’m learning that it’s ok to veer off life’s path here and there (in a random, responsible kind of way).  In fact, sometimes the best stories are made off of that safe, consistent path.

It’s so easy to become a robot, mindlessly doing the same things day after day.  Tunnel vision can be routine’s best friend sometimes, causing us to look straight ahead, all the while, beautiful things are happening all around us.

Don’t get me wrong, routine is great for some people BUT allowing God room to work amidst the anticipation and uncertainty of new things often reaps great rewards.

You see that straight, clean path in front of you?  I challenge you to choose a different route, veering off in a direction that gives your stomach butterflies.  Even if it’s something small…text that friend, take the scenic drive home, buy someone a coffee, stop and actually smell the roses, go downtown and hug a homeless person, go explore that new trail, order an IPA instead of a Porter, share Jesus with somebody….whatever it is for you, GO DO IT!

I’m slowly learning something important: adventure = a flavorful story.  Every.  Single.  Time.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

Was it Perfect Timing or Luck?!

The family and I went for a walk the other evening.  It was a beautiful, clear night accompanied by the random smells of blooming flowers itching for spring to arrive.

It had been a while since we’d strolled through our neighborhood streets…one of those simple things that we’ve always enjoyed doing as a family.

As we rounded the corner, conversation rambling, the dog sniffing and me just being content, we noticed the silhouette of someone sitting on the curb of their walkway up ahead.  As we got closer, we discovered that it was our 88-year-old friend Susie, sitting in the dark, bucket of yard debris next to her.  We approached timidly, telling her who we were.  It was pretty dark, so we didn’t want to startle her.  She looked up with a half-confused / half-relieved look on her face.  She had been out doing yard work for a while and ended up getting tired or dizzy, so she sat down at some point.  Apparently, she couldn’t get up from where she was sitting…no phone to call anybody and nobody else around.  It was so sad to see.

We’ve been friends with Susie for years.  She’s kind of like a grandma to us, so we offered to help her up and walk her to her front door.  We discovered that her door was locked, but luckily, she left her garage open, so we made our way in that direction.  My son, Ben dumped her yard debris for her and all was well.  After some chit-chat, we all had a big hugfest, said our “I love you’s” and Susie was safely in her house…thank the good Lord!

I can’t help but think about how long Susie would have been sitting outside if we hadn’t walked by!  What a helpless feeling that would have been!

Now, please don’t think this story is meant to praise my family for stopping to help…..I would hope that any decent person would have done the same thing.  This story is about God and His perfect timing.  It’s about how He intervenes in the most practical ways amidst the most practical things.  It’s about the beauty of how God brings people together.  It’s about God providing my family an opportunity to love someone with actions, not just words.  It’s about the privilege we had as parents to teach our sons how to help someone in need, even if it meant sending our plans on a little detour.

God’s pretty tricky and clever regarding setting up divine opportunities to love.  My guess is that each of us encounter set ups like this all the time, we just don’t always have eyes to notice them.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own stuff and I get it, there’s a lot of stuff to get wrapped up in!

What I’ve noticed is that when I actually pray for opportunities to love, I often find them…but only if I’m actively looking, trying to be aware of what He’s doing.  Other times, I’m fuzzy and clouded, wrapped up in my own mess.  These are the times where that magic invitation just floats on by, untouched and ignored.

The cool part is that for every invitation from God that we reject, He sends us more and more and more opportunities to love.  He’s patient, waiting for us to accept.  Sometimes His timing leads to an obvious situation such as what we experienced with Susie.  Other times, we have to step out in courage, trusting that He’s got this.

The truth is that He doesn’t need our help loving people…He’s pretty good at it!  I tell you what though, He really wants us to be a part of what He’s doing because His love is absolutely inspiring!  He’s gracious enough to let us be a part of His story!  Would you be willing to be a part of it?  I mean that…would YOU be willing to ask God for opportunities to love?  You’re special and I know you have a lot to offer this world.

Do it.  I dare you.

His timing is perfect.  Always.

God Bless,

Paul

 

Happiness vs. Joy

We are all pretty different, aren’t we?!  From culture, to appearance, to preferences, to upbringings, to pretty much everything…our world is a melting pot of differences and I’m so happy about that!  I think this world would be pretty boring if we were all the same.

Although we all differ in many ways, we’re humans and our basic necessities are pretty similar.

In my humble opinion, one of the biggest commonalities that we all hold is this:  WE ALL WANT TO BE HAPPY.  I think this is the driving force behind much of what we pursue in life.  Our culture uses this emotion to entice us, motivate us and sway us into purchasing or experiencing the “newest and greatest” things in life.  We’re suckers for happiness, what can I say!

Along with our pursuit of happiness comes the consuming fickleness that we all fall subject to regarding life’s ups and downs.  We often allow outside circumstances to control our moods and ultimately, our happiness.  Whether it be money or relationships or health or yoga or success or whatever, we yearn to experience the peace or contentment that these things can bring.

There’s an inescapable truth here though…..life happens and situations change…..sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  When the worst happens, our happiness is often flushed down the toilet, leaving us staring at the wall, wondering how we’re going to survive…..how we’re going to get those good feelings back.

I would like to pose a simple question:  Is it possible that, although happiness is a GOOD thing, that maybe it’s not the BEST thing?

Let me suggest a solution to this ever-changing happiness dilemma:  JOY.

Initially, you may be thinking that happiness and joy are the same thing….I beg to differ.  To put it simply, happiness is based on the external, while joy relies on the internal.

Here’s a definition that I feel outlines the differences perfectly:  “Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.” -Psychologies

As humans sharing this planet, we lack joy friends.  You know, that unshakable calmness resting in our hearts that refuses to be let down by the negative around us.  That mysterious peace that holds us upright when the winds blow.  That counter-cultural, inward sunshine that radiates amidst conflict and turbulence.  That kind of joy.

On a personal level, my joy comes from Jesus.  The hope and perspective that He brings assures my soul that things are going to be alright.  The peace and joy that He provides far outweighs any cheeseburger or new car or money or success or good beer or anything.  The joy’s deep and although it can be influenced during my weak times, it never leaves….like a red coal festering under a burnt log, it’s hiding, waiting in anticipation for me to fan the flame….or for Jesus to fan the flame, I guess.

While those reading this may not share my same faith, that’s totally ok!  I love you and I encourage you to discover your joy.  Find that solid assurance of who you are.  Dig deep past the “stuff” and search your heart for ways to simplify, be content and smell the roses….like real roses, not those fake, plastic roses that collect dust over time.

The truth is, none of us are perfect, but we’re beautiful, really.  God desires for us to live freely, peacefully, gracefully and JOYFULLY….don’t settle for good (happiness), grasp for the best (joy).

God Bless,

Paul