Success: Finding Faith Over Money

Money. Money is what everyone claims to be the standard for success and with money comes power. We all need money, of course, to buy essential items and other wants. It allows us to provide for ourselves and our families. We can give it to those in need. But mainly, we spend 40 plus hours a week working to gain as much money and material items as possible.

Society defines us by our work position and wealth. The most influential people are normally the ones who have the most money. These people have worked hard, no doubt, but they find their identity in the money they have. I, too, have spent my time and energy trying to obtain the most money possible. I think about how much I have every day. I work 40 hours a week, plus a couple side jobs to get more. I am constantly thinking about how to gain more money; how it would be nice to have a few extra thousand dollars or be in a profession such as an athlete and get paid millions of dollars each year. I spend most of my days working and almost no time, if any at all, on activities I enjoy doing. I rarely do any reading, disc golfing, or exercising. Yet, this is exactly how almost every one of us lives out our days, at least until retirement.

It is this trend and belief in working constantly to gain the most wealth possible that I want to write about. It is unhealthy mentally and physically to constantly work. It is unhealthy to believe our identities are based in personal wealth.

That is why I base my identity in Jesus Christ. I believe my worth is found in my relationship with Him. Jesus has given me new life and I have been given a chance to do great things in His name. I want to use my talents and gifts to spread the Word and bring more people to know Jesus.

Yet, I fail at this every single day. I find myself thinking all day about making money to support my family and spend on material things. I know I need to work to support my family, and that makes it difficult to focus on Jesus. I work, come home, do anything else that needs done, and spend zero time with Jesus. I forget to pray, read my Bible, or think about Him. It is terrible, but I am human. I fail and I sin.

I want to improve every day. I want to work hard and succeed at what I do. I want to be someone who shows empathy and commits my life to Jesus each day.  I have realized that I need to do a better job. I clearly fail if I don’t have a set plan to improve. I am planning on making changes to the way I act and think and I hope others can do the same if they so wish.

Wake up early and do a devotional

I felt like I woke up too early for work so I never wanted to commit to 15 minutes earlier in order to read a devotional. With my shift change, I will have more time in the mornings to do this. It is a simple and effective way to start the day out right. Reading through a devotional sets the mind and the heart on a good track for the day.

Take time to pray

Spending time praying and praising God is important. God knows our hearts, of course, but we realize more of what we are thinking when we speak aloud. Speaking our thoughts provides us a second chance to understand our thoughts and desires.

Listen to Christian radio or podcast

We travel to work every day of the week and spend hours on the road. This is the perfect time to listen to a Christian radio station or podcasts that discuss religion, society, or culture. Any of these will engage the mind and enable the analysis of our ideas and beliefs.

 

I am starting these this week because I have failed to focus on God for too long. I desired money over my relationship with God. I want to read devotionals, pray more, and engage my mind to grow in my relationship with Him. As I grow, I hopefully will better display Christ through me. I have constantly thought about finding success in money, but I know that it is not my main motivation in life. My motivation is to know God more so that I can display the love Christ shows me.

Four Months and Counting

 Eloise is 16 pounds and 3 ounces. She is also 25 ½ inches long! She is in the 90th percentile for both. Eloise continues to grow quickly; it is unbelievable. Over the past month or so, she began grabbing for things and now she loves to hold toys in her hands. She just learned to grab her feet after being able to grab her knees for a little while now.

Eloise has been making use of her voice for some time now. Recently, she decided to scream a lot instead of making usual noises. She loves to scream happily while smiling. Eloise is still practicing rolling over and working hard with her legs.

It is difficult to spend the day at work and come home only to find out Eloise has done something new. But, I love coming home from work and seeing her smile at me, knowing who I am and being excited to see me. Playing with her is always fun as she grabs her toys well or my hand as she tries to figure out what it can do. It is amazing to see how she grows every day and spend the weekend seeing what she is able to do. While she is still learning, so am I. I know I can still learn about how to take care of a baby better. Although, I feel much better as a dad than I did at the beginning. I am more confident in holding Eloise and knowing that I can figure out what she wants.

Eloise will be able to crawl and walk before I know it. She is growing quickly and these four months have flown by. I am glad she is learning all of these things because that means she is growing into an amazing, beautiful little girl. Soon, she will be able to put her arms out for Sarah or me to pick her up and I know that will melt my heart. I keep thinking about the future, like Eloise walking, learning to read, and playing sports. I love thinking about all that she will do but I don’t want to think about it because I know it will come too fast. Before I know it, she will be using makeup and going out with friends on her own. I already don’t want to see these things happen for a long time and as Sarah says, she never wants Eloise to totally grow up.  

Although I spend each day at work, coming home to see Sarah and Eloise is a privilege. It is the absolute best spending time with them. I am so glad that I have these two in my life and despite time moving so quickly, I cannot wait for the days when Eloise is walking and talking!

Teaching Responsibility: How I Plan to Start at an Early Age

It is extremely difficult to teach responsibility to children, especially at an early age. Children want to do what they want when they want and not have to worry about cleaning up after. That is why toys are left all over the house, clothes all over the floor, and dishes on the table.

I know I didn’t want to take any responsibility for any of those things as a kid and even as a teenager. I left everything all over my bedroom floor and never picked up despite being asked. My chore was to do the dishes and I would avoid doing those as long as possible. But once I was in high school, I finally figured out I needed to take responsibility for my actions. It definitely started out small but I grew to take larger responsibilities.

Kids do need to take responsibility for themselves so that when they are on their own, they know to handle basic things like cleaning and doing dishes. Here is my plan to teach my daughter responsibility at a young age.

Begin with something small

My plan is to begin with picking up toys that she used and place it in a bin where her toys are stored. I know that this is where a lot of parents start and it can be effective. I will start by explaining that these toys are hers but only if she cares for them. Caring for them will include putting them away and making sure nothing bad happens to them.

Move to a bigger responsibility and keep the old one

As she continues to grow, I want to move to a responsibility like putting her plate on the counter after eating. It will teach her to clean up after meals and show how a small action like that can help the bigger task of doing the dishes.

Give total responsibility over a task

Once multiple smaller responsibilities are taken care of, it will be time for full responsibility over a task. I will move up to doing dishes from placing dishes on the counter. Another could be doing her own laundry. The prior task might be placing clothes in a hamper and bringing that to the laundry room when it is full. She can then learn to do her own laundry.

Provide avenues to independence

As tasks won’t be completed if she does not do them, she will realize having this responsibility is important. From there, I want to provide different ways to independence. Laundry is one way to independence, another is to teach her how to cook. I also want to teach things like how to mow the lawn and change tires so that she is able to handle all aspects of living on her own.

 

Many kids don’t know how to handle basic responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, or taking care of the yard. This makes it difficult to grow in their own independence. I want to teach my daughter responsibility from an early age so when she does go on her own to college or her first job, she feels comfortable and not scared of being on her own. These steps are what I hope to achieve so that she is ready and wants independence as she grows, but knows how to handle responsibilities that come with growing up.

Cheap and Free Activities for Kids

It is easy in this day and age for kids to spend all of their time playing on their phones or playing video games. As  parents work and have extra duties like cleaning the house, or mowing the yard, it is even easier to let them use technology often. Here are some cheap or free easy activities for kids that include exercise and learning while having fun.

Camping

Camp out at a campground in a tent or under stars. Build a fire and show your kids the right way to do it while being safe. Play night games and roast marshmallows. This is fun and informative about camping/survival skills.

High School Sports

They are normally only a few bucks per person to get into and can show kids what it could be like if they want to play high school sports. It gives them motivation to try and reach that level.

Disc Golf

Play disc golf at a nearby course. Only one disc is needed for beginners and there are plenty of courses that are free to play. Kids release energy trying to throw the disc as hard as possible and walking the course provides good exercise.

Visit the Library

Take a trip to the library. Books can engage the imagination. Most libraries also have activities for kids as weekly or monthly events.

Water Balloon Fights

Have a water balloon fight. Water balloons are only a few dollars for a pack and kids can run around throwing these. Be careful though and make sure the pieces are picked up. Add that as a responsibility for the kids to learn to clean up after themselves.

 

Kids become easily distracted, especially as technology advances. Use these ideas to get kids up and moving, to spend time outside, and exercise. They can also be family activities and can bring the family together for a day of fun. This can create deeper bonds with the family and the kids will be excited to have fun.

Men Don’t Cry

Men don’t cry.

This has been a statement declared for boys and men for generations. Boys don’t cry or show emotions. They are supposed to be stable and keep feelings hidden. Boys and men always have bottled up emotions and never shared how they felt.

I have never been this way. If you ask my mom or my wife, they can both tell you that I have always showed my emotions more than most men. I cried when I got mad, I cried when I got frustrated, and I cried when someone special to me passed away. Yet, I was always afraid of showing my emotions in public because of this stereotypical view. If I did show emotions in public, I usually got made fun of because it is not what boys and men do.

Despite this, I continue to show my emotions. I cry when I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed and I cry when my daughter cries. She just looks so sad and I want her to be happy. I know there are many reasons she could be sad but I will do anything to make her happy again.

This is what I want my daughter to know and to find in a man. Thankfully, it is a long way away, but I want her to understand this at a young age. Boys and men shouldn’t be afraid to be emotional. It is harmful to themselves to keep feelings and emotions in. I want her to find a man who will do anything to make her happy. I want her to find a man who is willing to share his feelings and is willing to cry with her. This will open up their relationship and develop it.

This stereotype continues to hover over society and it needs to stop. Men should be able to share their emotions, especially in public without being regarded as lame or not manly. When men are willing to share their emotions and feelings, it is much easier to connect to them. Men are more understanding and able to build solid, stable relationships with family, friends, and significant others. This is what I want my daughter to find and it is much easier when society realizes it is okay for men to cry.

Children’s Books

The first book for the monthly book review is Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. This book has been around since the mid ’90s. It was published by Candlewick Press.

Guess How Much I Love You fills your heart. When reading it your child, you can tell them how much you love them through this story. It has some funny moments like when the little hare pulls down the big hare’s ears to make sure that big hare was listening. It makes you want to say aw at the end when the two hares lay down next to each other under the stars and whisper “I love you.”

The pictures are very well done, despite only using a few colors throughout. It is simple but effective. The writing is well done as children think exactly the way the little hare does. That being said, as an adult and as children learn to read using this book, the names Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare are not easy to say. They tend to ruin the flow of the rest of the dialogue that is smooth the whole way through.

Overall, this book is one I would recommend. The pictures are clear and fun, the words flow, and the book teaches how much a parent and a child can love each other.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are always the rage for at least a couple weeks after the new year begins. They can be anything from eating healthier and exercising to trying a new clothing style. Most people say they will commit to new year’s resolutions, but end up giving up before the spring starts. The reasons include not having enough time, not enough money, or enough strength to stay committed.

It is even tougher for parents to stick to any type of new year’s resolution. Whenever there seems to be a free moment, something happens with a child and the resolution gets pushed to the back of the mind and forgotten. Parents put their children first, especially when their children need anything. This makes it difficult to do anything outside of necessary commitments.

I may not have a toddler, only a two-month-old, but there still seems to be little extra time. I come home from work, have supper, spend time with my wife and daughter, and It is already bed time. It feels like there is no time for editing manuscripts as I do on the side, any time to rest, or exercise. But I need to find time to do these things. I have duties to do with editing. I need time to exercise as I haven’t really done any exercise since running the Indy Mini Marathon in May. Taking time to rest and relax is important.

It feels impossible to accomplish all of that in a day. All of it may not happen every day because there are more important things to do—like work and spending time with my wife and daughter. Portioning out time in the day can help, and planning tasks that need accomplished will provide clear cut direction. Calendars and planners are essential to completing everything that needs done. I like to write down events in my calendar and write every task I need to complete. It helps me stay focused and even if I don’t complete everything that day, I move over what needs to be done still to the next day(s).

Here are a few steps that I am using and think will be useful for you too:

1    Don’t dwell on everything that must get done.

It is too easy to become overwhelmed by all the tasks that need completed. Take a deep breath and think about something fun. It can be seeing your child smile or a family outing that happened recently (as long as it had a fun moment, of course). This will help bring your mind at ease just for a little bit to help you get started. Prioritize the tasks and take them one at a time.

2   Plan out your day in a written, tangible way

If you are anything like me, it is too easy to forget things. It doesn’t matter if it is extremely important, I have probably forgotten it. I can promise you (and my wife can too) that I have forgotten necessary items because I didn’t write them down. Use a calendar or a planner or an app of either, but write/type it out. I have written events in the monthly calendar and then in the daily/weekly sections written the exact same thing plus any specific tasks that don’t require being input into the calendar. As long as I write down all of my tasks and look at my planner, I will know what needs to get done that day and what can wait if an issue or unexpected event comes up. This makes it simple on what I expect to get done and will make sure I don’t forget anything.

3   Make sure to include me time

As I said earlier, it is extremely easy to constantly be doing something. It feels like there is always something, whether it be for work, family, or cleaning the house. It is important that we provide for our families with money to buy food, clothing, and shelter. It is also important to love our spouses and children on a daily basis. With all the people and jobs in our lives, it is easy to never end up spending time alone. But taking a breather and doing something alone that you enjoy can be relaxing and recharge your body and mind. Take a bath, read a book, go for a run, or watch a movie. Anything that provides the recharge time will be beneficial. It isn’t only to keep you sane, but keep you just a little bit healthier. That’s the point of most new year’s resolutions, right? To help us realize who we are and what we can do to improve our daily lives.

 

Take these steps, use them, and improve your life. You will feel like you have more control, feel healthier, and provide a better life for you and your family. Fulfill that resolution that you have been trying to finish for a long time, or complete a new goal. Follow these steps and you and your family will be thankful you did so.

Living Loudly

It’s been said that actions speak louder than words. Yet, I spent my college years studying how words can be crafted into amazing, beautiful stories. I discovered how each word has an enormous impact on the meaning of a sentence and in turn, how that affected the next sentence.

               Lately, I have realized that actions really do speak louder than words. I can say all the right things to make my wife happy, but I need to step up in my actions. Of course, sometimes I don’t say the right thing. But more often than not, my actions are in question. I don’t react in the right way when Sarah and I are having a conversation, or I don’t help her as much as I should as she is healing from childbirth. I have chosen myself plenty more times than I should have. I have focused on how I feel: whether I am hungry, thirsty, or tired. I chose to get myself food, water, and sleep before getting Sarah what she needs. I have failed in my duties as a husband often.

               Along with needing to work on my actions, there is another thought I have been contemplating. It is extremely easy to do life with Sarah and Eloise. I wake up each morning, help change diapers before I go to work, come home from work, make supper, and then we go to bed. I enjoy every second with them and can’t wait to see them when I get home from work. But it isn’t just about “doing life.” It is about helping Sarah and Eloise grow. Sarah and I have been married for two years now and it is so easy to go about each day as husband and wife without thinking about deeper issues. As a part of our vows, we agreed to help and guide each other to grow as human beings. I have been focusing on meaningless things in the everyday without remembering that part of our vows. I need to ask how I can make both Sarah and Eloise’s day better. I need to ask what I can do to make sure they know how much I love and care for them. I need to ask what I can do to make sure they grow, whether it be a few words or more importantly, an action.

               It isn’t easy to think about how every action one does effects multiple people. It worries me because I know I need to do better. I don’t handle situations correctly many times. I act quickly without thinking and after thinking about what I did for hours, I realize what I should have done. But by then, it was too late. Now, I am working on thinking about my actions and the consequences on others every day. Especially on my wife and daughter, who are the most affected by my actions. If I don’t commit good actions, I cannot help and guide them in a morally correct manner. It begins with myself, knowing who I am, and who I need to be to become the best husband and father that I can. It is a daily process, one I hope I can say changes me for the better so that I can be a positive difference-maker every day.

The First Week

To all the men who told me that I would not be 100% ready for all of fatherhood: thank you. This first week and a half with my little girl has been a whirlwind, learning how to be a first-time dad. My wife is healing as well as she can and it is my job to make sure she can rest when she needs it. Our dog also loves to bark and needs attention, but thankfully my little girl doesn’t hear it when she is sleeping. It is a lot of work taking care of my three girls, but it is worth it. My love for them has blossomed even more since last week. I am also extremely grateful that I have had these two weeks to spend with them before starting a new job. It has allowed us to get into a rhythm and we can hopefully get our rhythm smooth before I start.

It hasn’t all been easy though. We have had issues with the dog making too much noise during the day and night, along with our girl not wanting to sleep during the night (That is expected with a newborn, of course!). With my wife healing, I have been taking the lead on trying to get our girl to sleep. It has meant being awake a lot during the night right as we lay her down and before and after feedings. I haven’t gotten as much sleep as I am used to, which I knew but didn’t prepare for. I have gotten frustrated that our girl won’t stay asleep and as soon as I get back into bed, she squirms again. But guess what this has taught me: patience. I have assumed that our newborn will just fall and stay asleep like an older human being, but that isn’t the case. I have been reminded by my wife (who is totally right) that I just need to take a breath and remember that she is just a baby. She doesn’t have a schedule like we do, and she doesn’t understand being in bed and trying to sleep. I can’t blame her for not sleeping; she is a week and a half old baby. My patience has been tested and I am already learning how to handle a newborn. Patience has been my number one flaw and I have already told our little girl I am sorry that I mess up. I will try my best to be the best dad that I can be, but I know I will mess up as I raise her. There were some basics I had to learn such as how to hold a baby, because I haven’t been around babies before her; I was so afraid of hurting her while holding her but I am learning the best ways to do that.

All of this has been such a learning process and our girl is only a week and three days old! I have learned so much already, and understand that she will help highlight some of my flaws and how to fix them. I can tell that I will learn as much from her as she does from me growing up. It’s all in the life of a new dad!

Dream Big

Follow your dreams.

That is what I want my little girl to hear. I want her to be able to take her biggest dreams and go for them. There is no dream too big. It is possible to be who she wants to be.

Be awesome, not average. I just finished reading Start by Jon Acuff. It develops the idea to not be average and coast through life. Take your passions and your skills to find work that matters, not only to you, but once you master it, work that helps people. Your work may not do something like directly deliver food or water to those hungry or thirsty, but you can guide people to awesome and they can master their work. But it all begins with hard work. I am finding this out as I am struggling to find work that fits my skills and matters. I want to find joy in my work. I am trying to find out how to be awesome and not average.

I don’t want my daughter to believe she can’t do something. I don’t want her to believe she cannot do something because she is a girl. I want her to know she can and that she will obtain a job based on her passion, skills, and experience. If she works hard enough, I know she will be able to achieve whatever she puts her mind to. I will tell her of my own struggles and how I worked through them. I will support her in any way possible so that she can achieve her dreams and then some. But I want her to know things will not be handed to her (although, I will probably spoil her a bit too much). It will be up to her to discover her passions and her skills. It will be up to her to find work that matters to her and she finds joy in. Once she does these things, hard work will complete her goals.

She will be awesome and not average. But it is up to her to discover what that means to her.

It will all start with my telling her to follow her dreams.

Good Good Father

It all started with our marriage a year and a half ago. You really do become one in a marriage. We were now a family. I knew I needed to take care of my family, whether it be working multiple jobs to make it through college, or finding a job even if it didn’t match my degree.c360_2016-03-22-16-00-14-507 It has been the ultimate humbling experience. It isn’t about me. It is doing what is necessary to provide for my family. Especially as my impending fatherhood comes closer, I realize even more it is not about me. It is about caring for Sarah as she experiences changes with her body preparing her for childbirth. It is about preparing all that is necessary for this little girl that is coming into the world and taking care of her in the best possible way that I can. I know that I will never be completely ready for fatherhood; I have been assured of that by multiple fathers. But I know that I can trust wholly on God throughout this time of figuring out a new job with a baby on the way. I can read all the books I want on how to be the perfect father, but unfortunately for my own pride, I will not be a perfect father; that is a guarantee. Only God can be and is the perfect Father. So through all of this, I have learned to lean on Him despite my want to take control, despite my want to know how this journey will go, and despite my want to be the perfect father. I know that my wife is my rock and my support. She believes in me when I have my doubts, she comforts me in my worry, and she supports me in the unknown of the new addition to our family. It is because of her and God that I find comfort in knowing that I have the ability to be a good father.