Lost? Welcome.

As humans, we all feel lost sometimes and it’s easy to believe the lie that you are all alone on your tiny island of isolation and confusion. Fortunately, it is indeed a lie. Unfortunately, it still feels terrible to be lost and/or confused in any aspect of life, big or small. That, my friend, is why I have put together this reminder for you (and for myself): you’re not alone and no matter how lost you feel, you’re likely right where you’re supposed to be.

I have questioned God many times in search of answers to my “whys”. Why am I here and not there? Why is this happening to me? Why now? Why, God? He knows the reason for my questions – I’m lost! Often I’m asking why out of frustration or because I’m upset, not necessarily because I’m looking for an answer. But there are times where I’m truly in search of the answer and my searching can actually make me feel more lost. Confused? Me, too! If nothing else, I hope you have recognized that you are not alone in your feeling lost.

It can feel much heavier than I’ve made it seem, I know. I just don’t want to make it feel any heavier than it already is for you. You have enough on your plate when it comes to living a day in your shoes and feeling lost can outweigh it all. I’ve been to some rather dark places in my own mind as a result of feeling lost and it can get pretty painful, to say the least. If you’re like me, when you’re driving and you’re lost, the last thing you want to do is ask someone for directions. These days, who does that anyway? My point is I don’t like to talk about it or ask for advice. I’m stubborn and sometimes prefer to work through my pain alone, which doesn’t help me in correcting my whole “I’m lost” dilemma. Weird, right? But it is what it is.

Once I’ve worked up the courage to talk about it with someone other than myself, things usually begin to start making some sense, and if they don’t, then at least I can pull myself out of the depression I often find myself in as a result of feeling lost. Talking about it with someone else helps to put things back into reasonable perspective. I recommend making sure you share your thoughts with someone you know has your best interests at heart.

We will at times feel lost and that is just a part of life. But keep your head up and know that you’re not alone and that light always finds a way, even when it seems impossible.

The Jars of Life

A friend of mine once told me that I have two jars in life and only so many marbles to divvy up each day.  One jar represents my dreams and the other represents everything else in life.  Each marble represents a piece of my time, money and effort while words, in this case, are worth nothing.  Keep in mind, that dreams, as I’ll refer to them here, can represent whatever it is in life that you seek.  The word “goals” would probably be best to describe this, but the word “dreams” sounds and feels so much better – almost magical.  Each day you have a set amount of marbles that will end up in one of your two jars before your head hits the pillow at night.  Going to work at your job counts as one marble and this one, for most of us, will probably go into the “Life” jar.  Even something as great and as fun as a family vacation or playing catch with your son, although a very good thing and extremely important in life, that marble still goes into the “Life” jar because it’s time and effort being spent on something other than your dreams/goals.

So I think we got the two jars thing figured out, now stay with me!

Dream with me, will you?

Think about your life for a moment and let’s look at that dream of yours.  Some of us may have to dust it off a bit because we’ve tucked it so deep into the far corners of our hearts and minds over the years and that’s okay!  Be honest with yourself and let your heart dream again for a moment.  That feeling you get by allowing yourself to imagine that you have it and your living your dream is a great one, isn’t it?  What a feeling!  Well, Buzz Killington, also known as reality, is what brings on the sting when you have to accept the fact that you’re not quite there yet.  Now I ask you, why?  Why are your dreams not your reality?  Why is that when you think about your goals in life you quickly have the urge to force them back into hiding?  Only you can answer that question, but I can certainly share with you why I haven’t achieved some of my goals and maybe you can take away something positive that can help you get there sooner than later.

Why did my friend tell me about the Jars of Life?  To me it’s obvious, I do a whole lot of talking about what it is I want to do in life, but my dream jar gets little to no marbles in it each day because I fail to actually put any of my time, money or effort towards achieving it.  Sure, it stung a little when he said it – okay, it stung quite a bit.  In fact, it knocked the wind out my sails.  Let’s face it, I didn’t even have my sails open!  I’ve gone to sleep countless nights with my dream jar completely empty.  I think it’s largely due to the fact that I’ve been giving my words, thoughts and ideas more value than I should.  Like I said earlier, words are worth nothing when it comes to the Jars of Life and rightfully so.  Words, thoughts and ideas are great, sure, but until my dream jar starts getting some marbles in it, they’ll remain just words, thoughts and ideas – nothing more.

I have recently begun to change that.  I’m not dumping a ton of marble into the jar every day, but a few hear and there adds up quickly!  I like being able to envision my Jars of Life at the end of each day and know that I was able to deposit at least one of my marbles into my dream jar that would have otherwise gone into my life jar.  I like it because it means I’ve actually put time, money or effort toward what it is I really want.  Have you ever heard of celebrating the small wins?  Marbles in your dream jar are definitely worth celebrating!  Although, you may want to avoid telling your friends that you got to put marbles into your dream jar unless they are familiar with what you’re talking about.

This blog and my writing this at this very moment will be worth one marble that I can place into my dream jar for today.  Woohoo!  I’ve made it a goal to put at least one marble into my dream jar every two days.  It’s a start and it’s really made chasing such a big dream so much simpler.  It’s funny how rearranging my thoughts and how I frame those thoughts can have such an impact in activating real action.

Fear is a liar.

Stay encouraged and please don’t be afraid to dream.  We all have the God-given ability to dream and dream big.  We’re not supposed to settle and buy the lies that fear sells us.  We’re meant to go after our dreams and goals until we’ve made them a reality and the challenges, mistakes and even backwards steps are all going to be the things we’re most thankful for once we’ve made it.  So what’s keeping you from putting a marble in your dream jar today?  Tomorrow?  This week?  Remember, you always have everything you need to take the first step.  Fear is the only thing that says otherwise.

 

Mondays. Enough said.

Monday is here again.  Doesn’t it know that it’s unwelcome except for on paid holidays?  I’ve had many a Sunday evening spent dreading the looming pains that Monday can bring.  Yesterday (Sunday) was no different.  All I could think about was work and how much I dislike working and all the responsibilities that come with it.  I know that some people are fortunate enough to do what they love for a living.  I still think these people have their fair share of Mondays, and I mean like the kind we’re talking about.  The Mondays that can haunt us all day Sunday and continue to poke us while we try to sleep before it’s time to face our Monday in the early morning hours – it’s just the best!

How To Tackle Monday

First thing I like to do, especially on Monday mornings, is read a little bit of my Bible.  I use the YouVersion Bible app.  It’s probably the best app I have on my phone.  It makes it super easy to get a short read in from God’s word and this usually helps to put things into perspective for me.  That is, when I do it.  I have missed this very important step more than I’d like to admit.

The second thing I like to do is give Monday morning a smooth kick to the face with a nice strong cup of Joe.  Monday mornings usually require a stronger, bolder cup to push through the morning tasks.  However, I just drink whatever we have.  I do tend to sip it more aggressively on Monday’s and I think that helps make it stronger.  I know what you’re thinking – “You’ve got bigger problems than Mondays dude.”  True, but we’re on the Monday topic, so let’s stick to it.  If you’re not the reading type, or you just don’t wish to read the Bible, there are alternatives that could include things like reading something positive an uplifting, listening to music that usually puts you in a better mood, or just getting up early enough to do some exercise and get the blood pumping.  If coffee isn’t your bag, then maybe it’s a fruit smoothie or just a good hearty breakfast.  Whatever it is, I’ve found that if I skip these things on a Monday morning, Monday usually wins for the first half of the day and I then have to catch up by other means.  Not to mention, I’m very unpleasant to be around until I have completed said catching up.  Something to keep in mind for all of us I guess is that we run the risk of spoiling more than just our Monday alone when we’re walking around grouchy all day.

The third thing I like to do on Monday mornings is encourage others to have a great day and week.  Selfishly, this helps make me feel better and reminds me that I’m probably not alone in my dislike for Mondays.  I usually will just send some text messages out to my family and closest friends telling them to have a great week.  Everyone can use a few words of encouragement here and there, but we ALL could use some words of encouragement on Mondays!  Can I get an Amen?  Give it a try and see if it actually yields the same results it does for me.

Lastly, on Monday morning, I continue to pray and ask God to walk with me and give me the strength and courage I need to get through the day.  I’m not even asking Him for help with the week yet because usually at this time I can’t see past beyond Monday – you know what I’m talking about.  So I stick with my prayers to get me through today and help me be a light to others, even in my own suffering.  I often tell myself, “Monday isn’t going to beat me today.  No, not today!”  And my voice often gets more “preachy” and confident in my head as I repeat myself throughout the morning.

In conclusion, Mondays are rough and we all have to deal with them every 7 days, so why not step up to the plate with a different bat, a different plan of attack and a new perspective next time Monday rolls around?  In reality, it’s not Monday that’s getting face kicked when we make the decision to be the victor instead of the victim.  It’s fear and all the lies that come with it that’s getting shoved out of the way so you can focus on doing you and being the best version of you, no matter what day of the week it is.

 

 

Living to work or working to live?

A question I have recently begun to better understand is “Am I living to work or working to live?”  For most of my adult life I believe I was so focused on work and my career that I had actually forgotten why I was working so hard in the first place.  I think hard work and dedication are very important to one’s success no matter their profession.  However, there is an unhealthy extreme to which we can allow ourselves to be when we consider those in our lives such as family and friends whose relationships require our attention, dedication and commitment as well.

The work and life balance that we hear about and some of us wish we had is actually something that can only be achieved with the right efforts in the right places at the right times.  At least this is my opinion.  It is not something we can place after the common “Once I (fill in the blank)” thought that I have held onto as my excuse for so long.  You cannot wait for your ticket to be called in order to be happy and achieve a healthy work life balance.  Frankly, you have to step up and take it.  This requires effort on your part and it just can’t happen any other way.

The sooner we can accept that balance in work and life can only be achieved by our own efforts and, of course, our God-given strength and courage to do so, the sooner we can begin working toward achieving and sustaining a healthy balance.  My father always told me, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”  This is true for just about everything in life.  It’s also true when considering how we can achieve a healthy work and life balance.

If you find yourself living to work, I think you need to consider this question and do so honestly:  how long will your family, friends and those who love and care about you get only what’s left of you instead of the best of you?  If your dedication to your work is that of an unhealthy extreme, it’s hurting you and those you love even if you’re smart enough to convince you self otherwise.  I have had to rid myself of the victim mentality I carried for so long that kept me convinced that if I didn’t commit myself 100% to my career I would have nothing once it was gone.  This belief kept me from experiencing so many things with my wife and children, but I gave it all away without a fight because I had fallen victim to this untrue belief.  The truth is and always has been that God is my provider, not my job.  I work for Him first.  Although it seems simple, it’s true and sometimes it’s the simplest of things we struggle most to overcome in life.  In this case, your life is worth living and it’s worth living happy.  If you want to know what it takes to work to live and not live to work, you have to make the decision to find out for yourself.  Your circumstances and the hand you’ve been dealt can’t be what determines this for you.  If it is, only you can change it.

Music to My Ears, My Heart, My Soul

Music always inspires me in more ways than I know how to express in words.  Isn’t it cool how a song and it’s unique melody can take you on an emotional journey all via the waves of sound picked up by our ears and our ability to hear?  Our mind interprets these seemingly magical wavelengths of highs and lows and translates them into something only our heart and emotions can understand, but our mind often struggles to.

Because of music, I think that time travel is indeed possible after all.  Not in the manner you’re probably thinking, but in our minds.  There are things in life that our senses can pick up and deliver to our brain such as the melodies music provides.  Our brain then accesses files within our memory that it projects clearly through our emotions and feelings as if we were right back in the exact moment we first heard a particular song or a moment in life that we experienced while that song was playing.  It’s almost indescribable, this enchanting affair we have with music, but it’s oh so beautiful and impossible to ignore.

I can’t help but think that the music playing in Heaven is so far beyond what we get to experience here on earth.  I believe there are probably thousands of songs being played at the same time that, once in heaven, we can experience and understand all at once.  This just can’t happen here on earth because it would all sound like a bunch of noise.  I share this because I have this thought, or question really, that asks, “What if there is music played here on earth that can also be heard in heaven?”  I know it may sound a little silly, but at 17 my mother, Melody, passed away from cancer.  To this day I have written countless songs and I often wonder if they might be heard by my mom in the beautiful sea of the thousands of songs playing in heaven right now.

Maybe it’s crazy.  I know it probably sounds like it.  I just think that music has an element that is not of this world.  It’s like love.  True love is something many of us talk about and some of us have been blessed to experience, but it too is unexplainable and can best be translated by our hearts.  I am thankful for music and though I know that the enemy is in so many ways using music in attempts to tear down the Kingdom of God, I also know that God is still in control and is using music to further His Kingdom every day.  Think about worship and the songs you sing when you’re at church.  That connection you have in the moment you are sharing with fellow believers as you worship your one true God, it’s not something I consider of this world.  It’s so much more and this, worship, is something we get to take with us to eternity where we will continue to worship and praise our God in ways we never thought possible here on earth.

So You Messed Up. It’s Okay!

God is our source and provider of all we need and I know this, but why do I constantly forget?  And why am I always messing up?  For starters, I’m human, so I’m going to fall short.  We all are.  In fact, this is why God sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us.  We are incapable of being perfect and thankfully Jesus came and did it in our place.  I think the enemy, as twisted as it is, uses everything, even this, against us.  For example, I tend to get really down on myself if and when I mess up and in my mind I place Jesus on the cross when I’m asking for forgiveness and the strength to keep going.  Why do I keep putting him back on the cross when he’s no longer there and is now seated at the right hand of God?  He’s paid your debt and mine in full.  That’s so huge and so difficult to understand, but I think this is why He calls us not to dwell on our own understanding, but instead to acknowledge Him in all things.  Life wouldn’t require faith if we truly understood it all and knew our path from beginning to end.

All this considered, I ask myself what it is I’m truly chasing after in life and the answer is not God.  I know, I wish I could say the opposite, but I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by the things of this life I shouldn’t be.  I’m sharing this though because I think there are likely some of you that feel or have felt the same way and I want you to know that as tough as it is to admit and recognize this, it’s okay.  Wait, what?  Yes.  This is why, for those of us that have accepted Christ as our lord and savior, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  The Holy Spirit even prays for you when you’re unable.  How cool is that?!

Romans 8:25-27

25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t desire to know God more and to be a better servant and Christ follower every day because we should.  It’s important we know that God still has our back even when we’re not doing what we should be and the Holy Spirit inside us is stronger than us alone.  For me, this is encouraging enough to stand back up and remember who I really am – a child of the most high God.  My own children mess up all the time, but no matter how big the mistake or even how disappointed I might get, I love them dearly and would do whatever it takes to provide for them whatever it is they need to live a fulfilling life.  God feels this same way about each of us, but so much so we can’t explain in words or even begin to imagination how much he truly loves and cares for us.

So when you’re down, feeling terrible and in need of the strength and courage to get refocused on what really matters, you’ve got your Heavenly Father still rooting for you and excited to see you get back up.  Ignore the whispers from the enemy and remember who you are.  Remember you are an imperfect human being that has a perfect Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit living inside of you.  You’re a winner and you can’t lose!

Date Night 2016!

Last night, my wife and I went on a date for the first time in I don’t know how long.  After we dropped off the kids at a friend’s house, we headed out to one of our favorite restaurants.  On our way I laughed and said to my wife, “You excited about date night 2016?!”  She laughed and of course she said yes, but I could tell she wasn’t quite getting the joke.  So I explained it felt like we only went on one date each year, hence the Date Night 2016 title of our lovely evening out together without the kids.

This all got me really thinking about just how much I was slacking as a husband.  It’s great that we want to do so much with our children and I get that.  When it comes to my marriage however, I have some room for some much-needed improvement.  Why am I waiting for the date night to happen and, what’s worse, why is it my wife that’s having to take the initiative to make it happen.  Nothing against the fact she makes it happen, but every time?  I had to check myself mentally – I said to myself, “Self, you need to seriously up your game bro!”

Spending that much-needed time with my beautiful wife for those couple of hours was amazing and it always is.  This particular date, Date Night 2016, served as a reminder for both of us the importance of making time for each other.  No matter how difficult it may be to carve out that time in our sometimes overwhelming schedules, our love for each other has to be strong enough to overcome these challenges.  Besides, our children deserve to have the best of us as parents and we’re at our best when we (mom and dad) are intentional about giving the best of ourselves to each other.

If you find yourself in a similar place with your spouse, might I recommend you take a moment to remember why you fell in love with each other?  If you have little ones, remember that it was and still is your love for one another that made it possible for God to bless you with the joy that is parenthood.  I want my kids to see and acknowledge how much their mother and father love each other every day.  How we love and treat each other as parents will play a huge part in determining who our sons and daughters marry and how they treat their future spouse.  It can’t be just something we do every few months.  I think it needs to be something we do every chance we get.