Tag Archives: family

Love after September 11, 2001

There was no one I knew personally who lost his or her life today in those tragic and horrific events.  In my life, I have seen tragic events.  The attempted assassination of President Regan when I was in the 3rd grade, the Space shuttle Challenger exploding as a freshman in high school.  However, nothing has quite shaken me to my core like the events of September 11, 2001.  I attribute this event to what it was for your grandparents when John Kennedy was assassinated and it devastated the world.

That year I woke up just like any other day and went off to work.  Mom was home with Ashleigh, Reece, and Sophie.  I had picked up folks and was headed out to the farm to start the day.  I was out by the Wood Village exit when I turned the station and heard the news.  They did not have enough information so we were just getting breaking news.  I called your mom and woke her up, none of you were awake yet, and I told her to go and turn on the TV and find out what was going on.  I made it to work, turned on the radio, and listened off and on throughout the day to hear more, but because of our jobs, we had to focus on the clients.  The events sounded horrific and like nothing, I could even begin to imagine.  After work was over, I took clients home.  Traffic was really horrible and it took me an extra hour just to finish.  I was going to head to my men’s group, but due to traffic decided I was going to head home.  When I got home none of you were there, mom had taken you to visit your grandparents and I was home by myself.

I turned on the TV and watched repeatedly the events that I had heard described through the radio all day.  I sat there motionless staring, unable to move, tears pouring down my face, sobbing at what was happening before my eyes.  I was shaken to my core in a way I do not know that I can even begin to explain.  To this very day any time I talk about it, close my eyes and see those images I am moved to tears.  Why I have no idea, but there is nothing else I have ever experienced in my life that has had the effect this does.

Here it is 10 years later, so much has changed.  Three more children have joined our family, we have moved, we have international students living with us, we have changed churches twice, you 3 older kids have all been through grade school and are now in middle school and high school.  Life has changed for so many people.

As the days unfolded after the events, for the very first time in my life I was actually proud to be an American.  I saw our country come together, support, love, aid, and comfort and turn back to God, looking for answers to questions that appeared to have no answers for many people.

One thing to be sure of, since that day, much has changed for many people.  I think it made people realize EVIL really is in this world.  EVIL seeks to destroy whatever it can get it hands on.  Bad things happen because sin entered the world years ago when Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God.  Bad things happen to good people and bad people alike.  No one in this world is immune to the effects of sin.  It is hard to accept and understand many times, but you do not have to live very long to fully understand it.

While I wish, I could protect you from the evils of this world I cannot.  I can tell you it is not fun and on some occasions, it feels like a living hell.  From my experiences, you cannot always make it better.  Time will pass and soon life with throw something else at you that will shake your life.  My hope is that you know and experience love.  Your mom and I love you more than anything in this world.  You were loved and wanted from the beginning and you will be loved and wanted until my dying breath.

Hate is horrible and can destroy people, worlds and nations.  If left unchecked, it has the power to take the very life God breathed into folks.  Hate is all around us, waiting to get its grip on us, to squash the love inside us and motivate us to see and treat people in ways you would never think of.  Hate can taint your view of others, it can cause you to want to lash out and react.  Hate can destroy the very life God distinct hands created for a purpose.  Whatever you do, rid your life of hate.  See all people in the light of God’s eyes.  See them as unique, gifted, talented, and full of hope and purpose; see them as something special to enhance the world in which we live.  Love them with all your might; love them when they are unlovely and despicable.  Love them even harder when you feel even the slightest bit of anger or bitterness creeping up inside.

Your love for another person may be the one thing that changes his or her life forever.  As I reflect back on this day, I am still moved.  I am sorry men held onto hatred so bitter and wicked they took the lives of others.  I am sorry they believed in and followed hatred so strong, the ripple effects of it is still felt today.  Love each other, because after your mom and I are gone, you are all you have of our family.  Take the love your mom and I have for each of you and spread it everywhere.










Silent Sound

Growing up and being rejected I tried hard to get used to the fact that no one wanted me around and to learn to be content with just me.  I was never one who enjoyed the silence.  Left alone with my thoughts my brain never stopped.  I was and have always been my own worst enemy.  The things I dislike most about myself and the things I ruminated on.  Being told you don’t fit or belong time and time again only played into this.  I have never been one of those people who are very comfortable in my own skin.  If people didn’t want to be around me, my Dad didn’t want to be around me, clearly I wasn’t all that desirable.   I kept to myself, my thoughts and my world, I shut down and shut out the world, crying wasn’t any use because that would only make me a target for people to mock.  So I would walk around fearful of people, trying hard to blend in, not be noticed and just left alone.

I believe this is where my first love of music came into place.  I didn’t want the silence, that was deafening and a reminder of all the rejection.  So, I found music to be a place I could lose myself.  Since that time music has always been a place I could find solace.  The lyrics of many songs often identified with how I was feeling.   I don’t remember at what point but I used to make tapes of music I loved to listen to and depending on my mood a lot of the times my way of coping with being alone was to make tapes of really sad and lonely songs and then listen to them over and over.  As I listened to the words blasting from the stereo it would bring me to the point where I could actually cry and feel emotion.

Over the years music has always remained the one thing I carry with me.  I’ve had my headphones, Diskman, iPod and my phone.  I’ve always got music on the radio, computer or laptop.  Music is with me from the time I wake up in the morning till I fall asleep at night.  It’s been there more than anything else and I can always count on it.

I have never grown comfortable with silence.  Even as an adult I hate conversations that don’t flow easily, gaps of time where no one is speaking.  It is always awkward riding in a vehicle when the conversation comes to a halt and no one is talking.  My mind begins racing about what should we talk about next so there isn’t a lull in the conversation.

In my adult life it’s been odd, I have periods of time where I have a lot of friends that I do a lot of things with and then somehow through circumstances those friends move, change jobs or churches and the relationship is not the same and the communication fizzles out.  I end up going back to feelings of being alone with no one to talk to.  Even though I do have friends and really good friends it is still remains difficult and sometimes I harsh reminder of my past.  More times than not I feel like I put all the energy into most of my friendships. When it’s not reciprocated or I get nothing  for a long time I go back to feeling all alone, it’s then I just pull back completely and return to music.

Even in my walk with God I have struggled with this.  There are times I have purposely made it so I did have quiet time and could shut out the world to focus on God.  I don’t practice this as much as I should, I do believe it should be a regular practice.  The world and the things of this world drowned out God so we can’t stay focused on him.  All part of Satan’s plan I believe.  I do try to make it a priority first thing in the morning either going for a walk or on my way to work, just spending time alone with God praying, listening and waiting for him to speak to me.

Maybe that’s why I had a large family and a house full of people.  I don’t want to be in a place where something isn’t going on or happening.  I want to be in a place where someone talks to you.   My house is always full and our house in our neighborhood is the spot to be.  People are constantly going in and out, and there are times where I do need a break and just need some silence and I try to take it, but give me 5 minutes of silence and it immediately takes me back to being alone and I hate that.

The struggle of silence will most likely be a battle I face all my life.  Taking time out and just being silent is healthy, listening to your heart, your mind and your body will tell you a lot.  Most importantly taking time out and spending it with God is what I need for to center and give myself direction.  Silence has a place; it’s just a hard place to be for me.

Sacrificing for Life

Living in the richest country in the world I find it hard to utter the words “I am poor or don’t have much”. Those words used to roll off my tongue growing up in Montana. Growing up was spent living in a trailer, hand-me-downs, Kmart Specials and Goodwill clothes, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and a lot of time we had no health insurance. I was ashamed of what I came from and being looked down upon by the community only it made it worse.

My parents owned 28 acres of land and while we weren’t a sprawling ranch it was enough to keep us busy year round. My responsibilities growing up included feeding & watering the animals, cleaning out the barn, bucking hay bales, mowing a ½ acre of grass as well as cleaning the house and making meals. While there was time to play, there was a very clear expectation to take care of our chores first before we did anything else. It only took a couple of times of not doing it to learn it was better I did it than getting in trouble.

Living here in Portland I miss those responsibilities I had as a kid. My kids main responsibilities is keeping their rooms clean, doing their homework and a couple other chores around the house. They think they have it rough and don’t want to do what we ask of them. Looking at my life growing up compared to what we have now is so vastly different. My kids have yet to fully understand what it is to have to get up and work hard.

Looking at my life as an adult, I am incredibly thankful. God has blessed me with a large home, 3 vehicles, a large family, friends, church, work and a state I love living in. I live in a city that is wealthy with resources available to folks if you want to take advantage of them. I don’t consider myself poor or disadvantaged. Even in times where I say I don’t have any money left, in all honesty I still have money available. I know where my food is coming for every meal and I have shoes and clothes to choose from. I do not consider myself poor, I am wealthy in many ways.

My wife and I chose to have a large family. We chose to have 4 children, and after having them we chose to have 2 international college age exchange students to come and live with us. We also chose to adopt 2 more children. When purchasing our first home we bought a larger house so we could continue with all of this. We made our children share rooms instead of giving them their own so our exchange students could have rooms to use. In doing all of this – family, friends and folks from church and strangers have felt it necessary to tell us how wrong it was we were doing this. We were crazy, ridiculous, thinking only of ourselves, even polluting the planted by adding more life to it. We’ve had people just look at us like we are crazy or be at a loss for words, even telling us it takes “special people” to do this.

Why do we do this? Are we rich by America’s standards, probably not, we’ve lived on one income most of the time and my job in social work isn’t a place where people go to get rich. We do this because God has blessed us. We have more than we could ever need. We are not hurting for anything, we have an abundance. Life isn’t easy in terms of raising a large family and all the extra we added in. We wanted and chose the life we have. It takes work to make it all flow, establishing boundaries, taking time out and getting away, refreshing and recharging. Communication and scheduling are key to our survival. We looked at all that God has given and realized we still had room to do more. We are making sacrifices to impact this world. We are giving up things in our life so that others can be blessed. Does this make us special or deserving of some award or trophy? Does this mean I am bragging and trying to make myself seem better than others. Absolutely not, that is the last thing I want.

What is has done is to challenge me on just how much am I really willing to sacrifice in this life. I know that Jesus chose to sacrifice his life for others, that was his whole purpose. What more I am I willing to sacrifice and give up so that others can benefit. I’ve told my wife and countless others that 6 kids was my limit. I am willing to continue having exchange students live with us, but I want to be done parenting at some point. This past weekend I was at a conference listening to Coach Tony Dungy speak along with Donald Miller and Todd Scott. They were talking about The Mentoring Project and the 1000 kids in our city who need men involved in their lives. A statement made during the conference was “our life is about serving others” . That really resonated with me. As someone who grew up being incredibly selfish and wanting my way all the time, God has given me new lenses for viewing life. Today those lenses are about serving others. I still have moments of selfishness, but when I stop and think about it, really everything I have, comes from God and I am only using it to help others. None of the “things/stuff” I have will be going with me when I pass from this life. Even when my kids are grown and gone, there will still be kids needing good parents, there will still be kids who need love, attention, affection and that someone is there for them. Am I willing to sacrifice for the rest of my life so these kids can be impacted and changed for good?

I have more to think about in regards to sacrifice. I know that my life is going to be lived giving up of my own selfish needs for the needs of others. How much do we truly sacrifice living in America? To what extent are we willing to give up things so we can help others out? These questions have been running through my mind as of late and I think I have the answer, do you?

Really loving one another

Each morning our family rises at 6 am and we start our day off.  Part of this morning routine includes reading a chapter of Proverbs that coincides with the date and having a discussion around the content of the chapter.  It is then followed by praying over my family and lifting up specific prayer requests.

Having a large family is work, I won’t kid you.  Dealing with 6 kids and the different moods they wake up with can quickly turn into a battle royal.  There have been countless mornings where fights over simple things like who gets what spoon or cereal bowl to who gets to ride shotgun on the way to school become all out wars.  We have attempted to demonstrated and continually discuss how you should treat each other, as well as giving them principles of interacting with others in life.  As with any kids, your words sometimes fell on deaf ears.  About a month ago my wife thought it would be a good idea to include  1 Corinthians 13 into our morning ritual. It speaks of how we are to truly love one another.

1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 I believe this passage covers everything. I can honestly say that I do not love others fully as instructed here.  It’s a struggle.  I have no excuses, but I am greatly challenged and reminded every day as to how I should love others.  Every day since we added this in to our morning reading I am reminded of a different way I need to love those around me.  This is a good challenge and one that has also helped my kids really think through the how they are treating each other, even though it’s only been a month, we have seen changes.  That alone speaks volumes.

Tell me honestly, is this how you really love others?  Do you love your family in this manner, how about strangers, co-workers?

Real Authentic Men – Know Your Calling

A strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction or divine influence – as defined by Webster’s dictionary.

The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.  Leave nothing for tomorrow, which can be done today – Abraham Lincoln

Every calling is great when greatly pursued – Oliver Wendell Holmes

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership – Harvey S. Firestone

I was lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do when I was growing up.  I think one of the hardest things to figure out in life is what your calling is, and what truly makes you happy – not what you want to work at, but what you want to do.  – Scott Folley

Growing up most of us discover things that appeal or speaks to us.  Something clicks and we decide that is worth pursuing.  We make choices in regards to college or working, career or profession, singleness or marriage, small family or large.  Will we travel or settle down and if so where we finally land.

In my experiences in working with men, little has to do with knowing your calling.  As men what is it we were meant to do? What are our lives supposed to be about?  What have we been put on this earth for?  Many men can’t even begin to contemplate this, they just keep going and doing the things everyone else has told them to do.  There is a very rare breed of men who understand calling and follow it will all their heart, passion and soul.  Sadly for many men today, this piece is missing in their lives.  They find themselves going to school, working jobs, being husbands and fathers and behind all of it they are miserable.  They are leading lives where existing is just getting by. There is no joy or passion to their life and they have nothing truly inspiring to live for.

It’s really a sobering sight to see, men like this make me weep.  I to have been in this spot in the past.  If men who are supposed to be leaders have no clue about what they are called to do, that leaves the rest of us in peril.  I firmly believe we as men are called to be leaders in all areas of our lives.  I believe this will all my heart.  Men are the ones who need to step up and begin leading. How can this ever begin to happen if we lack the skills,  knowledge and passion for life?

I believe it involves parents who are tuned into their kids, having conversations with them around their hopes; dreams and desires as well as developing their strengths, gifts and talents. Continually building and affirming these areas.  Parents know what their kids can do well and hopefully use this in shaping and molding them in the right direction.  I also believe it comes from others who are invested in the kids lives.  Teachers, mentors, pastors, coaches, and friends all have the ability to speak into our kids lives in ways we as parents can’t.

I know I wanted to be a husband and father from a very young age.  At the core of my being there was nothing else that I desired more in life.  I spent countless hours of my youth imagining what my wife and children would be like and how I would be as the Dad.  No one really gave me the message that I was valuable or that I possessed certain gifts or talents that would help me later on.  I knew when I got to that place in my life, it would be like achieving a gold medal in the Olympics.  As life came and obstacles got in the way I begin to lose sight of this and felt it slipping from my hands.  I began thinking it was never going to happen.  By the time I actually got what I had most desired I was dealing with shame, hurt, anger and pain and not able to really give my best.   Many years later after getting what I so desired I continued feeling I was missing more.  I wasn’t comfortable with myself or who I was and I lived behind masks, trying to put on a good game face for those around me.  I kept doing all the things I believed I needed to do, was told were the right things to do and how I should act and behave.  I always came back to feeling like the last piece to the puzzle was missing.

I began reading books, going to counseling, getting real and honest about my life and evaluating myself in a harsh reality.  That was when it finally hit me.  I was expecting something large and grand, I wanted to be this huge amazing “thing” outside of what I already was and I was filling my life with things that shouldn’t be there.  Suddenly staring back at me was what I had been called to do.  I am called to be a Dad.

As I began to peel back the layers of my life I was able to see that God had put everything in place so I could live out what I had deeply desired all those years ago.  I knew my calling from a very young age and now looking back I can see why I have been put through so much.  The testing and fires have all been for the benefit of my family.  I am no great person, but I am able to do great and mighty things through being a father.   This is my calling – I know it, accept it and I love it, even the hardest of times. As I look back at my life I realize that all that I have been through happened for many reasons, I am not angry or upset – it’s all been for a larger purpose.

The truly sad part is knowing if someone had invested in me years ago and walked me through it, I believe I would have been able to see it clearer long ago.  Not to discount the process of getting there, that’s been a valuable experience.  It’s also the reason I believe in mentoring and investing in men’s lives.

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about my sons.  I want them both to understand and realize they are not alone.  I will always have their backs and am fully invested in their life till the final breath leaves my body.  That is the very reason I started writing Real Authentic Men articles and why I share them with others.  I want my boys to know they were wonderfully created by a God who loves them and placed them into a family where they are loved more than they will ever imagine.  Their gifts and abilities have yet to be explored.  Allowing my sons to realize how truly amazing they are, what they were meant to do and when they are grown stand confident in being men.

The other part for me is knowing I have also been called to invest in the lives of other men. Men who are still sitting there waiting for someone to come along and help them through the process.  Men are valuable; they are not just some bumbling buffoons getting through life.  We’re depicted in a poor light in the media and that is deplorable.  While there is a percentage of men who live their lives as we see depicted, the men whose lives I get to be involved in are not like this at all.  The want to move past their hurts, pains and the things that hold them back.  They want to  become men who don’t just sit allowing life to pass them by.  Men who live life to the fullest and live out what they have been called to do.

Real authentic men know their calling and use it to impact the world around them.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor, president, married or single.  Be the man, know your calling, step up, lead the way and do so that those around you will be inspired to do the same.




Real Authentic Men- Leads with love and destroys parasites

As men, we should be leading our families in all areas.  This isn’t to say your wife doesn’t have any say, in fact she should be sought out and asked her input and feedback on all decisions, the difference being you as the leader make the final decisions.  Please don’t misunderstand this is not about power and control, it’s about doing the very best for your family.  Putting the needs of your wife and children first and ensuring their needs are taken care of prior to worrying about yourself.


As the husband I believe that you need to have an idea of what your life is about or your mission.  I also believe that you are living out your values and beliefs in everything you do and you children are picking up on this in more ways than you can imagine.  I wonder if your kids really know what your values are, do they fully understand why you do all that you do? In our home we have a mission statement posted up in our dining room.  We use this as a point of reference for our children so they understand why we live our life the way we do and what makes us run.  Here’s what ours looks like.


The mission of our family is…

to create a place of truth, love, happiness, and acceptance

to provide opportunities for each person to take chances in order to achieve worthwhile purposes.

to wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others…

We will…Put our relationship with Christ above all things in our home
We will…Look to God’s word for the answers tough questions
We will…Honor mom and dad
We will…Respect mom and dad’s time alone
We will…Love and protect each other, to the death if need be
We will…Obey the Lord and mom and dad
We will…Honor God with sound money decisions
We will…Put God and our family before any other activities
We will…Worship together as a family
We will…Be available; Be affectionate; Give affirmation; And accept one another

Deuteronomy 6:5-9
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk with them when you sit at home and when you walk along side the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates”


We came to this by sitting down as a family, discussing key values and my wife and I sharing our values as parents and what we are trying to impart into our children.  This ended up being a fantastic discussion and we were able to have our kids express what was important to them.  Based on the response from my family I was able to put our mission statement together.  In doing so this has given our family something to stand for.  This document is a living and breathing document and can change over the course of time.  My wife and I feel like it’s a solid statement about what our family stands for and are extremely proud of what we came up with together.


As the leader of my family I am called to many things.  Being responsible for my wife and children, their welfare, safety and many other needs.  Because I dearly love each one of them, I want to give them the best of myself and everything else that I can.  Each one is unique, different and because of this they each have needs that I need to be aware, so I can do my best to meet those needs.  I am not able to do this if I am not tuned in and making them a priority in my life.


I do this by engaging them in conversations. I am purposeful in my questions and discussions so that I know what is really going on inside their head and most importantly their heart.  As with all of my relationships I don’t ever want to know just surface type things I want to know what’s at someone’s heart.  When something comes up, I continue talking with them so this process is always going and I can help through what’s going on. Do I do this perfectly all the time, no I mess up and I have to go back and ask forgiveness from my wife and kids.  That’s also part of the process.


I have always been one to treat my kids as if they have important things to say and make sure their voice is important.  We have family meetings where we talk about different issues and everyone gets a say.  They have input in what is going on and I want feedback from them.  As a family we discuss everything and my wife and I do our part to educate our children so they can make informed decisions.  Often it’s been during these times I find out from their perspective if something is bothering them, offending them or hurting them.  Upon finding out these things I move into action.


If something is an obstacle, offensive or is blocking anyone in my family from moving forward then I am going to do my part to remove it.  Anything that will take away from our family and cause it to move us away from our target is something that needs to be destroyed.  This has taken on many forms over the years.  Things like unhealthy family members, poor boundaries, peers who can’t respect our family or children.  Believe me the list is lengthy and it will continue to grow.  At the heart of all of it, my family is my #1 priority and whatever it takes to keep them in that spot is what I will do.  I refer to my family as an empire.  I am the knight in battle protecting my empire and dynasty.  If you try to destroy a part of that I will take you out and not look back.  I do all that I do because I love my family and even though I don’t always speak or act in a loving way at home, my wife and kids know that I would lay down my life to protect them.


As a man, you have a lot resting on your shoulders, especially as a husband and father.  We wear many hats and in doing so, at the core of who we are; love for our family should be at the center of all of it.  This is a high calling, but one worth more than anyone really ever talks about.  A battle is never easy, but it’s a battle that is worth laying your life down.  When all is said and done, a husband and father who will do whatever it takes to take care of his family is someone worthy of great admiration and respect.  Step up and take your spot, time waits for no man.


As a husband and father – How well do you love your family?  Are you motives and actions done out of love for them?  Does your family have a mission?  Do you look at the larger picture when it comes to them? What are you doing to make sure that you are removing all obstacles that will take your family off course?

Real Authentic Men – Wisdom

Ever been around anyone who just seems to ooze wisdom? I have and those people are very admirable to me. They seem to have the right answers at the right time and are able to speak into situations or people’s lives words that penetrate deeply. That is the type of man I hope to be.

I have this long standing dream of when I reach the age of 70 or older, people will seek me out because of the wisdom I posses. I desire to be recognized as someone who has the answers as well as having lived my life to the fullest each and every day. The other part I would like to be known for is that I was able to offer up the right words to say for any situation. That may be a far-fetched dream for some, but for me, this is what I truly desire. I am attempting to live each day fully and take in all I can so one day I become the man I wish to be.

So how does one become wise? Great question and I believe there are a few ways in which this can take place. First of all, if you want to be wise, study and read the book of Proverbs. Secondly, place wise men and women in your life who are genuine, honest and live lives of integrity. We tend to pick up traits and characteristics of those around us we admire. A lot of life has to do with stealing good ideas from other and applying it to our life.

I value others as they were designed in the image of God. Those I greatly respect and admire men and women whose very lives have been a living example of wisdom. The stories they have to share about their life experiences are valuable. We can glean so much from what they have to say. So many times they are taken for granted and just brushed aside as having no value, yet if you stop and really listen to them, you will be blown away with what they have to say and share in regards to life. I have gained many nuggets of wisdom I have applied to my life by just sitting and listening to an elderly person talk.

I believe in educating yourself on as many topics as you can. Read a book, research, talk to others who are involved in that area, do what ever you can to enrich your life and experience new activities. Life is full of so many things and you can become rich in experiences by taking part. I am never quite sure in this day and age how one becomes an expert on something. I don’t think raising 6 kids will make me an expert on parenting but I certainly will have gained many insights into child rearing I might not have if I hadn’t raised a large family. I don’t believe at any time you should stop educating yourself, we should always be a learner of life and what is available to us. I myself have lived a life of being an avid learner and not just going to college, but also finding other means to educate myself and know a little or sometimes a lot about certain topics.

Experience is a great teacher. We all make mistakes, part of the human part of living is learning to take risks and learn from our mistakes. If you aren’t trying, you’re not attempting and in my opinion you will have a very dull and boring life. We can continue to repeat the same mistakes or we can look at our mistake as an opportunity to change the future and make a wiser choice in the future.

3 years ago I was invited by a friend to get together with a group of 6 other men and read the book of Proverbs daily for a year. We met monthly and discussed how our lives changed as we read it monthly. Our group took on the name “Wise Guys”. That experience was deeply rewarding and I can say from my own experience I gained wisdom like I never had before. In the midst of going through that year I also read an article from a man who had middle school children and they read the book of Proverbs for 1 year and they shared how in reading and talking about it, the children shared how it helped them make wiser choices when they entered high school. That reinforced it for me and I began doing that daily with my own children as well as continuing to do it for myself. Reading through Proverbs and daily praying for wisdom has had a significant impact in how I make decisions. The “Wise Guys” group is still meeting and though we have moved on to other topics I feel like that was a pivotal year for me and I grew in ways I never imagined.

As a man, husband and father, I want my family to know that I am making wise solid decisions that have been thought out. I want them to trust and depend when I make a decision it’s generally going to be the correct one and yet when I do make a mistake, being man enough to admit that and ask for forgiveness. As a leader in many areas of my life where people are depending on me to make serious decisions affecting others lives, I believe the same principles apply. As men continuing to make wise choices and decisions, this soon becomes habit forming and eventually becomes a way of life. Living a life using wisdom often leaves me feeling good about my choices and with few regrets.

Real Authentic Men – Servant Leadership

Does is sound foreign to you for a leader to be a servant? I think probably in most cultures this seems like an odd thing to do. If I am the leader then I should be dictating what happens and making sure everyone is doing what they have been told to do. Well yes, that is true, but I believe it involves so much more than just being a dictator and ordering people around.

Servant Leadership is about a man humbling himself to put the needs of others above his own. Are you a husband, it’s your wife and kids. If you’re a supervisor or manager it’s your employees. I want to make sure those I am put in charge of have their needs met first and I authentically show them I care about them. This may mean I have to humble myself and do things I don’t really want to do, but because I am committed to being real and authentic I suck it up and do it. There’s an old saying that “more is caught then taught”. I believe this is true and in so many areas of life. As a parent kids see so much of what we do and often it’s the things we don’t want them picking, they end up emulating.

I believe when you start losing sight of this, you become a dictator who barks orders and forgets about putting others before yourself. You essentially want your own way and use people to get that accomplished. I don’t see how this demonstrates to others you’re genuinely concerned about them. We’ve all seen dictators and I am sure we can all recall someone who has been a dictator or tyrant in our own life. It’s never any fun to work with someone like this, because his or her number one concern is “I” and how “I” get ahead and use whatever means it takes to carry out this.

As a man who wants to be real and authentic across the board (wife, kids, employees, friends), I try extremely hard to put the needs of other ahead of me and make sure they are taken care of first. It can be as simple as letting others go before myself when eating, taking out my trash at work or listening to what everyone else has to say before I share my own thoughts and ideas. As a supervisor at work I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. There have been many times I have rolled up my sleeves and cleaned or did some task alongside staff or even by myself to prove this.  Did I do it to gain approval, not at all, I did it because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Even at home, while I am the leader of my home, I constantly attempt to show this to my wife and kids. I am not perfect at it.  There are plenty of times I don’t do a good job, I fail and act selfish.  I also know it’s the rigth way to love my family and I get up and do it again and again.  It’s my top priority that my family knows they are extremely valued, cared for and loved. I constantly think of ways to show them their needs are important and that is no easy task in my house of 8 people. Most of the time  our kids are focused only on themselves and think little of others. I continue to impress upon my kids the importance of putting others before themselves. In this “me focused” society, I want them to know they are not the center of the world.  They and important however there are more important things than always having your own way. Really it’s no different for me or anyone else. If people are valuable, which they are, put them first and you will be surprised the rewards you reap from living a life of serving others. This doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t need to take a break and get recharged, but always thinking others are more important than myself, I have found in my experience it makes my relationships with others so sweetie-fresh.

Adoption Story Part I

Prior to meeting my wife, I always had dreams of having a large family.  My ideal family consisted of a son, another son,  twin red-headed girls and then another son to finish it off.   I also knew if I never got married I was going to adopt a child,  (somehow, someday I would be a father) whatever it took I would make this happen.  On the first date my wife and I had I asked her this question “How many children do you want?”  She told me 4.  I told her I planned on having 5 and was she alright with this, because if it wasn’t there wasn’t any need for us to pursue dating.  She said she was fine with it and so we continued dating and 1 year later we got married.

6 weeks after we were married I asked my wife if she would stop taking birth control and get started on having a family.  She was more than overjoyed to do this and within a couple of days she was pregnant.  9 months later our daughter who is now 14 came into the world and we were both extremely happy.  We didn’t know till the day she was born we were having a girl, it took me all of 2 minutes to get over not having a son as my first child.

Around the time our daughter was 10 months old we began talking about more kids and what our future would hold.  We both agreed we were not going to use birth control any longer and leave it in God’s hands.  We also began discussing adoption and possibly adopting a child from another country.  We started pursuing this, obtaining information through various agencies on what it would take and the costs involved to adopt a child.  We didn’t know how we would ever afford to do it, but somehow God would provide a way for us to do this.

We decided to pray about it and see where God led us.  It was shortly after this we found out my wife was pregnant again and so we put our thoughts of adoption on the back burner.  Our son joined our family and I was more than overjoyed to finally have the son I had always dreamed of.

My son was turning 1 and we began the talk again about adoption.  We started praying and weighing our options and sure enough my wife was pregnant again.  After my son joined us, my wife was pregnant again 2 more times and two more daughters joined our family.  Not exactly close to what I had hoped for, however I was incredibly happy to have these 4 children.  They were very much a blessing from God.  When my wife had our 4th daughter we were told she could not birth anymore children.  All 4 of our children were born by C-section.  Because my wife’s body didn’t cooperate, having any more children could risk her health and I wasn’t about to chance it.  So we accepted this was the family God wanted for us, 4 kids was enough and we were content with our family.

Something I should mention here, twins run on both sides of our family and every time my wife was pregnant I prayed throughout the entire pregnancy God would give us twins.  I prayed daily for this until I was assured there was only 1 baby in there and even then I held out hope that somehow they were wrong.

Fast forward life with 4 kids, we are busy, living life, doing our thing and we get a call asking to come to a family meeting for my wife’s brother and his wife at the DHS (Department of Child and Family Services ) office.  He and his wife have struggled in their marriage, had their oldest child removed from their home by DHS because the mom has mental health issues and their home was a toxic environment; unsafe for him to live.  We were asked if we would step in and do Foster Care for our nephew until things get better between the parents.  We didn’t even think twice about it, we just stepped in, took him in and took care of him.  We had less than a favorable experience in doing this and learned a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened, however our nephew was given back to his parents.  We didn’t have a lot of contact with them afterwards as our relationship had been very strained with them.

In January 2007 about 6 months after our nephew returned home to his parents we received an unexpected call came from my brother-in-law asking if I could meet him for coffee.  I went and met with him and found out they were pregnant again and because DHS was still involved in their lives they were told, they had 2 option, either abort the baby or give it up for adoption. If they proceeded to have the baby and try to keep it, they would remove the baby and place it in the foster care system.  So he came to me asking if my wife and I would consider adopting the baby so it could stay in the family.  I told him we would talk about this and get back to him.  I came home and laid out the story for my wife.  We had some heart to heart discussions, prayed about it and felt like it was the right choice and told them yes we would adopt the baby.

Immediately I set to work figuring out how to legally adopt a relative’s child.  After some time of searching we found a lawyer and we began moving forward with the process. I informed the parents about the lawyer and we were all on the same page at that point.

After one of the doctor appointments, the mom began sharing stories of what was going on at home. He was abusive and treating she and their son poorly.  She could no longer handle this and wanted to know if you could come and stay with us.  Based on some of the things she told us, we could see these things happening and felt like it would be ok for her to take and break from the situation.  No sooner had she and her son moved in when we noticed a significant change in our home.  We went from calm and peace to chaos.  It’s hard to define, because it’s not so much in actions but there just seems to be drama of some type and “stuff” that follows her that doesn’t make it easy to be around her.   They tried to make it work, she moved back home for bit, but it didn’t change and she and their son moved back with us.

As a result of all the drama between them, DHS became more even more involved in their life.  Safety plans were put in place for the mom and their son and we were ultimately responsible for taking care of the mom.  My wife and I continued to help support her throughout the rest of the pregnancy.  My wife attended all the prenatal appointments, and she helped prepare her for the birth.  While my wife was doing these things I was working with the lawyer to get all the paperwork in order and getting the parents to sign off on things.  My plan was to have the final paperwork ready for signatures shortly after the baby was born so the adoption would be complete.  Now that the mom was living with us, things began to change.

We made it clear to the mom that she needed to find a shelter or move in with a friend or someone else after the baby was born. We agreed she could stay with us for one week, but after that she would need to leave and we wanted our family to be able to bond with the baby.  The time was approaching for the baby to come and the doctors ended up scheduling an C-section and she also planned to have her tubes tied.  The day the baby arrived, my wife took them to the hospital and she delivered Hope.  I stayed home with the kids and kept them company while they did their part.  After she was born we went and visited a couple of times throughout the day.  Finally, it was time to come home and we all came back to our house.

We held firm, she stayed for one week and despite not putting any real effort into finding a shelter she luckily found one and she and her son moved into a shelter.

Hope was lovingly welcomed into our home.  The only problem was now the mom had decided she wasn’t quite ready to sign off on the papers just yet.  Since she was in a shelter it was difficult to get a hold of her and she only responded through e-mail.  She continued to drag it out longer and longer and then turned on us and wanted nothing to do with us.  Somehow she found a lawyer all on her own and in talking with the lawyer convinced the lawyer that we would pay for her to help with her divorce and get what she wanted out of the adoption.  She refused to sign or move any further unless we paid for her lawyer.  This is where things turned for me and it became difficult for my wife and I.  I was tired of the mom and her games.  I was sick and tired of this battle.  We were taking care of Hope, providing everything for her and yet had no legal right to her.  Her parents could have come in at any time and taken her away from us and we had no leg to stand on.  In my mind I wasn’t about to fight over this child.  My wife was willing to lay down her life for this little baby, but I wasn’t there yet.

When we had done Foster Care for her older brother I did all that I could to take care of him.  I provided him with the basics, but my heart was not in it.  He was not mine and I didn’t have all these warm and fuzzy feelings for him, like my wife did.  I didn’t connect with him in a way I thought I would and it was vastly different from my own kids.  Not that I would ever let something happen to him, but my feelings for my own kids versus what I felt for him were not the same and no matter how hard I tried my feelings weren’t changing.  Now the same thing was happening with Hope.  While I wanted to make sure she was taken care of properly, I was continuing to do all I could to bond with her, but I wasn’t feeling the feelings I had for my own kids.  I packed her around all the time, held her more than anyone else, kissed and hugged her and treated her no differently then I did with our older 4 kids after they were born. However those feelings still were not there.

Due to the mom’s unwillingness to move forward and I wasn’t about to pay for her lawyer. I was ready to tell her to come and take her baby and be responsible for her, we weren’t going to do it.  I had enough of her games and I wasn’t going to fight over a child that wasn’t mine.  I remember lying on the couch with Hope on my chest one Friday afternoon just looking at her.  Something changed inside of me.  I looked at her and saw how beautiful and wonderful she was and I offered up a prayer to God.  “God, I offer this child up to you, she belongs to you and you know what’s best for her, I pray blessings upon this little girl and if you want me to take care of her I will.”  As soon as I uttered those words my heart melted and changed.  I don’t know how or why but it did.  A day after that things began changing.  The mom was suddenly willing to begin signing papers, however she still wanted her lawyer paid for.  After talking with our lawyer we negotiated just what we would pay for, the adoption and nothing more.  She agreed to this and we moved forward with her adoption.  Prior to her 1st birthday the adoption was finalized.  All of our many prayers answered; it was done.  She was officially our daughter.  In my heart she had become my daughter the day I offered up that prayer to God.

Since then Hope has been a huge blessing to our family.  She is a funny, gregarious, bossy little girl who we all love and enjoy.  She’s just like all of our other kids.  I never thought I would feel the way I feel about her, but I am so glad my heart changed.  She is my daughter and I believe that God designed our family this way.

Voices from within

I hear voices.  Not auditory voices that some folks hear, or even those that mentally ill folks hear.  These are not voices that are telling me to hurt others or myself.  I work with folks who have those types of voices. Some might call it a conscience, others might call it intuition.  Whatever you want to refer to it, it’s there.  It’s been there since I was a small kid.

I have days and sometimes weeks where all of these voices in my head seem to be shouting loudly to me.  While I was growing up, anything negative said to me stuck inside me like it had been permanently attached to me.  “Jerk, loser, worthless, waste of time, never amount to anything, fag, pussy, wimp, selfish, failure, mistake, fat, dumb, stupid, lazy, whiner.”  Those and more are what I heard most of the time growing up, and as I got older I heard most of these repeatedly throughout the day.

When I would make mistakes, I would absolutely feel like a loser.  I would start repeating everything over and over in my head that was said to me to reinforce the fact I had made mistakes.  I would sit there in my desk at school thinking about just how awful I truly was as a kid and that if this was everyone’s opinion of me it must be true.

As the years went on and more and more things got slung at me, I would incorporate those into my monologue of things I told myself.  As I graduated, started working and going to school, sure enough the patterns followed.  Anytime I made a mistake, even the smallest one, the voices came loud and clear, reminding me of everything people had always said about me and here again it was true.  I really hadn’t come very far in my life.  I was still the same messed up person.

Even after I got married and had kids, the voices have still been there.  When I make a mistake with my wife or kids, or I mess up on finances, those voices are right there as a reminder.  I take my job as a husband and father extremely serious and when I do something that affects everyone else, that weights incredibly heavy on me.  I feel like less than a man.  Even though I will admit my mistakes to my family and ask for forgiveness, it still takes me a long time to come out of it.  I just feel like I have let them down and there’s nothing I can do to make it up to them for this failure.

I know that Jesus looks at me differently, yet even as a believer, being at church and hearing the opposite, that seems to make little difference.  There are days I feel really good about myself and interactions with close friends and family that build me up, are incredibly helpful.  I know the curses that have been spoken to me over the years really aren’t true or who I am.  I don’t want to be prideful either and inflate my ego, because I can do that all to easily.  On the days where I make mistakes and I know it will pass onto others, those are the days I hear those voices telling me those things.

I don’t want to pass this on to my kids, so I spend as much time as a I can to affirm them and build them up and tell them how beautiful and wonderful they are.  I am so incredibly thankful for them and how blessed I am to have them in my life.

Honestly, this is my gift I want to give to others, to build them up and affirm them.  I know how much it’s hurt and affected my life and I wish it were different.  I don’t want anyone to feel like they aren’t good enough or don’t matter, because in all honesty that is just not true.  We were all created for so much more.

Does this resonate with you? What do you do when that voice in your head tells you things that aren’t true?