This Post is Wobbly

August 15, 2017 v4 p31

When you aren’t standing firmly on all of your bases, your life gets a little wobbly.  Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t been firm on all four of my basis, and it has become noticeable.

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For the longest time I thought I only need three footings to build my foundation on.  Those were family, friends, and fitness.  I have always put my family first.  When my oldest son was born I did everything for him.  When my wife and I reconciled, I did everything for her and our son.  When our youngest child was born I did everything for all three of them.  I tried to maintain a social life through that period, and really only ended up with a few very close friends.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There are people from the past that I still maintain contact with, but it’s not at the level of friendship that those close friends have.  There are some people that I don’t maintain contact with that I wish I did get in touch with more often.  But we’ve all gone our separate ways, and when we do reconnect it is always good.  My fitness wasn’t really a big focus for me other than not really eating too poorly.  I certainly didn’t follow any specific diet, but I tried to maintain a fairly balanced diet.

A couple of years after we moved back to my hometown I began going to the gym.  That really had an impact on me.  Fitness was now the number two focus of my foundation, and I actually dropped to weights that I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.  It felt nice to be able to put jeans on that were smaller than the size I wore in high school.  Granted I think the fashion industries measurements aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.  I hadn’t felt that trim since I was a teenager.  Then I began running.  That doesn’t sound like something that would cause weight gain, although it isn’t uncommon if you’re training for long distances.  What running led to was injuries.  That always led to excuses.  Which in turn, would lead to more injuries.  For the past five years I’ve started a solid workout routine, only to injury myself and have to take weeks off.  That is always followed by a tough time getting back in to a routine.  This is where I’m at right now.

Then my manager encouraged me to reconnect with my faith.  It was the single most life changing event in my life.  The more I allowed myself to follow where I was supposed to go, the easier everything else became around me.  I’ve seen in my own life how the power of prayer has worked.  That’s why I continue to pray every day.  Sometimes I feel like my prayers are getting a little stale, or that I’m praying for the wrong thing.  Then, as He always does, He reveals to me that I’m praying for exactly what He wants for me.  That is always enough to remind me that no matter how stale my prayer may feel, it’s always enough for Him.  I never thought that anything would become a more important footing for my foundation than my family.  I truly believe that my faith is the most important of those footings.  It is the basis from which all of the other footings are formed.  I brought my family with me, and began making more friendships at my church, building a strong foundation.

Then I read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  Of all the professional development books I’ve read, this is a top three influencer for me.  One of the last principles that Covey speaks about is the four parts to your foundation.  This was an eye opener for me.  The first one he speaks about is your faith.  I’ve put that first already.  Then there is your family, they are what drives me and encourages me to do what I need to get done.  At the time I was going to the gym five days a week, so that was covering my fitness foundation.  With all of that going on it didn’t leave much time to build on those friendships.  I’ve made a few that I fully hope will become stronger, but nothing yet like the ones I have with those few close friends from my early adulthood.  Between church, sports, and scouts almost all of my evenings were booked up.  It didn’t leave a lot of time for socializing.  My wife and I didn’t get much of a chance to go out without the kids, and some of the other socializing went by the wayside.  So I knew it was that area that I needed to work on.

I still haven’t figured out how to fully transition to a four footing foundation.  While always concentrating on my faith and family, I tried to focus on friends, and that has caused my fitness to fall off.  Well, at almost 42-years-old it doesn’t take long for your fitness level to drop off.  I rehabbed my recurring injury and was able to start running again.  I continued with the simple strength exercises that I had learned through PT and was able to run at a good pace.  I trained for and ran a 5k last October.  Then I stopped.  Not sure why, but my GPS watch tells the story.  There was a four month period where I was running three or four days per week.  Then nothing.  I started back up in the spring some, then twisted my knee coaching my son’s soccer team.  Again, nothing.  The stress of having your oldest child graduate from high school and then get ready to go off to college is really starting to show.  It’s starting to show every time I look down.

I’ve always had a hard time controlling my eating.  In the past I didn’t eat a lot of junk.  There were always donuts, and ice cream, and candy bars.  Before I would have only one of those three in a month.  Lately I haven’t been doing so well.  Then there is the issue with my portion sizes.  About 10 years ago we made the conscious decision to switch to the seven inch plates in our cabinet for dinner, unless we were having a big holiday meal.  That helped some.  It still doesn’t stop me from piling the spaghetti higher, or getting a second helping.  A few weeks ago I started doing some speed and footwork drills with my youngest son to get ready for the soccer season.  We do those two days a week, then run around the neighborhood three days a week.  After the first week I determined that my knees are going to hold up to that schedule, so I started adding more distance to my running.  Last weekend I was able to go two miles without stopping.  It was the slowest two miles I’ve run on pavement in six years.  I don’t like it.  This may be the kick start I need.  If I can get my diet straightened out it will help a lot too.

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I started rebuilding my life on my faith foundation.  I’m almost done rebuilding my family, and I’m just starting to rebuild my fitness.

This Post is Addicting

August 2, 2017 v4 p30

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to when I returned to my faith.  Coming face-to-face with my worst faults wasn’t one of them.

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I began looking for more content about my faith a couple of years ago.  I came across a bunch of different speakers on YouTube.  Fr. Mike posts all of his podcasts there so I put his name into the search bar.  It returned a bunch results that weren’t his weekly podcasts.  It seem that he is a speaker in high demand around the country at Catholic Conferences.  I started listening to his talks at some of these conferences while I do my inventory control work, where I’m out in the warehouse away from the rest of my team.  It is something I look forward to every morning.  My wife and I started watching them together after the kids go to bed and they turn control of the TV back over to us.  There are a lot of the other speakers from those events who have their talks posted as well.  They are all great, and very insightful to me.  There are two besides Fr. Mike that I listen to regularly.

After a few months I started to notice something in common among most of the male speakers I listen to.  Almost all of them have admitted to having an addiction to pornography earlier in their lives.  That really hit home, because one of those faults I wasn’t looking forward to meeting was what I’ve now come to realize was my own addiction to porn.  This has been a significant thing for me to come to grips with.  I’ve listened to the speakers describe how the women are usually drunk when performing, forced into performing, and generally treated as a slave.  It help me put together that by watching porn I not only backed the people enslaving the performers, but I was more or less treating all women the same.  It really made me think about how I treated sex in my own marriage.  I’ve apologized to my wife for the way I approached out sex life.  It’s allowed me to take my faith to a whole new level.

There are some pretty astonishing facts about the porn industry that actually shocked me.  The porn industry in the United States makes more sales than all four professional sports leagues.  The average adolescent boy has seen a pornographic image by the age of 11.  I was way ahead of the curve on that one, thanks neighborhood high schoolers.  So it’s out there, everywhere.  It’s never been as easy to access it as it is right now.  There was a report done on the local news on how a teenager could access porn in less than 10 seconds on their mobile devices a few weeks ago.  It showed how simple it is to find it on search engines.  We do image searches to see what kind of parts we’re looking for at work.  The joke used to be how far you would have to scroll down on the results before you came across a result that was NSFW.

It’s starting to make its way into mainstream media as well.  As people become desensitized to what they see in private, it takes more for something to grab your eye in public.  That has caused marketing teams to gravitate towards more immodest advertising.  Clothing industries start making their clothes smaller.  Sports media groups start publishing magazine article with athletes posing nude.  It’s hard to go on the internet and see articles that show how little a celebrity wore to the beach.  Which famous person is in the latest sex scandal.  These images are the biggest struggle I have with my addiction right now.  I struggle to not click on the articles or scroll through the slideshow in the magazine article.  To help combat that I don’t do much surfing on the web.  I spend more time on the internet than most people because of my job, and that help’s too.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched what most people would consider pornography.  Unfortunately I have many images stuck in my head that I have to struggle against for the rest of my life.

I gain the strength to fight this addiction from my faith life.  The speakers I listen to.  My deepened love for my wife, our marriage, and our Covenant with God.  My daily prayer life is centered on asking for forgiveness.  I have been to confession for this, and it was at that point when I began to feel the His forgiveness.  It also lead me to more introspection about myself.  Through that I have been able to be more of the man my wife needs me to be so that I can fulfill my Covenant by making sure she makes it to heaven.  I have come to realize that is what I am here for.  Through all of our past I always felt that it was still meant to be.  We took a tough road to get here, but I hope my wife can see how I have changed and trusts that I will do everything I can for her.  I can never say I’m sorry enough for the pain I put our family through due to my addiction.

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They say addicts are never really fully cured.  I guess for now you can say that I’m “on the wagon.”

Relay for Life 2017

When you hear commercials for drugs they give you all kinds of statistics about what disease or illness they help fight, they then go on to spend the other 85% of their air time telling you about how their drug can kill you.  There are a lot of statistics about cancer, but no drugs that can cure it.

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Every year starting in 2001 my family has been participating in the Relay for Life in some form or another.  The early years of that was through our employer.  After my mom passed away in 2007 from brain cancer we decided to form our own fundraising team.  This was for her memory, and to honor my mother-in-law who is a 20+ year survivor of breast cancer.  Over the years we’ve had other people join our team and leave our team.  We aren’t too picky about who is on our team, just as long as they’re trying to achieve the same goal we are.  Trying to find a cure for cancer.

The one statistic I want to bring up every year is that 2 out of every 3 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes.  I sit at my desk and look at my other 3 coworkers and know that most, if not all of us will end up with this horrible disease at some point in our lives.  I have a hard time finding people to talk to who haven’t been affected by cancer in some way.  Either they were diagnosed themselves, or they know a family member or friend who has.  This disease knows no age limits.  It doesn’t discriminate in any way against age, gender, race, color, religious beliefs, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.  It is rare that I go a week without hearing of someone I know personally who is diagnosed, or being examined for, this horrible disease.

Until recently this hadn’t hit home too much other than my mother.  My mother-in-law’s fight came before I knew her.  Last fall as my wife and I were waiting for our youngest son’s basketball game to start one Saturday morning we ran in to a longtime friend who had supported our team in the past.  We asked him what was new, and he seemed a little distraught and asked his wife to take their daughter into the hall.  Earlier that week he went to ER to be treated for what he thought was gall stones.  About 36 hours later and a bunch of testing he was home, with a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis.  This is a man who is only three years older than me.  I still have a hard time grasping what he’s going through.  Not only with treatments, but also knowing that he has a grim prognosis and there is a distinct possibility that he will lose his fight before his children graduate from high school.

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Examples like this have helped me realize this is truly why I participate in the Relay for Life.  I still love to remember my mother, and honor my mother-in-law, but if I can be a part of something that potentially could help my friend live to see his kids graduate, walk his daughter down the aisle, or hold his grandchildren, then sign me up.  If I can help raise money for an organization that wants to see the same things I do in regards to this horrible disease, then sign me up.

This year has turned out to be a little more challenging when preparing for the Relay.  Our oldest son graduated from high school this past spring and is getting ready to head off to Western Michigan University in late August.  That’s caused some schedule changes in our personal lives that we’ve never had before.  So our participation in the year’s event is going to be much less significant that in the past.  That doesn’t change any of the need for what we do.  I have yet to see a legitimate news story that is about the cure for cancer.  There are many stories out there claiming that there are certain foods or supplements you can take to cure cancer.  Those claims are pretty baseless, because while they may help, if they were truly effective then the FDA would be regulating them.

This year we have made the decision to be part of the event in a lessor role.  We plan to spend a majority of the first day walking and visiting with all of the people we have come to know through our local event.  We will be attending to luminary ceremony and lighting up a few for those close to us.  This doesn’t change the need for your donations, and there’s still time for you to donate, but this year’s event is coming up quickly, 8/4-5, so don’t delay.  If you would like to make an online donation (preferred method) you can go to www.relayforlife.org/barrymi and still make a donation to the event.  If you prefer not to make an online donation you can mail or drop off a donation at my house, please hit me up for directions.  If you are writing a check please make it out to the American Cancer Society and we will make sure it gets turned in.  If you can’t make a donation by check right now there are other ways to donate.  One of the ways I’ve been raising money is through bottle refunds.  My coworkers have been brining me their returnable bottles and every one I turn in goes towards our fund-raising efforts.  If you’ve got a bunch lying around the house let me know and we can make arrangements to get them.

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So while our time wasn’t able to be put towards the Relay for Life as much as we would have liked this year, it doesn’t change the need for funding.  I hope you can find time in your day to donate, it may save your own life later.

On the Anniversary of Our Covenant

June 19, 2017 v4 p23

Today I celebrate 18 years of marriage with my wife Denise.  That’s in the eyes of God, not the State of Michigan.

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The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (7:1601 CCC).  I stood in front both of our families and our friends and entered into this covenant with you on June 19, 1999.  I promised to love you through everything.  I entered into it without coercion, freely and whole heartedly.  I promised to love and honor you as long as we both shall live.  I promised to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Despite a bumps along the road, these vows never changed.  Even in times when we weren’t together in the eyes of the state, I always felt like we were in still in the covenant.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You have told me how every other guy you dated while we were separated was compared to me in your mind.  I did the same thing.  When I told my friends that we were reconciling they gave me a hard time.  They knew how much it really took for me to get over our separation.  Although I never really was.  I tried to do what I could to get our relationship back to where it was that day when we stood in front of God and entered that covenant.  You probably got annoyed with me a few times over that.  I’m glad that I never stopped “annoying” you.

Over the past few months some pretty big events have taken place in our family that have reminded me of this covenant we entered.  When our youngest son was welcomed fully into the Catholic Church I felt the receiving of the sacrament.  I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what it was.  It was truly great feeling to see how He was blessing our family.  I was completely shocked at how receptive our oldest son was to attending that event, given his previous lack of interest in the church.  To sit with you and our son at The Mass every week is another time I experience this sacrament.  When we join hands to pray “The Our Father” it doesn’t feel like there is an extra person between the two of us.  It’s as if I was standing right next to you, holding your hand.

I have been feeling the same experience when we have been attending events that are tied to our oldest son’s high school graduation.  I couldn’t explain it after the awards ceremony but it came to me at the graduation ceremony a couple of days later.  The sense of joy, pride, and excitement I felt for him, and our family was the fruits of our covenant and what felt receiving the sacrament all over again.  Once all of the dust settled and we were able to participate in his grad party I felt it again, although on a much smaller scale.  I would feel that same feeling I do at The Mass when I would get up with him early in the morning while we were staying at my parents.  I would put him in bed with me to try and get a few more hours of sleep out of him.  Lying in bed next to him felt exactly like lying in bed next to you.  This can only be from our covenant.

Through the past 18 years we have certainly had our ups and downs.  That doesn’t change any of the vows I said on the day we entered into this covenant.  I look forward to seeing how God guides the rest of our live together and how we will continue to receive this sacrament of matrimony.   This excites me more than anything else about our marriage.  To see how we have grown together over the past two and a half years since we returned to our faith is awesome.  The best dates I’ve had with you have come in that time period, and have all taken place at our church or with other people we know through Holy Family.  Things are a little rocky right now, but we will make it through with His help and the strength of our covenant with God.

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This Friday marks 13 years in the eyes of the state, but it’s today’s anniversary that has proven to be the truth.  I love you Denise!  I look forward to see where the rest of this covenant journey takes us!

This Post is Hectic

June 8, 2017 v4 p22

During the end of May and early June are always hectic for me, this year is no different on my calendar.  The difference this year is where I am drawing my strength to get through it all.

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This year things really started escalating on my calendar when my oldest son turn 18 on May 11th.  It was exactly two weeks prior to graduation, and they seemed to go by with lightning speed.  During those two weeks I had to coach my younger son’s soccer team, take him to scout meetings and go to work.  That doesn’t sound like much, but when you throw in a couple of busy days at work that make my day a little longer it adds up pretty quick.  Then in the mix of that two weeks one of my coworkers was let go in my department so I had to pick up the slack left there.  I was rolling along and managing this quite well, only having to stay over work for about 10-15 a day, not enough to warrant claiming overtime.  Then on graduation day the other shoe dropped.  One of my other co-workers in the warehouse was let go after an incident the day prior where he really didn’t handle some work that came down to us late in the day.  Thankfully the rest of my coworkers, including multiple from other departments, knew that I had to be at my son’s graduation that night and were able to step up and get everything done.

Back in late April, shortly after I had taken a week off to paint our house, I submitted for what seemed to be a bunch of random days in early June.  These were days that I needed to commit to both of my children as they are both going through pretty significant life events this spring.  I used some of my charitable hours, PTO from my employer to volunteer, to help at field day for my youngest son.  If this hadn’t been his last field day in elementary I probably would have given the time up and just worked.  As it was though, I came in early and spent about an hour getting a few things taken care of and then came back after for three more hours to make sure everything was completed for the day.  The next day I spent taking my oldest son to college freshman orientation.  He was accepted into the honors college at Western Michigan University which meant he was able to register for classes in April, ahead of the rest of his class, and then attend a single day orientation instead of three days later in the summer.  This is a life changing event for him and there was no other option than for me to go.  It helped that it was national donut day and I could take him to one of the top ten donut shops in the country, Sweetwater’s.

If that wasn’t enough crazy for you for two days we drove directly from orientation at 5:15 to one my son’s classmates grad party.  I met my wife and younger son there to enjoy the whole thing, as brief as it was.  I say that because after about 30 minutes I had to leave with my younger son to go to the end of the year Cub Scout camp out.  We hadn’t originally planned to stay the night, but my son needed one more camp out to be able to advance to the next rank in Boy Scouts, so I slept in a tent.  It was all worth it when he came home on Tuesday from his Troop meeting and proudly announced that he had passed his board of review and would be awarded the rank of Tenderfoot.  We left the camp out a little before 8 and unloaded our gear into the garage.  About 10-15 minutes later we were back out the door again to go set up a canopy that the Boy Scouts rent out, he earned $50 for his scout activities for about 2.5 hours of work.  Next we had to get home and be ready for a Court of Honor for another scout who was receiving his Eagle rank.  Later in the afternoon we dropped our youngest off at a sleepover and headed to Portage for another grad party.  No rest for the weary.

This past Tuesday I spent the day with my youngest on his last field trip of elementary school.  Again, thanks to my coworkers for stepping up and helping cover my department while I spend this important time with my children.  I came back to work on Wednesday and everything was busy as usual.  I left work and went straight to an officer’s training for the Knights of Columbus.  I only saw my kids that day to say good night to them after they were in bed.  That part sucks, but they understand why I do the things I do.  Today at work has been nothing but putting out one fire after another.  I have a to do list that I have to be done with before I can start my weekend, which was supposed to start at 5:00 pm today so I can spend all day Friday preparing for the grad party at our house on Saturday.  That may mean I have to be here until way after I had planned today, but oh well.

There are two reasons I am able to get through this kind of schedule.  First is because of the company I work for and my coworkers.  The culture at Service Express is one that allows me to continue to take time away from work to be with my family for these important events.  My coworkers are totally bought into that culture too, which is why they are all so willing to step up and help, also because they know full well that I would bend over backwards for any of them in the same situation.  I really can’t express enough how much I appreciate every one of them, and that’s why I’m bringing in lunch for them all on Monday.  The second reason I am able to get through this type of hectic schedule with little or no stress is because I put all of my faith in God.  He has a plan.  Every day I pray for Him to give me strength, knowledge, and wisdom in everything I do, and that I am ready to do his will.  All of this that I am going through is part of his plan, and I will know when that plan has been fulfilled by His grace.  I will then be ready to move on to the next plan He has for me.

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At previous places I’ve worked I had to maintain this type of schedule, but it was all work related.  I know that this is different because I can see that there is an end to it.  Also I know that I can get through anything with the grace and power of God.

A Letter to my Son Nathan, on the day of your Graduation

May 25 2017 v4 p21

When I found out I was going to become a father one of the things I realized was that I would only be 41 years old when that child would graduate from high school.  I never realized just how fast those 18 years would zoom by.

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Nathan, my oldest son.

There is nothing that makes me more proud to be your father than to see what a great young man you have grown into.  I hope that you are growing into that by watching my example.  I hope that you have learned how to treat people with respect and kindness by watching that example from me.  I did the best I could to try and convey to you that it was always the best way to be.  I didn’t always come right out and say that I was trying to do that, in fact I don’t think I ever did.  I am a firm believer that actions speak a whole lot than words.  I hope my actions have shown you what I am hoping for you to have learned.  I am also very proud of you for your academic successes.  It is truly awesome for me and your mother to go to conferences year after year and have to sit there and listen to nothing but glowing praise of how smart you are, and what a great young many you are, and how much success your teachers all feel that you will have in college and beyond.  I’m not sure where you get that smarts from because I certainly don’t understand the math and science that you make look so easy.  It’s great to see you moving forward with your education in those areas.

I need to apologize to you for not being the greatest father while you were growing up.  You probably have a vague memory of living with your grandparents for part of the time and with my friend’s part of the time.  I’m sorry having split our family apart when you were less than a year old.  Your mother and I were both young when you came along, you know that you weren’t planned, and even though you weren’t in the plans I wouldn’t change that you came when you did.  What I would change is how hard I fought to keep our family together.  I was young and wasn’t really thinking straight.  I thought I was looking out for your best interest by taking you out of a situation that wasn’t the best.  What I should have done was to do whatever was necessary to fix the situation we were all in.  But when you’re young and aren’t getting the answers you think are right, you do what you think is right.  During that time I didn’t utilize my time with you as well as I should have.  My priority was to try and find the bottom of my beer bottle, not do what I needed to be the best father for you that I could.  I failed you in that way on a continuous basis.

I have a lot of hopes for you as you head off to college.  I really hope that you continue to put a major emphasis on your education as you have all through your life.  I’ve told you before how I fully believe that you will continue to do that and won’t choose the path that I took when I went off to college.  I’ve also discussed with you already that I realize you have much different priorities in your life at age 18 than I did.  What I don’t want is for you to end up locking yourself up in your dorm room for days at a time, leaving only to head down to the cafeteria to eat.  I’m fairly certain that your mother and I have raised you to know that behavior like that will be unacceptable.  I also hope that you take the great opportunity of college to expand the things you like or dislike.  I hope that you are willing to try new foods, new activities, and start new habits.  What that may mean is that you have to leave your dorm room for things other than class and to go to the library.  There’s a whole different world on campus that you haven’t experienced.  A bonus that you may have is that you’ve lived in the Kalamazoo area and can probably help any of your new friends navigate around the area for the first few months.  That will also help you in expanding your circle of friends.

As you move on in your life into college and further in adulthood there a few things I’d like you to know.  First off, you know that your mother and I will help you with the cost of school as much as we can.  I really wish I was able to pay for all of it, but that isn’t in the cards.  Beyond that, I can really only tell you what not to do in college to be successful.  You know that I wasn’t mentally prepared to move out at 18 and not have my parents to make sure I was keeping myself in line.  I know that you are in a much different mindset about college than I was at 18.  I don’t want you to forget that.  You know what you need to do when you’re there, but just as a reminder, be sure to go to every class unless you’re sick, and make sure that you make specific time to study.  I would guess that you’ll find that you aren’t able to get your class work done during class time when you’re in college.  This will probably be your biggest adjustment to college.  I don’t expect you do to nothing but study, in fact I encourage you to join a club, go to sporting events on weeknight (especially since they’re free), and have a social life.  Outside of school Mom and I will always be available for anything you need.  We’re only a phone call and a quick 45 minute drive away.  I know that John isn’t your favorite of my friends, but he and his family are even closer, as well as Mindy and the Sims family.  One of the best parts of you attending Western is those two families.  I’m pretty certain that they will be willing to help too.  You are always welcome to return home whenever you want, and that includes after graduation.  Whatever you need, Mom and I will do our best.

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Your graduation from high school is one the biggest moments in my life.  I am proud of you Nathan!  I love you, and am sure you will be nothing less than a success in whatever you do.

Looking at Myself

May 18 2017 v4 p20

I have been debating on a couple of different topics to write about this week.  Some of my recent blog traffic has pointed me in a certain direction.

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Last year, about this time of year I wrote THIS BLOG about discipline.  It got a few hits when I initially posted it, right around my average for my weekly post.  Someone who was going through my archives found it and read about 5 months later, not unusual.  When I started writing about my beliefs back during Lent there was a pretty significant uptick in my blog traffic.  I was starting to get more views from people on Facebook, and that’s awesome.  The biggest change I started to see though, was that more people who are on the WordPress site to find blogs to read were beginning to click on mine.  That began to show me that I’ve been writing about things people are looking to read.  Not only has my activity in readership gone up on through that site, but I’ve gained a handful of new subscribers through WordPress.  That’s pretty awesome because when I post something new they will get an email sent to them to let them know I have new content.

Not only has that grown my views on my regular posts, but people are then going into my archives and reading older posts.  I’ve never really paid too much attention to which posts they reading until the other day.  My post on discipline from May 2016 has been making a resurgence.  As I looked over my statistics just now that is my most read post this year, not counting new posts.  So I was wondering what it was exactly that I wrote about, so I looked into it.  That post was a lot about how people say they know what they need to do, but ultimately don’t follow through.  This shows a lack of discipline.  It’s something I’ve struggled with for my whole life.  It’s something that I’m sure a lot of people struggled with throughout their lives too.  How many times have you said, “I know I need to….” But then never follow through.  I’m not as bad about it as I used to be, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time.

One area I’ve been trying to focus more discipline on is my faith.  Not just getting up every Sunday and going to Mass.  Not just praying every day.  Those things are both necessary in order to be strong in your faith, but if you don’t live it out in your day to day life what difference is it making?  This is evident to me in so many other people’s lives.  I don’t claim to be perfect myself either.  In fact, if they asked all of the sinners to line up I would be the first person to make the movement to get into that line.  I have no problem admitting that I’m a sinner.  I’m doing a lot to try and make myself more disciplined in my faith, which will help me to not sin as much.  That really started taking off last summer when I discovered the Act of Contrition prayer on the back cover of the hymnal at my church.  I started praying that every Sunday and eventually worked it into my daily morning prayers.

Over the winter I flipping through the TV channels and there was really nothing on that I found worth watching.  We don’t have cable so our choices are pretty limited.  One day I was listening to one of the YouTube videos I had found from one of the Catholic speakers I listen to on regular basis.  I was about to share it with my wife but I stopped myself.  I had been sending her some of the videos I was listening to at work, but I know she was having a difficult time remembering to watch them, or would get busy with housework and forget to.  So for this one I decided to save it in a playlist so we could watch it that night after our boys went to bed.  That was helpful.  She really enjoyed the fact that I wanted to sit and watch those videos with her.  I went through some of the channels I subscribe to and created a pretty big playlist for us to watch.  Now most of our evenings are spent watching those types of videos instead of the poor programming on TV.

Earlier this spring I attended the parish mission speaker series at my church and listened to a speaker by the name of Thomas Smith.  He spoke to use about a couple of different ways we could pray.  The first one is called Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading.  This is a method of prayer that includes reading the scripture and meditating on them before praying about them.  This is what I had been doing for some time already.  On the second night he spoke about Examen prayer.  This is a method of prayer to be done at the end of the day as a reflection, or examination of your day.  You start off by thank God for the day, then pray about how you walked in his word that day, and where you may have taken some missteps, you ask for forgiveness of your sins and the close with an “Our Father.”  Every night before bed my wife and I sit next to each other and hold hands while we silently go through this exercise.  On the first weekend we both fell asleep on the couch watching TV and decided just to go to bed.  The next day we both said to each other how we missed that prayer time together.  Now we go through that prayer every night, no matter what.

What that has done for me has been pretty profound.  When we first started this I would have to purposely think about what areas I had taken steps away from the Lord that day.  After the first couple of weeks it took me less time to determine where that was.  Now, it’s almost like a switch.  As soon as I do whatever it is I need to admit to that night, I know it.  Whether it’s some action, words, or whatever, I know.  I know it immediately and will apologize to the party that I may have offended immediately.  It’s become very eye opening to say the least.  It’s certainly changed my thought process on how I approach my daily life.  Through those changes I have been able to be more disciplined in my following of Christ, I hope others are seeing too.  Earlier this week my wife and I didn’t watch any of those YouTube videos I mentioned earlier.  Then as I went to say my Examen prayers the other night I wondered why I was struggling.  Not to find where I wasn’t walking with Him, but why was I having so many cases of where I wasn’t walking with him.  Then it dawned on me that we hadn’t been watching those videos for a couple of days.

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What does that have to do with discipline?  I discovered that if I don’t have the discipline to continue to look inside myself that I won’t change anything that shows on the outside.