Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deciding to be Deliberate with Discipline

Lately, I have been frustrated with my lack of discipline in just about all areas of taking care of myself. Even though the desire is there, I have been too busy (work, the kids, etc), too tired, or too distracted to accomplish certain tasks - primarily exercise, spending time with God, and getting enough sleep.

For most of my adult life I have been fairly self-motivated. But at this stage now, I think the only way I am going to get these things done is to be much more deliberate with my time. So for the first time ever, I'm going to try to set an actual dedicated schedule for myself, which will be as follows:

Go to bed at 11:00 pm.

Get up at 6:00 am.

Go downstairs, start the coffee, spend some time with God (reading Bible, praying, etc.)

Get ready for work, leave by 7:30 am, get there by 8:00 am.

Since my company uses the 9/80 schedule, I'll work until 6:00 pm, then get home by 6:30 pm. NOTE: Working a little extra on some days will compensate for the days that I exercise.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Letting Go

In early September, my wife and I moved into a much bigger house. We prayed about it and thought long and hard about the numbers associated with the purchase and the financing. The price was spectacular (a really God deal) so we did our best to make it happen. And with a lot of time and effort, the financing worked out and we were able to purchase it. That being said, there was one big variable that still has yet to be resolved - selling our old house.

Yes, we still own our previous house as well as the new one. So now we have expensive California-sized mortgage payments on both houses. We have some money set aside to help with the transition, but it's a finite amount, and with every passing month more of it gets thrown away to the mortgages and the sale price ticks lower and lower in an attempt to keep up with the downward moving market. Right now, after the realtor's fees we will get exactly what we originally paid for it. The situation is serious enough that we could end up in great financial difficulty or even ruin if too much time passes without selling it. In addition, I'm doing all I can to keep up, fix up, and even spruce up the old house while it's still on the market, which adds more stress because of the additional time that it requires of my already busy schedule.

All of that to say that it has (obviously) been a great stress to me, and for the last couple of months it has been always present in the back of my mind. I have been praying about it regularly, but still no sale and therefore no less stress. But recently (this weekend?), I finally feel somewhat at ease about it. Here's why:
  1. Amanda and I made this choice based on all of the data we had at the time, and I still think that based on that information it was a good decision. To confirm it, everyone whom we told the price and details of the new house purchase to agreed that it was a spectacular deal and said that they would take it if we didn't already. So even though it was a risky move, I don't believe it was foolish.
  2. God is in control. Even if we end up completely screwed, I will have peace knowing that we did the best we could, but ultimately it's in God's hands.
I could end up like Job, with nothing left to my name and sores all over my body, but as long as I did the best that I could to prevent it through my actions and my prayers, then I did my part. The rest is up to God and His will. If the worst case scenario materializes then I will obviously be unhappy about it, but I will still do my best to have as good an attitude as I can muster and to be as content (see previous post) as I can.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Consequences for Constantly Complaining?

NOTE: This blog was actually started on November 10.

My daughter can sure be fussy sometimes. Earlier today, she had one of her inconsolable moments. No matter what I did or how I tried to make her happy, she would complain (which varied from angry grunting, to all out crying). Eventually I realized that trying to make her happy wasn't helping, so I'll just put her in her chair and let her cry until she falls asleep. I thought "Why would I want to be with you or hold you when all you do is complain? I can just put you down and leave you alone. Your pissy attitude doesn't change either way, but my life is a little easier through the act of separating myself from you."

OK, this may be a stretch, but could God ever feel that way about me? Especially when there are pressing problems that have yet to be resolved, I can definitely be a compulsive and/or continuous complainer. I have so many blessings and God has so obviously been present in my life and has answered so many of my prayers. Even still though, my tendency when communicating with God is mostly to complain, make requests, or to express dissatisfaction. In other words, often times my attitude really sucks, especially when things aren't necessarily going great.

I know God is perfect, and therefore infinitely more patient than myself. But if all I do is complain no matter what He does for me or gives me, will He be less desiring of my company and/or less likely to help me out or answer my prayers in the future? I can't really think of any Bible verses to either support or refute the idea, but from my meager human perspective, it doesn't sound illogical or totally unreasonable.

I want to have a good attitude and be appreciative to God for the many blessings I have been given, not dwell on and whine about the things that I don't have. Sure I have problems and things to complain and moan about, but I live a pretty damned good life by most of the world's standards.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't ask for anything either. I would just like to improve my attitude and be content as Paul was, in all circumstances.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Congratulations to George St. Pierre, the new welterweight UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) champion. Saturday evening "Rush" displaced Matt Hughes, who possessed that title for the better part of the last 4 or 5 years. Oddly enough, at the previous UFC event (#64), Rich Franklin in the middleweight (< 185 lb) division was also dethroned after holding the belt for over a year.

It was probably about 13 years ago or so that I started watching the Ultimate Fighting Competition. My friend Shawn and I would rent them on VHS, then eat two PB&J's and a big glass of milk each while watching them. It was a tradition of sorts. Back then there were little or no rules, no weight classes, and some of the participants were little more than bar brawlers, and hardly anyone knew about it.

The event itself has come a long way since those early days, and now I know that the UFC is actually part of a much larger sport called mixed martial arts (MMA). Today it's sanctioned by numerous state's athletic commissions, there are clearly defined rules and weight classes, and the participants have been training for the better part of their lives in multiple martial arts disciplines. And thanks in no small part to The Ultimate Fighter reality series on SpikeTV, the UFC event has grown fairly popular here in the U.S. Maybe there's hope for the manliness of America's men after all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Worlds Apart

Conversation with my brother from Sunday evening when I called him on the phone:

Steve: "Michael!"

Me: "Hey brotha! How's it going?"

Steve: "Good. I just got in a fight downtown and I'm being held"

Me: "Wait, what?"

Steve: "They know dad and Uncle Larry though (both cops in Orlando for 20+ years), so it's all good. Can I call you back in a little while?"

Wow, how different our worlds are. My brother is 11 years younger than me, in college and single. I love the stage of life that I'm in and certainly don't wish to return to my college days (Engineering was a tough major that left way too little time for fun), but there is still a small part of me that is somewhat jealous of him. Not of the non-married aspect of his life, but of living life a little more dangerously.

I remember going to clubs and walking around downtown with friends, or even with Amanda when we were dating, and feeling a little on edge. It felt like anything could happen. You might bump shoulders with some punk walking the other way and exchange challenging stares with him. Someone might act or say something inappropriate to Amanda. We could walk down an alley where the risk is there to get jumped or mugged. Any number of bad things could happen, and to some extent I liked that feeling, and maybe miss it a bit.

Life is full of so many responsibilities and challenges now. It's certainly not boring, but it definitely feels much safer. Also, there are so many reasons now not to get in trouble or risk getting injured or killed. Steady job, family and kids, and all that.

Well, at least I periodically go to a seedy bar to watch UFC events. It's not much, but it's something.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Possibly Promoting the Power of Plural Prayer?

NOTE: I started writing this on 11/3.

My daughter Emily has regularly been extremely fussy in the evenings. She usually has about a 2 hour stretch each night where she cries or fusses (not quite a cry, just ticked off grunts). If you switch holding positions, she might be comfortable/consoled for a few minutes before it starts right back up again. Sometimes these episodes start at 9pm, sometimes at midnight.

Well, when you're shuffling her from up on your shoulder, to lying in your arms, to sitting on your knee, to whatever the hell other position you can think of. Then trying to pace the room (movement sometimes helps) and/or bounce her a little bit (but not too hard, despite your frustrated instincts). Making the shusshing sound too, hoping she doesn't wake up her brother who has been having a hard time getting to sleep lately (teething perhaps?). And if it's one of her late shifts, then you're thinking about how damned tired you are now, and how tomorrow work will suck so incredibly bad because you'll be tired beyond what even the strongest coffee can remedy, while still trying to be productive.

Of course, I've been praying through those moments, for patience and for wisdom to know what the problem with Emily is and how to best take care of it, and/or for God to heal her if something is causing her physical discomfort, or to help her to feel emotionally comforted if that's the problem. But nothing obvious has really resulted from these individual prayers.

But the first time Amanda and I prayed together over Emily, she slept pretty soundly and for a slightly longer duration. This occurred for several evenings - no results from individual efforts, but improvements when we pray together.

So, is the problem just too big to be solved by an individual effort? The Bible definitely identifies some situations that require more spiritual effort than others (Mark 9:28-29). It also seems to indicate the the amount of power that God grants you is directly related to the degree of your faith (Matthew 17:16-20, many others). Or is it just that God is trying to teach us and guide us to act more as a team and pray together, especially for our children?

Update: In the days since this blog entry was started, we have started making a habit out of praying for our children together before putting them to sleep. For that outcome alone, I guess I'm grateful for the struggle.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What A Difference One More Makes

Today Amanda had a baby shower to attend in the afternoon, as well as time scheduled in the evening to get coffee with another woman from church. In both instances I watched the kids, and both times Emily cried for most of the time with me not able to figure out how to console her. In addition to that, I was trying to deal with Lucas crying because he couldn't sleep (first for a nap, then for the night).

After Amanda got home from her coffee time, I washed the dishes while she nursed Emily. It was at that moment that I recalled how it used to be when there was only Lucas to watch. If Amanda had something that she wanted to do or somewhere to go, I would lean back and say with confidence "Sure, go ahead. I'll be fine. No problem at all. Knock yourself out." I was the master dad, an expert without equals. As soon as Lucas was born, I could handle him all by myself, all day long too if I had to. I just needed his momma to provide the nourishment that only she could.

Now I've had both kids by myself a bit though, and Emily is much more challenging than I remember Lucas being. I also have to be concerned when she's crying that she'll wake Lucas up too. And it's pretty damned tough when they both need you at once. Who do you take care of first? Someone's going to have to be crying, maybe even darned near screaming while you handle the needs of the other child.

The next time Amanda asks if I could watch the kids while she goes off and does whatever, I can picture myself whimpering "don't leave me". It's much, much harder with two kids.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Other Side of the Scale

On the other end of the spectrum from the previous post titled "What Were We Thinking" is a recent conversation that I was having with some co-workers. One of them brought up Hugh Hefner's (the founder of Playboy) age, and the fact that he still has numerous women on his arm and walks around in his bath robe.

I recently saw a picture of him in the news with three women at his side, and as I recalled this image during the discussion, my initial thoughts were not of admiration or envy, but more accurately of pity. I must admit though that I was actually a little surprised at this. Shouldn't I be jealous? I mean, I can certainly appreciate the attractive appearance of his arm decor. But I couldn't deny that in all actuality, I think a man who is 80 years old and still living the life of a 20 something or 30 something man is kinda, no really pathetic.

Basically, from all outward appearances he lives life primarily to fulfill his flesh. His whole existence (or at least the way it's portrayed) centers completely around lust. Sure, there is a worldly flesh part of me that finds his lifestyle appealing. But I know that ultimately I would never be satisfied with such a simple and meaningless life.

I'm not saying that my thoughts are always 100% pure, or that they never stray from the focus of my wife. But I can say that it is my intention for that to be the case. In other words, I hope to grow and actually mature as I get older. I aspire to overcome my flesh and sinfulness, to be first and foremost a good husband and father. Heck, maybe even a great one.

So thank you Hugh for your inspiration, for demonstrating what I absolutely don't want to be.

Just for the fun of it, I thought of some other immature celebrity life-long bachelor retards: Billy Bob Thornton, Jack Nicholson, George Clooney

Here are some cool, family-oriented, long-term married celebrity men: L.L. Cool J, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Sting, Tom Hanks, Tim McGraw

What Were We Thinking Again?

Now that we have a newborn and a toddler, there have been more moments that ever before when I remember with great longing the way our lives used to be before children. I miss the freedom to travel, to eat out, to relax, even to simply go see a movie. I miss staying out late because we didn't have any reason to be home (such as putting the kids to bed), and because we could sleep in on the weekends. I miss feeling well rested from actually getting a good night's sleep, going running together, working out at the gym together, and hitting the occasional nude beach together. I miss the financial benefit of both of us having decent careers and the associated dual income.

Back in the day - on vacation in Tennessee.

But Lucas has the most precious smile and the brightest brown eyes I have ever seen. He makes my mouth and my heart smile in ways that I would have never known, that only your own child can show you. His readiness to dance, and act silly demolishes my adult tendencies to be overly restrained and concerned about what others think of me. He makes me feel manly in a whole different way, as a father who now has the responsibility of not only protecting and caring for someone else, but also setting the example of what being a man is all about. And the importance of this is so potently evident as he is already watching and mimicking my every action.

Emily is still at that early stage where she's certainly cute, and I cherish the occasional smile I get while I'm holding her. But she can be so darned fussy and difficult, more than I ever remember Lucas being. And as small as she is, that voice can pierce your soul like nails on a chalkboard.

Whatever the pros and cons may be, it's too late to turn back now. So I guess we'll have to continue growing, learning, and maturing. Not to mention depending on God to grant us wisdom, grace, and patience, as we definitely have been praying for these things more since becoming parents.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One of the Worst Things to Happen to a Man

I came across this picture and caption on the USA Today homepage. I cannot imagine the way this man feels at the time this picture was taken.

Although it breaks my heart to see/read, it also helps me to appreciate how blessed I am and how easy my life is, in comparison to so many others in the world.

Note: if you can't read the text next to the picture, then make sure you are viewing it full size. You may have to click on it again once the picture is in your browser window.
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