Wednesday, July 25, 2012

15 years ago

15 years ago tomorrow (July 26 1997) Jill and I were married. It was a blur of a day, so many family and friends that celebrated that day with us. We were beginning an adventure, with many plans and ideas for what the future would hold.
If I had one statement that would sum up the past 15 years it would be "this wasn't what we had planned." I have no idea what the plan would have been but I am pretty sure it wouldn't have looked like this.
Now that isn't to say that this is much worse or even better than the plan, but so different.
One of the statements the pastor made in our wedding is very true. He said something to the effect "You two don't even know each other now." So very true.

It may be the stage of life (30-40 years old) but we have been innundated by many around us going through divorce or husbands abandoning their families.

I am only going to talk from my perspective as a man. I was clueless getting married, as I typical male I wanted to find someone attractive, who was smart, and interested in me and that is about it. Not to much thought other than that, and not to much more. I don't think that is abnormal thinking for most 20-25 year old guys. If that is stilll the thought process when guys are in their 30s than I can totally understand why men leave their families.

As I look back at the evaluation of our marriage I can see many of the different hurdles we have overcome.

The first was the way Jill and I view life- I come from a totally unrealistic fantasy idealistic point of view. I am way too optimistic that everything will work out great, and future ideas are much better than whatever is currently going on. Every idea I have is better than the last one, and it is bound to work.

Jill on the other hand is very firmly realistic, very steadfast, and doubtful until proven otherwise.

Needless to say there were many "discussions" in the first years of marriage. There was so much frustration, and heated words as we dialogued about the ways we do mundane to the very important aspects of life. Finally (and there wasn't an aha moment but many little moments) there was understanding and compassion for the other ones point of view. I realize that many ideas I have will not work and Jill has realized that some of the ideas do have validity. But it has taken much work and communication, and me not sharing every idea that pops into my head.

The second huge hurdle has been with Kyle and the rythms of life. It has taken us ten years to even come close to a plan on how to make this work. Things came still be tweaked (better ideas than the current one) but overall it works fairly well. It has taken a lot of give and take and taking on different expectations to make this work.

From going from a career oriented life to a family oriented life took a lot of work, communication, and willing to sacrifice on both of our parts.

Above everything we have learned it has been by God's grace that we have stayed together over the past 15 years. I have done and said my share of dumb things. But more than anything else it is both of our commitments to God and also each other that has brought us this far.

I was recently reading through Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage and there were many good quotes but one that I thought that was fitting for where I was at in life is this:

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Serving is a two way street

"So do you get paid for this?" The inmate asked me after a class I taught. I said no, no I don't paid to come in here and teach. He was a little puzzled and then asked "So are you rich?" I laughed and said look at my clothes "do I look rich?" He thought that was very funny and then ask why do you this?

I don't remember what my answer was at the time. But this is something I have thought a lot about over the past few years. If money isn't the motivating factor why?

Why do people go out of there way to volunteer, to serve and help people different than themselves? I say different than themselves because if I have the mentality that I help people who are needy I miss much of why I am serving.

I may have answered the inmate a few years ago the reason I come in and teach is to help. But that is very minimal. I may have helped teach a few new concepts, I may have said a few things that are helpful. But in all of my time spent teaching those in prison, I have learned much more than I have ever taught.

I feel the same way with Kyle, if I continually have the mentality that I am only helping him I miss out on so much. This past week Ayden and Ellyse went to camp and Kyle spent two full days with Jill and I.

Kyle's perspective is so much different than mine. Recently we were at a restaraunt and a waitress came up and said "I see you are short of silverware let me get you some more. " The only words Kyle heard were I see you are short. He was very offended and upset complaining "she called me short." I didn't realize that he was so self conscious about his height in his wheel chair.

When I am in the constant mode of helping and doing things for Kyle, I don't allow him to express himself or even be a blessing to others. While in the swimming pool at the hotel we stayed at Kyle met a friend from Canada named Wade. They hit it off and we found out Wade was about Kyle's age and had autism. We saw them multiple times and every time Kyle and Wade greeted each other as friends.

As much I as I feel that I give when I serve and give, I recieve so much more in return. One of the things I have been recieving from Kyle of late is his sense of humor. He makes me laugh so much, sometimes on purpose and sometimes just through the way he views life.

We were driving through Michigan on our way home and at many exits there are signs for car pools. I am not sure where all these people are car pooling to, but at one of the exits I commented on the sign. Kyle immediately was intrigued. He said I want to go to the car pool. I knew exactly what he was thinking. I started laughing so hard.

My thinking about serving, volunteering, and being with others different than changed. I see it not from ego centric view of solving someones problem, but rather both mutually teaching each other.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Expectations in Life

I don't know if I had a picture in my mind of what life would look like in my mid 30s. I don't exactly know what I expected, hoped for, or even viewed as what my life would look like. So I really can't say I am disappointed, overjoyed, content, underachieved, or even overachieved by reality.

Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking of expectations that we put on life. The ideals that crop into our heads and then how do we deal with them when expectations aren't met.

When fairy tales mix with reality where does it leave us? The view of what life is suppose to look like may be unrealistic. The view that everything will be ideal and problems will be at a minimum is probably not likely.

Yet this is the world most of us live in, we live a life that does not meet what we had expected.

The question is now what? If this is reality what do I do?

Is being addicted to alcohol, any type of drug, porn, having an affair the issue or is it a symptom of escape?

Are these rampant issues in our society the issues or does it stem back to the issue of what did I expect?

Where do we go, and what do we do when we realize our life isn't going to be the perfect children, in the perfect town in the perfect neighborhood with the perfect marriage? Sometimes I believe we see those around as the ideal and we don't measure up to it.

It happens in our social circles and it also happens in the church setting. We see others and we don't want what they have but we want the ideal that we have built into our minds. We want the perfect which in reality isn't realistic.

As the phrase first world problems becomes a common saying I see the issues that we deal with in our culture aren't any better or worse than other places. They are different but they are issues just the same. We may not have to fight for survival, food, disease, but the inner fight of contentment, happiness, and peace are some of our issues.

The inner pain that I see many around me struggle with is real and deep. The unfortunate thing is that the ways we self medicate leads to deeper hurt to those around us.

I am not sure how exactly to solve the issue, but I do realize that the amount of time and space we allow others to voice this is extremely important. I realize that we can build and reinforce unrealistic expectations by the way we talk and act. I believe that that we can do more harm than good by not being realistic. I believe that in the Christian culture we can create a God who can be the answer to make our lives mirror the unrealistic lives that we think we see.

In the end are we content with what we have been given? Are we content with the non-perfect children in the non-perfect marriage, in the non-perfect house, in the non-perfect neighborhood?

Contentment is a daily choice and in reality has so little to do with our circumstances.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Life has slowed down the past couple of weeks and has alloted me time to read. I hadn't done much reading over the past few months so this has been a refreshing change of pace.

One of the books I read was Shadow of the Almighty the story of Jim Elliot. To give a brief synopsis  Jim Elliot and 4 other missionaries were killed in the 1950s by an Indian Tribe in Ecuador. There are a few books written about this topic but this one specifically deals with Jim's life through his journals and letters he wrote to others.

It shares about his inner struggles, his faith, his doubts, and his shortcomings. He wasn't a perfect person, he had choices to follow and obey God throughout his life just as everyone else did. In the end he was obedient. The choices he made not only affected him but also his wife and his daughter. The story continued after the death of these missionaries. Some of the families went and lived among this tribe for years to come. The tribe changed their ways and became God followers. The story was an amazing testiment to obedience, and doing the right thing even though it took some tragic and difficult turns.

"the biggest issue right now is fatherless children." A quote I have shared before by an inmate in one of my classes in prison. 85% or so of fathers of special need children leave.

Decisions we make in life aren't just about us. Choices do not happen in a vaccum. The reason I started this blog was to encourage fathers of special needs children to stick it out.

The majority of men of special needs children don't stick it out. It doesn't matter what their faith background is they leave. These decisions do not just affect a few but generations.

Sure there are many reasons why men leave, and some of the reasons may be valid. Some may be justified. Does that mean there will still not be consequences? Does it mean that it will not affect children and grandchildren?

In the end what will be our legacy? In the end is life about making us comfortable, and happy at the expense of our families?

We will all have a legacy the question is what will it be?