Expectations Unfulfilled

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Young children are raised with expectations placed upon them from others.  Parents, grandparents, family, friends, teachers and neighbors all have expectations for those around them.   Don’t hit.  Don’t talk back.  Be respectful. Finish your homework. Be on time…  This list can be large and generally well intentioned.  Most expectations are meant to mold children into productive, healthy, happy adults who can contribute to our society in positive ways.

What about the larger expectations often put on a child?  To serve in the military?  To attend the parents Alma Mater?  To follow in the parents footsteps and take over the family business?  To marry in the church?  Again, this list can be incredibly long.

Are these expectations reasonable?  Productive?  Healthy?

What happens to a child raised with these expectations who fails to meet or live up to those standards placed by another?

Many times when something goes awry in the life plan for a child be it personal choice, medical, mental or any other reason that would cause a child not to achieve the lofty expectations they have been raised with, the sense of failure can be extremely heavy and often a burden many carry for life.  The overwhelming personal grief in “letting” everyone down penetrates the soul like a cancer with feelings of self worth, self doubt and being a failure growing.

Often the sense of failure leads to poor choices in other areas of life.  For some, these become life sentences.  For others, it becomes an intensely personal battle to overcome the sense of failure many live with.

There are many in this world living with this sense of failure created by lofty expectations of others  Many you know most you do not.  They live with fake smiles while fighting extreme doubts of self and worth.  They continue throughout their life with the belief that they should have done more, been more or finished something, whether in their personal control or not.

We must create a culture where we encourage others to be successful in life while limiting the lofty expectations we place on them.  We must free our children from this burden of unfulfilled expectations that many of us live with in life and replace it with the belief that we can become anything we choose and encourage them to chase their own dreams and not ours.

An Old Photo and a Lesson Learned

A few years back I stumbled across an old photo that I had forgotten was ever taken.   The photo by itself was rather insignificant, the impact of finding the photo and the lesson I learned while pondering about that time in my life has changed much in how I view life and the change that comes over time.

The photo, a rather simple picture of myself at 17 alone in our pool.  I was somewhat surprised to see myself at 17, a somewhat good looking young man, tanned, shirtless and rather ripped.  I never saw myself that way, even in school as a 17 year old boy.  When I saw that picture, my first impression was WOW! did I ever look that good, followed by an immediate second thought of wishing I could look like that again.

As I thought over the next few days about wishing I could get back to that same physical condition I was in at 17 the thought came to me that the reality of that might be difficult at best.  Life had changed and as I had aged.  I had also taken on tremendously more responsibilities in life than I had at 17.  When the picture was taken, I was able to swim for an hour and a half every morning, I would run between 5-7 miles each afternoon and then my friends and I would play basketball for a couple hours each evening.

Life was simple, I had time available for those pursuits.

The lesson learned, one that has changed much of how I view changes in life…

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE WHAT YOU USED TO HAVE THEN YOU NEED TO DO WHAT YOU USED TO DO.

See, if I wanted the same physique I had at 17, then I would have to be willing to put in the kind of time necessary to get it back.  I would have to be as active as I was then.

This lesson though goes much deeper than exercise and physique.  This lesson is about life.

One example of this is in relationships, yet this permeates every aspect of our lives.

Many times I hear people, couples complaining that he/she isn’t the way they were when we were dating.  They’ve changed and aren’t the same person.  My question to them is this… Are you the same person?  Do you act the same with them now as you did then?

Do you kiss as often?  Hold hands as often?  Laugh together as often?  Date as often?  This list could go on forever.

Many times when people meet and fall in love, they fall in love because they are interested in the other person and want to spend as much time with them as possible.  They look at each others strengths and what makes them such a good person.  They see only the good in them.  They make time for one another and date often.

Somehow, life takes over and our time gets filled up, much like between now and when I was 17.  My time being active was replaced.  Our time with our spouses and loved ones get replaced by other things.  Work, kids, school, etc…  We begin finding faults in one another instead of the strengths we once saw.

We find ourselves longing for what we once shared and trying to find our way back to that.

Here is where the lesson becomes the most powerful.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE WHAT YOU USED TO HAVE THEN YOU NEED TO DO WHAT YOU USED TO DO.

If you want to go back to what you had, then you must go back to how you were.  Be the person you once were before you allowed distractions to take you away from what you really wanted and found in the first place.

I would never have lost my six pack had I never stopped what I was doing to get and keep it.  This same holds true for life, our relationships and our families.  We MUST continue doing the things that made us happy in the first place.  When we found love.  If we want to rediscover that then we must go back to what we did the first time around.

Just as getting my six pack back won’t be easy after years of neglect, it can be done, the same holds true for relationships, the course won’t always be simple and easy, however we are certain that happiness exists when we are doing the simple things that brought it to us in the first place.

This lesson also holds true in the opposite.  If we are not happy then how can we ever be by doing the same things that make us unhappy?

Our lives are determined by our actions.  It is through those actions that we determine our happiness and satisfaction in life.

Bridger’s Lesson in Leadership

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Saturday I watched as my son Bridger, the team captain,  quietly huddled with his teammates on the sidelines.  Although his team was winning the game, things were not going as planned with two quick turnovers in the game and the team completely out of sync.  Silence filled the sidelines as the players each struggled to figure out why they were playing so poorly.  I watched as Bridger quietly thought about the situation, keeping to himself and letting the moral on the team get away from them.

Throughout the early season, Bridger has taken great pride in leading his team both on and off the field.  He always marched the sidelines pumping up his teammates both in the game and out.  He was always vocal and excited as he did his best to motivate them each and every game.  The team was proud with their undefeated record and Bridger immensely excited at the teams success.   He was so excited when he was voted team captain.  We spoke often of leadership and how to motivate and encourage his friends while remaining humble.  We talked about leadership and that the best and greatest leaders are never cocky and always humble.  They inspire others and never degrade.

Saturday brought yet another great opportunity for me to teach my son about leadership.  I patiently watched throughout the first quarter as he remained quiet and withdrawn through the upsets that came with this game.  His team had never struggled with turnovers and overall poor play in previous games, yet now faced with this challenge, he and his teammates remained withdrawn and silent, shocked at what was happening.

Finally an opportunity at the end of the first quarter arrived and I was able to speak with my son privately.  I gently placed my arm around his shoulder pads and leaning close I whispered to him “Anyone can motivate and lead a team that is winning and playing well, great leaders motivate and inspire when things aren’t going well.  You’re the team captain, lead them and inspire them when they need it.  It is time to be a leader.  I believe in you, now go lead this team and get them excited to go win.”

Now whether or not they win or lose is not important to me.  What is important to me is that my son learns how to treat others and to be a leader.  I proudly watched as my son no longer remained withdrawn and quiet.  He began marching up the sidelines telling his teammates that he believed in them and that they can do this.  He became the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines. 

The boys had fun.  They forgot the problems and played like they normally did.  Most importantly my son learned a valuable  lesson in how a leader acts especially when things aren’t going well.

Anyone can lead when things are going well, Great leaders can lead when things are not.

A Mother’s Actions, a Fathers Blame – How the movie Courageous Missed the Mark!

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“You know, if fathers just did what they’re supposed to do half of the junk that we face on the streets wouldn’t exist.”  This quote in the movie Courageous by Nathan Hays has been getting a lot of attention in social media as of late.  I have seen it numerous times on friends Facebook pages, through twitter feeds as well as here on WordPress. 

While I support the idea that fathers should step up and act like a father and be present in the lives of their children, I struggle with the overall message of this quote and the implication that “half” of the junk seen on the streets wouldn’t exist. The message that this sends to society is that the problems are a result of “deadbeat” dads.  Children without fathers.  

There have been numerous studies done on the importance of the role of an active father in a child’s life.  This can hardly be disputed as study after study confirms the importance of this sacred responsibility that men have with their children.  I do not take issue with the facts that children are better adjusted when there is an active role taken in their lives by their father.

What I find deeply disturbing by this message is the blame being placed across the board on the men, the fathers of these children.

What about the mother?  What is her responsibility to ensuring that the children have adequate contact with their fathers?  How many times have we seen in society where women in particular use the children as pawns and punishments against the fathers?  When mothers deny access, visitation, telephone conversations this directly impacts the relationship a father can maintain with their children.  When mothers continually belittle, attack and verbally abuse the father of the children the resulting damage creates a lifetime of issues for the children.

As a father who has spent a decade fighting to be a part of my children’s lives, through one attack after another from a mother who sees her children as her property, her possession to do as she wishes I take great offense to the above quote!  Numerous times have I gone to pick up my children and spend the few hours I get with them only to be denied visits.  Ironically when police are called they refuse to enforce a court ordered mandate of visitation yet will be the first ones to arrest a father for past due child support.  The message we send to society is that fathers are only a pocketbook and that mothers have control over the children. 

Messages like the quote from this movie exacerbate the problem and lump all fathers into the same category without any regard for the derelict actions of the mother.  There are many fathers in this world fighting every single day to be a part of their children’s lives only to be confronted by an obstinate, contentious mother who desires to “punish” the father through the children.

The problem as quoted above is wildly misrepresentative of the facts.   The fact is and should be quoted as that “If PARENTS just did what they’re supposed to do half of all the junk that we face on the streets wouldn’t exist.”

As long as we continue to place blame on absent fathers without looking at the causes and reasons behind it, until mothers are held to the same standard then the problems will never disappear.  

A child needs BOTH parents whenever possible.  Any parent who denies the other parent of a relationship with a child should be prosecuted and severely punished.  Many of our issues in society are a result of broken homes and relationships with parents, while both genders deal with visitation issues, the fathers tend to suffer the greatest in being denied those visits. 

It’s time to stop blaming fathers and solving the issues that prevent many of them from fulfilling that role they so long desire to be.

What if it Were Your Last Day?

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If today were the last day of your life, what would you do differently?  Say Differently? 

Would you act differently?  Be more compassionate? understanding? loving? kind?

Who would you talk to?  what advice would you give? What would you tell them?

Where would you go? with whom?

Imagine if we all lived our lives as though it were our last day on earth.  How much kinder and  gentler this world could be for all if we took a moment to focus on the same important items each day as if it were our last.

How many relationships would be saved? Families united and friendships strengthened?

Would the words we speak to our spouse, our parents, our children, neighbors and friends be more gentle and loving?  Would we be more certain that we express our love for them?  Would our words match our actions?

Would we be more patient and understanding with one another?  Would our children feel our love, not just hear the words?

Life is precious, life is short.  No one knows when their last day will be so we take for granted that there is always tomorrow to do what we should be doing today.  What if today is your last day?  Would those left behind truly know how you felt?

We all know the risks, we are all willing to take them and live knowing that there is a tomorrow.  For some however, tomorrow never comes.

 

Familiarity and Gratitude; the Challenge to CoExist

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Appreciation is the expression of gratitude, particularly towards another person.  Oftentimes this expression of gratitude is shared with others when someone spends time serving another. 

We often find it simpler in life to express our appreciation for others who are not close to us, while refraining to share that same appreciation for those in our own families whom we have grown accustomed to taking for granted.  It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, I believe it brings with it an unspoken expectation and lack of appreciation for others.

We neglect the phone calls, fail to return messages, fail to acknowledge and fall short of expressing appreciation for those we are most familiar.  Our expectations and frustrations are the highest with those we share a close familiarity to.  The ones always there are the ones least likely to be appreciated.  This taking for granted of others and failure to express appreciation to those whom we are most familiar oftentimes is the catalyst for rifts and dissensions within families.

The sudden realization of ones failure to express their appreciation floods with emotions over those whom are faced with a sudden loss of a loved one.  In these moments of grief and sorrow, the sad realization of ones neglect, the many missed phone calls, the many cold shoulders, the unspoken words, all driven from ones failure to appreciate and show the gratitude towards others with whom they share that familiarity.  The ones whom allow the familiarity to breed the contempt, the ones too caught up in their own world to share, the ones with high expectations of others and none for themselves all will one day face the sadness, sorrows and regrets that surely come when it’s at last too late.

Imagine if we were to show our appreciation and gratitude equal to the familiarity we share with others, how many families, how many friendships would thrive?

The Light in the Open Door

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Last night I watched as my beautiful wife assisted a young woman whose life was seemingly out of control.  The chaos surrounding her was clear as she desperately reached out to family and friends for help.  Sadly, no one came to her aid as my wife sat on the curbside with this woman, despondent and alone. 

My wife listened to her as I patiently sat in the car off in the distance so my wife could do what she does so well, help others.  The domestic violence shelter my wife runs was full, no space available for this woman.  I watched with humble adoration as my wife sat and looked for alternate resources available in the community to help this woman, a stranger whom she had never met.

She sat with her for nearly an hour making numerous phone calls, and providing options for this young woman.  She assisted her in reaching her father and in finding safe harbor.

Finally, the time came for us to leave.  The sun had set and it was growing ever darker, we had to attend to our children at home.

My dear wife had provided resources, referrals, information, counseling and had made connections with her family.  This young lady was now informed of what she can do to obtain the help and resources available.  She knew where to go, how to get there and who to call.  My wife made certain that she had the means necessary to accomplish what she needed most in her life.

The choice was now hers, and hers alone.

I spent much of the evening contemplating the events that had passed that evening,  Our evening delivery had taken much longer than planned, yet my wife was placed in a position where she could serve someone in need.

I wondered much about this young woman, how she was doing and if she had taken advantage of the doors my wife had opened for her this night.

I also wondered if I myself, in times of need take advantage of doors that others have opened for me or if in my self misery, sadness and despair I have failed to step through the open door, instead remaining in my sorrow.

I wondered how often we remain in the darkness of our sorrow  when we no longer need to based upon our own unwillingness to step towards the light in the open door..

How Fishing Taught me Love is Shown by Actions, Not Words

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When I was a young boy, my father loved to go fishing.  As such he often took us boys along with him.  On many occasions we all went together and would spend the weekend fishing somewhere.  I think my dad probably spent much more time untangling our fishing poles than ever fishing himself, yet this time with my dad created some wonderful memories.  Each year my dad would take us one on one fishing, most often leaving work early and spending an entire afternoon, late into the evening together fishing.

One such trip I remember was fishing along the Weber river.  I must have been about ten at the time.  I was so excited to spend time alone with my dad, just the two of us.  My mom packed us a dinner, tuna sandwiches and creme soda.  My dad loved creme soda!  I don’t remember much what we talked about on that trip as we drove just over an hour to reach our destination.  What I do remember is the time with my dad in the car, just the two of us.  I got to sit up in the front seat with him and I am certain, that my like my children with me, I talked his ear off.   The images of that ride in the car with my dad are burned into my mind, I can still see me sitting in that car and the wonderful moment in time that we had alone.   With 6 boys in the family, that didn’t happen often but I remember the moments in time when it did.  They left a forever footprint on my impressionable mind.

I don’t recall catching many fish that day.  What I do remember is walking along the shoreline of the river as we fished up and  down the banks.  I am certain that i tangled my pole in the trees more than once and snagged the line on the branches floating along the banks.  My dad was out a ways in the river fishing, his hip waders keeping him dry as he fished.

As darkness began setting in that night, I tripped over a rock and splashed into the frigid river.  My dad quickly at my side, he helped me back up and over to the shore.  Our night of fishing would be over, the wet clothes and the cool autumn wind made for a rather cold little boy, shivering to stay warm, yet unwilling to complain.  My dad knew how cold I was and helped me along the shoreline towards the parked car.

I remember extremely well the long ride home that night.  With no clothes to change into and no blanket to keep me warm, I sat in the front seat in my underwear shivering as the heater from the car warmed up to keep me warm. While I was very cold, my father on the other hand, not being wet was extremely hot with the heater on.  As the sweat beaded on his forehead as we drove down the freeway he kept talking with me and asking me if I was warm enough and how I was doing.  

As a ten year old little boy i truly never understood the magnitude of his actions.  As a grown man, I understand deeply the magnitude of the unselfishness exhibited by my loving father that night.  My dad’s own personal childhood, filled with abuse and sorrow created a difficulty for him to tell us he loved us, his actions always told us of his love as he always placed his family first.  This was truly evident that night as a loving father helped carry his young cold and wet son along a darkened riverbank in hip waders ending his night of fishing early and then driving in a car too hot for him to bear to keep his son warm. 

Love is best expressed through actions, not words. My father showed this that night and many many others.  I pray that I can be half the man he was, that my legacy with my children will be one of love through actions and deeds.

 

(The picture is of my 11 year old son on our last fishing trip)

Wanting to Belong

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Standing on the outside

Always looking in

Blind to some around me

much to my chagrin

A life so full of service

Attempting to belong

With those who do not see me

Invisible all along

A world so full of laughter

and love for all to share

standing alone inside the room

where no one seems to care

Continuing on in faith and love

I stand here all alone

Giving to those all around

Yet never being home

I stand here in the midst of you

longing to be seen

yet gossip swirls all around

as others belittle and demean

so maybe life is best alone

with my family at my side

protected from the world we live

with all its’ gossip and its’ lies