Do You See What I See ?

We made our way down the winding path…hurrying by the hippos, zipping past the zebras, and merely glancing at the gazelles…all in an effort to see the mighty elephants at the NC Zoo in Asheboro.  By the time we arrived, they had moved a pretty good distance away from the observation point.  It is for this reason(not to make 50 cents a pop I’m sure)…the Zoo has the big binoculars on a stand for people to catch a closer look at the elephants.  Aleck and Emma Grace took turns looking through the binoculars.  I put the money in for Ella’s turn and pulled out the map.  As Amy and I studied the map, I heard Ella saying “Ahhhh I can’t see!!!”  I looked up to see her peering correctly through the lenses.  I told her she was doing it right, looked back down, and then heard her say the same thing.  This happened three times…until I did a fast fake look down at the map…then quickly looked up.  When I looked up, I saw Aleck putting his hands over the two lenses from the other side of the binoculars just as Ella put her eyes into them to see.  I told him to stop in my “Cooommmeeee on maaaaan” tone(even though I admired the clever, funny, quick thinking Anthony-like prank he successfully pulled off with impeccable timing).  I went to the notes on my phone(as I often do when I think something my kids say or do will give me words of wisdom to write down the road)…and recorded the event.  Today…I’d like to share with you what inspired me to tell this story and the two things I hope we all can take from it:

It seems to me as I get older, a lot of things just keep getting harder.  It has become harder to find TIME…to sleep, to lift, to read, to be with family, to eat, to take care of business items, to shop, to recover, to help with homework, to wake up, to return phone calls…emails…texts, to send an encouraging note,  to write, to listen to a child’s story, …time…time…time…I seem to need more TIME.  I will say though…I can make sense out of why things are harder…and I am able to make corrections to slow things down and prioritize…BUT what happens when things are busy…and hard…and tough…and then the world JUMPS right on our shoulders in the middle of it all?  What do I mean?  I am talking about being soooo tired and stressed that you are sure one more thing will put you over the edge…I’m talking about listening to the news of children being shot in a school on the drive to work and then two hours into training people receiving a text from your wife that her school is in full lockdown and she and her students are hiding in her classroom.  I’m talking about news of bombs, drones, corruption, failing schools, an incompetent government, wasted money, rape, murder, religious intolerance, healthcare, immigration, robbery, typhoons, animal cruelty, fallen soldiers, child abuse, terrorism, suicide, disease, lying, overpaid…out of touch…selfish… ignorant athletes-politicians-singers-actors-people, pollution, prejudice, chemical warfare, starvation….I’m talking about alllllll the things we hear 24 hours a day…7 days a week…things that make you want to do to yourself…EXACTLY what Aleck did to little Ella.  I’m talking about your eyes being so full and deep with tears…that your eyelids can’t keep them covered….so you use your own hands to cover them….to cover the lenses…And this leads me to the first thing I hope we learn from this story:

1. DO NOT LET ANYONE CHOOSE YOUR LENSES…This is one of the most challenging things we face.  We are bombarded with news around the clock and as we know, that news…9 times out of 10…will be bad news.  That “stuff” constantly shapes the way we see life.  We should NOT see the world through the media…through the news.  I’m not saying we need to block out reality…we need to pray, be compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and caring…BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO LET THE BAD IN THE WORLD BECOME THE LENSES THROUGH WHICH YOU SEE LIFE.  You know if you’ve been looking through these lenses right? You have become anxious, fearful, pessimistic, negative, discouraged, untrusting, sad, and maybe even a tad bit hateful…your eyes are tired…so tired.  Listen…Life can be hard enough…don’t make it harder by seeing things…through the bad and negative…lenses.  It becomes a choice.  And believe me…I know it can be a seemingly impossible choice at times…but seeing this life as a miracle…seeing this life as a gift…seeing this life as an opportunity to share…give…help others…seeing this life through the lenses of gratitude, compassion, and LOVE…seeing this life the way GOD sees you and your life…is the ONLY way to get the BEST view.

“There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing?” – C. Joybell C.

The second thing I hope to share through this story is very important.  This thought came to me last week as my family shopped in downtown Waynesville, NC.  We were walking down the sidewalk when all three kids let out a “Awwww wooowww…cooool!!!” They dashed and stood in front of a store…and I took this picture:

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As I looked at the three of them staring at the display, they became blurred because of my tear filled eyes.  I looked at them and felt their belief…their innocence…their amazement.  I felt those pure, strong, and perfect feelings you feel when you are a kid…out of school on Christmas break…heart filled with joy and peace…unaware of the cruelty that coexists with all that is good in this life.  I am having a hard time lately coming to grips with the way life changes.  We all want our kids to experience the specialness of Christmas right? I want my children to feel the pressure I once felt to be good a few weeks before Christmas because Santa is watching…I want my children to be so excited on Christmas Eve they can’t fall asleep no matter how hard they try…I want them to wake up at 4am(I say that now…)…I want to come in…and spread out on the floor…cuddling with…one or all of them…telling them it is too early to open presents…but that if they can be patient, I will stay with them and tell them stories about when I was young…JUST as my mother did one special Christmas…I want them to know of the best Christmases I had…all in a single wide trailer…in a trailer park…explaining to them that you don’t need things, people, or money to make you happy…teaching them to appreciate all they have…and to have compassion for those who do not have…I want them to understand the true Christmas story…I want them to believe in miracles…I want them to know THEY are miracles.  We want our children to have it the way we did…but better.  But things change…We get tired…life gets in the way…it gets hectic…we don’t have the money…the house…the plans…the spirit…people are sick…family members are fighting…sisters have become distant…brothers have become busy…business comes first…loved ones die…the miles to be travelled have become not worth it anymore…whatever the reason(s)…It all just seems so less innocent…less nice…less special…to us…the adults.  Things have changed…and will keep changing…for this reason please please please remember this thought I had while looking at my children as they stood mesmerized by a store window display :

2. DO NOT COVER OTHER PEOPLE’S LENSES….especially your own children.  We can’t let our disappointments…our negativities…our unrealized expectations…seep into our children…We shouldn’t let them take those things on…We must let them see life the way they are supposed to see life…as children.  We need to realize it is ok things aren’t the way they used to be…we have to be ok…and let it go.  We need to foster new traditions…encourage new specialness and magic…we need to teach…we need to encourage…we need to listen…we need to instill values…we need to hug…we need to love…we need to create memories and traditions so special…our children’s hearts will burst with excitement and joy as they eventually share those memories and traditions with their own children…That is a HUGE responsibility…but it is freeing and exciting…Think about it this way: We can put the money in(parents we’re used to this anyway)….We can teach them where to look…how to get their eyes in the right place…we can encourage and love them as they try and try and try again(no matter how many times it takes)…BUT…BUT… we must take our hands off their lenses…let them see…let them believe…for themselves.  They ARE NOT ALWAYS supposed to SEE what we SEE.  If you feel overwhelmed about this… Remember these words I once read: GOD has plans for your child…despite the expectations and plans YOU have for him/her…May we all have comfort and peace in knowing this…Merry Christmas!!! God bless 🙂

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Are They Perfect?…Revisited

I was on Facebook yesterday when I read one of my friend’s post : “Has anyone ever felt like a total loser when looking at other people’s lives and pictures on here besides me?”  I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this question except last week I faced criticism of my own writing and pictures in this blog and had a tough week in general.  While thinking about that criticism, the question my friend asked, and Facebook in general, I found this quote : “WELCOME TO FACEBOOK, the place where RELATIONSHIPS are perfect, LIARS believe they are telling the truth, & the WORLD shows off they are living a great life: where your FRIENDS & FAMILY block you: and even though you write what you’re really thinking, someone takes it the wrong way!!!”  For the most part, this quote is true, but…it has never bothered me.  Pictures or status updates of beautiful houses, gardens, cars, pools, views, vacations, bathrooms, pets, birthdays, weddings, jobs, children, husbands, wives, and of course….perfect workout sessions…has never bothered me. So what’s the problem?  The problem, to me, seems to be with the receiver or viewer of this information.  If you’re a person who sees or hears this information and it makes you feel worse about yourself, there is a problem.  The easy answer is to say log off and quit Facebook, but Facebook isn’t the real problem is it?  It’s the comparison which can take place in all areas of life.  It is NEVER a good idea to compare yourself to others.  You are you…your life is yours.  Make the most of your own life.

On a personal level, I would like to remind people to not make the mistake of assuming people who share “perfect” pictures and positive stories are presenting themselves as perfect people.  If you do this, YOU are the one assuming the person is or is trying to be perfect.  No one has a perfect life.  We all have stuff.  As a Strength Coach, Father, Man, and seriously amateur blogger, my goal is to inspire…not intimidate.  If I act as if my life is perfect, I am intimidating instead of inspiring.  Having said that, I realize I mostly share funny children inspirations, beautiful pictures, and positive messages.  This does not mean my life is perfect.  As a matter of fact, as I write this now, Aleck is sitting in time-out for putting a gallon of shampoo on Emma Grace’s hair, Ella and Emma Grace are about to join him if they don’t stop fighting over a stinking green crayon, and Amy is going through the house like the Tasmanian Devil because she has lost her checkbook and the business checkbook… allllllll while Phineas and Ferb and Disney XD  blare through the TV at 100000 decibels.   I don’t take pictures of the girls screaming as we try to get the tangles out of their curly hair after every bath, of Amy and I passing like two trains in the night sometimes, of my 15 hour days, or of anxiety I have about being good enough of a father.  That’s how it is in life right?  We don’t always share the “stuff”.  We don’t take pictures of the tears, temper tantrums, or pain.  We don’t write about the hectic school mornings, struggles with business, or finances.  We don’t share troubles with reading and math, sick parents, and broken down cars.  We don’t tell about our fears, addictions, or failures.  We don’t talk about learning disabilities, bullying, or depression.  Just because it isn’t on Facebook, on a Blog, on a person’s face, or in a person’s words, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Believe me it’s there…for every person in this world…I promise.  So my advice is : 1. Understand that NO ONE…NO LIFE is perfect.  2. Take in anything positive people have to offer(pictures, stories, experiences, accomplishments, etc.). 3. Realize comparison leads to NOTHING but bitterness.  4. Learn from the imperfections and the struggles in your life.  5. Accept and appreciate the blessings you have.  6. Share

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen