being a man

Killing Me

Here liesDad

The last two months have been tough. Going from one kid to two has its challenges. The baby has been easy: sleep, eat, poop, repeat. My wonderful wife has been great and for the most part is the one that has to focus on Cecilia (the baby). Most of my time and focus has been on Claire (the four year old). This started of really well, but it has quickly spiraled into chaos.

Everything is a struggle with Claire.

Waking up, getting dressed, eating, going to preschool, coming home, play time, snack time and definitely going to bed at night. There isn’t one thing that we do during the day that doesn’t have the potential to explode on my face, and it usually does. Claire and I will have a great time playing and eating a snack, when suddenly she will fight with me about getting a bath. Claire will be dead tired and fight getting into bed; she will then wake up at 3am, 4am and 5am because she “can’t sleep”. WHAT THE HELL!! There is no rhyme or reason to it (at least I can’t see one).

I realize that change for a four year old is difficult, and lets face it…she is only four years old. Regardless of this fact, I am exhausted. I literally feel dead and spent every single day and night. The nights where Claire decides to wake up at 3am because she’s hungry are the worst. It takes all that I have to not run off to Mexico and seek asylum.

The kid is killing me.

When I am able to see past my exhaustion I recognize that this is exactly what is suppose to happen.

I need to die.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my daughters fighting, crankiness, random 3am wake ups that are killing me. Sure this is tough for any person, but the fact is that my comfort, my desire for control and order are being purged out of me. They are unbalanced and unrealistic.

I don’t want to be purged. I want comfort. I want control. I want order.

I have known that I am “particular” about things; I believe its one of the reasons why I am successful at work. However, I never would have consider myself so rigged that I would be stressed out the way I currently am. I guess its always different in the most sacred of inner sanctums like home.

Comfort is good to some extent, but there is no growth in it. Comfort doesn’t allow for testing and purging. Trying to control things and people isn’t freedom, its slavery for them and myself. Order has value, until it turns your wife and daughters into tasks, objects that must be taken care of.

The kid isn’t killing me, she is an instrument of Gods grace that is taking this overly comfortable, control freak, that values order way too much; and is slowly, painfully, yet beautifully changing me into something else. Something better.

Something worth dying for.

I never would have thought that I would have these things messing with me, but I do. My spiritual director and counselor tell me that I am in a beautiful place, a sweet spot of sorts that has exponential opportunities for growth and transformation. I see more and more through this crazy, beautiful gift of a four year old that discovering fatherhood is not just about what I can do to help my children become holy, loving and responsible adults. It is also a journey of discovering that this father has to become a holy, loving and responsible adult.

Man! Never a dull moment in this journey.

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Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, death, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stuff

moving-boxes

My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!

What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.

A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.

We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.

Kind of like a decomposing red onion.

At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.

There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.

Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.

Categories: being a man, best self, cleansing, fatherhood, getting rid of junk, home and family, letting go of the past, moving, packing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Train

the rosary beads and gun

Last year I wrote about my discernment on whether or not to conceal carry. Here is the post if you are interested: Babies, Guns and Jesus. After the experience mentioned in that post I did a lot of thinking, praying and discussing with my wife. I spoke to lots of people about this subject. Some were experts in weapons training, police officers, military, priests, friends, neighbors, etc. My wife and I made our decision and I spent quite a bit of time training, learning and familiarizing myself with the safety and use of firearms. I still have a long way to go. On average I train every month or two with live fire and do dry fire drills at least 3 times a week. I know that many people do not feel the same way about guns and that’s fine.

This post is really not about guns.

Most of the guys I do weapons training with are very much convinced that they are doing this for the safety and welfare of their families. I wholeheartedly believe that. One guy got teary eyed as he shared how much he loved his family and how he wanted to be ready for anything that could potentially harm them. So do I.

I try really hard to listen, read, and follow the guidance of men and woman who are wiser and holier than I am. I especially try and study how to be a better man, husband and father. I find it so easy to want to be selfish and focus on my own desires and ignore my family—individualism is all about that. I have to constantly check myself and refocus. There is a certain discipline, training if you will, that I have to take on for this.

A few weeks ago I bumped into this video that really spoke to me about the importance of men training to defend their families. The video was not about weapons or hand-to-hand combat. The video was about prayer.

Prayer is the ultimate training that all men must take on. St. Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the best weapon we posses.” Prayer isn’t something a weak man does. Prayer is something that a man who understands his place in the world does; a man who knows his limits, capacity, and potential; a man who recognizes that ultimately God is the one we need to turn to for our families protection and for them to become what they are meant to be.

Real men pray.

So here is the challenge I put to myself, and the men who read this blog. Pray. If you want to defend your family there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get up earlier than your family does and pray for God to guide their path towards holiness for that specific day.
  • Pray with your spouse that God may lead both of you to be holy and help each other to grow towards that holiness.
  • Pray with your spouse for your children to be godly men and women.
  • Pray with your children and spouse before and after meals. Have each member of your family go around the table during meals and share how they saw God work in their lives that day.
  • Pray over your children. Literally put your hands above them and ask for Gods blessing to be poured out upon them. Not only is this good for the kids to see, hear and experience, it is also your duty as father to bless your children. (See Numbers 6:24-26 as one example)
  • Take time to pray alone. This is absolutely crucial. You can’t lead your family to pray if you don’t know how to do it. There are tons of devotionals, apps, scriptural guides, etc. that can be used to do this.
  • Go to confession and take your family with you. (Obviously for the Orthodox or Catholic folks)
  • (Again for Catholics and Orthodox folks) Take your family to adoration once a month. Have them sit before Jesus for 15-30 minutes (it will depend on how old your kids are, etc).
  • Read books that will inspire you to grow in holiness.
  • Surround yourself with other men who are training to grow in holiness.

I really enjoy shooting my guns at targets and training for scenarios, but lets be honest; there is a small chance that I will ever need to draw my weapon on anyone (thank God for that). However, if I am ever in that situation I’ve done all I can to be ready. I am more likely though to be tempted sexually, to be greedy, selfish, to be dishonest: insert your potential situation here. Praying for God to transform you and to guide you when those situations come (they will come) is important training. How will you respond to those situations if you have not prepared yourself?

Praying for and with our families is absolutely necessary. This world is filled with situations that if we are not actively “training” for we will get eaten alive. I pray every single day. Sometimes it’s short and rushed due to my daughter or other things outside of my control. More often than not I spend quality time in prayer. I need it. I cannot become whom God intends me to be if I am not communicating with Him. Communicate with Him. Encounter Him.

I want to protect my family and myself. I want to be ready for whatever this world is going to throw at us. I am whole heartedly convinced that there is no better training for a man than to seek the face of God in prayer and to ask the most important question we could ever inquire of Him: God, what do you ask of me?

Categories: being a man, Catholic, christianity, conceal carry, fatherhood, fighting, guns, holiness, manhood, prayer, protecting family, training, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call to Battle – Be a Man

So something weird happened when I tried sharing this last week. Somehow I had a different video show than the one below. Anyways, hope you enjoy this video. It is awesome and all men should watch it.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, fatherhood, fathers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: 4 Ways to Become a Better Man & Father this Season.

advent-candles-wreath-photo-3

Happy New Year!

In the Church, Advent commences the Christian New Year. Advent is the season that most retailers miss between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Advent is a preparation in anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Most people focus on Jesus coming during Christmas, but there are two other “comings” of Christ that occur. The Second Coming refers to Jesus final coming in time where He will take His peeps to Heaven and the rest well…you know. The third coming, which technically should be called the second coming since it happens between His birth (first coming) and the final coming at the end of time (second coming) is what I call a daily coming. This is the daily decision to let Jesus come into our hearts and literally reign over all we do.

For many people Advent is completely off the radar and gets surpassed by shopping, planning family gatherings, etc. I want to challenge all men (and women too. I know you read this, but I’m focusing on dads primarily) to use this season of Advent as a way to help you become a better man and father. So here are four ways to let the season of Advent transform you.

  1. Daily Invitation: Does Jesus have a place in your daily life? Is He a Christmas and Easter thought only? If so why? There are many reasons why this could have happened. The question is do you want it to stay this way? If the answer is ‘no’ then challenge yourself to doing some daily reading this Advent. Go online, to a bookstore, etc. and find an Advent Companion. Here are a few: Magnificat, LivingFaith. Maybe you are one of those dudes that don’t like to read, so here is an option for you: redeemedonline.com. This website gives you a 2 minute daily video on Advent that you can reflect on.
  2. You are going to die: Eventually we all do. Advent has us reflect on the reality that Jesus’ Second Coming is going to happen and how we lived will have a huge impact on what happens after you die. The point here isn’t so much to focus on death, but to help you reflect on how you are living so that you are on the right side of this Second Coming. If you dropped dead right now where would you go? Something worth thinking about.
  3. Serve your family: This may seem like a no brainer and something you already do. The question is how can you do this better? Most men are really good at serving their families by working and providing for their material needs. What about other needs like quality time with your spouse or kids? When was the last time you had a good conversation with your son or daughter? When was the last time you did something for your wife so that she could have a few hours of free time? I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself constantly trying to get things my way and this is not ok. Being a man means being able to sacrifice and serve—it is at the core of who we are.
  4. Your family’s overall health: How is your family doing in the following areas: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?
    1. Are you all overweight and not eating well? Do you have some way to be physically active? If not, walk around your block once a week as a family, or go to a park and walk together.
    2. Can your family members communicate emotions, feelings, thoughts in a healthy loving, yet challenging environment? Having a dinner or after dinner discussion once a week on how everyone is doing is a great way to check in.
    3. What is your family’s prayer life like? Is it just grace before meals? Besides the fact that Church on Sundays should be a priority what are you as a father doing to lead this effort? How about taking that Advent companion and doing the reading and reflection during dinner and have everyone go around and share their thoughts.
    4. How are you challenging your family intellectually? Do you read articles, books, etc. on things that help them flex those brain muscles? Why not once a week present some discussions on a topic that will make your kids think beyond what they are accustomed to? It could be political, moral, ethical, etc. The key is getting them to think and grow in their intellectual capacity.

I know that these four things may seem like a lot, but the whole point of having a time to reflect and push ourselves is so that we can live better lives. Advent is here and will be gone in the blink of an eye; will you be a better man and father after the fact? Will you have helped your family be better after the fact? Maybe all four of these are too much for some of ya’ll. That’s fine. Do two. Do one, but definitely do something.

Categories: Advent, being a man, best self, Catholic, christianity, christmas, fatherhood, fully alive, God, home and family, Jesus, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man’s Strength

Complete-Shoulders

My wife and I recently started watching a very popular show because we heard so many great things about it. One of the things that I noticed right away about the show was the use of man’s strength. There are several male characters and for the most part all of them play the traditional role of strong males, mainly expressing strength via physical means. Big muscles, force, etc. are what you see played out. These guys push through to accomplish their goals even if they are tired, hungry or in pain, which is great and something men should do.

As a family man I have to be aware of when my “push through” attitude is too much. I personally may be able to push through a situation but my wife or daughter may not. There is a need for all men to understand when it is appropriate to take physical strength and express it through gentleness. Gentleness is too often associated with weakness. Yet, gentleness is far from being weak. Gentleness actually requires significant amounts of strength, but more importantly mastery over this strength. Maybe this image will help explain what I mean.

Think of a woodworker carving a piece of wood. His hand must be strong enough to use his tools to cut the bigger chunks off, but when he gets to the more fine detailed work his strength needs to be used in a different way. He can’t simply force the wood into fine detail: he must be gentle, intentional and precise. A gentle motion to perform fine woodwork requires the right amount of strength. Too much strength and the fine detail is forced and damaged. Too little strength and the wood can be misshaped and ruined because the pressure was off.

Misuse of strength leads to abuse or cowardice two things that are unacceptable in any man.

Physical abuse we see so often. Men choosing to force their strength as a means to accomplish their will and often damage those they are responsible for protecting. Cowardice we see when a man chooses to do the easy thing instead of the right thing because it isn’t as difficult, time consuming or will simply cost them less.

I am finding more and more that a strong man is one that can master the discipline of gentleness in all situations. Whether it’s telling a coworker that what they are doing is bad for the company, confronting someone that has wronged you or finding out that your daughter has been sneaking out to have sex with her boyfriend. In all these situations the way a man applies his strength in the precise measure that is required reveals his true strength.

As I raise my daughter I recognize that I must master gentleness. In order for my daughter to be a fine human being I must be precise and intentional with her. This is soooo difficult. Emotions get stirred so easily and our strength as men can too quickly become forceful, or too lenient. That sweet spot that is so precise requires mastery of self, which can only come from a man’s realization that he is called to apply his strength in the proper way, a powerful way, a gentle way.

Categories: being a man, fatherhood, gentleness, manhood, Parenting, strength | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Prince Charming is a lie, but real men aren’t!

 

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I am sharing this post from an article I recently read on the website: The Chastity Project. It is written by a young woman named Esther Rich. I think she touches on something very true that sometimes men (at least this man) we feel like we are not the “Prince Charming” that we are supposed to be. Esther’s word are worth sharing. Enjoy.

LEO
I LOVE the song ‘Lead Me’ by Sanctus Real, but I can’t listen to it without getting emotional. My friend and I cried to each other over the phone when we first heard it.

Why?

Because it hits a sore spot. It hits that wound in all of our hearts that bleeds the phrase “how come there are no real men anymore?!” Most of us have heard it asked. Nearly as many of us have asked it ourselves. But the reason we don’t see them isn’t that they don’t exist, it’s that we tell them they can’t.

God created us for union and communion with each other. His unmatchable creativity is such that he designed us to fit together. Our lives are the most fruitful and we feel the most fulfilled when we’re exercising that complementarity. We need men in our lives—not just husbands, but fathers, brothers, friends—and they need us. We unlock an extra level of potential in each other.

Sometimes as women we put far too much pressure on men to become the ideal we think we need. We’re often guilty of underestimating just how difficult a job they have! Supporting us and leading us takes an immense amount of strength. But that strength comes from God alone, and must be continually renewed through prayer and abandonment to Him.

Disney has taught us to expect perfection and settle for nothing less. But Prince Charming is a lie. No wonder the divorce rate is rising so rapidly: we’re in for a serious shock if we marry with the false belief that the men who swept us off our feet and carried us to the altar in their strong arms will retain that guise of perfection for long.

No man is flawless (neither are we!), and expecting them to solve all our problems will only end in more heartache. Christ called us to love one another as He loves us. That means that the most fruitful relationships will be built on grace and mercy rather than pressure and judgement. We’re called to love each other including our flaws, because without that merciful love no relationship can survive.

Disney’s version of “Mr Right” may be far-fetched and idealistic, but deep down we do have a natural longing to be supported and guided by a strong man—spiritually, physically and emotionally… and that’s no coincidence! What we long for is actually the root of what men were intended to be, we just don’t realise it. We want them to be strong and gentle and decisive and loving all at the same time… and they can be! But to benefit from that, we have to allow them to develop those strengths. To have a “real man,” we have to allow him to be a real man.

Culture insists on mourning the loss of ‘real men’, but perhaps it’s simply the definition used that needs challenging. A real man isn’t one who works out twice a day, earns a six figure salary and buys extravagant presents with money he won’t miss.

A “real man” is one who will lead you with strong hands even when that means humbly admitting his mistakes.

One who will discerningly make sacrifices for the greater good of your family.

One who seeks guidance from his heavenly Father instead of relying on his own strength.

One who’d rather walk you to Heaven than drive you around in his Porsche.

One who looks at your heart before your physique.

One who prays for you, not just pays for you.

One who strives to protect your purity not conquer it.

One who loves you as Christ loves His Church.

… and these REAL MEN EXIST!

______________________________

Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”

Categories: being a man, dying to self, fathers, God, manhood, prince charming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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