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Who is Patrick Ewing?

Well That’s a Bit of a Loaded Question!

Honestly, I don’t really know sometimes. I know a lot about me and I suppose that means I know who I am. But some days I really surprise myself!

First and foremost. I am a believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible. I could say I’m a Christian or more specifically a Baptist, but I think that’s secondary to my loyalty to Jesus and His Word. I’m human, I make mistakes, I’ve done things I regret, but that doesn’t change my belief in God.

I’m that guy who has a lot of interests. I find a lot of stuff interesting. The problem is, I generally don’t stick to any one interest for very long before jumping to something else. I’ve always imagined myself as a butterfly, fluttering from one flower to the next, never sticking around for very long. I don’t know what that says about me, nothing good I imagine.

My wife and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have lived in 3 different states, and have lived at over 12 different addresses. Our oldest son is 6 and has lived at 5 different addresses in his life time. This is not because we like moving! We hate it actually. We just can’t seem to be content, we have to always be moving forward.

My wife and I have 4 children, ages 6 and under. Yes, they are pretty close together and it’s super exhausting. Despite that, I love them all so much and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

My hobbies:
I love to tell stories, both in person and written form. I started writing stories in high school and haven’t stopped. Some day I’ll be published.
I play D&D. I love it and probably always will. More specifically, I love being the DM because I get to share my stories with other.
I love to make things. I enjoy woodworking, building shelves, furniture, etc. I make set pieces out of foam for games. Love making things.
No surprise, I love to read/listen to books! Currently I’m deep in the Brandon Sanderson rabbit hole.
Video games…Well I’ve loved video games since the first time my parents let me play our Atari. Online games. I love being able to play over the internet with my friends. It’s been such a great way for me to stay into contact with my friends from all over the country.
Board games. For those who haven’t heard, board games have really changed from when I was a kid. Absolutely love modern board games. Some of my favorites are Champions of Midgard, Tyrants of the Underdark, The Reckoners, Dead of Winter, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and well, there are a lot of others.
Dodge ball – Okay, this isn’t a hobby because I don’t get to play much. However, I have been a youth pastor at several churches and my favorite activity was to play dodgeball. I don’t know why, but it’s exhilarating for me.
The Office. I include this as a hobby because I’ve watched the series through so many times that it’s basically a full time hobby at this point.

Random Facts:
I have a Pastoral Degree from Baptist Bible College.
I currently do not work in full time ministry at a church, but I have in the past, and would like to in the future.
I work as a Operations Manager for a Janitorial Company, I see a lot of…well you get it.
I’m a man who loves his family.

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Just an Ordinary man Struggling with Ordinary Life

My name is Patrick Ewing. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, Husband, and Father.

I firmly believe that in order to survive, we as human beings need a community. From the very beginning, mankind was not okay with being alone. Even Adam, walking in the garden with God, experienced being lonely. In our modern day we are far more connected than we have ever been before. We share ideas from around the world in seconds and you can be part of a community without ever leaving your home.

For a long time I’ve had trouble sleeping because I struggled to get my brain to shut down. I know I’m not alone in this. My wife gave me the great idea one night to just write it all down. It didn’t have to be organized or neat, I just had to write everything I was thinking. Well I tend to like organization, even though my kids seem to ever be at odds with me about that (kids stuff strewn about), so mine was pretty organized. The first night I ended up writing out 4 full pages, front and back of thoughts that were keeping me awake. It was everything from worries, fears, and anxieties to random ideas about life, God’s Word, and even a book series I’ve been working on as a hobby. I did this for a few nights in a row and I slept great. Not only that, but it helped me work through a lot of half formed ideas and thoughts. The next morning my wife read through my writings, it was pretty raw, and she said to me, you should write a blog.

Why do this?

  • I have a lot of thoughts and ideas, some are good and helpful, others not so much. Instead of writing them in a private notebook, I’d like them to have the opportunity to maybe help others also struggling with life.
  • Honestly, this is as much for me as it is for helping others.

My goal is to simply be another voice in the community. To maybe help others not feel so isolated and alone. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own life that we fail to see that others are also hurting, feeling trapped, alone, and in need of some encouragement. If me expressing myself to more than just lines on a paper can help even one person it’s worth the work of typing it out.

Life is hard. Even every day, normal, ordinary life is hard. Some days just living with a person you love more than anything else, can be hard. Christians and Non Christians, we are all still hurting, struggling humans just looking for someone to hold out a hand and help carry the burden.

Parents, Do Not Grow Weary

Being a parent is not always an easy job. Yes, it’s rewarding, and yes, there are moments when our children bring us absolute joy. Sadly, it’s not a perfect world and our children are far from perfect little angels, even if that’s what the grandparents tell anyone who will listen. They wear us down. They leech our time and energy until some days you’d give anything for just a little bit of guilt free time to do what you want to do.

Right now you may be feeling like your life is somewhat on hold. Your life revolves around your children. You look at photos of times long past, or they may just feel long past, of when you could come and go as you please with nothing holding you back. You might be feeling like this is it, what do I have to look forward to. You may even be worried that by the time your children are old enough to take care of themselves, you’ll be too tired or too old to reconnect with your spouse in a meaningful way. In a way, all of these may be true, but let’s be honest, would you really trade those wonderful little faces to have that freedom back?

Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

This passage is speaking of cultivating heavenly fruit. It’s about focusing on that which will grow the Kingdom of God, rather than any sort of worldly gain. It’s about doing what is good. The Bible is pretty clear that the good work is all about serving others rather than wrapping ourselves in our fleshly desires (Galatians 5:13). I’d like to specifically focus on those that have given their lives in service to their children. Those raising the next generation if you will.

Being a parent is hard, but I encourage you to keep doing it well. I understand the desire to give up, to take the easy way out, to put our own desires first. However, I urge you, just as Paul did with the Galatians, do not lose heart. What you are doing with your children is good. Teaching them, spending time with them, helping them develop skills and understanding is great. I know it’s hard right now, in the moment. I know that if you have little children it may seem like there is no end in sight. You may be like us and drowning in dirty clothes and diapers. There is good news, however; it’s only for a season! There is an end and when it comes you will reap what you have sown into your children. It will be worth it in the end.

Good parents, continue to strive to be good parents. It may not seem like it now, you may even be battling with depression and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up. Stay strong. Remember that our Heavenly Father has not given up on us and in turn we should not give up on our own children.

What My Children Have Taught Me About Faith

If you’ve spent time attending church you’ve probably heard it said that our faith should be like that of a child’s. I’ve always understood this passage. Even before I was an adult, I understood the premise of this verse. It makes sense. Now that I have children of my own though, I see this idea a little differently. I used to “understand” the idea, but now I have truly seen what it looks like and I understand it. If that makes any sense at all. It’s amazing what perspective can do for your understanding. Let’s stay on topic though.

My wife and I have 4 children, ages 6 and under. As you can imagine, they are pretty needy. Well, maybe not needy, but they are hugely dependent on us. My son recently lost his tooth, well two teeth, and I had several people ask if we were going to go the tooth fairy route. My answer was a firm no, just as we don’t do Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. We also don’t sugar coat the death of animals, where food comes from, and the inevitable end of every living person. You may be thinking, good for you, or more likely, why do that to your children? What’s the harm right? Why not let them have a little fun? Why take away their innocence? Just let them be kids right? That’s easy, my children trust me. They trust me to tell them the truth, not to lie to them. That trust is important and it’s important that we strive to build that trust early on so they’ll believe us when it really matters.

Trust is Key

You see, trust is the key. Our children depend on us to care for them, love them, keep them safe, and provide for them. Ultimately though, they trust us to do all of this, often taking it for granted. All of my kids, for some crazy reason, have always trusted me to catch them when they jump off our furniture. Like, they are way too high, way too young, it’s going to be a painful drop, and I’m not even looking in their direction. They jump anyways. They aren’t thinking about what all could go wrong, they are simply trusting that I’ll keep catch them and keep them from harm. While I can happily claim that I have yet to drop one, it’s crazy behavior. It’s not simply trust, it’s that my kids have this unshakable, absolute faith in my ability to care for them. They are too young, too inexperienced, to realize that they have fallible, sinful parents that are far from perfect.

Thankfully, unlike my wonderful, precious children, we have a perfect, infallible heavenly Father. He is someone that we can trust and have faith in. Unlike my children, however, I don’t have the same, absolute trust in God’s ability to care for me that my children have in me. It’s a hard and awful truth about myself that I’ve had to face as I’ve thought through this topic. Now, I don’t think that makes me unique, no, I’d guess that I’m the normal one. I’m not the kind of person to make bets, but I’d bet that most of us struggle with completely trusting God with our lives in the same way our children trust us.

Our 4 year old daughter will occasionally ask me about bad guys. “Are they real? Are there any around here? Do we have to worry about them getting us?” All great questions, but pretty surprising that she was asking them. Anyways, I did what any good dad would do in this situation. I told her that yes, bad guys were real, but we’d keep her safe and that she didn’t have anything to fear. Armed with her faith in us, that was enough. She trusted us and assumed that we would take care of her. Let me ask this, when’s the last time you prayed for something and simply assumed that God was going to take care of it and simply put it out of your mind because you knew without a doubt that He was handling it?

See Hebrews 11 for more on Faith.

The But Why? Syndrome

My children do not always understand why we do what we do in the house. They don’t understand why they can’t eat lots of candy, why some members of our family have to avoid eating gluten, why they have to take naps and have to go to bed while the sun is out. They don’t understand why only daddy gets to drink hot coffee and use the saw. Ultimately though, they trust us, their parents, and go along with our way of life despite not understanding why. I’m the type of person that hates not knowing WHY. For me, the why is often more important than the actual task itself. I realize that this is a deficiency in my own heart and mind.

You may have realized this already, but God does not have the same perspective that we have. He does not work in our hearts and in the world the same way that we would like. I know that I sometimes for get this. He is a lot like us as parents. This became very real for me when once my children started asking the awful, never ending, God just please let it end, string of why questions. Just as I have to tell my kids, God has to tell us that just because we desire something does not mean it’s what is good for us. Let’s be honest, having lots of money would not be good for a lot of us. It’s clear however, that situations and circumstances that we perceive as bad may just be God’s way of revealing His truth to us. It may just be God trying to get your attention. God does not care about your worldly success. He cares most about the status of your heart. As parents, this is what we do for our children. We don’t give them every desire of their hearts, we give them what they need to grow, we equip them to some day be adults to be able to function on their own.

For me, in my own life, this very simple and incredibly obvious truth, has helped me to alter the perspective of my relationship with God. My prayers have become a lot less of “why God? why did you let this happen?” to something more akin to, “Lord, how can I be better? How can I use this an opportunity to bless someone else or grow in my own life?” The focus goes off of this idea of “why are you punishing me?” to “how can I make the most of the situation?”

I always come back to Matthew 6 for this next part, specifically verse 26 and down, but the whole chapter is so great. “26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” As God is very clear, I take care of the birds, do you not think I’m going to also take care of you? Aren’t you more important than a bird? Well if you don’t know this one, yes, yes you are. Jesus died on the cross for your soul, not a bird’s.

In the end, it all comes down to faith. Our hope in the unseen God. Ultimately you have to choose, am I going to put the ultimate trust in God? Am I going to just assume that He is going to hold up His end of the deal? When I’m down, my wife usually says, “How can you trust God with your eternal soul, but not this temporary, Earthly thing?” Typically she says it when I’m being obstinate so it doesn’t’ have nearly the impact it should. Generally it’s a day or two later when it hits me and I’m like, “Ohhhh crap.”

This is what my children have taught me. I need to trust God, with everything, all the time, even when it looks bad and I don’t understand why or how. I just have to accept that He, not I, am in control and for better or worse, it’s what I or someone else needs. I’ll be honest, this has been quite freeing for me. I was in a funk for over a month, but since I’ve kind of had this brain breaking and way too obvious revelation, I’ve been doing a lot better. It’s made me a better Father, husband, and friend.

With everything going on right now, this might hit close to home for many people. If this has helped you in any way, I recommend sharing it with people you care about, if not the post, at least the spirit of the post.

My Brief Thoughts on Marriage After 15 years

This year, my wife and I celebrate 15 years of being married. While I know that I’m far from the only person get this far, it’s still a considerable milestone for anyone in our current culture. There are a huge number of reasons why people don’t get married or stay married and I’m not writing to talk about any of those. This is simply for those who are serious about staying married and want to be happy. I’m not going to go real in-depth, hence the brief part. Rather these are just little thoughts to get others thinking about their own marriages. My experiences may not be specifically applicable, but I would be willing to be that the underlying principles are.

I often get asked by people I don’t know very well or complete strangers, “how long have you been married?” Since this year started I have just been saying 15 years, since it’s in July of 2020, a few months doesn’t really mean a lot compared to the prior 14 and half years. Often people are like, “wow, that’s a long time,” or “you don’t look old enough to be married that long,” or my personal favorite because half the time their tone reveals a lot about their own relationships, “good for you.” Typically I respond to the “that’s a long time comment” with, “It feels longer.” That’s not a dig at my spouse, it’s just that we’ve been through a lot together. Our marriage has been far from boring. The other question I get a lot is some form of a how question? how do you make it work? how do you stay happy? what’s your secret? Okay, that last one isn’t a how question, but it’s that same idea.

I don’t believe there is any secret, but I do have some thoughts on the topic. In case you are wondering if I’m qualified to give this advice, well I’m probably not. I can say though that we have been happily married for 15 years. I’ve never regretted saying I do. I’ve never wished for something or someone else. So, we must be doing something right.

It Takes 2.

Seriously, marriage means to literally take two and make them become one. Or at least make them a union. Either way, marriage can not work if the two people are not working together. Everything else that I’m going to mention here is under the assumption that both people are on board and working towards the same goal.

In marriage the two people have to be on the same side, same team, same page, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t matter. The point is, both people must be working towards the same goal. What I mean by this is, are you both working with the same long term expectations? Do you want the same thing out of life? If one of you wants to move to a different state and the other wants to stay where you are, that isn’t the same goal. A situation that I’ve heard from a few couples is this. The husband wants to be in ministry full time and dedicate his life to working in a church. The wife, however, does not. She has no desire to work in full time ministry or really be that involved with church. Another situation may be that one person really wants to have kids and spend as much time with them as possible, while the other would rather work on their career and not be weighed down with the responsibility of children. I get it, having children is a ton of work and a huge responsibility.

Maybe it’s as something as simple as a major diet change. I don’t know if you realize it, but what you put in your body has a huge impact on your overall health, mood, and potential for illness. I’ve seen more than one marriage really strain under the weight of two people disagreeing on the family’s diet. Let’s be honest, in our world today, eating healthy can be a difficult change, requiring great sacrifice from both parties.

Finances seems to be a huge, wide spread issue for people. What do we spend “our” money on. I emphasize our because I’ve heard too many men and a few women say, well it’s my money, so this is what we are going to do with it. Or more specifically, “I make the money.” This can be a huge point of contention. Your financial situation and your spending habits effects both people in the union.

Ultimately, agree on your future together, you’re on the same team and you should have the same goals. I always recommend this to people who are in serious relationships or considering marriage. Talk about what your long term, life goals are. See if they even line up. You may have to ask yourself, am I willing to choose having a life with this person over my desires and expectations for my future? You may have to ask yourself, is there charming, needy, childish behavior going to get real old in 5 years? Or maybe it’s, is this glaring flaw in their personality going to really wear away at me over the coming years together? I know it may seem silly if you are just starting out, but these are the things that really put strains on marriages much further down the road. When working with teenagers I would typically recommend, if you can be best friends with them and never get sick of them, then you are probably a good match. I mean, let’s face it, boys and girls can almost never be best friends without at least one of them developing deep seated romantic feelings for the other.

Do Stuff Together!

I’ll be honest here, I don’t remember what my wife was interested in before we got married. I’m sorry, it’s been 15 years and she has changed a lot. Sadly for her, she has slowly become me over the years. I mean, I’m proud of that fact, I just feel bad for her. After writing this, I asked her if she remembered. So before you judge me, she couldn’t remember either.

To stay on topic, it’s crucial to your relationship to do stuff together! Now, please don’t tell me that your time together is spent watching the same tv show together in the evening or sitting in the same room together while looking at your phones. If so, this is a real problem. Now you might be asking yourself, what’s so wrong about that? You may even be thinking, at least we are both happy. The problem, ultimately, is that it’s okay to do that sometimes, but if that’s all you do, then likely you are not engaging one another. There is no interaction, and if there is no interaction, there is no relationship. If this is what you call a relationship, then you are basically in a relationship with everyone at the movie theater with you.

If you want the relationship to thrive, you have to engage with one another. Now, I’m not specifically talking about being physically intimate, although that’s a very important part of a marriage. It’s also not something that you should shy away from having honest discussions about. I’m talking about finding a common hobby or activity that you enjoy doing together, once again, not talking about bedroom stuff. As an example, my wife and I enjoy playing games together. Preferably cooperative games, because I’m amazing and she can be a bit of a sore loser…well that’s not 100% true, but lets just say that it goes better when we work together. We also play video games together, whether it’s running around the World of Warcraft or building a kingdom in Kingdom Two Crowns. It doesn’t just end there, we also like walking out in the wilderness, sitting and talking about books that we read or swimming or pretty much anything else as long as we can do it together. The important part is that you are doing something together, even if it’s just sitting and talking instead of watching tv. Be engaged.

Make plans to do stuff together. Having a life together, especially when you have kids and if you both work, can be a huge mess. It’s not lame to schedule time to do stuff together, in fact, it’s sometimes the only way you’ll get time together. So make a plan, set a date, put it on the calendar with a big heart around it. Make your intentions for that time known beforehand so that no one is disappointed. Be excited about it. Even if it’s something lame like going for a long walk, taking a drive, or just playing a board game without the kids around to distract you. Just do it together and give your love your full attention. We try to play at least 1 board game a week. Sometimes it involves playing it over the course of a full day or two, with constant interruptions, even though it’s a lot of small moments, it’s still fun.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “but my spouse and I don’t have anything in common. What do we do?” That might be true, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. My wife doesn’t enjoy everything that I do, but she does show interest because she knows that I care about it. Now, I have a ton of interests, more than any one person should have. In fact, I’d say my greatest hobby is collecting hobbies. Despite that she cares enough to listen and ask questions to a point. Typically she cuts me off before I get too deep into whatever the interest of the week is. What I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to go all in, but it’s okay to do something with your spouse that they enjoy because you know it will make them happy. This goes both ways, husbands, show some interest into your wife’s interests and wives, give your husbands the attention they crave. We are basically still children that just want to be noticed and praised. Besides, you might grow to enjoy whatever it is they are into as well. It’s also okay to look for new hobbies and activities that you both enjoy, it’s okay to try new things together. In fact, as long as it’s something that isn’t going to lead to sin, be open to trying new activities together.

Be Careful About What You Say About One Another

In the time before my wife and I got married I decided that I was not going to complain about my wife to others. Going along with that, I also added in that I’d never speak ill of her either. After 15 years, I’m happy to say that I’ve stuck to that. I’ve never gone to my friends or family to vent about my wife or any issues that I have with her. I definitely have never sought out another woman or an ex for comfort after a fight or argument. I’m going to be very honest here, I’m actually pretty uncomfortable talking about anything serious with any woman who isn’t my wife. As the old saying goes, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Surprise, that goes for your spouse as well.

Back on topic. If I have issues or problems with my wife, I will lovingly and kindly take them up with her. Okay, I’m not perfect and I don’t always approach the matters in a way that is God honoring, but I do try and always ask for forgiveness in moments of lapsing judgement. This isn’t just because she makes me either. In all seriousness though, talking to your spouse about whatever it is that is bothering you, even if it’s something that you know they aren’t going to like hearing, isn’t it better that you talk to them about it than someone else?

What if they don’t respond well? Then you be patient with them. I’ve been there. I’ve had my wife, the person I claim to love above all others, confront me with something that I did not want to hear. It was something I wasn’t ready to face or give up. I can admit that I have not always responded well and I hate that I hurt the love of my life in my response. Given time though, I always, eventually, come around and I’m super grateful to have a life partner who was willing to be patient with me, no matter how immature I can be. Had I immediately gone to someone else to complain about her, I would have only been hardening my own heart against her. Not to mention lowering the opinion of her in the eyes of whoever I was talking to. I would have been slandering her name when she was only trying to help and care for me.

Now, you may be thinking, what if I need someone to talk to? I get that, but are you actually looking to make your marriage better or are you simply looking for someone to agree with you? Are you just wanting to vent? There is a key difference. Approaching it as a problem that you want to make better and solve, you are humbling yourself. You admit that there is a problem and likely you are at least part of that problem. You want to make life better, not just for you, but for your spouse also. In this instance, find a single person, someone that will give you good, wise, and Godly advice. Approach the issue as something that can be fixed and worked out. The other path is only about destruction. You don’t really desire restoration, you desire to cause pain and lift yourself up in the process. First path is what I call maturity, the second path is what the immature person would do.

One other great reason to never speak ill of our spouses to others is that it will slowly, subtly, poison your own heart. I’m serious, the reason that my attitude towards my wife is as positive as it is, is because I’ve spent 15 years talking her up. I’ve bragged about her good qualities. I’ve proclaimed the ways she cares for me and keeps me going day after day. After watching people mock throw up and have husbands telling me I make them look bad, I can look at her with a heart that’s focused on the positive. It’s focused on building a marriage, not getting what I want and protecting my own feelings in the process. If I spent time complaining about her, I’m far more likely to respond negatively when something does happen. Likely it will impact how I view her and not for the better. It’s like having a mantra you tell yourself every day, even a lie will become truth to you if you tell yourself it enough. I know this sounds a little crazy and no, I’m not oblivious to my wife’s flaws, but dwelling on them will not make her a better person.

Be Open and Honest

This might sound weird, I know I’m not the only one in this boat, but your spouse is not going to judge you as much as you may believe they will. In fact, you may just be afraid of disappointing them (this is typically what holds me back). I’ve been shocked on a number of occasions when I’ve come to my wife, heart broken, telling her about something I’m struggling with and had respond with love and concern. In those moments, she has never once put me down, berated me or even been offended. Nobody is perfect, she loves me, and she cares enough to want to help me and encourage me. We’ve all got problems, including our spouses, and I’ve found that when we humble ourselves and seek both their forgiveness and their support, they can be surprisingly understanding.

The important part of having an understanding spouse is that you are both humble and repentant. It’s far easier to love, forgive, and encourage the person that truly is sorrowful for their mistakes and struggles than the person that is looking for justification. It’s okay to screw up, it’s not okay to continue screwing up without making an effort to do better. It’s like that person who gets in trouble and immediately says, “love you,” hoping to get out of it. This response is both fake and insincere and obvious to all.

Now remember, this goes both ways. We all make mistakes. Hardening our hearts and trying to justify our actions is just plain foolish. I’ve had to tell myself on many occasions, I love my wife more than I care about winning this argument or being right or justifying my foolish actions.

If you can’t be open and honest with your spouse, then who can you be open and honest with? It’s not fair to them or you to try and carry every mistake, regret, and worry alone. You’re a team, live as one.

Protect One Another

This is something that I take very seriously, yet I often struggle with. I’m sad to say that there have been times in my life where I’ve exploded and said some pretty hurtful words that I didn’t really mean. I’ve let my emotions take over and reacted in ways that have both hurt and scared my wife. I have to live with that guilt and shame. That’s not what home should be. We should never be afraid to come home or even be around our spouses. We shouldn’t be afraid of what they’ll say or do or how they will react.

We need to protect our spouses not just from others, but from ourselves. We should make them feel safe, loved, and cared for. They shouldn’t have to be afraid to talk to us about something happening or worry that we will leave them or wonder if maybe you’ve taken an interest in someone else. It happens though, we probably all know someone that’s destroyed their marriage and brought incredible pain to their spouse.

This sometimes requires sacrifice! Crazy, I know, but it’s true. I know people on both sides. I’ve heard of men complaining about their wives getting upset about something they like to do or a particular act they committed. I’ve heard wives complain about this too, but to a lesser degree since I don’t often spend time with married women. To these that complain,their spouses requests are unfair. They aren’t willing to sacrifice whatever it is they are doing, even though they know full well that every time they do, it hurts their spouse. I’ve also heard of others that have given up completely innocent hobbies or activities because they know it’s not okay with their spouses. I’ve heard people talk poorly about these same people, which to me is the exact opposite reaction we should have. I’m sorry, but just because you think it’s dumb that they choose to quit something for the sake of their spouses, then you clearly do not understand what it means to care for a spouse.

Protect your spouse. Remind them often they are important, loved, and cared for. Make them feel special. Don’t give them cause to fear your words or any sort of violence. Don’t give them reason to think that you have feelings for someone else. Make them feel heard and respected. Put them first, don’t make them fight for your attention. I get it, probably more than most, we need time for ourselves and that’s good. I’m not talking about spending every spare second with them, don’t be ridiculous, talk to them, work out time for both.

Serving Others

In the end, being married requires two people working towards serving one another. It means sacrificing your desires, time, and sometimes your goals to make sure that your spouse is loved, cared for, and protected. It means not neglecting their needs and desires in the wake of your own. It means getting to know them and using that to lift them up. It means being patient with them, even if they are being hysterical and illogical. Sad to say I’m typically the crazy, unreasonable one. If two people are working towards serving one another, your marriage will flourish. Only by working for your own ends will it be torn apart and left in tatters. I know this is going to sound crazy, but you’ll never be happier in marriage unless you are putting your spouse first.

I know I said this was going to be brief, sorry about that, it really got away from me. This is the toned down version even.

The Cost of Change

You may already be aware of this, but praying for growth and change in our lives may be a fairly painful action. It’s simple, God answers prayers. This is a lesson He’s tried to teach me time and time again. The thing about prayer is that God does not think in the same way that we think. His perception of us and the world very different from our own. His way is so far beyond our comprehension that it would be foolish to pray for change and expect it to happen in the way that we would desire it to happen. To put it simply, God will give us the answer we need the most, not necessarily the one we desire the most.

To get my point across, I’m going to use an example from my own life. I’m warning you it’s a little long. So use the bathroom now, get a snack and buckle up boys and girls, we are going for a little trip. Okay, it’s not going to be that long, but you get the idea.

I’ve often thought, like so many people do, life would be so much better if I only knew what my future held. Well, the more I think about it now, the more I think that it’s more of a mercy that we don’t know what’s coming down the road before we are ready for it. If someone had told me long ago what I was going to have to go through to have real, lasting heart change, I don’t know if I would have ever prayed for change. I doubt that I would have been willing to ask God to bring my heart more closely in line with His own.

Now you may be asking yourself, “what if God told you what you were in for if you didn’t change? Think of it like, your parents threatening you with a punishment.” Great question. With that example, I don’t desire heart change, I desire to avoid punishment. I would be seeking an opportunity to avoid pain. That is not the same as realizing I need to change and having a desire to change. For real, lasting heart change, it had to come from me and not some external threat.

My wife and I often refer to our married life as a wild roller coaster. It’s been 15 years since we said, “I do,” even if it feels much longer. For the first few years, everything was great. We had very little stress, worry, or hardships. We had a lot of friends, a great church, and were generally very happy. I see now that this time was God’s way of preparing us for the struggles that were coming down the road. He gave us a safe place to bond and grow together so that we might be strong enough together to come out the other side whole.

From that point on, we had to deal with many nights and even weeks in the hospital. We have had to come to grips with several miscarriages, financial struggles, medical scares, and years of endless, sleepless nights. I spent several years as a burden to my wife and family, simply wasting away from illness. We both struggled with depression, living on the edge, partially hoping that today would be the last. I for one spent many, many nights, lying in bed, wondering if my family would be better off without me. I had many long conversations about it with God and every time He always left me with a firm, no.

You know what, let’s stop there. I think you get the picture, just imagine more of that but with 4 kids and a car accident thrown in. Actually, let’s go into the car accident. I was sitting in my car, stopped behind another car on the road. In my rear-view mirror I could see the grill of a Mack truck, all polished up and reflecting the cold, afternoon sun. At one point, literally all I could see was the word MACK in my rear view mirror. In fact, that’s an image I’ll probably never forget. In my head I was saying to myself, very calmly, “Don’t panic, you’re already dead.” My body wouldn’t have it, and was like, “You’re nuts, if there was every a time to panic, now is that time!” Not that either suggestion did me any good. A second before impact a massive invisible hand slid the truck to the side so that it only caught the corner of my car. It was still pretty brutal, but let’s be honest, it should have been so much worse. Even the guy driving the truck was shocked that he was able to swerve so far out of the way in an instant. I’d just like to say, “Thank you Lord, for not letting me take that hit full on.”

Now, you’re probably wondering, what does this have to do with change? I’m so glad you asked. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Well it’s true. In the last few weeks, God has stripped away my very hardened and stubborn heart. He made me face my past. In one swift motion He tore down the walls I had built to protect myself from the reality of my past actions, and let me see the reality of who I was. I was shown how my actions had hurt people really care about. He shed light on a heart that is cold, prideful (arrogantly so), selfish, impatient, lacking in true thankfulness, and has little compassion for others.

It would be safe to imagine that my brain had set up a wall full of photos from my life with God at the center. Using tacks and red yarn I made this huge spider web connecting God’s hand in my life. This probably makes me sound a little crazy. To be fair, had I not lived, had not been there, I’d probably think the same thing.

I’m going to be honest, this experience broke my heart. I don’t just mean emotionally, but there were moments when the grief and regret I felt physically pained hurt. Through all of these experiences in my life it was evident that God had been preparing my heart for growth. Through every experience He had been slowly chipping away at who I was for the purpose of getting me to the point to where I would be open to His will. I’m actually pretty ashamed that it has taken so long for me to get to this point.

I don’t know what God is preparing me for. For the first time in my long life as a Christian, I’ve been able to completely set my future at His feet. I’m going to assume that it’s taken care of, no matter what that might be.

Small Actions Can Have Huge Impacts

My wife and I got married at the age of 18. For some people, the thought of making that kind of commitment at such a young age may seem foolish. Honestly, for some people, it definitely is. For us, I firmly believe it was a great choice. During that time we grew and matured together all throughout our adult life. We didn’t start having kids for about 8 years after getting married. During those years before children we really got to know one another and build upon our relationship. It was a great time in our lives, we were in college, we had a lot of friends and a wonderful church family. Honestly, it was a time in our lives that we often look back on with incredible fondness.

Looking back now that I’m a little older and I have a different perspective. I realize now that we were also unknowingly selfish people. We were ignorant to the needs of our friends and the people in our lives. Part of that is because we never asked and part of that is because we didn’t have the life experience yet to understand. I can remember on several occasions where we should have stepped in and helped the people we care about. There were times when we could have been a huge blessing to the people around us. We had friends with very needy children, going through medical issues, and simply struggling with their personal lives. We weren’t ignorant to their plights, we were ignorant to their needs. At the time we didn’t have a lot of money or skills, but we did have time. Time that we selfishly kept to ourselves.

In the past few years of our life together has been a wild roller coaster. I won’t go into the details, but there were plenty of times where we were barely holding on. We were on the edge of breaking, and either too embarrassed to ask for help or just not knowing how. To some degree, we weren’t raised to ask for help, which I agree is not a good reason, but for us it has been a regular stumbling block.

While my wife was pregnant with our 4th child she was having a conversation with someone close to her. While talking to her she began to explain why she was so frustrated and lamented about how hard it was to keep up with everything. That person responded with, “no one made you have all those kids.” Now, I agree, no one did tell us to have all the kids we did, it was our choice and we are the ones who ultimately have to care for them. While everything she said was true, should that be our response to someone who is clearly in need?

So Why am I Telling you All This?

I wish that someone would have explained this to me when I was in a better place to serve others. I had not realized what a wonderful resource simply having time was and for the most part, squandered it. Now that I’m weighed down with a busy schedule, 4 needy children, and my own medical issues, my time and energy is pretty limited. So often in my younger years I could have been a great blessing to the people around me instead of foolishly turning a blind eye. I bring this up so that others might not be ignorant to how much small acts of kindness can mean to others.

Story time! When we lived in Ames, IA we often shopped at a store called HyVee. We don’t have those here in Michigan, which is kind of sad. For those of you who don’t know a lot about Iowa, they get a good amount of snow and freezing cold weather in the winter. When our oldest was only a few years old, we returned home after visiting family for the holidays. No surprise, we needed groceries. So, I took the boy so Mama and our less than one year old little girl could get a break from his craziness and went to go get groceries. So we got what we needed, picked up some Chinese food from their in-store restaurant/cafe area, and headed for the parking lot. Well it was about 8pm and it had apparently been snowing quite a bit because the parking lot was covered in a thick sheet of wet snow. For those you who don’t know what that’s like, you are missing out on some of the best packing snow there is. At the same time, that wonderful white building material makes pushing a cart to your car nearly impossible. Even when it isn’t weighed down with groceries and a child. So here I am, standing outside of HyVee, cart full of groceries, and holding my two year old son in one arm. I didn’t want to leave my groceries to get my son in the car, but I couldn’t carry him and the groceries and the cart refused to roll through the snow. As I stood there, snow building up around us, an older gentleman came up beside me and said, “you take your son and I’ll bring your groceries.” I didn’t protest, I just gave him a weak thank you in relief and went out to my van. I know this doesn’t seem like much, but this small, simple act of kindness that took someone only a minute of their time was a huge blessing to this struggling dad in a moment of indecision.

So the question you may be asking yourself right now is, “in your many times of need, what would have been helpful for you?” Honestly, our needs were pretty simple. If someone would have taken even an hour to help us with some dishes, clean around the house, or even drop off a meal would have been a much needed if brief relief. I remember my wife would say, “If I could just get someone to watch the kids for an hour I could get a lot done around the house.” Just for an hour a week, would have been a huge blessing. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but just having someone show they care was a huge boost to our spirits.

I don’t know if you realize it, but being a stay at home mom is pretty isolating. Spending all your time interacting with children, counting down the minutes until you can talk to another adult is hard when you do it day after day. I know a few individuals with medical issues that keep them confined to their homes much of the time, with little freedom. I know even my week in the hospital felt horribly lonely. Often, someone just wants somebody to sit with them, show them they care and give them a chance to talk with another adult. It may seem like something small to those of us that are always running, out and about, wishing we were at home with some free time, it can be hard to recognize how huge this is for others.

The next time you know of someone struggling with life, or at least you know they have a lot going on, be creative. Ask yourself, “what’s something I can do for them?” Even if it’s something as simple as visiting/checking in, doing a few chores around the house, watching their kids long enough for them to shower, or, and this one is huge, offering to go grocery shopping for/with them. There are so many little things that we can do for others who are struggling.

My final thought is this. People are really good at acting like everything is good, putting on a show so that no one will know how much they are really struggling. We fear that others will think we are weak and in need of help, when in reality we are in need of help and that’s OK! I was talking with someone not long ago and she was pointing to a mom who she had so much respect for and desired to be like. The reason? Because this other mom seemed so calm and collected on the outside. She seemed like the poster child of what a great mom should be. The truth is, she, like pretty much every mom who has little children, was struggling daily and just looking for someone to show they care. Struggling is not failing, but it’s hard to feel like anything but a failure at the time.

Dealing With the Sin of the Past

I accepted Christ at a young age. I was raised in a Christian home where going to church was not an option and the Bible was a common sight. I’ve never really known a time in my life when I didn’t believe in the saving grace of Christ. This, in my opinion, has been a huge blessing to my life and has kept me from a lot of pain and suffering. Generally, I strove to be obedient, well behaved, and to do good. I wasn’t much of a rebel growing up, which I ironically have been made fun of for. In high school, I had no problem with keeping my language clean, saying no to drugs, smoking, and alcohol. I made a choice to not to have sex before marriage, despite having the opportunity to do so. This also may be why I was okay with getting married at the age of 18. In many other ways, I think that this made me ignore a growing weight on my shoulders and made me blind to more subtle and dangerous sins.

When I accepted Christ at a young age, I never really had a moment where I dealt with or even acknowledged my “Old Man” so to speak. What 6 year old can look upon his life and recognize his sin, his need for change? Let’s be honest, most can’t fully understand the extent of their sins even if they can comprehend that bad behavior has consequences.

Having a 6 year old son of my own has now given me incredible perspective about my own young life. Like, “wow he is a lot like me” and “wow, I need to apologize to my mother.” It’s almost funny, because his actions that drive me the most crazy are the ones that I know he gets from me. It also shows me that when I accepted Christ, my motives were likely born from fear tactics more than any real understanding of what Christ did on the cross.

As I grew in both physical age and maturity, I began to better understand the decision I made at a young age and stayed true to it. Thanks to my wonderful church family I chose to lean into it. I firmly believed then, and now, that Christ died on the cross as propitiation for my sins. For many years after I would look back on my life with pride of a job well done. So what’s the problem?

What’s the Problem?

I am a sinner like everyone else, but my pride at being a Christian at such a young age has often blinded me to the truth of my actions. The other day my wife confronted me and said, “the only reason you never swore or cursed in high school is because you were way to prideful.” She wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know, this is an issue that I had already thought of even if I never voiced it. What’s so bad about that? The issue is that I didn’t swear because I believed it made me better than the other students. My motivation was born of arrogance, not for any desire to honor God with my actions. This is the root of the Old Man that was still clinging to my back like a sweaty shirt after a long day of weed-whacking (or weed-eating as many of my friends would say). I often did the “right thing,” but I rarely did the right thing because I was trying to serve the Lord. I did the right thing because I believed I was better than other people. I sat in my ivory tower of age appropriate language, haughty with my PG Language. The truth was, it didn’t matter what Paul told the Ephesians in his letter to them, I likely would have done it just as a way to build myself up.

Sure, doing the right thing even with the wrong motives is better than doing the wrong thing. I agree with that. However, it also means that I’ve never really dealt with the sins of my past, my old man, who is basically an amazing PR person with the ability to spin straw into gold. Seriously, he puts Rumpelstiltskin to shame with his skill. Yes, I realize that by saying this, I’m essentially being prideful, about being prideful. Well, what can I say, I’m just that great, I mean prideful. See the problem?

Why bring all this up?

Recently I have been confronting my past, or more specifically, sins. It started with me humbling myself and sincerely emailing an old employer and asking for forgiveness for my behavior during that time. I then had a run in with someone I thought I’d never see again, who I had wronged from long ago and had another, wonderful opportunity to sincerely apologize. This then led to me revisiting the early years of my marriage to my wife, from nearly 15 years ago, and once again apologizing, for several things actually.

You may be thinking, why bring this up after so long? Move on man! Well it’s not been that easy for me. The honest answer is, I had blinded myself to the reality of my actions. I had seriously never confronted the sin behind my actions. That prideful part of me was able to do some serious damage control to my conscience and mitigate blame. Ever hear someone say, “well I’m still not as bad as that person.” That was basically the platform for my life. Turns out, I really like being better than other people.

So here I am, finally, really confronting a major weakness in my life. I’m 33 years old now, and the truth of my actions have really been weighing on me. Better late than never. It occurs to me that this is likely the case for many people that accepted Christ at a young age. Our Old Man, our sinful nature, our major weaknesses, grow with us. They become a comfortable part of who we are. Without thinking, we often turn a blind eye to it. We even fool ourselves into thinking that it can’t be changed, it’s just who we are. You do you right? Sure, we have already admitted that we are sinners and we have been saved by grace. Did we say to ourselves, “sure I have little sins, but they are just little sins, no reason to make drastic changes.” Little sins can’t hurt us right? Did we justify our lives with going to church every Sunday and choose to say no to the offer of a cigarette or drink of beer? We don’t need to change, everyone else should strive to be more like us? Was our motivation to do good born of pride rather than our love for God? Did we spend much of our time comparing ourselves to others rather than the glory of God? My heart was blinded by a twisted form of legalism that was more important than a real relationship with a heavenly Father.

What Can We Do About It?

I talked a lot about my own issues and situations. They provided the catalyst that opened my eyes to a more real issue: my pride. My pride is what was keeping me blinded to many sins in my life. What caused this to happen? At least that’s what I’d be asking right now. Honestly, it all started with genuine, sincere prayer that God would open my eyes. It helped that my wife had been praying for this for some time as well. My question for you is, when is the last time you had that very real, very honest conversation with God? We all have problems, the specifics are less important than a very real desire to face those problems head on.

Currently our youngest son is only 6 months old. When he is upset, endlessly crying, I say to him, “just tell me what’s wrong”. Generally, if I’m asking that of a person who clearly can’t talk, I’m already frustrated and desperate. As a parent it’s very frustrating when you desire more than anything to help your children, but sadly they are not equipped to handle communicating it to us. Lucky for us, that’s just not the case with God. We are able to communicate to our Heavenly Father, we just often don’t. I know it’s crazy to think, but God really does answer prayer. I recommend, making the willing and often painful steps to correcting your life.