Posts in Family
The Things We Get To Do

I attended a Board meeting last night and the night before that a dinner dance for my daughter.  At some point during both days, I probably said something like, “I have to go to this event”.

Now that both evenings have passed and went extremely well, a shift is what I really need to make in my vocabulary.

I got to dance with my daughter and my wife.  I got to serve at the pleasure of a Board that supports me.  So much of my life is a privilege and blessing.

The list gets longer and today might be a day when you craft a similar inventory of “everyday blessings”:

-I get to wake up each morning and kiss my family goodbye as I head off to work

-I get to travel along nice country roads each morning

-I get to listen to podcasts each day and learn from experts 

-I get to work with amazing people who serve amazing kids

-I get to do work that matters and makes a difference

-I get to blog and podcast and connect with others around the world

-I get to worship each week in a Church full of relatively nice people

And the list goes on.  See what your list produces and if you’re like me, you’ll want to shift from “have to” to “get to”.

 Instead of "have to", shift to "get to" in your vocabulary.

Instead of "have to", shift to "get to" in your vocabulary.

How to be Wholehearted

There is no shortage of advice for achieving "more" in the new year.  Brian Tracy has his "4 tips" while Mike Hyatt has his "5 days" program to supposedly the best year ever.  

I've got one bit of advice and I'm preaching to myself on this one: be wholehearted.

No fitness goals.  No spiritual aspirations.  No financial resolutions.  Just to be where I am, that is to say, to be wholehearted.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be listing some very simple strategies for the various areas of my life, from money to time to muscles.  

But where my heart is- that's what I'm really concerned with.

The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.
— David Whyte

This past weekend was stellar.  At one point, sitting with my 8 year old in the corner of the living room, I looked up to find her reading me a story, my 14 year old wrapping a gift in the middle of the room and my 11 year old playing Minecraft on a laptop.  I had to pinch myself in gratitude for the amazing and many gifts in my everyday life. Who am I that I "get" to be a dad, a husband, a school leader, a Christian?  

I was wholehearted (or, "all there") for at least a few moments.  They felt like many more.

Why is wholeheartedness so difficult to achieve?  Here are my guesses:

  • Our plates are overly full
  • Our time is often scarce
  • We're tired
  • Our margin is thin
  • We have smartphones
  • We get bored too easily
  • Culture preaches "busyness" above singlemindedness
  • Work promotes multitasking

But here's the thing with each of these: they may slow us down but they can be managed such that wholeheartedness is practiced almost daily.  

Many people have found that wholeheartedness is found by doing (or not doing) the following:

  1. Unplugging from technology periodically.
  2. Owning fewer things.
  3. Giving things away (time, stuff, money, service).
  4. Being prayerful and especially at the beginning of the day.
  5. Being part of a faith community that worships weekly.
  6. Reading.  Anything all the way through.
  7. Playing sports.
  8. Creating art.
  9. Allowing for downtime.
  10. Enjoying nature.
  11. Cooking and eating mindfully.
  12. And in general, slowing down.

That's it.  Simple when you think of it- none of the 12 actions above cost much.  Better yet, you can practice at least a few of them within the next 24 hours.  

While most people think of wholeheartedness as a passive state of doing very little, just look at the action verbs found within each of the 12 suggestions: slowing, cooking, eating, enjoying, creating, and so on.  Pretty active when you think of it.  This is the paradox of being wholehearted: by being fully present, we can do so many things that lead to a fuller life.

I'm going to try it out and I hope that you will too.  It's ok to set some goals for the new year but don't forget that being fully present to those things and people around you is also a noble aspiration.

So here's to being wholehearted in 2015 and beyond!

*photo courtesy of fdp

A Simple Technique for Gift Giving and Receiving

What do you do when you have enough stuff?  Or, how about more than enough stuff?

In this post, I'll share one ultra-simple countermeasure for a gentle push back on the holiday press for more stuff.

If you're wondering if there is an ideal time to buy something for Christmas or any other holiday, turns out you can actually pinpoint the best day to do so.  Or, if you're a parent looking for the absolute best day to find a toy, turns out that December 16 is historically that day.  Who knew?

The catch is this- what if you don't want those new purchases to clutter up your home?  

Now is a great time of year, Advent- a season of waiting and anticipation, focusing on what really matters.  I find that the "stuff" of the season can add up and eventually produce unwanted clutter.  Joshua Becker suggests a different way, that of minimalism, “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”  

Easier said than done.

Many of us will bring home more stuff in the days leading up to Christmas.  Boxes, bags and gifty sorts of things.  It's all good until it isn't.  My son just handed me an elaborate list of things that he'd like for Christmas including the price range of each item on Amazon.com.  Not that I was any different as a kid but it challenged me to stop, pause and try to provide a glimmer of education.  "You know that Advent is really about our relationship with God, right?  It's not about the stuff when you think about it."  I think I was convincing but did the message really stick?  

It did until the next Walmart commercial came on in the middle of the Patriots game.

I suggest one super simple technique and it's one that I use with my own kids (lists or not).  They may not like it but it does work in terms of helping them understand the value of material goods.  When you get something new, give something old away.  

That's it.  Get something, give something.  

You can do this by re-gifting something but be careful on that front.  Or, you can simply donate it to charity where someone else can really put it to good use.  Giving things away is good for you, says Seth Godin

"Gifts have to be truly given, not given in anticipation of a repayment. True gifts are part of being in a community and part of being an artist.  Plus, giving a gift feels good." (Click here to read what else he has to say about gifting)

Whether you're reading this in December or at any other time of the year, the get something/give something technique works every time.  It helps you to stay focused on the more important things in life like the act of giving rather than the gift itself.  It enables you to detach from stuff one item at a time.

What will you give away this December?

Imagine a Different Kind of December

We've survived Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday is here. Are you ready for the hustle and bustle of December?

In our home, we have three birthdays in December so by the time we hit Christmas, it's a bit of a relief.  We feel as if we've "made it" and survived a very full season.  Throw in youth basketball and we're toast.

No matter what's on your plate in December, you'll want to do one simple thing in order to counter the seasonal stress:

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO SLOW DOWN.

You don't have to max out your credit cards.  You don't have to attend every holiday party.  You don't have to stress over gifts and malls and Amazon.com.  You don't have to do anything really.  
Be brave, be bold and enter into Christmas with a clear mind and a peaceful heart.

Those are, after all, two of the greatest blessings of Christmas.  A different kind of December is possible but it won't create itself.  You'll have to be the one to step up and do something differently in terms of your gift giving, time management and overall approach to Christmas.

The Case for Doing Less This Weekend
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Weekends are what most of us live for.  They are often seen as a break from mundane, unexciting jobs.  Most people fill them with yardwork, chores and errands galore.  Sleeping in, staying up late, shopping... fill in the blank as to how you and your family typically use your weekend.

The only problem... (drumroll) is that some of us fill our weekends, supposed to be a time for rest, with so many small crumbs that the weekend itself becomes stressful.  The crumbs add up after a while.  

Errands do make you tired- and use gas. 

Shopping is exhausting- and uses money. 

Yardwork is fun for some- but not for most. 

So here's your homework for today and any weekend- be more intentional about it. Do less.  Breathe.  Take a nap.  Do what makes you happy this weekend instead of what you think you should be doing (by that subtle voice in your head informed by popular culture or social media).   

Speaking digitally, I find that there are times when I want to be up to speed on the news and on what my friends are "up to" online.  Weekends though- I just want to be with Cary and the kids.  I typically tweet less and just use Buffer to automate my online content.  That way, I can sit on the porch and play a game with the kids, go for a leisurely drive or wash the car in the driveway.  It's intentional, light and relaxed.   

What are the benefits of doing less?  First, you'll stress less.  Second, you'll be more fully present to those you care about.  Third, you'll spend less money because you're not doing what someone else tells you you "should".  Fourth... I could keep going but you get the picture.   

So go ahead.  Enjoy yourself this weekend and all throughout the week.   

It's ok to do less if it helps you to "be more" in the other parts of your life.  

6 Lessons That Marriage Has Taught Me
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Today is a big day as my wife, Cary and I celebrate 16 years of marriage.  That was fast!  We're unique in that neither of us had been married before (unlike so many people) and amazingly, it seems that our marriage is getting stronger and stronger.  I can honestly say that I get to spend every day with my best friend.  

So what has marriage taught me in 16 years of trial and error? Here's at least six lessons that Cary and I both have learned (yes, she checked this post to give it her stamp of approval!): 

1. Have a sense of humor.   At home, I'm kind of the goofy dad, always bringing levity to tough situations or just everyday "stuff".  Sometimes when Cary is having a tough day, I'll say something off the wall as a way of reminding us both that, in the big picture, we're blessed.

2. Be fully present.   Technology makes it hard to be fully present to the one you love.  There's no substitute for sitting together, having a conversation, asking questions and really making your spouse feel heard and valued.

3. Do the little things.   We have a tradition that I always get Cary a new glass of water before bed.  I used to find this annoying.  Now, 16 years in, I find it to be something I take pride in.  After all, it's the smallest act of kindness and it means something to my wife.  Why not do it?

4. Don't compare.   Everyone's marriage is different.  Everyone's spouse is different. When we were first married, I would often play the comparison game and see how we "measured up" to other couples.  Don't do it.  Find your own way and cherish the person God has given you.  Today, we can honestly say that we have a great marriage and I could care less about how it "looks" in comparison with others.  It works for us.

5. Talk a lot.   We talk all of the time. Cary's a talker and I'm not so often it's about me listening and her talking but sometimes the roles are reversed.  We talk to start the day and sometimes will end the day having a deep conversation.  I've learned that when Cary wants to talk about something, I should listen and give my full attention to that moment.  Quite frankly, it doesn't matter if I "feel" like listening.  If it matters to her, it ought to matter to me.  

6. See the opportunity.  Imagine that God delivered to your door the most amazing package and all you had to do was open it up and appreciate what was inside?  To us, that's what marriage is like.  We have the opportunity to love one another (and our four kids) unconditionally and that's both a responsibility and privilege.

So there it is- 16 years and counting. Here's to at least another 16 years of learning, living and blessed married life.