Monthly Archives

November 2015

Intentional Living

How I Choose Gratitude When I Really Don’t Feel Like It

November 24, 2015

I will be the first to admit that gratitude does not come easily to me. Blame it on my melancholic temperament, my fallen human nature, or some combination of both.

It’s just not where my mind goes, dagnabbit.

I’ve had to learn to choose gratitude just like making any other adult choice in life…like choosing to budget, do the dishes, or pray. I had to learn to choose it because gratitude is good for me just like those other things.

Why is gratitude good for us?

If you dig into the secular research, gratitude can seriously change your life. From boosting your energy and happiness levels to being less depressed and envious, it packs a positive punch when part of your daily rhythm. Being a grateful person will spill over its irrefutable effects into almost every area of your life.

From a spiritual standpoint, God encourages gratitude.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Col 3:16

He wants us to be grateful because it’s the only place from which we can truly comprehend and realize all the lavish gifts he’s given to us. It’s a necessary platform for receiving his grace and not taking anything for granted. In other words, it allows us to grow in deep spiritual maturity.

But why is it so freaking hard to choose?

Because brokenness.

Being grateful requires virtue, which our human nature likes to rebel against. It’s a whole lot easier to be envious, negative, jealous, bitter, fearful, untrusting, angry, and entitled than it is to be grateful.

Especially in times of trial! One act of gratitude while suffering is worth far more than numerous shouts of praise in a season of blessing.

Even if you aren’t suffering, reflecting on things to be grateful for is typically forgotten in the business of life. It’s easy to take things for granted, especially in our American culture that runs a million miles a minute. Being grateful takes intentionality and that requires discipline and sacrifice…again, something pretty tough for most people.

So how do I become grateful?

Just be strong and do it.

OK that’s great if we all had wills of iron but for us average folk, that just ain’t gonna cut it. What practical things do I do to grow in gratitude?

Start a gratitude journal. For a few minutes each day, write down the things, people, relationships, situations, etc. that you find yourself thankful for. Just this simple act of recalling ALL THE THINGS you have to be grateful for in your life will change your attitude and perspective.

Verbally express gratitude with others. Whether it’s with a friend, spouse, relative, or stranger, specifically verbalize your gratitude out loud for something they did.

Stop complaining!!!! Ugh. We all hate complainers and have to fight hard to not become one ourselves as easy as it can be. Airing your gripes every now and again is alright but the more it becomes a habit, the more it decreases your levels of gratitude.

Pray for it. Beg God to transform your heath to one that is grateful for all that he gives you. Ask him to help you notice the people, places, and things in which you can be grateful for.

Write thank you notes. Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to verbally express your gratitude for a person, so why not write a thank you note to them?! It’s a good habit to get into and who doesn’t LOVE receiving a letter of thanks?

Become a student of gratitude. You can read about growing in gratitude in scripture, books, from the saints, or everyday mentors. For example, check out a video on gratitude by Zig Ziglar:

Doing just these simple and small things have had a huge impact on me (especially when we were going through the darkest phases of infertility and I didn’t think I had anything to be grateful for). It was easy to be upset and angry but I learned that through CHOOSING gratitude, despite my circumstances, I am much happier and joyful. 

This week is Thanksgiving…no better a time to begin making steps to growing gratitude and its effects in your life!

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” St. Ambrose

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marriage, Parenting

4 Lessons From My First Year as a Dad

November 13, 2015
One year ago, our lives changed when Josie was born and joined our family. Josie may have tripled her weight in the last year, but I’ve grown a lot too. Here are a few things I learned this year:

1. Love’s New Dimension

It’s a simple idea, but one that I’ve really come to understand: we love different people differently. The love I have for my Mom is different from that for my wife which again is different from that for my brother.
I don’t love any of those people more than another, I love them each differently.
The love a father has for his daughter is a whole different type of love. It’s deep, rich, and like nothing else. It’s like a new color was added to the crayon box of my life.

2. Sleep is Overrated

Some babies sleep really well at night from early on. Others get there a little later. And then there’s Josie, who only recently started sleeping until 5:30am. Before that she was up (read we were all up) 2-4 times every night.
My sleep hasn’t been this poor (in amount and/or quality) in years, and it takes a greater toll than it used to. But it’s okay.
I’ve been functioning just fine, and even if I’m upset/angry/super tired when that kid starts screaming 20 minutes after I fall asleep (and again a few hours later), it all melts away when I go in there to try and calm her down. I love that booger so dang much.

3. My Life is Not My Own. And I Love It.

We used be more spontaneous. Going to the movies on a whim. Taking weekend day trips without much advanced planning. Running errands when they needed to be done. Taking free time to pursue new hobbies.
All that’s gone.
Babysitters, nap times, and spending time with Josie have taken over all that. And forget about flying somewhere with just a carry-on.
I don’t have as much free time. And things that used to be quick and easy take time and planning now. I haven’t touched my hobby electronics in months. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My days are made up less of chasing my own wants and needs and more of doing my best to provide for Josie’s wants and needs. I am living less for myself and more for my family. And that’s making me a better man.

4. A Better Understanding of God the FATHER

Because I now understand the love a father has for their child (see above), I have been able to gain a better understanding on how God sees me.
One of my greatest joys is watching Josie interact with her world: exploring a room, playing with her toys, ransacking a bookshelf or the diaper bag. I love interacting with her: picking her up, listening to her babble at me, playing peek-a-boo.
I translate the joy I find in my daughter to what God must feel for me, his son. He loves watching me interact with my world: exploring new places, enjoying his creation. He loves interacting with me: when I come to him in prayer.
His heart overflows with love for me as mine does for Josie. Except even more, because I’m a broken man, and when it comes down to it, I stink at loving. He’s God. His love is perfect. He loves me so much more than I can ever love Josie, and that blows me away.
I’ve learned many things, but those are the big ones I want to share with you today.
And to the mom’s out there, check out Amanda’s post on what she’s learned as a mom.
Parenting

What I Learned My First Year as a Mother

November 10, 2015

One year ago today our lives dramatically changed for the good.

I remember it like it was yesterday and I treasure all the intimate details of that day and just how very blessed it was.

Josie Rosie is now ONE and my oh my how she’s changed in such a short time. Looking back it’s more than obvious that I also changed a lot too. That’s what I want to highlight in this post, lest I forget all the ways this tiny human impacted me during her first year.

Breastfeeding is NO JOKE!

OK, do we really need to rehash this again?

Just go read this, this, and this.

Long story short – troubles with breastfeeding will take the toughest, most badass Momma and leave her a shriveled up version of herself crying in a corner. On the flip side, when breastfeeding begins going well, the most beaten down and discouraged Momma will suddenly walk around feeling like a Superhero.

Nuff said.

Babies SLEEP?!?!

Other people would tell me stories of how their babies slept through the night from early on. Or how their babies slept in the car while they ran errands. Or how they napped in the baby carrier if they were out and about. And how their kids could sleep through noise or light, etc.

Imagine the opposite and that is Josie.

She still doesn’t sleep through the night. Nor does she really nap in the car or baby carrier. And the girl could hear a pin drop in the next room even with her white noise machine blaring. Oh, and her room has to be pitch black for her to even think about sleeping. Lastly we FINALLY transitioned her to a sleep sack from the swaddle when she was 7 (!) months old.

We’ve got a high needs sleeper and I’ve accepted it. I’ve learned how to cope (COFFEE!) with less sleep and the occasional cat nap. We can only go uphill from here with any future kiddos, right?

Other People Gotta Chime In

Oh the advice from other people. Family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers all have opinions on how YOU should be parenting.

I heard this was a thing but sort of didn’t believe it. People don’t offer unsolicited advice on how I do my laundry or load my dishwasher…so why would they care about how I parent? WRONG. They care.

How you diaper, supplement, introduce solids, vaccinate, sleep train, brand of pacifier baby takes, organic vs non-organic foods and items, you name it…others have an opinion about it and they will tell you.

I’ve learned at the end of a day I don’t care about what other people think I should be doing.

I genuinely listen to others and do my own research but once I decide upon a path to take, I am not ashamed to move forward and not look back without caring about other;s opinions. I definitely don’t claim to be doing everything perfectly but I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have in the present moment. That’s all anyone can do.

Motherhood Can Be Lonely

A temptation I experience before Josie was the thought that Motherhood would leave me feeling totally satisfied and all my suffering would disappear.

And there was a short honeymoon period where all was well in the world as I became a new mom. But suffering and pain are part of the human experience due to our brokenness and motherhood didn’t take away all my pain permanently. It certainly changed my circumstances and many of them for the better, but I still suffer, just in new and different ways.

I didn’t expect to feel the loneliness that being a new mom can bring. In many ways I was isolated this past year because I didn’t have family in Denver and didn’t have many friends available to hangout during the week. If I am being honest, I’ve watched wayyyyy too much Netflix this past year to avert feeling lonely. (7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, and Parenthood…yeah a lot of Netflix)

While it was really hard and I was totally blindsided by how lonely I felt at times, it’s gotten a WHOLE LOT BETTER as I make more friends and have more structure to my days and weeks at home…but it’s something I have to constantly keep my eye on to make sure I channel loneliness towards healthy things.

Still Gotta Be About Jesus

After falling flat on my face this past year spiritually, I realized my need for Jesus more than ever. He’s the only one who fully satisfies my heart’s desires and who gets me. While watching Netflix show after Netflix show and continuing to feel empty, all I had to do was turn to Jesus in prayer and my soul was brought to peace and contentment.

Slowly yet surely I fought to get my daily time with God back. I’ve now know I can’t ever go back to a place of not communicating with him again. It’s just not worth it. He made me to be in communion with him and that’s where I long to be.

And those are just a few of the lessons I learned this past year. I’d love to hear about what other mom’s found themselves learning in that first year too! Hit me up in the comments and share your experience!

I can’t end this post on Josephine’s first birthday without some photos of our little lady from each month of her life thus far. My, how she’s grown and changed from a teeny tiny newborn to a happy and silly baby.

really real one

 

Catholicism

You Don’t Need To Be Married With Kids To Start Your Life

November 9, 2015

Confession: In true Melancholic fashion, this topic is something I’ve been mulling over for two solid months.

What sparked this internal pondering?

I read this blog post from another Catholic blogger and the wheels began to turn.

Hold on though.

I enjoy Haley’s blog a whole lot and the things she has to say. I am not dumping on her post but rounding it out with a different perspective…because my life experience has been vastly different from her’s and because of that I interpreted her message differently than she intended. We can have different opinions from others while still wholeheartedly respecting them and holding them up with high esteem.

OK now that we are clear, let’s get back to what I’ve been ruminating on…

I get it.

Her post was a breath of fresh air for all the other women who also married straight outta college and began having babies soon thereafter. No, they absolutely did NOT waste their 20’s as the general culture might suggest…they got to experience some of the most meaningful things in life at an earlier age that most. But she essentially equates getting married and having babies as the rite of passage to “starting your life.” 

That’s what hurt.

Because what about the rest of us? Those who God did not call to marriage or religious life that young. Or those who battled infertility for years if we were married. What were we dong with our 20’s? Wasting time and doing unimportant and frivolous things while waiting to “start our lives?”

No. Absolutely not.

Sure, I got to go on some seriously awesome adventures in my 20’s…many because I was not married for a majority of them and did not have children yet. But in no way did I ever sit back and think my life hadn’t truly “started.” I think that is the temptation in the Catholic world though, particularly for women.

It’s easy to think that we’re just cruising on auto-pilot, waiting for our vocation to arrive and then and only then will life really  “start.”

This isn’t how it works though, friends. Our life starts when we are given life in our mothers’ wombs. It doesn’t really begin when we cross a certain line or get to a milestone like marriage or children. And although I am speaking about generic “us” I’m mostly speaking to ME, who spent way too much precious time being jealous my life hadn’t “started” when we were battling infertility.

Your life is NOW and that is in whatever circumstances the Lord has given you today, in this moment. Your life has “started” and to do God’s will in the present moment is the best thing we can ever do – whether you happen to be married with several children by age 30 or not. Stop waiting for some external thing to happen to define the “start of your life.”

Our joy is in surrendering ourselves to God’s will in the present, not wishing it away for the past or the future. This is important because the more each one of us become conformed to God’s will for us, in whatever capacity that may be, the more we fulfill the Kingdom of God and our role in it.

We have to stop wishing we had “so and so’s life” and embrace the one right in front of us. The one that has very much “started” and is inviting us to dive all in. So whatever life is yours in this present moment…please know that is HAS started and embrace it! 🙂

Marriage, Parenting

The Husband’s Guide to Breastfeeding

November 5, 2015

Guys: If your wife is breastfeeding your baby, be prepared: breastfeeding is one of the coolest, hardest, most interesting parts of being human. Moms get (and deserve) the glory for breastfeeding, but you have a role to play. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Breastfeeding is Really Cool
We’ve come a long way in creating modern baby formulas, but nothing compares with all natural 100% free-range human breast milk. It contains all sorts of compounds and nutrients that aren’t found anywhere else.

Your wife’s body will be able to tell how old your kid is and adjust the composition of the milk accordingly to provide their changing nutritional needs. And get this: if your wife feeds your newborn from one breast, and an older child from the other, the two breasts will work independently to produce the right type of milk for each kid! WHAAAAAAT?

Breastfeeding also provides awesome opportunities for your wife and baby to bond. It’s been really cool to watch little Josie bond with Amanda. I’m sure it’s a major reason they’re so close to one another. We adopted Josie, so Amanda had to induce lactation to breastfeed. (Yes, a woman can breastfeed even if she didn’t give birth!) Breastfeeding Josie really helped us catch up on the nine months of her life (in the womb) we missed out on.

2. It’s a lot of work
Breastfeeding: pop the baby on the boob and there you have it, right? Wrong.

All sorts of issues can prevent themselves along the way: latching issues, lip and tongue ties, supply issues, plugged ducts, and nipple blisters (ouch!) are just a few. And if this is your wife’s first time breastfeeding, she’ll be adjusting to having a new bodily function and its consequences (like getting comfortable nursing in public).

If your wife is inducing lactation, you can throw a whole other set of hurdles in there on top of it all.

3. Prepare to Feel Useless
Breastfeeding might be one of the hardest things your wife ever does, and it’s easy to feel like there’s precious little you can do about it. You can’t offer to step in a take care of that hungry baby yourself, because our bodies just don’t work like that. There will be times when the only thing your baby wants is a seat at the milk bar, and you need to be okay with that. You might feel useless, but you’re not. In fact, you’re vital to your wife’s success.

While you can’t help breastfeed, you can help your wife breastfeed. Here’s how:

Help Out in Practical Ways that Support Breastfeeding

  • Give your wife pep talks when she’s feeling defeated by breastfeeding difficulties.
  • Make sure to pack the nursing cover (if she prefers to use one) when you pack the diaper bag.
  • Offer creative solutions to problems you run into while out and about with a hungry baby. (I asked and they don’t have a nursing room, but if we go over there, I could arrange the chairs and stand in a way that should give you some degree of privacy.)
  • Make sure your wife is staying hydrated by refilling her water bottle and remembering to bring it with you when leaving the house.
  • If she’s taking supplements to help her supply, be the one to refill her pill-box each week.
  • If she’s pumping, take care of everything related to that you can. (Cleaning the pump, bottles, store the milk, etc)

Help Out in Practical Ways that Have Nothing to Do With Breastfeeding
(this will allow her to focus on feeding the kid)

  • Change. The. Diapers.
  • If using cloth diapers, do the laundry.
  • Pack the diaper bag, and carry it when you go out.
  • If utilizing donor milk, pick it up, thaw it out, prepare the bottles.
  • Buy her some flowers.
  • Communicate how much her mothering means to you and the family.
  • Bathe the baby.
  • Entertain the baby and give your wife a break.
  • Cook dinner.
  • Clean the house.

4. The F Word
Whether it’s supply issues, latching issues, crazy schedules, or something else, sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. While donor milk is an option, I’d wager most parents go the formula route.

If you’re feeding your baby formula, remember this: you’re not bad parents. Your child will not be messed up because they didn’t breastfeed. Your wife is probably going to feel this pressure more than you do. This is your time to be the man. Let her know it’s all going to be fine and screw anyone else who tells her differently.

Sure, your family won’t experience some of the cool things related to breastfeeding, but that’s okay. You’ll get to experience some of the positives of bottles like baby accepting a bottle from a babysitter more easily or Dad taking his turn feeding the baby.

Husbands: I hope this guide has served you well and given you a good start. Breastfeeding is crazy. You’re going to need to be present for your wife in ways you’ve never imagined. This is your opportunity to step up and be the man she needs. You’re going to do great.

Intentional Living

3 Reasons You Need To Read Money Making Mom

November 3, 2015

If you aren’t reading Crystal’s blog, Money Saving Mom, or following her on social media, you are absolutely missing out. This lady has helped me save money and live more intentionally on countless occasions. To say she is an inspiration to me as a wife, mother, and entrepreneur is the understatement of the century.

The past couple weeks have been really exciting because I had the honor and privilege to be on the launch team for a new book – Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference. The book is all about how to earn an income as a mom, outside of the typical 8-5 job, and all the challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that come with that.

Part of being on the launch team meant getting to read her new book early. The book was so great, I literally devoured it in under four days. I am so excited to share with you 3 reasons I think Money-Making Mom is worth your time as well.

one woman

1. Healthy Financial Perspective

Sometimes in the business world, you will hear things like:

  • Use debt to start and grow your business
  • Create profit, profit, and more profit for the sake of profit
  • If it’s what you want, pursue success no matter the cost

Well that is the opposite of Crystal’s book. She strongly suggests starting slowly and within one’s financial means without debt. That’s her own story of how she grew her brand and she wants others to experience the blessing and freedom that comes with being financially free.

She also highlights the beautiful opportunity to earn an income and be a blessing to your family but also to others. Giving is an entire chapter in this book and for good reason – we have a deep need to give to others and it brings us immense joy and satisfaction when we do. Earning money as a mom gives us the ability to be even more generous with others in our community and world.

Lastly, she stresses work-life balance and keeping your priorities in check. She doesn’t advocate chasing every money-making opportunity available, but discerning the right ones that fit your family and values.

grow

2. Get To Know Thyself

Earning income as a mom can come in as varied of a package as there are moms out there. How YOU may be called specifically to create income for your family (if at all!) is unique to your own gifts, talents, and desires.

In the book, Crystal actively guides you through self-reflection on this topic. In asking myself the big questions she poses, I felt like I was getting to know myself better. I was able to see how God uniquely crafted me and how he might want to use my gifts and talents in the world. She helped put me in touch with my passions and the reasons why I do what I do.

Knowing the answers to these questions will help make sense of any opportunity you are given to earn income for your family. Through knowing who you are, you will be free to pursue your work with passion and vision.

show up

3. How To Be Your Own Boss

Lastly, the book dives into the topic of some practical how-to’s and what business opportunities might be available for women who desire to work for themselves. What I love about this section is that it not only inspires but doesn’t shy away from the cold hard fact that starting and maintaining a business is HARD WORK.

I think it’s easy to glorify business owners or entrepreneurs as people who happened to be in the “right place at the right time.” That’s almost never true. It takes an unbelievable amount of energy and focus to get an idea off the ground and to grow it into a successful business.

Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference explores the details of how to take your ideas and turn them into something bigger. You can follow the action points provided and walk towards taking what’s in your head and creating an opportunity with potential to earn income. Whether its blogging, an online business, a brick-and-mortar storefront, or direct sales – there are questions in this book that will get your wheels turning about how to get started or take what you currently have to the next level.

And there you have it.

Although I am currently a stay-at-home mom-ish (I do still work for FOCUS – Fellowship of Catholic University Students on special projects) this book got me really thinking about other opportunities to earn some income for our family. Time will tell where it takes me but I am very excited about some current ideas that are brewing. 🙂

What’s even more exciting is that TODAY is actually launch day for this book. If you are thinking about earning money either part-time or full-time as a Momma, check this one out and explore where God might be calling you.

I would love to hear your feedback as to what you think of it, so keep in touch as you read it!